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How to Jump a Car

Even if you take great care of your car and are a highly responsible person, there is still a good chance that you are going to have to jump your car at some point.

Jumping your car is just one of those annoying things, like changing a tire, that most people who drive have to deal with at some point.

The good news is that once you learn how to jump a car, you will know how to do it for the rest of your life. Then if your battery dies, you will always be able to get it going again and get out of the jam you’re in.

So, knowing how to jump a car is a very useful skill.

Causes of a Dead Battery

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Before you go to jump your car, it is important to know exactly what caused your battery to die.

The cause of your dead battery will determine if you need to just jump it once, or if there is a larger problem.

Human Error

The top cause of dead batteries is human error. By human error, we mean that you either left your car lights on, did not fully close your trunk, left an internal light on, left your keys in the ignition after turning them slightly, or made another similar mistake.

Parasitic Drain

Parasitic drain is when there is an electrical problem with your car and electronic systems continue to stay on even after you turn the key off.

A little bit of parasitic drain is normal. However, if there is a significant wiring or electrical problem with your car, then you will get a lot of parasitic drain, and it will deplete your battery, forcing you to require a charge.

If you have a significant parasitic drain, then one charge will unlikely be enough to fix the problem. You will most likely have to get your car serviced after you jump it.

Faulty Charging

All cars have battery charging systems. If your battery is not being charged properly on a regular basis, then it can cause the battery to be depleted.

If this is the case, then your battery can drain, even while you are driving your car. This is another issue that a simple jump will not fix permanently. You will have to have a mechanic solve this issue after you jump your car.

Old Battery

The older that your battery is, the less likely it will be to hold a strong charge. Batteries simply get weaker over time.

If it has been more than five years since you replaced your battery, then it may be time to

replace it. This is especially true if you are finding that your battery is dying frequently.

Corroded or Loose Battery Cables

If your battery cables are loose or corroded, then they will not be able to carry an electric current as effectively.

This can result in a dead battery. You will have to replace the cables if this is happening to you.

Setting up Your Jump

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Now that you know some of the most common causes of a dead battery, hopefully you will be able to tell immediately what caused your battery to die.

If it was just human error, then you will most likely be able to solve the problem with a simple jump.

If it was not just human error, then you will most likely have to take your car to a mechanic or replace a part to fix the problem.

At any rate, this is how you set up a jump.

In order to jump your car, you are going to need several different things. The first thing that you are going to need is jumper cables.

You can get jumper cables at any auto parts store such as Auto Zone. Many convenience stores, grocery stores, and hardware stores also sell them. So, it should not be too difficult to find some to buy if you don’t have any already.

The next thing that you need is another working car.

You are going to need to park the working car directly in front of your car, facing your car. You want to make sure that the hoods of the two cars are only a few feet away so that the jumper cables will reach.

If it is not possible to park the other car directly in front of your car, then park alongside of it and just try to get the two cars as close as possible.

Make sure that you leave yourself enough space to get out of the car, however.

Pop the Hoods of Both Cars

Once you have parked the cars close to each other, turn both cars off and make sure that the keys are out of the ignitions of both cars.

The next steps of the process are much more safely done if the cars are off. The last thing you want to do is accidentally shock yourself. This shouldn’t happen if the cars are off.

Once the cars are turned off, then you should pop the hoods of both cars.

Most cars have a lever on the floor section of the driver’s side of the vehicle that pops the hood when you pull it. So give these levers a pull to pop the hood.

Once you pull the levers, you should be able to go around to the front of the car and open the hoods of the vehicles.

After the hoods are popped, make sure that you prop them up. You also need to make sure that both cars are in park.

Attach the Jumper Cables to the Battery Terminals

This is the most important part of jumping a car.

To successfully attach jumper cables to the battery terminals you need to attach the red clip to the positive terminal on the batteries of both cars.

After you have done that, the next step is to attach the black cable to the negative terminal on the working car’s battery.

Finally attach the other black clip to any unpainted metal surface under the hood of your car. Look for a spot on the engine block.

It is vital that you attach the right clips to the right terminals otherwise it will not work properly.

After you have clipped the cables on in the right spots, then double check to make sure that they are attached correctly before you move onto the next step.

Turn on The Working Car’s Engine

In order to jumpstart your battery, you will have to go into the working car and turn on its engine.

You should leave the car running for several minutes so that the dead battery can charge. During this process, make sure that no one is standing near the cables.

There will be a very strong electrical current moving through the cables and sometimes the clamps can get detached suddenly while the car is charging. So you don’t want anyone to accidentally get shocked while the battery is charging.

Turn on The Non-Working Car

After you have let the battery charge for several minutes, then you should be able to start the non-working car by turning the ignition.

Try it. If it doesn’t work then you may need to let it charge for a few more minutes. Sometimes it can take a little bit longer if the battery is really drained.

You should also rev the car’s engine slightly a few times while it is charging. This can help your battery to get working properly again.

Turn off the Car and Remove the Cables

After you have got your car going again and once the battery has charged for several minutes, then you should be all set.

Then, you should shut both cars off and carefully remove the cables. You really don’t want to remove the cables while the cars are on because of the risk of receiving a shock.

However, once you remove the cables successfully, then the process should be over. Your car should be working again, and you should be good to go.

You can then close both hoods of the cars and return the car you borrowed to whomever you borrowed it from.

What if it Doesn’t Work?

If your car is not starting after you tried to jump it then there could be a number of reasons why.

For example, your alternator might be broken. The alternator is the part on your car that is responsible for sending energy back to the battery.

So, if your alternator is broken, then your battery is unlikely to hold a charge. If your car is in sub-zero freezing temperatures, then this could also be affecting its ability to hold a charge.

Your starter could also be the problem. If you are hearing clicking or grinding, then it could definitely indicate that the starter is the culprit. If your starter is the problem, then a jumpstart is unlikely to work.

If you can’t get your car to jumpstart, then you are most likely going to have to call a tow truck to come and tow your car to an auto mechanic’s shop.

Once it is there, the auto mechanic will be able to fix the problem.

Preventing it From Happening Again

Having your battery die is extremely annoying. This is especially true if it happens in an inconvenient place or at an inconvenient time.

For example, if your battery dies while you are parked on a narrow city street late at night in a snowstorm, it’s going to cause a major headache. You may even struggle to find someone who can help you jump your car at that time.

Luckily there are a number of things that you can do to prevent this situation from happening again, or at least reduce the chances that it will.

Always Check to See if you Left your Lights On

Before you walk away from your car, no matter where you parked it or what you are doing, you should always take a quick glance over your shoulder to make sure that you have not accidentally left your lights on.

It takes literally two seconds to do this, but it can go a long way toward making sure that your battery won’t die.

Most people forget to turn their lights off at least once in a while. So, even if you think you are very careful, there is still at least some chance that you will leave your lights on if you don’t double check.

Another way to prevent this from happening is to replace your car’s battery every four to five years.

The newer that your battery is, the less likely it will be to die. Newer batteries simply tend to perform better than older ones.

Take Longer Trips

The car uses a lot of energy to start the engine. If you start your car a lot with many small trips, it uses a lot of the battery’s engine without giving it a lot of time to replenish.

The battery replenishes itself while the car is driving. So, you should make sure that you take some longer trips now and again to give the battery enough time to recharge. If you fail to do this, then you could accidentally drain your battery.

So make sure that you go for at least a ten to twenty-minute drive every now and again instead of just going on trips that are under five minutes.

Park in Shady Areas During the Warmer Months

Just like excessive cold can put a strain on your car’s battery, so can excessive heat. So, during the summer months, when it’s really hot outside, you should try to park in the shadier areas.

Under a tree, under a roof, under a bridge, etc. All of these places can help to keep your car in the shade, where it’s cooler.

If you have a choice between leaving your car in the hot sun or parking it in your garage, then park it in your garage.

Run Your Car Periodically

If you let your car sit in your garage for too long without running it, then the battery can slowly lose its charge.

So, if you are someone who does not drive very frequently, or if you plan on keeping your car in storage, then you should make sure that you take the car out every once in a while to charge the battery.

If you do not want to do this, then you can also use a float charger to keep your battery charged. A float charger will automatically charge the battery when the voltage level drops below a certain point.

Jump Starting a Car Without Another Car

Depending on the situation that you are in, there might not be another car around to help you jumpstart your car. If you find yourself in this situation, then you are going to need another option.

Luckily, there are a few options that might help you if you are in this situation. Here they are.

Push Starting Your Car

Push starting is an option if your car is a manual transmission vehicle. Push starting may not be the safest or the most fun option, but if you are desperate, then it is an option.

To successfully push start a car, you have to switch the key to the on position. Then switch the transmission into second gear.

After that, you will need a person or a few people to push the car until it gains a little bit of speed. Then, once the car is moving five to ten miles an hour, release the clutch pedal. The car should start then because the transmission will turn the engine over enough to start.

Battery Packs

These little devices are extremely handy. A battery pack is a portable device that you can use to charge your battery when you are in a jam and do not have another car to help you jump your vehicle.

These devices work in a very similar way that jump starting works. They connect to the battery terminals on your car’s dead battery and then they give some charge to the battery.

If you have never used a battery pack before, then you may be surprised at how quickly they can charge your vehicle.

The technology for battery packs has gotten a lot better in the past decade or so. So, these little devices are extremely effective.

If you do not already have a battery pack, then it may be wise to purchase one before your battery breaks down. That way, you will be prepared ahead of time. They cost around $100.

If All Else Fails

If all else fails, then you have a number of different options for how to get yourself out of the situation.

First, you can call a tow truck. Towing companies will sometimes do jump starts for a fee. So, this is a solid option. If they can’t get your car started for some reason with a jump, then they can tow it to a mechanic’s shop or back to your home.

You can also try calling your auto insurance carrier. Some auto insurers, such as Geico, provide roadside assistance programs. These programs often have services that include jump starting your car when you are in a jam.

If your insurance carrier does not have a service that will come and bail you out of the situation, then you can sign up for a different roadside service, such as AAA.

These roadside assistance services can come and give you the jumpstart that you need. Of course, they cost money to join, however. So, be prepared to pay a fee if you would like to join AAA or another similar service.

A lot of people consider these fees to be well worth it, however, because they provide a lot of peace of mind.

You can also buy a brand new battery and replace it on the spot if you are someone who is mechanically inclined. This is another way to get out of the jam.

But remember, it is much easier to prevent this situation from occurring by always checking to make sure that your lights are off, by changing out your battery every five or so years, and by buying a battery back that you can keep in your car.

A Word on Corrosion

Corrosion is something that you definitely need to look out for. Over time corrosion can build up on your battery terminals and prevent your battery from working as well.

If you leave corrosion unchecked, then it can lead to dead batteries. The good news, however, is that corrosion can be cleaned off of a battery terminals.

If you do not feel comfortable cleaning the corrosion off of the battery terminals, then you can bring it to your local mechanic or quick service station, and they can do it for you for a small fee.

However, if you know how to do this safely, then it would be a good idea for you to do this. If you can clean your battery terminals clean, then it can extend your battery’s lifespan and dramatically reduce the chances of your battery dying on you when you are in an inconvenient spot.

If you are unsure whether or not your battery terminals are corroded, then you can bring it to a mechanic and he or she will let you know.

However, it is usually easy to tell. If your battery terminals are corroded then it will look like there is some rust or dirt on them. This corrosion could be a number of different colors.

It could be brown, black, or a bluish-green. But no matter what color it is, you should be able to clean it off if you know how to, or your mechanic will be able to clean it off.

Once the corrosion is off of the battery terminals, then your battery should work better, and you will have a reduced chance of getting into trouble with your battery.

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