How to Jump Your Car

When your car battery is dead, it's easy to get upset and forget what to do next. First, check to see if you have roadside assistance coverage. You can find out by checking the paperwork stored with your car's manual. If you have Aceable's Roadside Assistance, you can call the number on your card for help.

If those two options aren't available, don't panic. We'll help you learn how to charge a car battery with jumper cables so you can get back on the road.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Jump-Starting Your Car

Jumper cables power up your dead car battery using energy from a functional battery. It's crucial to get the process right, though. 

"Always follow the proper instructions for jumping your vehicle," said Mia Bevacqua, Chief Mechanic at"You’ll find that information listed in the owner's manual. Make sure that you do NOT mix up the negative and positive jumper cables. Doing so can cause major damage to your vehicle."

Here are step-by-step instructions for how to jump-start your car:

  1. Position the other car's hood as close to your car's hood as possible. They can be parked nose-to-nose or side-by-side.

  2. Make sure both car's ignition switches are off. Open the hoods of both vehicles. You'll see the car batteries near the front of the vehicles.

  3. Identify the positive terminal of each battery. Look for the "+" sign or the word "positive."

  4. Attach a red clip, located on the jumper cables, to the functioning battery's positive terminal.

  5. Attach the other red clip to the dead battery's positive terminal.

  6. Attach one of the black clips on the jumper cable to the negative terminal of the functioning battery.

  7. Attach the other black clip to the dead battery's negative terminal.

  8. Start the car with the functioning battery, and let it run for five to ten minutes.

  9. Start your car. If it won't turn over, turn off both cars and make sure each of the four connections between the jumper cables and the batteries is secure. Start the car with the functioning battery and let it run for another five minutes.

  10. If your car starts, remove the jumper cables, starting with the black clips. Then, remove the red clips. Shut your car's hood securely. Assuming your car is running, you should drive it for a minimum of 15 minutes before shutting it off again. This allows the battery to recharge a bit.

If your car still won't start after jumping it, you may have a problem other than a dead battery. A store that sells car batteries can test your vehicle's battery strength so you'll know if it's time to replace it. Some auto parts stores also provide this service at no charge.

Warnings about Jump-Starting Your Car

Check your owner's manual so you understand how to jump your car. There may be special instructions there that don't apply universally to all cars. If your battery is frozen, corroded, leaking, or visibly damaged, it could be dangerous to jump-start your car. Call a tow truck, instead. Never touch the jumper cable clips together, especially when any of the four clips are connected to a vehicle.

It's also important to protect yourself when jump-starting a vehicle. "You should always wear personal protective equipment, including safety glasses and gloves," said Bevacqua. "Keep these items in your car alongside a pair of quality jumper cables."

Dead batteries happen to every driver at some point, so there's no need to panic. Learning how to handle the situation is an important part of becoming a safe and knowledgeable driver.