It’s a good idea to know a little about your car battery so you don’t end up dealing with a dead car battery. You know this already if you’ve ever been stranded in a parking lot with a dead car, texting everyone you can think of to come jumpstart your car battery. Learn how to keep your car battery in great shape so that you can cash in those favors on something better than a battery jump. And if you do happen to end up with a dead battery, we’ll be covering the ins and out of jumpstarting a car battery too.
There are three major things to remember about car battery care:
- Keep your car battery clean
- Check the positive and negative battery terminals regularly
- Get your battery tested by a professional mechanic
Let’s look at these steps more in depth
Keep Your Battery Clean
Pop open the hood. Don’t be shy! Your battery is the rectangular box that’s about the size and shape of a toaster. Ideally, it should be nice and clean, but don’t freak out if you see some white or greenish gunk around the terminals. This is just a little corrosion. Simply clean it off using a mixture of baking soda and water if necessary.
Check the Terminals
There are at least two kinds of terminals in this world: the ones in which you take naps at the airport, and the ones on your car battery. The terminal connects are the little knobs that stick out of the top of your battery. There is a battery negative terminal and a battery positive terminal. This is also where you’ll attach the jumper cables if you find yourself with a dead car. Give the terminals a little wiggle. If they’re loose, tighten them with a wrench. In case this doesn’t go without saying, we’ll say it: Make sure the vehicle is OFF while you’re doing this.
Get Your Battery Tested
Replacing a dead auto battery isn’t as easy as popping a couple fresh AA’s into the TV remote, so you don’t want this to sneak up on you. Every time you get your vehicle serviced, have the mechanic test your battery performance. If it’s time for a replacement, your mechanic can put in a new battery and dispose of the old one properly. Depending on if you live in a cold weather region or warm weather region, they can select the best vehicle battery for your car and location.
How to Jump Start a Car Battery
Hopefully you’ll never be in a position where you have to jump-start a car and have a dead battery. Because you’re going to follow all of the above steps and keep your battery in tip-top condition, right? But if you do need to know how to jump a car battery, it’s really not that hard. We promise! Just follow these steps:
For the sake of these directions we’re going to call the disabled vehicle with the dead battery car A and the car with the working battery, your jump starter, car B.
- Make sure to turn off both car A and car B and double check that the vehicle is in park. Don’t forget to put on the parking brake if you’re on a hill. Pop the hood of both car A and car B.
- Pull out your jumper cables. You can get these at the auto parts store if you don’t have some- we recommend keeping some in your trunk at all times. IMPORTANT: make sure the ends of these cables do not touch in any way once they are connected to your car. This could result in injury and/or damage to your car.
- Your vehicle battery will have a positive and negative terminal. The battery terminals are the little knobs that poke out of the top of the battery. The positive terminal should have a + on it and the negative terminal should have a – on it. Find these.
- Attach one of the red positive clamps to the positive terminal of car A, then attach the red clamp on the other end of the cable to the positive terminal of car B.
- Attach the black clamp on the end of the cable closest to the car A to an unpainted metal surface on the car frame- NOT to the negative terminal on the battery. Attach the black negative clamp on the end of the cable closest to car B to the negative terminal.
- Once you have the battery attached to your cables properly turn on car B and let the car engine run for a few minutes.
- Once the battery is recharged, try to turn on car A. After starting the car, be sure to leave the car engine running and drive around for about 15 minutes after removing the cables to recharge the battery. You have successfully jumpstart a car! If your car doesn’t start the next time you use it, you need to replace the battery because it’s not holding a charge. If your car doesn’t start after trying to jump it, you can try to charge it for a few more minutes, but will probably need to call roadside assistance to get your disabled vehicle towed. Towing your car is not fun, so be sure to stay on top of your battery maintenance.
Whether you drive a Jeep, a Hyundai, a Nissan or a Chevrolet this charger jump process should be the same. When in doubt, check your car’s owner manual for specific instructions.