How to Jump a Car Battery

No one dreams of getting stranded with a dead car battery and, let's be honest, there's a good chance it's going to happen to you sometime in your life. Luckily, it's pretty easy to jump your battery and bring it back to life with a few materials and a little basic know-how. Watch the video below and keep reading to find out how to take your car battery from juiceless to powered up in no time.

How to Jump a Car Battery

We're going to learn the proper way to jump-start a car and how to do it safely. Almost every driver has the experience of their car not starting. So this is an emergency task that everyone should know. Want more car maintenance video tutorials from Patrice? Find her in our teen drivers ed courses!

More vehicle Maintenance Tips Car Battery Care and Maintenance Brake Fluid How to Check or Change Your Vehicle’s Oil Flat Tires How to Measure Tire Tread Vehicle Warning Lights How to Check and Change Your Engine Coolant (Antifreeze) When to Change Your Transmission Fluid

What You'll Need:

  • A second car with a working (live) battery
  • Some jumper cables that are long enough to reach from one car to the other

How It Works:

  1. Make sure both cars are turned completely off and that they aren't touching. Nothing in either car should be running including the A/C, radio, lights, etc.
  2. Know your battery! The positive pole (+) will have a red cap and the negative pole (-) will have a black cap.
  3. Start attaching the jumper cables in the following order:
    1. Red dead: Attach a red cable to the red (+) pole on the dead car
    2. Red live: Attach the other end of the red cable to the red (+) pole on the live car
    3. Black live: Attach a black cable to the black (-) pole on the live car
    4. Black grounded: DO NOT attach the other end of the black cable to the dead car. Instead, attach the other end of the black cable to a piece of metal off the engine that isn't coated or painted. A nut usually suffices.
  1. Once all the cables are placed correctly, start the car with the live battery. Lightly hit the gas (in neutral) to start transferring power to the dead battery.
  2. Let the car run and keep lightly pressing the gas pedal for about a minute. Then try to start the dead car. If the car sounds like it's trying to turn on but isn't quite there, leave it off and let the live car run for a few more minutes. Try again every minute for about 5 minutes. Eventually, your car should start. Hooray!
  3. Remove the cables in the OPPOSITE order that you placed them on in.
    1. Black grounded: Remove the black cable on the dead car from the metal grounding point.
    2. Black live: Remove the black cable from the black (-) pole on the live car
    3. Red live: Remove the other end of the red cable from the red (+) pole on the live car
    4. Red dead: Remove the red cable from the red (+) pole on the dead car

How To Care For Your Car Battery

There are three major things to remember about car battery care:

  1. Keep your car battery clean
  2. Check the positive and negative battery terminals regularly
  3. Get your battery tested by a professional mechanic on occasion

Let's look at these tips more in depth:

Keep Your Battery Clean

Pop open the hood (or trunk, it depends on the type of car). 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.

Your battery will be a small box under the hood of your car

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.

This is a battery terminal

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.

If only cars could change their own batteries...

Need your license before you get to learning about car maintenance? We've got you covered there too.

Image sources in order of appearance: Aceable, Pxhere, Wikipedia.