E031 - How to Jump Start a Car
This time on Across The Peak Rich and I talk about three different ways to jump start a car…including one you probably don’t know about.
What Did You Do This Week?
Rich: Spent some time in the hospital with his mother,
Justin: Holiday stuff, took Jake to Christmas, made Kombucha
Jump Start a Car - Before You Begin
Why you should know how to jump start a car: Even if you drive a brand new car, even if you have AAA, you should still know how to jump start a car, AND have the necessary equipment!
You can help yourself out if you have a dead battery, OR
You can help someone else out if they have a dead battery.
There is a right way and a wrong way to jump a car.
Signs that your battery is the problem. If you walk out to your car and it won’t start, there are a number of things that could be wrong. Before attempting to jump-start you should investigate to make sure the battery is the issue.
The class symptom of a dead battery is dash/interior lights that come on but the engine won’t turn over. All you’ll hear is a clicking when you turn the key in the ignition.
If the battery is COMPLETELY drained, nothing will happen. Your power locks won’t work and no interior or dash lights will come on. This is pretty rare on vehicles that get driven regularly.
If the engine turns over but the car still doesn’t crank, the battery probably isn’t the issue. You may have a bad starter, fuel delivery issue, or some other problem, but jump-starting the car will probably not help.
Jump Start a Car: Jumper Cables
The most common method of jump starting a car is with jumper cables. The two things you need to perform this are:
Jumper cables. If you are an ATP fan, you should always have some jumper cables in your car. They are inexpensive, don’t take up a ton of space, and can make your life MUCH easier if you need a jump. If you don’t have some, get some damn jumper cables!
A willing participant with a working vehicle. In some cases, you might be the person with the working vehicle.
There is a right way and a wrong way to jump start a vehicle. Here is the how-to:
First, get the participant to get their vehicle close to yours (or at least close enough for the cables to reach). The longer your cables are, the easier this is. Getting a willing participant close enough to jump you in a crowded parking lot. You can make this much easier by backing into a parking space, rather than pulling head-in.
Once clamps start going on batteries, keep them well separated. If the red and black clamps on one end of the cables touch each other they can cause sparking/arcing and potentially damage the battery of the working vehicle. Keep them separated by about 10-12 inches.
Identify the positive and negative battery terminals on both batteries. Positive battery terminals will typically be connected to a red wire and be denoted by a “+”; negative battery terminals will usually be connected to a black wire and be denoted by a “-”.
If there are any battery terminal covers, remove them.
If the battery terminals have any corrosion, clean it off before proceeding further.
Begin connecting the clamps. THERE IS A VERY SPECIFIC ORDER YOU SHOULD FOLLOW! Begin by connecting the cables to the dead battery rather than the live one.
Connect the red cable to the positive terminal on the DEAD BATTERY FIRST. This battery has less energy in it, and less chance of causing a problem.
2. Connect the black cable to a piece of unpainted metal on the DEAD vehicle. Do NOT connect this cable to the negative terminal. Doing so creates an unnecessarily high risk of sparking which could ignite hydrogen gas produced by the battery.
3. After the cables have been connected to the dead vehicle, make sure the working car is running. Connect the red cable to the working car’s positive battery terminal.
4. Finally, connect the black cable to the negative terminal on the working vehicle’s battery. At this point, be patient. The working vehicle may have to run for a few minutes to transfer enough power to the dead battery. Our rule of thumb is to wait 60 seconds. If that isn’t enough, wait about 5 minutes and then try to start the dead car.
5. Once your car is running you need to do two things:
Keep the car running for 15 minutes or more. This gives the alternator a chance to recharge the battery. If the battery does not charge back up, your battery might be bad, which leads us to…
Have the battery tested. You can purchase a battery tester, or go to just about any auto parts store where they will test your battery for free.
Jump Start a Car: Booster Packs
Modern lithium booster packs are extremely compact, and may perform better than the older booster packs. Booster packs have two major benefits over jumper cables:
They allow you to self-recover if your battery dies, and
You don’t have to depend on cell service or the kindness of a stranger
They are probably safer to use than jumper cables
How to use a battery booster: The general rule is FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURER’S INSTRUCTIONS! If you don’t have them the instructions below should be a decent guide for most models.
Attach the clamps. Attach the red clamp to the positive terminal, and the black clamp to the negative terminal.
Turn the booster ON. The booster will not provide any power until you turn it on.
Wait for an indicator that the battery is ready to go. This may be in the form of an LED or a digital display. When it is ready, start the car.
Jump Start a Car: Popping the Clutch
This is a technique you should know, but it seems like a dying art. Popping the clutch only works on vehicles that have a manual transmission, but this technique has a couple of major benefits:
It requires no equipment whatsoever. No cables, no booster packs…nothing but your two hands and feet.
It can overcome a number of other issues, like a bad starter. As long as the vehicle runs, you can use this technique to get it going.
The Basic Concept: Popping the clutch involves getting the vehicle rolling in a safe direction and suddenly releasing the clutch. This transfers energy from the rolling wheels rapidly to the engine, which causes compression, which causes the vehicle to start. There is a little more nuance to it than this, so let’s look at how to pull this technique off.
This technique works really, really well. However, it can be a little tricky to do all these steps at the same time. We recommend you PRACTICE this technique before you need it!
How to Pop the Clutch: The idea here is pretty simple, but the execution can be a little tricky. Follow these steps:
ENSURE THE VEHICLE IS POINTED IN A SAFE DIRECTION! You will have to get the vehicle moving at around 5 MPH. You won’t have power brakes or power steering, so make sure there are no obstacles in your path (including children, telephone poles, parked cars, or anything else you wouldn’t want to hit). If you are on a hill make sure it isn’t too steep (you know, in case the car doesn’t start you aren’t riding a 3,000 lb bullet all the way to the bottom). Above all, be safe. If you can’t safely execute this, find someone who can give you a jump.
Make sure you can get the car rolling. If you’re parked on a gentle incline you can do this all by yourself. If you aren’t you can still do this provided you have a friend or two to push the car to get it rolling.
Prepare the car.
Put the key in the ignition and turn it to ON. This will unlock the steering wheel, and prepare the vehicle to run when you get it started.
Put the car in 2nd gear. Don’t try to do this in 1st gear, even though 1st gear has more compression. Generally, 1st gear is so low that it can cause the car to torque steer and cause the back wheels to skid.
Release the parking brake, remove your foot from the brake pedal, and depress the clutch. If you’re on a hill and/or your buddies are pushing, the car should start moving.
Once the car is moving, maintain control of the steering wheel and keep your eyes on the road in front of you! You are in a moving vehicle, so you need to be prepared to steer it and stop it without the benefit of power brakes or power steering.
When the car has reached a speed of 5 - 7 MPH, release the clutch ABRUPTLY.
If the engine starts, immediately push the clutch back in and press the brake. The tendency is to give the car gas, but remember you are now driving a running car and pressing the gas without depressing the clutch will cause the car to accelerate.
If the engine doesn’t start, immediately push the clutch back in and be prepared to let it out again when you hit 5 MPH again.