What you need to know about jump-starting your battery

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If you are a driver, there may come a time when your ever-faithful car will need a jump-start. A jump-start is the revival method drivers apply to a car that has a discharged battery. You may have a flat battery if the car’s lights were left on for an extended period, or from improper maintenance of the battery. Jump-starting a manual and an auto is quite drastically different though.

Before you try jump-starting a car, you need to determine that the battery is the reason the car is not starting up. If you turn the key and hear the engine cranking, a dead battery is not your problem and jump-starting it will not do a thing. However, if you turn the key and the car does absolutely nothing or you hear a cracking sound, then there is a good chance you have a dead battery on your hands.

A manual car can start without even turning the ignition. This is a very helpful trick to know if your battery ever dies on you. Furthermore, you do not even need jumper cables or another car. All you need is a small gradient, or some “friends” willing to push your car. Unfortunately, this will not work on a car with an automatic transmission.

For a manual, put one foot on the brakes and fully depress the clutch with the other. Release the hand/parking brake on. Put the car in first gear and set the ignition switch to the on position (the position where your dashboard lights come on). Verify again that there are no obstacles in your path and release the brake. Keep the clutch depressed. After gaining reasonable momentum, release the clutch quickly and you should feel the engine turn over and start. If the engine does not start running within a second or two, then depress the clutch and release it again. By now, it should be running. Take care to watch where you are going. If it looks like you could run out of room before the car starts, then stop and come up with a different plan.

Now, with an automatic, it’s a bit more “complicated”, not in accomplishing a jump-start, but because 90 per cent of all drivers with autos do not have jumper cables on them. This really is a problem of the few times when you actually need them. So you end up smiling at strangers asking for cables and help with a good battery etc. However if you have got them, here is the process.

Park a good battery car close to the one that needs to be jumped, but not so close that the cars are touching in any way. You will want to use a good set of jumper cables with thick wire and clean clamps. They are coloured red and black. As you are hooking up the cables, make sure they do not dangle into either engine compartment where they could get caught on moving parts (belts, fan, etc.). Turn off the ignition of both cars, set the parking brakes, and make sure that they are in either “Park” or “Neutral” depending on whether the cars have an automatic or manual transmission.

Connect one end of the red (positive) jumper cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery. This terminal is always clearly marked red with a plus sign. Then connect the other red (positive) cable clamp to the positive terminal of the good battery. Connect one end of the black (negative) jumper cable to the negative terminal of the good battery. This terminal is always clearly marked black with a minus sign. Then connect the other black (negative) cable to a clean, unpainted metal surface under the disabled car’s hood. Somewhere on the engine block is a good place. This last connection seems odd but is really for safety reasons; there could be sparks flying when you connect the negative cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery. Connecting it directly works though.

Start the car that is doing the jumping and allow it to run for about two to three minutes before starting the dead car. If the dead car refuses to start, do not keep trying because you might damage the starter. If there is the possibility of additional problems, like a lack of fuel or faulty starter, do not continue trying to start the dead car until the other problems are solved. Remove cables in reverse order and keep the jumped car running for at least 30 minutes to give the battery sufficient time to recharge if it is not completely dead.

Many of us have been in panic mode where the car does not start 100 per cent, so we try it once again and it finally starts amid a sigh of relief. That is the time to get your electrical system looked at as soon as possible. Remember that the hardest part of the job is simply remembering where to put each cable. It’s not hard to find someone wondering if he is about to make a wrong move and torch himself. Just remember, red on red and black on black.

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