How to Jump a Car Battery

Since working from home has become the new normal, many of us have stopped driving and left our cars sitting in our driveways. As your car sits, your battery starts to drain, especially if you own a newer vehicle that’s prone to dying quickly. In 2020, AAA saw a 10% rise in jump-start service calls and a 56% increase in calls for jump-starts from homes, so learning how to jump-start your car is knowledge that will come in handy when you’re on the road.

What You Need to Know Before You Jump-Start a Car

Jump-starting is more challenging today since the cars we drive are constantly evolving. If you need to jump-start your car, make sure that you’re taking the proper safety precautions to protect yourself and your car. Don’t jump-start your car if you see that your battery is damaged or frozen, as this could harm you and your vehicle. Also, turn off all electrical equipment and work in a well-ventilated area to avoid creating sparks around your battery. If your battery fluid is low and your plates are exposed, add water (not acid) until they’re fully covered. Lastly, make sure your vent caps are in place to avoid splashes.

If your insurance policy includes roadside assistance, it’s better to call for help instead of trying to jump-start your vehicle on your own. Jump-starting your car incorrectly could potentially cost you thousands of dollars in repairs, so calling roadside assistance can help you save money in the long run. If you need to jump-start your car and don’t have access to professional help, make sure to follow your car’s instruction manual as closely as possible.

woman showing how to jump a car battery

How to Jump-Start a Car

You Will Need

A pair of jumper cables
Remember that most jumper cables come with a set of clamps: the red one is positive while the black one is negative. Your car’s battery should have a “+” sign on the positive terminal and a “-” sign on the negative terminal. You might have to wipe off your car’s battery if these symbols are hidden by dirt.
A second car (or a portable jump battery)

Instructions

1. Find a second car with a good battery.
2. Position the second vehicle so that your front bumpers are aligned, and you can reach the other car with your jumper cables. Make sure the cars are not touching and leave enough space to move between them.
3. Make sure both cars are turned off.
4. Open both vehicles’ hoods and prop them open safely.
5. Prepare your cables.
6. Clamp the positive end of the cable to the dead battery’s positive terminal.
7. Connect the other end of that cable to the good battery’s positive terminal.
8. Connect the negative cable to the good battery’s negative terminal.
9. Place the last black clamp on a grounded surface on the dead battery’s vehicle. Any unpainted metal part of your vehicle’s frame is considered a grounded surface. Make sure to place the remaining black clamp on a grounded surface and not on your dead battery, as this will help minimize sparks around the battery and any explosive gasses.
10. If the dome/interior light comes on in the car that needs a jump, that’s a good sign that the cables are connected correctly.
11. Start the engine of the car that is providing the electricity. Allow the rescue car to idle for a few minutes while the dead battery charges.
12. Try starting your engine. If your engine doesn’t start, tighten and clean your clamps where needed.
13. When your car starts, let it run for 20 minutes or more to allow ample time for your battery to recharge.
14. Leave your car running.
15. Disconnect the cables in reverse order while making sure that the clamps don’t touch.
16. Drive your vehicle for at least 10 to 15 minutes before turning off your engine again.

What to Do if the Jump Doesn’t Work

If the jump-start doesn’t work or you’re unable to locate the equipment you need, then calling roadside assistance is your best option. Depending on your state and insurance policy, you might already have 24/7 roadside assistance that you can call for a jumpstart. The General offers a comprehensive roadside assistance plan administered by National Safe Driver (NSD). Our program offers 24-hour emergency services like battery service, towing, fuel delivery, and more, so learn if your policy includes roadside assistance today.