Since working from home has become more common, 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. For example, in 2020 AAA saw a 10% rise in jump-start service calls and a 56% increase in calls for jump-starts from homes. Learning how to jump-start a car is knowledge that will come in handy whether you’re at home or on the road.

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

Jump-starting a car is more challenging today since the cars we drive are constantly evolving with more technological features. 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. Turn off all electrical equipment and work in a well-ventilated area before you jump a car to avoid creating dangerous sparks around your battery.

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 a car incorrectly could cause damage to your car’s electrical system, affecting its electronic control module and starter system and potentially costing you thousands of dollars in repairs — so calling roadside assistance can help you save money eventually. 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

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 to Jump a Car

  1. Find a second car with a good battery.
  2. Make sure both cars are turned off.
  3. 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.
  4. Open both vehicles’ hoods and prop them open safely.
  5. Clamp the positive end of the cable to the dead battery’s positive terminal.
  6. Connect the other end of that cable to the good battery’s positive terminal.
  7. Connect the negative cable to the good battery’s negative terminal.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Try starting your engine. If your engine doesn’t start, tighten, and clean your clamps where needed.
  12. When your car starts, let it run for 20 minutes or more to allow ample time for your battery to recharge.
  13. With your car running, Disconnect the cables in reverse order while making sure that the clamps don’t touch.
  14. Drive your vehicle for at least 10 to 15 minutes before turning off your engine again to ensure that your battery has enough charge. Otherwise, you may have to jump-start your car again.

What to Do if Jump Starting Your Car 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 administered by National Safe Driver (NSD). Our program offers 24-hour emergency services like battery service (jump-starting or boosting a dead car battery), towing, fuel delivery, and more, so learn if your policy includes roadside assistance today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Jump-Start a Car in the Rain?

It’s safe to jump-start a car in the rain if your jumper cables are in good condition and that you keep their ends away from rain underneath a car’s hood. If jumper cable wires are exposed, they could short-circuit if they encounter rain.

Can You Jump-Start a Car With a Bad Alternator?

An alternator is a key component to your car’s electronics system, as it keeps your battery charged while your car is running. While it’s possible to jump-start a car with a bad alternator, you should get your alternator repaired or replaced as soon as possible to avoid future battery issues.

Does Jump-Starting a Car Damage the Computer?

When done correctly, a jump-start shouldn’t damage your car’s computer or electronic control module.

How Long Does It Take to Jump Start a Car?

Jumping a car only takes about 5-10 minutes, however, you’ll need to drive your car around for at least 10 to 15 minutes after jumping it to ensure that the battery gets sufficient charge from the alternator.