If you’ve been a driver for more than a few years, odds are you’ve heard that insidious sound at some point in your driving life. You sit there, hands on the steering wheel , praying to Saint Fordicus or Saint Hondacrue to show you a little mercy. Another turn of the key and the gods of automobiles have all but abandoned ye.
Never mind that it was you who left your headlights or the dome light on all night. If this was an episode of CSI: Miami, Detective Horatio Crane would slide his sunglasses on an in a smooth voice declare you the killer – of the car’s battery, that is.
But, in the end, it’s not really important how you ended up with a dead battery, what is important is getting the car jumped so you can get back on the road. Good thing you listened to your old man and stored those jumper cables in the trunk. Wait, you do have jumper cables in your trunk, don’t you?
Jumping Your Car – Positioning is Key
When help finally arrives, positioning the cars is important to the safety of all involved. The batteries need to be as close as possible. After all, the jumper cables can only extend so far. If possible, align the cars side by side with the batteries right next to each other. By having slack in the jumper cables, you won’t have to worry about a clamp popping off a terminal and causing an injury and making the connection will be much easier.
Jumping Your Car – Keep the Running Car Running
Don’t turn off the car that will be doing the jumping. Allow it to continue running throughout the jump process. This will ensure that the battery is fully loaded and ready to go.
Jumping Your Car – Identify the Terminals
Knowing which terminal is which is extremely important. Before making any connections, identify the positive(+) and negative (-) terminals. The negative terminal will have a black wire connected to it while the positive terminal will have a red wire connected to it. If the battery terminals are covered by a plastic or rubber top, slide them off so the metal terminals are exposed.
Jumping Your Car – Making the Connections
For the safety of all involved and for the life of the battery doing the jumping, it’s important to make your jumper connections in the proper sequence.
- Connect the positive side of the jumper cable (the red clamp) to the positive terminal on the dead battery
- Connect the other side of the positive cable to the positive terminal on the good battery.
- Connect the negative side of the jumper cable (the black clamp) to the negative terminal on the good battery.
- Connect the other side of the negative cable to a piece of exposed metal on the engine of the car with the dead battery, like a large nut. It must be clean and not covered with grime or oil. You may notice a small spark when connecting this last cable.
Jumping Your Car – Start Your Engines!
With the cables all connected, get behind the driver’s wheel and try starting your engine. Once it starts, disconnect the jumper cables and allow the car to continue running.
It’s important to note that simply running your car around town will probably not suffice when it comes to recharging the battery. Once you get to where you’re going, you may be faced with another dead battery when you go to leave. This is because the alternator is a trickle-charge device and it can often take a while before the battery is fully charged.
It is recommended to use the jump to get you home, where you can then place the battery on a trickle-charger so it can get a complete charge. Failure to fully charge the battery will more than likely result in a battery that never gets completely charged, thus decreasing its performance and its lifespan.
If you don’t have a trickle charger at home, then drive your car for no less than thirty minutes with all of the accessories turned off (radio, A/C, etc.). It’s also best to do this during the day so you don’t have the draw of the headlights on the battery. Keep in mind, this will still not provide the battery with a complete charge so it is still recommended that you purchase or borrow a battery charger so you can charge it properly later on.
Additional Tips for Maintaining Your Battery
Make sure that the battery terminals are clean and the wire clamps are tightly secured
Check the water level in your battery (if it is not a maintenance-free type) at least every other month. If it needs refilled, use only distilled water (tap water causes corrosion on the terminals) and fill it so that the water is just touching the bottom of the refill hole.
After cleaning the terminals with a wire brush, coat them with a high-temperature grease to help prevent corrosion.
If you fully charge your battery and you find that it is dead not long after, the problem may not be with your battery. The vehicle’s electrical recharging system (alternator, voltage regulator, etc.) may be to blame. Have your vehicle’s electrical system tested to find the culprit.