How to Jump Start a Car: A Simple (Yet Thorough) Step by Step Guide

It can happen to anyone, at any point of owning a car. One day, you go to turn your car on, and you find that it just won’t start.

What’s going on? Why do you have a dead car? Perhaps you forgot to turn off the radio, or even the lights? No matter what the case may be, now you’ve found yourself in a situation where you need to jump start your car to bring it back to life.

Whether you need help with jump starting your car with the jumper cables, you decide to do this with the help of a professional, or if you ever find yourself in the middle of nowhere and you don’t know what to do, we’re here to help you out.

Person working on his car battery with a jumper cable to jump start his vehicle

In this article, we’re going to tell you about all of the different ways that you can jump start your car, from the simplest methods to the more creative (and maybe complicated) ones.

Perform a Battery Check

The starting point is to check whether the problem really is the battery.

See whether you can unlock the doors, light up the dashboard, turn your headlights on and whether or not you can start your car. If you’re having any issues and trying these out doesn’t work, it’s time to move on to jump starting your car.

Make sure that there is no damage done to your car’s battery. If you see anything suspicious, opt to replace the battery completely instead.

How to Jump Start Your Car With Another Car

For this process, your car is going to need help from another car (referred to as a donor car), as well as a jump start cable.

From there onward, it’s pretty easy. Follow our guide below:

Things You’ll Need

  • Your car.
  • Another working car.
  • Jump start cable. Make sure that it’s at least 16 mm, unless you have a large car engine, in which case you’ll need a 25 mm cable.

Step by Step Guide

Here’s the headline summary of the steps needed here:

  1. Prepare.
  2. Attach jump cables.
  3. Charge the dead battery.
  4. Check the dead battery.
  5. Remove the charge cables.
  6. Keep the engine running.

Let’s go through these in more detail:

First Preparations

Start out by making sure both of the cars are at ground level and in close proximity to each other. They shouldn’t be touching, and both engines need to be off. This won’t work with a running vehicle, so be extra sure about this step.

Next, open up the hood of both cars, and find each of the batteries.

If you’re confused about where the batteries are, with most cars, they’re usually located either toward the front part of the car, to the right or the left.

However, they might be between the passenger compartment and engine, near the firewall, or even inside the trunk.

If you’re still unsure about the correct location, we recommend that you check your owner’s manual.

Attach the Jumper Cables

After you find the battery, look for the negative and positive terminals.

When attaching the cables to the batteries, ensure that the cables don’t touch. This is specific to the metal part of the cables; the rubber around the cables doesn’t conduct electricity.

Start with the red cable, and connect it to the battery that’s not working. Attach the red cable to the positive terminal, marked with a ‘+’. Then, track the cable to the other end, and connect it to the positive terminal of the battery in the other car that is working.

Then, move on to the black cable. Connect the black lead to the negative terminal, marked with a ‘-’. Connect the other end of the of this cable to a grounded piece of metal located on the car that’s not working. Any nut or bolt will do, providing it’s not near the battery and hasn’t been painted.

Charge the Battery

Now, start the car with the working battery. Just let it sit for a few minutes, and then rev up the engine for a minute.

This is how you charge the dead battery in the other car. The electric current will pass through the cables into the dead battery.

Start the Dead Battery

Now, it’s time to see if the dead battery is charged and working. You can do this by starting the car.

If this doesn’t work, turn both of the cars off again, wiggle the cables and their connections a bit, and repeat the entire process for about 5 minutes.

If nothing seems to be working after reattempting the charge, consider replacing the battery.

Remove the Cables

Remember the order in which we told you to place the cables, and start removing them in the opposite order.

So, start with the black cable that was connected to a grounded metallic part of the car, and then move on to the other end of this cable.

Then, remove the red cable from the car battery that was already working. Finally, remove the last connection of the red cable.

Once again, make sure that none of them touch.

Keep the Engine Running

Once the cables have been removed, keep the recharged battery running by having the engine turned on.

You should do this for at least 20 minutes, with your foot lightly pressing on the gas, so that the battery can be filled enough to be able to restart the car again.

And that’s it, you’ve just jump started a car!

If by this point your battery still won’t charge, you may be dealing with a completely dead battery or a faulty alternator.

How to Jump Start Your Car Without Cables

If your battery is flat, and you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no way to get any help from another car, don’t despair.

There are still ways that you could jump start your car if it has a manual transmission, even without the help of another car.

However, you will still need a helping hand from one person.

Things You’ll Need

  • Your car.
  • Straight road or a slight hill.
  • A helping hand.

Step by Step Guide

  1. Assess your surroundings.
  2. Get organized.
  3. Push the car.
  4. Start the engine.
  5. Leave the car running.

Determine the Road You’re On

For this to work, you either need a straight, flat road or a slight hill.

A road that’s too steep is too dangerous to use with this method.

If this is the case, call for roadside emergency assistance. A car without power and fully-functional brakes is incredibly dangerous.

Get Organized

If you’re not with someone else already, try and flag someone down to assist you. One of you will need to push the car while the other will need to operate the clutch, gears, and brakes.

Once you’ve decided who is doing what, the person inside the car needs to press down on the clutch and brake, put the car into second gear and turn the ignition on, without starting the engine.

Push the Car

When you’re both ready, start to push the car. Push against the metal surface of the car, like the bumper or the lid of the trunk.

Don’t push on the fins, the tail lights or the spoilers, as it’s not safe to do so.

The person inside the car will need to lift their foot off the brake, but keep their foot pushed down on the clutch still.

Start the Engine

Once the car has built up some momentum, to approximately 5 mph, the person inside the car needs to lift their foot off the clutch. This should kick start the engine into starting.

If the engine doesn’t start right away, keep working the clutch. If the car doesn’t start, you may need more speed, so consider trying again with further help.

There could also be a situation where your battery is dead. If this is the case, it won’t hold any charge at all and will need replacing. In this instance, contact roadside recovery.

Keep the Car Running

After the car has started, keep it running for at least 15 minutes, preferably up to 30 minutes if at all possible. This will ensure that the alternator will charge your car’s battery.

If you don’t do this, you risk your car not starting up again because the battery hasn’t been charged enough.

If the battery continues to not start, consider a replacement or getting the car’s alternator checked.

How to Jump a Car That Has an Automatic Transmission

The previously discussed methods won’t work for an automatic transmission vehicle. If you own one of these and are experiencing a flat battery, consider these options:

Using a Portable Car Battery Charger

This is another simple method and is very useful if you plan to leave your car parked for a long period of time.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Your car.
  • Portable car battery charger.
  • A power source.

Step by Step Guide

This process is as simple as:

  1. Connect the charger to a power source.
  2. Connect the car to the charger.
  3. Charge the car battery.

Connecting the Charger

Plug in the portable charger to a power source. Ensure you follow the specific power requirements as mentioned on your charger.

Connect the Car to the Charger

Next, connect the red wire to the positive terminal of your battery, and the black one to the negative cable of the battery.

The positive terminal will be colored red and/or have a ‘+’ symbol. The negative terminal will be black in color and/or have a ‘-’ symbol.

Charge the Car Battery

Follow the specific instructions on your portable charger that show how to charge a car battery.

There should be an indicator to tell you when your battery is full of charge. If you are looking to charge your battery to 100 percent, be aware that this will take several hours.

The great thing about a portable battery charger is that you can partially charge your car’s battery if you’d prefer.

Using A Portable Booster Pack

Besides using a portable car battery charger for this, you can also use a portable booster pack instead.

Things You’ll Need

  • Your car.
  • Portable booster pack (also called a portable power pack).
  • Wall power outlet.

Step by Step Guide

This is another simple process to follow:

  1. Charge the booster.
  2. Connect the booster to your car and let it charge.

Charging the Booster

A portable booster pack works in a very similar fashion to a portable charger. The main difference is that you need to charge the booster pack beforehand.

For those of you who don’t know what this is, think of it as charging a battery to charge a battery.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the pack and charge the booster accordingly.

Connecting the Booster

Once the booster is charged, connect the red wire to the positive terminal (‘+’ symbol), the black wire to the negative terminal (‘-’ symbol), and let it charge your car battery.

Finally, if all else fails, there is no one to help you out or your car battery is simply refusing to start up, hire a tow truck service.

They can take your car to a repair store where a professional can either jump start your car or replace the battery altogether if need be.

For more information about how to jump a car, watch the following video:

Final Words

You’re now armed with some options and different methods to use if you ever discover that your car battery is flat or appears to be dead.

If you have a manual transmission car, always ensure you have a set of jumper cables in it. You never know when you might need them, or when someone else might need yours for some assistance.

If you don’t have any on you, there is always the manual option to resort to if need be. At this point, you’ll need someone willing to push your car or sit in it and operate the clutch.

With automatic transmission, consider always storing a booster pack or a portable battery in your vehicle. It’s much better to be prepared at all times than having to panic or worry when on the road.

In case you still don’t feel confident enough that you can jump start your car’s dead battery all on your own, there’s always the option of getting a tow truck and delivering it to a professional to do the job.

And there you have it! You’re now equipped with all the knowledge there is to jumpstarting your cars.

Dead vehicle? No worries, you know how to take it from here.

Safe driving!

Kyle Palmer

From childhood go karting and motocross, to collecting and obsessing over scalextric, matchbox and radio controlled cars, I've always had an obsession with cars.Learning through manuals, books, trial and error, and more knowledgeable family members, I've also enjoyed tinkering with the mechanics and electronics of any vehicles I've owned.Now, over 3 decades later, I've started this site as a place for me to share my knowledge, to teach others how to care for and maintain their vehicles themselves, at home, so they can get the most of their vehicles and save a pretty penny compared to always seeking out professional help.

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