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Jump Starting Your Vehicle

We've all been there - stuck on the side of the road or in a parking lot with a dead battery, hoping that the next person who passes by has a set of jumper cables and knows how to use them. Well, with a little bit of preparation and know-how, you can take care of this problem yourself and be on your way in no time.

The first step is learning how to jump your vehicle.
A car with the hood open

How to Jump-Start Your Vehicle's Battery

Before jump-starting your vehicle, check the dead battery to make sure that it isn't cracked or frozen. If it is, do not attempt a jump-start. If there is no obvious damage to the battery, continue with the following:
  1. Turn off the vehicle that is providing the jump. Unplug all accessories from both vehicles. This will ensure that no devices are damaged if a short occurs.
  2. Clean off any corrosion around the battery terminals so that the maximum amount of current can travel through them.
  3. Connect one of the positive cable clamps to the positive terminal on the dead battery.
  4. Connect the other positive clamp to the positive terminal on the good battery.
  5. Connect one of the negative cable clamps to the negative terminal on the good battery.
  6. Ground the other negative clamp on the the vehicle in need of a jump—attach it to a clean, unpainted metal surface on the engine block or frame. Do not attach the negative clamp to the negative terminal of the dead battery.
  7. Start the vehicle that is providing the jump and let it run for a few minutes.
  8. Try to start the dead vehicle. If the engine does not turn over, rev the engine of the good vehicle to boost power output.
  9. Remove the clamps in the reverse of the order in which you attached them, being careful not to touch the clamps together as you do so: Disconnect the negative from the engine block or frame, then the negative from the good battery. Disconnect the positive from the good battery, then the other positive from the bad battery.

Choosing Jumper Cables

Now that you know how to perform a jump start, the only thing left to do is determine which cables are best for you. Remember, booster cables are among the most important emergency supplies to have in your vehicle. Even if you're lucky enough not to need a jump yourself, having cables with you means that you will be able to lend assistance to someone else in need.

Standard Jumper Cables

Standard cables are perfect for those of you who simply want to be prepared. If you rarely find yourself in need of a jump and just want to be certain that you have the tools necessary to perform one if needed, then standard booster cables will suffice.These cables feature:

  • Spring-loaded or ratcheting clamps
  • Color-coded handles and cables
  • Lighter gauge wire
Standard jumper cables

Enhanced Jumper Cables

Standard jumper cables work fine to have around for emergencies, but you might prefer to have features found on upgraded models. Improvements over standard jumper cables include heavier gauge cables, longer cables, heavier clamps.Enhanced features include:

  • Longer cables (to 30')
  • Heavier cables in 8, 6, 4, and 2 gauge
  • Quick-connect leads (commonly used on work trucks that frequently jump vehicles)
Hopkins Juice jumper cables

Generators and Jump Starters

If you live in a more rural environment where you may be concerned that no one will happen by to assist you, or if you simply don't want to have to rely on others to supply the power for a jump, then a portable auto jumper may be just what you need. Auto jumpers provide a portable power source that can jump start your vehicle anytime, anywhere. And most auto jumpers have additional built-in functions that can make them indispensable emergency tools. They can supply 12V DC power, charge cell phones, inflate tires, and light your workspace. For a more detailed guide on choosing your jump starter click here.These generators:

  • Are portable, easy-to-use and easy-to-store
  • Let you give your car a jump all on your own
  • Include additional features such as air compressor, USB ports, DC power source, and more
  • Detect polarity to help ensure cables are connected to correct battery terminals
Wagan JumpBoost V10 Air portable jump starter

Easy Auto Quick Jumper

And finally, if you still don't feel comfortable performing a manual jump-start, Wagan offers the Easy Auto Quick Jumper. This simple system plugs into the 12 volt outlet in your vehicle, and that of the vehicle providing the jump. Battery charging typically takes 5 to 10 minutes with this device.
Wagan Easy Auto Quick Jumper

Keep Your Vehicle's Battery Charged

As important as a good set of jumper cables is, and as necessary as it is to know how to use them should you need to, it is just as important to practice proper maintenance in the hopes of keeping your vehicle's battery operating at its best. If you don't want to get caught in a situation where you are in need of a jump-start, use a battery charger to monitor and maintain your battery's charge.
CTEK battery charger
Updated by: Steven D.
Last updated: 3/12/21


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