It’s one of the biggest driving nightmares. A dead battery. No matter how prepared might be or how cautious a driver you are, it can happen to anyone at any time. Whether its because you left your lights on, a sudden dip in temperature affecting the way your battery works, or simply a battery that is no longer any good, a flat or dead battery can ruin your day.
So what can you do? The good news is that you won’t have to immediately go and get it replaced (although you should probably go and get your battery checked before too long). You can jump start your car to get you where you’re going.
But wait. Don’t you need to be a trained mechanic to do that? The good news is no, you do not. By following some simple steps, you can get your car running.
To jump start your car, you need two things. The first is a set of jumper cables. These are long pieces of wire with what looks like metal clothes pegs or giant crocodile clips on the end. A well-prepared driver will have these in the boot of the car.
The second thing you need is another car with a fully working battery. Time to make friends with your neighbours or to hope for a good Samaritan to stop and lend you a hand.
Before you jump start your car, you will need to make sure your car is in neutral with the handbrake on. If you don’t, your car is likely to lurch forward when the engine gets going. This can be incredibly dangerous, especially if you or someone else is currently beneath the bonnet of your car. Failing that, you are likely to bump into the car giving yours a jump start.
If your car isn’t in neutral, it will also immediately stall, meaning you will have to do it all over again. You should also make sure that both cars have their engine switched off to start with.
Pop the bonnet of your car and open it up. Make sure the bonnet lid is secure and stable before you proceed any further. You will then need to locate your car battery and give it an examination. If you spot any damage to the unit, especially corrosive damage that affects the integrity of the battery, then you will want to call a mechanic, as you will probably need to replace the battery.
If it appears to be in good working order, have a look for the plastic covers over the positive and negative terminals of the battery.
Jump leads tend to be a couple of metres in length. Either way, you should try and get the assisting car as close as possible to yours, engine to engine. Once the assisting car is in place, open up their bonnet and locate their battery too. Remember, their car should also be in neutral with the ignition off once its in position.
The positive terminal on a car battery is generally coloured red. Otherwise it will have a big ‘+’ plus sign showing where it’s located. In most cases, there will be a casing protecting the terminal. Flip this back to expose the metal terminal. Be careful when doing this, and make sure your hands are dry!
You can normally identify the positive jump lead as its also coloured red. Attach the end of the positive jump lead to the positive terminal on your car. Then take the other end and attach that to the positive terminal on the assisting car’s battery. You are not attempting to make a traditional circuit here, so make sure it goes positive to positive.
Now grab your negative jump lead, often coloured black, and attach one end to the negative terminal on your car’s battery. Next, DO NOT attach it to the negative terminal on the assisting car. Instead, attach it to a piece of solid metal in the car’s engine bay. Choose something that isn’t connected to an engine part. It has to be a solid metal piece. Some cars have a specific earthing rod that is ideal for this. Ask the owner of the car if they know where this is, or do a quick search of the car’s make and model online.
You may want to wait a few minutes before this next step, but if you don’t have time then you can go straight ahead. Start the engine of the assisting car. It should start as normal and be unaffected by the jumper cables.
Now you need to get into your car and try to start the engine. Give it a go and hopefully you’ll hear the engine turn over and it will start. If not, wait thirty seconds and then do it again. You should try this three or four times. If it still doesn’t start, it might be more serious than a flat battery.
If the car does start, then leave both cars running for as long as possible. This will help the battery to build up some charge.
If you are satisfied that your car has enough charge, its time to disconnect the cables. First, turn off the engines of both cars. Then remove the cables in the following order. First, remove the black negative jump lead from your car first, and then from the assisting car. Then remove the positive jump lead from the assisting car and then your own.
Give your car a quick start and hopefully it will be working as normal. Voila! You have jump started your car. It’s really not that difficult, providing you have the jump leads and an assisting car. Now that it’s working, you should try and drive it around for at least 30 minutes in light traffic. This will help the car build up its charge. If it happens again in the space of a week or two, its time to get the battery checked.
Take a visit to a friendly mechanic and they should be able to check it for you. They may even have their own battery charger which you can use to restore your battery to its full power.
Fortunately, a flat battery is easy to fix and won't cost you anything - aside from the small cost of purchasing a set of jump leads. But sadly, other types of engine failures can be very expensive to resolve. If your old car is becoming a drain on your wallet, why not upgrade to something newer, and more reliable?
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