When your car doesn’t start, you most likely have a dead battery and the fastest way to get back on the road is a quick jumpstart. This simple trick takes less than five minutes and only requires a set of jumper cables and another vehicle that is running. Why is the procedure called ‘jump-start?’ That’s because it requires the use of jumper cables.

So, here is what you need to know about how to jump a car. A few simple steps and you are on your way—wherever you were going.

What do you need to jump a car?

  • Jumper cables – Jumper cables are long, thickly insulated cables with toothy clips on one or both ends. These clips are called alligator clips (because they look like alligator heads). The clips are distinguished by color, usually red and black, to indicate positive and negative polarity. The red clip is positive. The black clip is negative.
  • Power source – either a portable jump battery (a jump box) or another vehicle.

What do you need to know about car batteries to jump-start a car?

  • Positive terminal – The positive terminal is usually the bigger of the two terminals. It is marked with “POS” or “+”. It will connect to the positive clip on the jumper cable, which is usually red.
  • Negative terminal – The negative terminal on the battery is usually marked with “NEG” or “-“. This will attach to the other clip, which is usually black.
  1. Check Batteries – Make sure that the battery giving the jump has enough voltage and is a matching voltage system type.
  2. Park the vehicles next to each other. Both cars in the park or neutral, turn the ignitions off and put on the parking brake.
  3. Open the hoof of each car.
  4. Attach Alligator Clips to the terminals in the following order:
    • Red to Dead – Connect red, or positive, clip to the positive terminal on the battery of the dead car.
    • Red to Donor – Connect the red, positive, clip to the positive terminal on the donor battery in the other car.
    • Black to Donor – Connect the black clip to the negative terminal of the donor car.
    • Black to Metal – Connect the black clip to an unpainted metal part of the dead car that is not directly next to the battery. One of the metal struts that hold the hood open is a good place to clip the second black, or negative, clip.
  5. Start the Donor car so that the battery can supply power to the dead battery.
  6. Idle the donor car, allowing it to run for a few minutes.
  7. Test the interior light of the car being jump-started. If it goes on, there may be enough power.
  8. Start the dead car.
  9. Disconnect the black jumper cables first, then disconnect the red ones.
  10. Take a short drive to help recharge the battery.

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