There are two essential "skills" that every driver needs to know: how to change a flat tire and how to jump start a vehicle. Whether you drive a brand new car or an older model, you can get into either of these two situations. You could have run over a nail you didn’t see or accidentally left the lights on when you parked causing your battery to get drained. That said, you, as a driver, need to know what to do in these situations.  

We’ve already covered how to deal with a flat tire in a previous feature which you can read here. This time, we’ll be looking at a skill equally as important as knowing how to change a tire – jump starting a vehicle with a dead battery.

Now, some of you might say just call Motolite or some other battery brand that delivers. Sure, that works too. However, remember that these services don’t deliver everywhere. Also, do remember that brand new car batteries tend to cost a lot, and having a jump is a lot cheaper. Below, we’ll list down steps on how to jump start your vehicle by using jumper cables and other methods.

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Have the right tools and equipment

Before jump starting your vehicle, you need to make sure you have the right tools and equipment. By "tools and equipment", we mean jumper cables; although depending on the vehicle, you may need some screwdrivers to be able to access the battery terminals or even the battery location. In most cars though, the battery terminals are easily accessible. However, without jumper cables, you’re not going to get anywhere at all. Don’t have jumper cables? Well, time to find a good Samaritan willing to lend you a set and possibly assist you.

You should note that not all jumper cables are equal. Preferably, you should get one with thick wires and rubber grips. More importantly, the wires shouldn’t have any damage at all and must be long enough to reach your car’s battery and that of the other vehicle. The last thing you want to happen is accidentally electrocuting yourself while trying to jump start your ride or have a cable that's too short to be of any help or use.

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Find another vehicle to jump start yours

Now that you have jumper cables, you need to find another vehicle to jump start yours with. Without another car, your car is as good as a paperweight. Call a friend to go to your location if you have to. Or, you can ask the same good Samaritan you borrowed jumper cables from if he/she is willing to help out.

Once you have found a vehicle to get a jump from, park the vehicle with the side of the battery nearest to yours if possible. This is important because not all jumper cables are very long. It is possible that the cable won’t reach the battery and you’ll be in the same predicament. Once in position, turn off the car and make sure the parking brake is engaged. You wouldn’t the car to just suddenly roll away now, do you?

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Attach the jumpers  

Finally, it’s time to attach the jumper cables. It may seem logical to just attach red to red, black to black, or just "YOLO", but it’s actually a lot more complicated than that. First things first, you need to attach one of the red clips to the positive terminal of your dead battery. You then attach the other end of the red clip to the positive terminal of the other car. After that, you attach the black clip to the negative battery terminal of the car you’re jumping with. Contrary to, well, common sense, you don’t attach the black clip to the negative terminal of your battery. Instead, you attach the last black clip to an unpainted metal surface under the hood.

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If you have a hard time finding an unpainted surface, you can try either one of the hood struts or on the engine block. You can also check your vehicle’s manual to see where you can make your connections to unpainted surfaces.

Why not just connect the negative terminal of the other car’s battery directly to your negative terminal? Long story short, your battery could catch fire or even explode upon connecting the clamps. If you notice, sparks appear when you attach the final clip to the bare metal surface. This then could cause your old battery to combust and possibly even explode. The last thing you’d want to happen while jumping your battery is for your vehicle to catch fire.

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Start your engine

Once you’ve connected the final clip, it’s time to start the vehicle. Well, by that we mean the working vehicle. Obviously, the other one can’t start, but I digress. Let the engine run a few minutes and rev it up to around 2,000-2,500 RPM to make the alternator run faster. Afterward, try starting your vehicle with the dead battery. If the jump works, then great! If not, try to see if the jumper cables are connected properly. Once you’re sure they’re connected, have the working car run at the same RPMs for another 5-minutes before trying to start it up again.

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After you got the car running, it’s now time to disconnect the cables. Do so in the reverse order in how you connected them i.e ground on unpainted surface first, and so forth. Don’t just remove which cables you want in any random order.

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Don’t turn off your car

Now that your car is running again after the jump, don’t turn it off just yet. Instead, you should let it idle at or rev it up to 2,000-2,500 rpm for around 10 minutes in order for the alternator to recharge the battery. Once done, you should be good to drive to your next destination. If your car doesn’t start the next time you use it, then it’s time to get a new battery as the current one isn’t charging anymore.

Conversely, if your vehicle suddenly stops working a few minutes after the jump, your problem might not be the battery. Instead, it could be the alternator. In most modern cars though, you’ll be notified by warnings on the dashboard if your alternator is busted. If that’s the case, it would be time to get a tow truck.

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Bonus: The “Kadyot” method

Apart from the usual method of jump starting a car with a dead battery, you could also try pushing the car to start it. Or, as Filipinos call it “kadyot”. Do note that this only works with manual vehicles and it usually involves a number of people to help push the car up to speed. You’ll also need a stretch of straight and open road to try and get the car rolling.

This method does take some trial and error as it might take a few tries before working. First things first, you need to line up your car along the short stretch. Get in the car, put it into second gear and step on the clutch and brake pedal. Once ready, release the brakes and have your good Samaritans push the car to around 15-20 km/h. At speed, suddenly release the clutch and step on the accelerator. If it starts, then great. If not, you’ll likely have to repeat the process once more. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it running on the first go. Just keep trying and you’ll eventually get it right.

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As the saying goes: prevention is always better than cure. That said, always check to see whether your battery is still in good condition before you head out on a long drive - any drive, for that matter. If you haven’t replaced your battery in two or more years, maybe it’s time to do so. Watch out for telltale signs of an old battery too i.e. longer cranking, bulges on the battery, etc. Most new batteries also have an indicator on the battery itself whether they need to be replaced. That way, you won’t need to have a jump in the first place.