Few things can be more frustrating for a driver than putting the key in the ignition and trying to get the car started only to get a bothersome clicking sound and being unable to actually get started. You may get some dim lights working too, but your engine just won't turn over. If your battery is dead, especially if you're nowhere near your home, then getting a jump-start may be the only thing that will get you moving again. Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can accomplish this task.
How to Jumpstart a Car with Another Car
The most common way to get your car jump started is to use jumper cables and another vehicle. This is easier said than done sometimes as you need to find someone who's actually willing to help you out with a jump-start which can be inconvenient and a little time-consuming. To make things easier you always want to make sure you have a set of jumper cables in your own trunk so you don't have to rely on using another person's battery and cables as well.
Step 1: You want to start with both vehicles either in park or neutral. Make sure both vehicles are shut off at first and attach the positive side of the jumper cables to the positive terminal in your battery. Positive is always labelled with red so you'll know how to colour code this and get it done.
Step 2: Attach the other end of the red, positive clamps to the positive terminal in the other car's battery.
Step 3: Attach one of the black clamps to the negative terminal in the other battery.
Step 4: Attach the last black clamp to an unpainted metal surface in your car that isn't near the battery, part of the frame should work well for this.
Step 5: Start the vehicle that has the working battery and let the engine run for several minutes. Some places will tell you just to let it run for 2 or 3 minutes, but 5 minutes at least is much more effective in ensuring that you get a charge in your battery before attempting to start your own vehicle.
Step 6: Once the working vehicle has been allowed to run for about 5 minutes you can attempt to start your own car now. Once you get your engine started you can disconnect the cables in reverse order. That means removing the negative cable from your car and then the negative from the car with the good battery. After that the positive cable from the good battery and then finally the positive cable from your own battery.
Step 7: You are going to need to spend some time allowing the alternator to continue to charge your battery at this point, so you may want to let your engine run for about 15 minutes. You can drive around as you are doing this, just don't shut off your engine. If, after doing this, going about your business, and then finally shutting off your vehicle when you get where you're going, it doesn't start again then your battery is unable to hold a charge and you're going to need to get a new one.
How to Jumpstart a Car with a Battery Pack
Back in the day having another car give you a jump start was the only option available to you if your battery died. Nowadays we have portable jump starters that are extremely handy. A lot of people use these for camping and outdoor activities because you can also use them to power radios, charge cell phones, and so on.
If you have a battery pack in the back of your vehicle, charging your battery is not too hard at all. Portable jump starters or emergency battery boosters or jump boxes as they are also known are pretty easy to use.
Make sure your battery is the actual problem before you get started, so try to turn on the car and see how the headlights are working. Your headlights should be dim or not turning on at all, or just turning on while the car clicks instead of turning over. If you're sure your battery is the problem, you can go ahead and use your battery pack.
Step 1: As goofy as this sounds, you need to make sure that your portable jump starter is charged before you use it. The jump starter is essentially just a second battery so it could also run out of charge. If you're keeping one in the back of your car in case of emergencies, you want to make sure you're keeping that fully charged as well. It's a good rule of thumb to always recharge one of these every time you use it, and at least once every 6 months. Also, they will lose charge faster if the weather is very hot or very cold so keep that in mind.
Step 2: You should read the owner's manual for your car as well as the jump starter that you are using ahead of time just in case there's something that you need to be familiar with. If you're sure you know what you're doing, then you just need to connect to the positive clamp from the battery charger to the positive terminal of the battery itself and the negative to the negative. These are always colour coded. Positive is red and negative is black. That makes it easy to avoid mistakes. If you don't have the correct colour terminals on your battery or your battery pack for whatever reason doesn't have the coloured terminals it could cause some serious damage if you connect wires incorrectly.
The black, negative terminal can also be connected to a clean, unpainted metal part of your vehicle away from the battery such as the frame or part of the engine block.
Most battery boosters will actually illuminate a warning light if you have connected them incorrectly and prevent you from going ahead with trying to charge the battery. If you get the warning light that you've put the wires on incorrectly then just reverse them.
Step 3: You can now turn on your portable jumper and then try to turn on your car. Don't keep trying to crank the engine if it doesn't work at first. Just give it a few seconds and then stop. If necessary, you can waste a few minutes and then try again. If it doesn't work after four or five tries, then your battery may be unable to charge at all and you'll need a replacement.
Step 4: If your engine did start successfully then you can turn the jumper off and remove first the negative clamp and the positive clamp. Put the charger back where you got it from and remember that you're going to need to recharge it later.
How to Push Start a Car with a Dead Battery
If your car has a manual transmission and your battery has died there is another way that you may be able to get your car going again. Push starting is a bit of an old-school technique and not something you see a lot these days, but it is a potentially viable option. If jump-starting your car is absolutely not an option, which means you don't have a battery pack handy, and there are no other drivers around who can give you a jump, you may want to give this a try. To do this technique all you need are the keys to the car and ideally a couple of people to give you a hand.
Before you start you want to make sure that you actually do have a dead battery because if it's a separate problem, then this may not do much to help your situation out. Let's assume you don't have a multimeter handy to check your battery so you'll have to use some more traditional techniques like turning the key in the ignition to see if you get that clicking sound, the lights turning on but the engine not turning over and so on.
You also want to make sure you're on fairly flat ground here. You don't want to be trying to do this uphill or down to steep a hill for safety reasons. You're going to be pushing your car here letting momentum do some of the work. You don't want to lose control of your vehicle. Make sure you have a clear path ahead of you, that includes free from large debris on the road. Power steering and brakes will not be available to you at first, so you're at the mercy of whatever is in front of you.
Step 1: Put your key in the ignition and turn it in the on position. Obviously, your car is not going to start, but you're now able to turn your steering wheel.
Step 2: Engage the engine. You're going to want to shift to the second gear because it's the easiest one for push starting a car. If you can't get into second gear, first and third may also work, but second is probably best. First gear has more torque than you're probably going to want, and you'll need a higher speed to get started in 3rd gear.
Step 3: You can now release the parking brake and engage the brake and clutch pedals. You should be pressing the clutch with your left foot and braking with your right after you release your parking brake.
Step 4: This is where the one or two friends you have with you come into play. You need to start to release the brake as your friends push the car. They should be behind the vehicle pushing around the bumper or the trunk depending on what kind of car you have. Technically you only need one person to get this done, but more than one person will make it easier.
Step 5: You need to get up to about 5 miles per hour. Once you've done that you can take your foot off the clutch. At this point the crankshaft should connect to the transmission and force the engine to turn over. Five miles per hour is the minimum speed you need for this, but it will work better if you're going faster. It won't be a smooth start by any means, and you may get some jerking and sputtering from the engine.
Step 6: Make sure you have a good grip on the wheel here to avoid something called torque steer. This occurs when the engine is trying to turn the wheels faster than they are already turning and will jerk the steering wheel in your hands if you're not careful.
Step 7: You may need to try this a few times until it actually works. If the car is rolling but the engine didn’t start, hit the clutch again and then release it to try to get it started.
Step 8: Once you have the engine going you can put the clutch back down so that you slow down. Your car will start idling and the alternator will charge the battery.
Step 9: With your foot on the clutch you can shift into neutral and then apply the brakes. The car will stop, and the alternator can continue to charge the battery for you. It's going to take about 15 minutes to get a reasonable charge here. So, make sure you just keep your car running for that amount of time. If you had no lights on whatsoever when you tried this, it may take a little bit longer to get a good charge in your battery, potentially 30 minutes to even an hour. You don't need to sit still that entire time, because the alternator will charge it as you drive. Just remember that if you turn the vehicle off at all then the charging stops and you may need to go through this whole process again.
The Bottom Line
The average car battery is only going to last you about 3 to 5 years, so you need to keep that in mind as you're going about your business in your vehicle. If you know that your battery is nearing the end of its life and you're having some issues then being prepared is the best thing you can do. Have some jumper cables or a booster pack in your vehicle at all times, just in case. Getting your battery jumped is not that difficult if you know what you're doing and you're ready to get the job done.