The Official Way to Jump-Start a Battery
We’ll show you how to perform this basic, emergency startup — and how you can avoid the need for a jump entirely.
Every driver will jump-start a battery four to five times in their lifetime. And today’s your day.
Let’s get you going again.
Safety First! Follow This Checklist
Take off any metal jewelry, including rings and necklaces. Live electrical connections and jewelry are a hazardous combination.
You should also put on sunglasses or something to protect your eyes before you pop open the hood
Once you lift the hood and can see the battery, check for these three things:
- Can you smell rotten eggs?
- Can you feel any heat coming off the battery?
- Do you see a lot of corrosion on the terminals?
If you said yes to the eggs or the heat, don’t jump-start it. Something is seriously wrong. Instead, call for a lift. Only an automotive technician should deal with your battery.
If corrosion is completely covering a battery terminal, use something disposable to brush it off the battery. Paper towels or paper waste in your car will do the job. Enough corrosion between the battery post and the car’s clamp can stop your ignition.
If you can’t find the battery, look for a red-capped battery post instead. This is a remote terminal, and some new vehicle designs have moved the battery out of the engine to somewhere harder to access — with just an easier-to-access remote terminal for jump-starting the car.
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Where can you get a free battery check near you? Put in your city or ZIP code, and we’ll show you dozens of locations nearby. Or just look for our logo in any of the auto shops near you.
10 Steps to Jump-start Your Car
Turn everything off.
DO NOT TRY THE IGNITION AGAIN. Turning everything off makes it easier for another car to jump-start yours. Turn off the air conditioner or heater, radio, anything plugged into USB ports or the cigarette lighter.
Connect the red cable to your battery’s positive post.
Connect the other end of the red cable to the good battery’s positive post.
Connect the black cable to the good battery’s negative post.
Connect the other end of the black to some part of your car, not the battery.
Any hard metal or the body of the car is fine.
Start the car with the good battery.
Now start your car.
If it doesn’t start immediately, wait 10 minutes (with the cables still attached and the good car running) and try again. If your car doesn’t start on the second try, the problem may be something you can’t fix without a professional.
Remove the cables in reverse order, starting with the black clamp on your car’s body or engine.
Remove the black clamp on the other car. Then take the first red clamp off while you’re there. Remove the cables in reverse order, starting with the black clamp on your car’s body or engine.
Make sure the clamps don’t touch each other. They may spark and damage either vehicle’s onboard computers.
Finally, take the red clamp off your car’s battery.
Your engine’s running, and you can drop the hoods back in place.
Now’s the perfect time to prepare in case you face another battery breakdown.
Where can you get a fresh battery? We got you covered.
Reliable technicians across North America can install the best automotive batteries around. Find one near you.
4 Things to Do (and 1 Don’t) After a Jump-Start
1. Go to an auto repair shop. We can recommend plenty near you. To be safe, get your battery checked at a nearby repair shop. Auto technicians can inspect and analyze your battery for early signs of weakness or failure. Some shops can even test your vehicle’s whole electrical system. And that’s crucial for you because batteries fail for a lot of reasons.
Car batteries last for three to five years, but days of high heat can shorten their lifespan by drying them out and speeding up corrosion. Or too many short drives and not enough recharge time on the road can leave a battery severely depleted. A dead battery could be a sign of deeper electrical problems, such as an issue with the alternator or an onboard computer over-charging (or under-charging) the battery.
A visit to a mechanic right now can better prepare you for tomorrow.
2. Make a jump-start preparedness kit. As we said before, almost everyone will have to jump-start a few cars in their life. You can prepare for your next time by making a kit of supplies you can keep in your trunk.
- Jumper cables
- Gloves, rags and protective eyewear
- A flashlight (with a new alkaline battery)
- Your vehicle’s owner manual
- The right sizes of any wrenches or screwdrivers you may need to access the battery
Also consider signing up for a roadside assistance membership, either through your auto insurance provider or an independent provider.
Then add your membership card to your kit.
No other vehicle required. They come in various sizes from a handheld brick to the size of a large tote bag. Some have outlets for recharging a phone; others only come with big clamps. The point of each is to save you from needing another car for a jump-start.
A lot can go wrong for either car when you perform a jump-start. A voltage spike in one can send too much power into the other, potentially damaging power control circuits that govern the alternator, starter and other electronics in the engine.
A jumper pack is handy – and even safer than a regular jump. Jumper packs only have 13 volts, low enough to protect your car from any overloads.
4. Avoid getting dead batteries entirely. You don’t need to wait for a battery to fail before you replace it. Auto repair shops across the country can test and identify batteries at risk of failing soon.
Get your battery tested twice a year, in fall and spring, at your favorite auto repair garage. If you follow your mechanic’s advice and replace your weak battery before it fails, it’s possible you’ll never need to jump-start a battery again.
5. Driving after a jump-start will NOT help a weak battery. Take it from the experts; driving for 20 minutes after a jump-start will not help your battery much.
We go into the science behind this myth in other articles, but the point is driving won’t bring a dead battery back to 100%. You would need to drive for 30 minutes at highway speeds to recharge a healthy battery. A jump-started battery may now have damage that reduces how much power it can hold.
Instead, devote that time to going to your nearest repair shop for a battery test and an expert’s analysis of whether a weak battery is a sign of a deeper problem in your car.
There’s a repair shop near you. Let’s find one now.
Interstate Batteries has a network of more than 150,000 auto repair shops, garages and more. One of them is nearby right now, ready to help you.