Having a car that won’t start is one of the worst experiences an unprepared driver can have. This is especially worse, if the timing is way off and you don’t have many options. For instance, you could be in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.
Most drivers experience this predicament mainly as a result of neglecting simple vehicle maintenance. Car batteries normally last from two to four years, depending in the conditions and usage of the vehicle. Regular city driving doesn’t tax heavily on your car’s battery, long drives and extreme weather greatly shorten battery life.
Manual Transmission Push-starting a manual transmission vehicle is not an easy enough task, but it’s an option that stick shift vehicles do enjoy. Push-starting usually involves setting the car into neutral by depressing the clutch while in first or second gear, then having someone push the car until you attain a speed of about 15 mph. Then you jerk the clutch in and out until the gear kicks in and starts the engine rolling over. You can then rev up the engine to have the alternator give the battery some juice. This can also be done backwards, with the gear in reverse.
Automatic Transmission Automatic cars need to be jump-started, and a jumper cable is an essential part of your toolkit if you have an automatic vehicle. One thing you need is a compassionate motorist who would be willing to lend his time (and car).
To jump-start, first turn off all electrical gadgets such as the lights, radio, air conditioner and other gadgets that may be plugged in. Be sure that the other vehicle uses the same voltage as your car’s, which is usually 12 Volts for sedans, and 24 Volts for bigger trucks and SUVs. Check for loose battery terminals and tighten before hooking up the cables following the hook-up process below.
The Hook-Up The battery cable comes in two colors: red and black. Once the cars are positioned such that the cable can reach both batteries easily, turn off the engine of the booster car and connect the red cable to the positive battery terminal of the good battery, and then the other end to the bad battery. This is usually the red terminal. Then connect the end of the black cable to the negative terminal of the good battery, which is usually black or green. Then connect the other end to any exposed metal part of the car near the engine. This serves as ground, and the lifting hooks located on some engines, or any exposed bolt would do nicely. Just be sure this is as far away from the battery as possible.
Before starting, ensure the cables will not get entangled on any moving parts to prevent more damage.
Start the booster car and let it run for a few minutes. You can rev the engine a few times, to let the alternator run more current through the system. This will charge the other dead battery.
After a few minutes, crank up the car with the dead battery and once it starts, take off the cables reversing the hook-up process above. Remove the ground cable from the recipient car first, and then from the host car. Then remove the red cable from the battery terminal of the recipient car, and then from the host car.
Just because you got the car with the dead battery started does not mean you’re out of trouble. Immediately go to a service center to have your car fixed. Most likely you will need a new battery. Be sure to also have the alternator checked, as you might have a good battery after all, but not charging properly due to a busted alternator.