Jumpstart your vehicle the right way

Being left stranded by a flat car battery can happen to anyone of us – even if you drive the most modern of cars. That’s why it’s best to make sure you’re aware of how to jumpstart your vehicle, says Les Mc Master, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA).

“While the jumpstarting procedure is relatively standard for all vehicles on the road today, boost starting can cause serious damage to the vehicle’s electrical system and computer. It’s therefore important to first consult the owner’s manual for any specific boost starting instructions, as well as to ensure that the different locations are identified for the jumpstart terminals in your car. In many modern cars these terminals are placed at strategic areas of the vehicle due to the battery being fitted in awkward locations.”

Once the terminals are located and jumper cables are on hand, he advises lining up the car with the flat battery as close as possible to another vehicle with the booster battery. Next make sure both cars’ handbrakes are up, that the gear selector is in Neutral or Park position, and that both cars are turned off and not touching each other before you connect the cables.

“It’s important to remember that over 300 volts goes through your system when the two batteries are connected and the transients can destroy equipment. To prevent that make sure all headlights, indicators, car radios and air conditioners are off and radar detectors and cell phones are unplugged. Also unplug all accessories from cigarette lighters and other power sockets from both cars and remove the keys from the flat car’s ignition until jumper cables are hooked up,” he explains.

Mc Master says it’s good to take some time to familiarise yourself with the Positive (+) and Negative (-) terminals of both car batteries so you know exactly which one is which. All batteries are clearly marked, so if you can’t find it, it’s probably under caked-on corrosion around the terminals. He suggests wiping off any battery acid that may have leaked.

However he warns that if the battery is cracked and liquid is leaking out, you should not go any further. “If you try to jump start the battery with a crack in it, it will explode. It also doesn’t make any sense to jump a cracked battery, as it will die in a few minutes anyway. Bite the bullet and go buy another battery to replace the faulty one.”

But if all seems well, simply clean off any corrosion around the dead battery terminals and if you have tools, loosen the wires from the terminals, clean them off and then retighten the wires to the shiny posts. Corroded posts prevent the power from getting through the cables and into your battery to revive it. “Even if you have a file handy, try to file the metal battery posts until they are nice and shiny. If you’re in a pinch, use pliers to clamp down and scrape off corrosion too as the metal is somewhat soft.

Now you’re ready to connect the car battery jumper cables. Usually the Positive battery cable is red or orange, and the Negative, or ground cable is black – but always check for yourself just to be sure, he stresses.

Remember that the cables must be connected in the correct order for safety reasons. Then do the following:

  • First connect one positive end of the jumper cable to the positive terminal of the dead battery.
  • Then connect the other positive end of the jumper cable to the positive terminal of the good battery.
  • Next connect the one negative end of the jumper cable to the negative terminal of the good battery.
  • Connect the other negative end of the jumper cable to a shiny nut or bolt on the dead vehicle. This will need to be a grounded piece on the engine or on the frame of the vehicle. You should only connect to the negative terminal on the dead battery as a last option to avoid an explosion by spark.
  • Now, as the car batteries are hooked together, let them run for a minute or two before you try to start the dead vehicle. Once the dead vehicle starts, remove the cables in the reverse order that you connected them.

“After that is done, I’d recommend having the electrical system checked by a registered MIWA service technician. MIWA member workshops have all the tools and knowledge to ensure your vehicle’s electrical system is in good running condition. The battery may just need to have corrosion removed from the battery terminals, or your vehicle may need a new battery or have the charging system inspected. But don’t wait until your vehicle will not start. Rather take care of the problem before you get stranded,” Mc Master concludes.