How to Jump Start Cars

by Contributing Writer

Like doing a wax job or changing your first flat tire, learning how to properly jump-start a dead battery has become a kind of rite of passage into automotive maturity. Try as they might to keep us in the driver seat and out of the engine compartment, no manufacturer yet has figured out how to build a car that simply cannot deplete its electrical supply. Call it a talent of mental distraction -- people are just very good at killing batteries. Just connecting two cars together with a pair of jumper cables requires little more aptitude than killing the battery in the first place; but doing it properly and safely requires a somewhat more deliberate approach.

Under The Hood:

 How to Jump Start a Dodge Stratus

Open the hood to the Dodge Stratus and locate the positive and negative jump post locations. They'll be on the driver's side of the engine compartment and will have a red plastic cap and cover for the positive jump post and a black cap and cover for the negative jump post. They will also be marked appropriately with the "+ and -" insignia on top of the caps. Remove both caps to expose the post and nut of the jump post.

Take the jumper cables and separate the clamps to make sure they do not come into contact with one another during the connecting procedure. Have the assisting car pull up alongside the Stratus in reach of the jumper cables to access their battery or jump posts to yours.

Attach the red (positive) clamp of the jumper cable to the battery positive post of the assisting car first. Then attach the black (negative) clamp of the jumper cable to the battery negative post of the assisting car. There will be stamped insignias "+ and -" on the battery housing to determine the positive and negative terminals.

Be careful now that the remaining clamps are "live" from the power of the assisting car's battery not to allow them to contact one another. Attach the remaining red clamp of the jumper cable to the red positive jump post of the Dodge Stratus. Attach the remaining black clamp to the black negative jump post of the Dodge Stratus.

Start the engine of the Dodge Stratus. It may take a few minutes to charge the battery up to be successful to start, depending on how dead the battery is. You may have to start and run the assisting car in order to transfer more power to the dead battery of the Stratus.

Remove the black clamp of the jumper cable from the Stratus first after it starts, while it's still running. Then, remove the red clamp of the jumper cable from the Stratus. Be sure to not allow the clamps to contact one another.

Remove the black clamp of the jumper cable from the battery of the assisting car first and then the red clamp of the jumper cable. Replace the jumper cables. Close the hood of the assisting car. Replace the caps on the jump posts in the Stratus and close the hood.

Remove the black clamp of the jumper cable from the Stratus first after is starts while it's still running. Then, remove the red clamp of the jumper cable from the Stratus. Be sure to not allow the clamps to contact one another.

 How to Jump Start a Lincoln LS

Open your Lincoln LS's trunk. Grasp the edge of the cargo liner and lift it out of the trunk. This exposes the spare tire and the battery.

Park the vehicle you are using to receive a boost near the rear of your LS. Check the battery location for the booster vehicle. Park it so the batteries are lined up, if possible.

Turn the engine off in the booster vehicle. Set the parking-brake lever in both vehicles for safety.

Connect one end of the red jumper cable (positive) to the positive battery post (+) in the LS. Connect the other end of the red jumper cable to the positive battery post on the donor vehicle's battery.

Connect one end of the black jumper cable to the negative battery post in the donor vehicle. Connect the other end of the black jumper cable to the rod protruding from the center of the spare tire mount in the LS. This provides a suitable ground.

Crank the donor vehicle's engine. Rev it up a little, and then start the engine in the LS. Let both vehicles run for three to five minutes.

Remove the black jumper cable from the spare tire rod, and then remove the other end from the donor vehicle's negative battery post.

Remove the red jumper cable from the LS's battery post, and then remove the other end from the donor vehicle's battery post.

Items you will need

  • Jumper cables

  • Booster vehicle

 How to Jump Start a Saturn Vue

Open the Saturn Vue's hood and locate the terminals on the battery.

Move the operational vehicle close enough to the Vue that the jumper cables can reach between them.

Connect one of the jumper cables' red clamps to the positive (+) terminal on the dead battery, and then connect the other red clamp to the positive terminal on the jumper vehicle's battery.

On the jumper vehicle's battery, connect a black clamp to the negative (-) terminal and then connect the other black clamp to an unpainted metal surface on the engine block to ground the connection.

After five to 10 minutes, start the Saturn Vue. Idle the engine for another five to 10 minutes before disconnecting the jumper cables.

Disconnect the jumper cables by reversing the above steps. Close the hood. The jump start process is now complete.

Items you will need

  • Another operational vehicle

  • Jumper cables

 How to Jump Start Your Harley

Turn the engine to the car and the Harley off.

Remove the seat of the Harley with a Phillips screwdriver, and unsnap the battery cover on the left side of the motorcycle.

Connect the red positive ("+") clamps to the positive terminals of the Harley battery and the car battery.

Connect one end of the black negative ("-") cable to the negative terminal on the Harley battery. Connect the other end of the black negative cable to an unpainted metal surface on the car engine. Do not connect it to the negative terminal on the car battery.

Keep the cables in place for several minutes then start the Harley. Try again after a few more minutes if it does not start the first time.

Remove the cables, and snap the battery cover on the Harley back into place. Replace the seat with the Phillips screwdriver.

Items you will need

  • Phillips screwdriver

 How to Jump Start a New Volkswagen Beetle

Park the live car so that its battery is easily within reach of the Beetle's battery, which is located on the driver's side of the engine.

Pop both hoods. On your Beetle, the lever to pop the hood is located low on the wall of the vehicle underneath the driver's side dash, near the footrest. After pulling this lever, a small black tab will pop out from underneath the hood. Pull on this tab to unlock the hood, then lift it all the way open.

With both cars turned off--including all systems such as air conditioning, stereos, etc.--attach the jumper cables. Automotive website Edmunds.com warns that attaching the cables in the wrong order increases the risk of an explosion, so it is important to complete this step in the following order: positive cable--usually red--to positive terminal of dead battery; other end of positive cable to positive terminal of live battery; corresponding negative cable--usually black--to negative terminal of live battery; and the other end of negative cable to a shiny, metal, non-moving part of the dead Beetle's engine. Most parts of the engine in your Beetle are encased in plastic, so as a last resort, connect the negative cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery.

Start the live car, and let it idle for a few minutes. This will charge the battery of your Beetle. Attempt to start the Beetle. When it starts, allow it to idle for another few minutes while connected to the other car. If it does not start, wait a few more minutes and try again. If it still refuses to start, it may be best to call a tow truck because there are likely other problems.

Carefully disconnect the cables in the reverse order that they were connected in, making sure not to let the ends touch one another or fall into any moving parts of either engine. Immediately take your Beetle to have the battery fully charged at your mechanic or dealership to avoid a repeat of the situation the next time you start the car.

Items you will need

  • Car with live battery

  • Jumper cables

 How to Jump Start a 2008 Chrysler Sebring

Park the vehicle on level ground. Turn the steering wheel so that the tires are pointing to the right. Turn the engine off and engage the parking brake.

Locate the battery. The battery can be found near the driver's side front tire. It is mounted in front of the tire, in the fender well.

Remove the clips using a screwdriver. The access cover will pop off and the battery will be visible.

Park a vehicle with a good battery next to the Sebring. Be sure that the jumper cables can reach from the battery of one car to the other.

Open the hood of the vehicle with the good battery and secure it with the safety latch.

Locate the battery terminals on both vehicles. Each battery has two metal terminals. There is a positive (+) and a negative (-).

Connect the red positive (+) cable using the clamp to the positive (+) terminal of the dead battery. Connect the red positive (+) cable to the positive (+) terminal of the "live" battery.

Connect the black negative (-) cable using the clamp to the negative (-) terminal of the live battery.

Establish a metal ground on the vehicle with a dead battery. Connect the black negative (-) cable to the engine block or another metal surface away from the battery.

Start the vehicle with the "live" battery. Wait a moment and start the Chrysler.

Remove the jumper cables from the vehicle. They should be removed in the reverse order that you put them on.

Place the access cover back over the battery of the Chrysler. Replace the clips to secure the cover.

Items you will need

  • Philips head screwdriver

  • Jumper cables

 How to Jump Start a Mercedes

Find the battery. It's usually under the hood, but in some Mercedes it's in the trunk or under the seat.

Place the red clip on the positive terminal of the battery. The positive has a plus symbol.

Place the black clip on the negative terminal of the battery. The negative has a minus symbol.

Place the other end of the cables on the corresponding terminals of the battery of the running vehicle.

Attempt to start the Mercedes. The other vehicle should be running. If the Mercedes does not start right away, let the other vehicle run for several minutes with the jumper cables attached. This may charge the battery enough to start the Mercedes.

Remove the jumper cables if the Mercedes starts. Allow the car to run for 10 to 15 minutes to charge the battery. Turn off the engine and let the car sit for another 15 minutes.

Try to start the car. If it doesn't start, the battery is dead and needs to be replaced.

Items you will need

  • Booster pack (if not available use the jumper cables and second vehicle)

  • Jumper cables

  • Running vehicle

 How to Jump Start a Mercedes-Benz CLK

Turn off all electrical components in both the CLK and the second car. Do not turn the headlights on under any circumstances during the jump-starting process, as they use too much necessary energy.

Open the hood on both cars and locate both car batteries. The CLK's battery is typically found on the passenger's side of the car and closer to the back end of the compartment. At this time make sure that the functioning car uses a 12-volt battery. Anything more than this could damage the CLK's battery.

Position both cars so that the jumper cables are able to easily reach the terminals on both batteries. Do not let the two cars touch in any way, however.

Apply the parking brake on both cars to make sure that they do not move during the jump-start. Make sure that the functioning car is completely turned off before connecting the jumper cables.

Remove the flap covering the positive "+" terminal on the CLK's battery. If the functioning car has a flap covering either the positive or negative terminal, remove this as well.

Clamp one end of the red, positive cable to the positive "+" terminal on the charged battery, then clamp the other to the CLK's positive under-hood terminal, which is located in front of the. Turn the functioning car on and let it idle.

Connect the black, negative cable to the negative "-" terminal on the charged battery, and then to the CLK's negative under-hood terminal in front of the dead battery. Wait a few minutes as the battery charges before attempting to turn the CLK on.

Start the engine on the CLK and let it idle. Remove the negative "-" jumper cable from the other car and the CLK, starting with the other car, then the positive jumper cable in the same manner in order to complete the jump-start.

Items you will need

  • Jumper cables

 How to Jump Start a Car

Remove or secure loose clothing: scarves, hanging jewelry, etc. You'll be working in close proximity to moving engine parts -- be careful. Pop your dead car's hood and locate the positive and negative battery terminals. Most of the time you'll find them on the battery itself, but some vehicles, like the Chrysler 300, Prius and any number of BMWs, have batteries hidden elsewhere in the car. In these cases you'll typically find stand-alone terminals under the hood. The positive terminal, denoted by a "+" symbol, typically has a red cap or cover; the negative, with a "-" symbol, uses black. If you can't find them, check your owner's manual or look near the main fuse box. Manufacturers typically place positive jump terminals right next to them.

Check the location of the terminals in the donor car, and have its driver park so that his battery terminals or jump posts are within cable-reach of your own. Many a has parked the donor car near their own before bothering to figure out where the terminals were, only to find the cables were too short to reach or had to be routed near moving parts. Parking nose-to-nose is usually ideal when possible; just make sure to leave a foot or so space between the vehicles so you can get by. In any case, do not let the two vehicles touch each other. With the vehicles parked and both engines off, remove the plastic or rubber protective covers from the battery terminals or jump posts. Keep track of the positive and negative posts if they're not clearly marked.

Unplug all electrical accessories like cell phones, aftermarket nav systems and MP3 players from both vehicles; the power surge from jumping can easily fry delicate circuitry. Turn off all accessories and lights, except flashers if you need them for safety. Turn both ignition keys to the "Off" position.

Sort out your cables. Double-check that they'll reach their respective terminals without getting anywhere near fans, belts, pulleys or hot exhaust manifolds, and where you won't have to reach across moving parts to connect them. Reposition the donor car, if necessary. Keep in mind that electric cooling fans can come on at any time, for no apparent reason. Follow this sequence of attachment exactly: First, connect one end of your -- typically red-marked -- jumper cable lead to the positive terminal or jump post on the donor car, and then connect the other end to the positive terminal or jump post on the dead car. Hold an end of the black or negative cable in each of your hands, to keep one end from accidentally touching either chassis. Connect one side to the negative terminal or post on the donor car.

Last, connect the other end of the negative cable to a solid metal engine bracket, to an unpainted metal chassis component, or to the separate negative jump post on the dead car. Don't connect directly to the negative battery terminal. This is the final connection, and there will be sparks just as the cable is connected. A spark in this pocket of gas could turn your battery into an acid bomb. Given that, it should also go without saying: Don't smoke while you're doing this.

Have the donor car's driver start his engine and briefly rev it up to about 3,000 rpm. Some vehicles use alternators that don't energize until the engine reaches a certain speed -- usually 2,000 to 3,000 rpm. Failing to energize the alternator could drain the battery on the donor car. Allow the donor car to idle for about 10 minutes. Keeping the donor car's engine at about 2,000 rpm can speed things up in some cases, but revving any higher than that is just wasting gas.

Turn the dead car's ignition key to the "On" position, and check your interior and dashboard lights. They should be bright and steady, and shouldn't get markedly brighter or dimmer if the driver of the donor car revs his engine. That's when you know your battery is approaching sufficient starting charge. Close the doors and turn all the lights off. Don't touch the brake if you don't have to. Attempt to start the car. If the starter chugs, and sounds sluggish or slow, give the battery more time to charge. Don't waste the charge you've built up by trying to start an engine that doesn't have the juice yet.

Wait. Be patient. Try again. If you've given it enough time, the dead car should start. Have the driver of the donor vehicle shut off his engine, and remove the cables in the reverse order of installation: First the negative or ground cable on your car, then the negative cable from the donor, the positive cable on your car, and finally the positive cable on the donor car. Replace all of the plastic or rubber terminal or jump post caps, and shut the hoods. Allow your car to idle for at least 15 minutes, or drive it for that same amount of time.

Items you will need

  • Donor or "Jump" Car

  • Jumper cables

 How to Jump Start a 24-Volt Vehicle

Getting a Jump Start from Another Vehicle

Find someone with a 24-volt system in their car or truck to come help you. Their electrical system can safely be connected to yours with jumper cables without risking an overload as your vehicle starts.

Move the second vehicle's hood as close as possible to yours, and pop both hoods open.

Look under both hoods to locate the batteries. They are large, rectangular plastic boxes with two large electrical contacts on them.

Clip the red (positive) jumper cable onto the positive ("+") terminal of the battery of the good car, and clip the other end onto the positive terminal of the dead car's battery. If the cars have two batteries, they will be wired in sequence, so it doesn't matter which terminal you attach it to; the good battery will power up the whole circuit.

Clip one end of the black (negative) cable to the negative ("-") contact of the good car's battery and the other end to an unpainted (and ideally shiny) piece of metal on the frame of the dead car. Exposed bolts in the engine compartment work well. Don't clip it to the dead battery itself, as this risks a battery explosion. You may see a spark when you make the final connection; this is normal.

Put the key into the good car's ignition, and start it. Step on the gas with the car in neutral to rev the engine, and provide extra power to the alternator; this will keep electricity flowing into the battery as it charges the dead battery in the other car.

Shut down the good car's engine, and try to start the dead car. This avoids the risk of damage to the first car's electrical systems from the surge in the circuit as the first car starts up, but might not always work. If it doesn't, try starting the dead car with the good car's engine running.

Check for problems if the dead car still doesn't start. All the electrical systems in it (lights, heating, A/C) need to be off, and the terminals of the battery should be clean. If, after wiping the terminals and turning everything off, the car still doesn't start, then it is likely a problem with your starter or alternator, and you will need a tow.

Remove the jumper cables in the reverse order that you put them on.

Jump Starts with a Battery Pack

Buy a 24-volt battery pack from an automotive store, and plug it in to charge it.

Pop the hood of your vehicle, and connect the red and black cables in the same way as you would with another vehicle; red to the positive ("+") terminal on the battery and black to an exposed piece of the vehicle's frame.

Turn the battery pack on and try to start your vehicle. If it doesn't start, the troubleshooting process is the same -- check that electrical systems are off and the terminals are clean before calling a tow truck.

Items you will need

  • Jumper cables