How To Jump-Start A Car

how to jumpstart a car

How To Jumpstart A Car:
Step-By-Step Guide (2021)

Okay, this is the nightmare of all nightmares when it comes to your car. You turn the key, the motor growls, and you feel hopeful…but then it stops! If you’re repeating this and your car is being stubborn, you’ll want to know exactly how to give it a boost. 

At this moment you’re probably thinking… Damn, I need to jumpstart my car. It might be that you’ve left a light on or just general maintenance issues, but either way you need to get things moving again. 

Honestly, everybody needs to know how to manually start their car up, so here’s the guide that will save you on your next road trip. After reading this article, you’ll be happy knowing you were always prepared. 

Now to make sure that this doesn’t happen though, I recommend getting a service or a mobile safety certificate. You can book in your for your roadworthy with my team here

If you’re selling your car, and you want to make sure you can get the most from it (without needing to jumpstart your car 😆) then don’t hesitate to get our fully qualified pre-purchase car inspectors to take a look at it. 

The last thing you want if you’re on a family adventure in your caravan is to run into a flat battery. Make sure you have a backup especially if you are using power in your caravan. 

Let’s not waste any more time, here’s how to jumpstart a car!

Table of Contents

how to jumpstart a car

How To Tell If Your Battery Is Dead...

If you are lucky enough to have a multi-meter (digital or analogue is good!), which is a handheld device for reading voltage, the battery should read around 14 volts. If it reads 12 volts or less, this usually means that the battery will need recharging. 

When you turn on the ignition and hear a dreaded “tick-tick” sound your engine won’t turn over. Your lights will also be very dim, as well as the remote central locking system possibly not working; you need the battery power to open the doors.

But yeah, you can usually tell when your battery is dead when you turn your key and the engine doesn’t even make any noise and your car does nothing… 

Don’t forget, we can tell you the health of your battery if you’re getting your car inspected before a sale. The same applies for getting your car or bike roadworthy. You may be at risk to other road users if your battery health is low.

What Do You Need To Jump A Car Battery?

  • Jumper cables, preferably with a suppressor; it is a square block that helps prevent a voltage surge. One is red, one is black, and both have two clamps on each. These can protect your body control module (car computer) from irreparable damages.
  • Jumper cable alternatives are emergency jump starters; they have a small battery and are perfect for emergencies.
  • Donor-car. Somebody who is prepared to give you a jump-start. You can jump-start the car manually as long as it’s a manual. 
  • An emergency battery pack is another solution.
how to jumpstart a car

Step by Step Guide On How To Jumpstart Your Car

Ok let’s get started. Here’s the step by step guide on how to start a car battery. 

If you follow this, you will have no issues what’s so ever. Make sure you pop your bonnet and let’s get through this together. 

opening your car bonnet to attach the jump cables for a jumpstart

1. Make Sure Your Ignition Is Switched Off

If another car is available to help you, make sure both cars are parked next to each other and are in neutral. Raise both bonnets and make sure they’re safely up and in a secure position, especially if it’s a windy day.

2. Locate The Car Battery

This may sound simple, but it’s not always easy, especially with European model cars where the battery housing is completely covered! Always refer to the user manual of your car model to help locate the battery.

If not, look for the biggest cables you can find on the left or right-hand side of the engine bay. One of these should lead you to the battery.

find the battery in your car bonnet

3. Safely Attach The Jumper Cables To Your Car Battery

The negative terminal has a minus (-) sign, while the positive has a plus (+) sign.

Positive is red, negative is black! 

In both cars, connect the negative jumper cable first to the negative terminal of the battery. Next, quickly put the positive terminal into your own car, holding the other end of the positive terminal in your other hand. 

This will ensure the positive terminal is not going to shorten out and touch the negative side of either vehicle. You need to be extra cautious with this.

4. What About Attaching the Positive Cables First

Attaching the terminals is debatable, however, if the negative terminal is connected first there is less risk of a short circuit. Basically, it’s the safest option for you especially if you’re quite new to dealing with cars.

Connecting the positive first is risky if you were to pick up the negative and bump it underneath the bonnet, so it really is better to be safe than sorry.

5. Rev The Other Car’s Engine Slowly To Keep The Battery Safe

Get the other car to rev their engine steadily, ideally just above idle and the motor being at a steady pace. It could be around 2000rpm. Make sure they’re not starting the car up like crazy. Slow and steady wins this race.

6. Be Patient Whilst The Car Battery Charges

Wait at least half a minute to a minute before giving your car a start. If the revs are slow, switch off and wait another 2 minutes. Patience is key here, as it takes time for the power to go through to the battery. You also don’t want to drain the battery of the donor car, so ensure their car has started first!

7. Disconnect The Cables In Reverse...

Once your car has started, make sure to leave it running, immediately disconnecting the positive terminal from both cars, then the negative. It’s important not to miss this detail with the cables! 

Lower the bonnet of your car slowly and with caution, as these running components (such as a fan belt) can cause harm.

8. Thank Your New Friend For The Help

Sometimes it can be tough to find a stranger on the highway to help, so make sure you’ve thanked them properly! Hopefully, you’ve made a new friend out of this situation.

thank you friend for helping you jumpstart a car

(Absolute Last-Resort Ways To Start The Car)

It’s not advisable on newer model cars as this can blow the car up… Jumping a jumper cable between the two poles (positive and negative) creates a very small spark. 

If you get a big spark, the problem is related to the starter motor. The starter motor is a small electric motor that flicks out a small gear that turns the flywheel. This is what turns the engine so it will start. 

If you have an adjustable spanner or suitable sized ring-spanner (between 10-13mm), remove the positive terminal, and then join the positive and negative. The bushman way is using a jack handle, but please only do this for a millisecond. Again, this is an absolute last resort method.

What If I Want To I Start The Car Up Myself?

Using a portable jump-starter is a must-have if you do a lot of long-distance travelling! There are so many ways to drain out the battery, so having this in your car will be very useful! 

If you’ve got a big engine such as an 8 Cylinder, you’ll need a more powerful jump starter like this one. Ideally though, the more amperage the better; you’re better off being over-prepared than under-prepared. 

The emergency jumper starter usually has a safety on/off switch, so there won’t be any damage to your car, however, they need to be changed every three to six months. You can attach the positive or negative clamps first without stress.

promoting your car online to try and sell it

Connect The Cables And Start Your Car

  • Pop the bonnet, and make sure you’ve got enough light to see. 
  • Connect positive to positive and negative to negative, turn the jump starter on, making sure it is sitting in a cavity of the engine bay, so it won’t move! 
  • Attempt to start the vehicle. If it still doesn’t start straight away, leave the jump starter connected to the battery for a few minutes to allow a current to flow between both power sources. 
  • If your car still isn’t starting, you may not have sufficient charge in the battery; You might have left it there for a long time not thinking you’d ever need it! 
  • Keep in mind, emergency jump starters can vary, so it’s always important to refer to the manual for detailed instructions.

Common Mistakes People Make When Jumpstarting Their Car Battery (And How To Avoid Them)

  • Connecting the positive terminal first. This can cause unnecessarily sparking, shortening out the battery of the other person’s car! It’s not really something you’d want to happen!
  • Putting the cables in reverse first. This can cause a fire, melt the leads, or blow up the body control module. It’s just an extra catastrophe. 
  • Having the car manual car in gear. Putting it in first gear stops it from rolling, so you need to be 100% sure that the handbrake is on. Worst case scenario, this can cause the car to zoom forward!


Our team of experts can help you figure this out, don’t hesitate to ask us during
your roadworthy inspection. At least you will know for next time.

the most common mistakes you can make when jumpstarting a car

What Are Some Other Reasons Why My Car Won’t Jumpstart?

  • Faulty starter motor.
  • Faulty fuel pump.
  • Coil-packs.
  • Blocked fuel injector pipes.
  • Blocked fuel hose from the petrol tank.
  • Faulty solenoid. 
  • Loose wiring to the starter motor.
  • Loose or corrosive battery terminals.
  • Dropped cell in the battery. 
  • Battery life depleted.
  • Blocked air-filter.
  • Faulty car key.
  • Faulty alarm system.
  • Cars prior to electronic ignition cars.

Worst Comes To Worst? Call Your Local Automobile Service For Support

Honestly, if starting the battery is beyond your control, please contact your local professional for immediate assistance. As said above, there are multiple reasons why your car might refuse to start. Our team of fully qualified mechanics can help you get back up and running in no time. 

Of course, making sure that you regularly go to a mechanic for a check-up or get your vehicle roadworthy are also important factors to prevent this. You can find out how much a roadworthy costs here.

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