How To Jump Start a Car

by Brett & Kate McKay on September 11, 2008 · 127 comments

in Cars, Manly Skills

You’re walking out of your apartment and notice a good looking gal with the hood of her car open, looking at the engine with desperation. You go over and ask what’s wrong. The car battery is dead, and she’s late for class. She asks you if you can give her jump. You look down at the ground, kick some rocks, and offer to call AAA instead.

You have no clue how to jump start a car.

Every man should know how to jump start a dead car battery. You never know when you’ll need this knowledge to aid a stranded damsel in distress or help yourself. While jumping a dead battery is super simple, you’d be surprised by the number of men who have no idea how to do it. Even if a man has learned how to jump start a car before, it can be easy to forget what cables go where. Positive on negative? Ground the positive cable on the car with the good battery? Red cable is negative?

To help you avoid looking like a putz when asked to jump start a car and to help prevent you from shocking the hell out of yourself when you do it, here’s the rundown on how to jump start a dead car battery.

How to Tell if Your Battery Is Dead

Before you try jump starting a car, you need to determine that the battery is the reason the car isn’t starting up. If you turn the ignition and hear the engine cranking, a dead battery isn’t your problem and jump starting it won’t do a darn thing. However, if you turn the key and the car does absolutely nothing, then there’s a good chance you have a dead battery on your hands and jumping it may be your ticket to getting back on the road.

How to Jump Start a Car with Cables

Note: You should always carry jumper cables in your car with you. You never know when you’re going to need them.

Don’t be this guy

1. Make sure both cars are turned off.

2. Connect one end of the red (positive) jumper cable to the positive terminal on the stalled battery.

3. Then connect the other red (positive) cable clamp to the positive terminal of the good battery.

4. Connect one end of the black (negative) jumper cable to the negative terminal of the good battery.

5. Then connect the other black (negative) cable to a clean, unpainted metal surface under the disabled car’s hood. Somewhere on the engine block is a good place. Unless you want to see flying sparks and a possible explosion, do not connect the negative cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery, .

6. Start the car that’s doing the jumping, and allow it to run for about 2 to 3 minutes before starting the dead car.
7. Remove cables in reverse order.
8. Keep the jumped car running for at least 30 minutes to give the battery sufficient time to recharge itself.

And you’re done. Give yourself a pat on the back for a manly job well done.

Unfortunately, jumper cables will not bring inanimate objects to life. Including hot model women you build in your lab.


The hardest part of the job is simply remembering where to put each cable. Many a man has broken out in a sweat wondering if he is about to make a wrong move and toast himself to a crisp. Here’s the good news: It’s probably impossible to electrocute yourself from jump starting a car. The battery might give you a big shock, but the voltage is too low to penetrate your skin and put you down for the count.

But no one wants to be on the receiving end of a zap, no matter how mild. So come up with a mnemonic device to help you remember which color goes where. I personally think: red=blood=life=positive/black=death=negative.

How to Jump Start a Car Without Cables

If you have a standard transmission car, you can jump start that bad boy without using cables. Here’s how you do it:

1. Find a stretch of clear downhill road.

2. Fully depress the clutch and put the car in first gear.

3. Turn the ignition to on.

4. Take your foot off the brake and start rolling down the hill, leaving the clutch fully depressed.

5. Coast down the hill until you reach 5 or 7 miles per hour.

6. Release the clutch quickly. You should feel the engine turn and start. If it doesn’t start the first time, depress the clutch and release it again.

7. If you don’t have a hill, get some of your buddies to give you a push and follow the steps above.

Got a story to share about when knowing how to jump start a car came in handy? Were you able to help a little old lady? Did you have to do it in subzero weather in the complete dark? Drop a line in the comment box and share it with us.

{ 126 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tyler September 11, 2008 at 9:26 pm

Haha. Great article. I’m definitely one of those guys who has learned how to jump start a car but then forgets. And then I get nervous about doing it wrong.

I don’t have any really manly stories about jumping a car. I did it for my girlfriend once who needed to get to class. And she thought I was her hero. So that was pretty cool.

2 Michael September 11, 2008 at 11:45 pm

Why the need to run the “live” car? I have done this successfully many times without ever starting the live car. Once connected, the batteries are in parallel, so there shouldn’t be a need to start the live car. What’s the theory here?

3 maya September 11, 2008 at 11:57 pm

make sure the gal is good looking!

4 Victor September 12, 2008 at 12:16 am

As far as I know when pushing the car or going down hill you should use the 2nd gear, not 1st. Good info anyways :)

5 Overstroming September 12, 2008 at 1:19 am

I agree with Victor, in my experience it’s better to have the car in 2nd gear for push starting.
A word of warning though – if push-starting a car, particularly on a slope, be sure to let the driver know that the brakes are servo assisted ie; they don’t work too well when the engine isn’t running!
If the car doesn’t start and the hill is steep enough you could have a problem!

6 Pieter September 12, 2008 at 2:29 am

I remember my dad once left the lights on… In the morning he woke me up, I was about 16, told me he had a surprise for me and walked outside to the car. I went down and there he was asking me if I could give him a push. :P

7 herr_tichy September 12, 2008 at 2:34 am

Well, matter of fact, I’ve been on the receiving end of this :/ I’ve found my best female friend over a dead battery ;) So, there I was, battery dead because I’d forgotten to turn the headlights off. Stupid, oh well, but I’d been in a hurry that morning. No hill in sight and pushing the car was not option, because I was alone. At least I had some jumper cables. Just at that point this hot readhead walks into the deserted parking lot with the only other two cars being some small Fiat or something and a totally pimped out VW T3 bus. She went past me, asked whether I needed help and I told her, that a jump start would be great. She gave me that “oh boy, you’re cute but clueless, aren’t you”-look, which I totally misinterpreted and thought to myself “Yeah, what the hell, as if you know anything about cars, get your puny italocar here already”.

Boy, was I wrong. She headed towards the T3 which fired up with the howl of… something mighty, but not a small VW diesel.

Later I should find out that she’s a mechanic like me and that that T3 she was driving contained a 3.2L V6 diesel with a custom fitted bi-turbo. All of which she fiddled together in her garage.

Lesson learned: Observe ppl for five minutes, before you judge them ;)

8 Patrick September 12, 2008 at 2:45 am

@ Michael on September 11th, 2008 11:45 pm

Why the need to run the “liveâ€? car? I have done this successfully many times without ever starting the live car. Once connected, the batteries are in parallel, so there shouldn’t be a need to start the live car. What’s the theory here?

The reason you’d want to have the live car running is to help prevent killing the battery on it when the other car starts. If you’ve got a good battery, probably no worries, but if you have – say the one in my truck that is at the end of its useful life, you’ll be using the dead car to start the live one =)

9 Oogie September 12, 2008 at 3:04 am

When I first got married, I bought a set of these ( from TrakAuto so my wife wouldn’t be stranded anywhere without jumper cables (no such think as cell phones then). They work great. You unplug the two halves, connect them up, make sure the LED is on and then plug them together.

And as a matter of disclosure, I don’t work for them. Just a very satisfied customer.

You should also point out that if your car breaks down on the interstate, jumping the battery won’t make any difference. If the battery really is dead, its because your charging system is broke and you’ve been running off of the battery until it was dead.

10 Kyle Gordon September 12, 2008 at 4:20 am

@Michael: Why the need to run the good car for a while? It allows the good car to give the dead battery a little bit of a charge before you crank it over. It ensures the dead battery is not completely drained and given a large dose of current during starting.

What I don’t understand is why it’s advised to connect the negative to the body instead of the negative on the dead battery. I’ve always connected directly to the negative, as the body _should_ be well grounded via the earthing straps to the negative of the battery anyway. The only time I’ve seen this issue is when there has been corrosion around the earthing strap terminals (all of them), and consequently the jump leads did nothing.

11 STL Mom September 12, 2008 at 4:35 am

Are girls allowed to comment on this blog? My problem with these instructions is that I can’t find a metal place for the negative cable because there’s a big piece of plastic over most of my (Honda minivan) engine. So I end up using the negative terminal instead.
Is this why I had to replace my battery after just two years? Or was is the constantly playing with the lights and electronic sliding doors?

12 tinfoil September 12, 2008 at 4:51 am

FYI, some newer cars have special instructions for jumpstarting, so do please consult the manual before you run the risk of frying some very sensitive components.

Next, how to rescue a stuck starter with nothing more than a hammer. If you go to start your car but have no luck (it won’t turn over and it won’t even click) but your accessories function fine, you may have a bum starter. If it doesn’t work after jumpstarting (or bumpstarting for the stick drivers) then your starter may be stuck. Tap it lightly a couple of times with a hammer or other fairly weighty object and try again.

It’s saved me a couple of times.

13 tinfoil September 12, 2008 at 4:53 am

STL Mom, consult your manual. There may be a dedicated spot in the engine bay just for this purpose. My previous vehicle was much the same.

14 jim b September 12, 2008 at 5:00 am

Good info. I just bought a new car (08 Cobalt SS) and had to jump start a friend’s car. I popped my hood and was surprised to learn the battery is located in the trunk below the floor, near the spare. There is just a jump post located under the hood. Are there a lot of new cars like this? Is there an article on how to change a tire? The search tab doesn’t seem to be working for me. Yesterday, I watched a co-worker, who refused help, jack uo his car before trying to crack the lugs. He rolled it right off the jack. I would love to print an article and hand it to him at work, with the Art of Manliness heading.

15 Miss Teri Parson September 12, 2008 at 5:40 am

About three months back, I noticed two guys in front of my house could not get their car started. They looked pretty sketchy, but still…they were in need of help, so I figured I’d give them a hand.
“Need a jump?”, I asked, and proceeded to pull out my jumper cables.
“Oh, wow! Those are really good cables”, the one guy said.
I thought nothing about it then, and proceeded to jump their vehicle off of my truck.
The problem was that I have two black cables to my battery and the battery is very old and grimy. I hooked up the red cable to what I thought was the positive terminal on my truck.
Both cars started smoking and I quickly removed the cables. Overall, the cars were connected incorrectly for 1-2 seconds. I swapped the cables and they proceeded to start the vehicle and drive off.
Two hours later, they came back to my house claiming that when I had reversed the polarity, it blew their master computer in their vehicle. A new computer would cost them $500 and I was obligated to pay at least half, they said. They brought along a second car of guys to try and muscle me.
Now, inside the house is my wife and four kids. Messing with me is one thing, but coming to the place where my wife and kids sleep is another.
How these guys managed to drive around with a fried master computer is a miracle, but that’s beside the point. They were obviously lying and trying to scam me. I told them that I did not believe that my neighborly act fried their computer, and I did not feel responsible to assist them financially.
They disagreed, and one guy said, “hey can’t you at least help us out with like twenty bucks or something?”
I told them I wasn’t going to give them any money.
I also said they were entitled to disagree and perhaps we should have an officer come over and help us settle this dispute. At the suggestion of police, they backtracked and said, “We’ll have our legal counsel get back in touch with you”.
It turns out that their vehicle model and year has a computer that may only be repaired by the manufacturer.

Moral of the story:
There were many lessons to learn, but if it happened again, I would probably still give them a jump, but I would have them put the cables on, themselves.

16 cb September 12, 2008 at 5:55 am

@Kyle Gordon, @STL Mom: The reason for hooking the negative lead to metal on the car instead of to the negative terminal on the battery is because, in some situations, car batteries can generate explosive hydrogen, and you don’t want the sparks that are caused by making the final connection of the jumper cables to happen where the hydrogen might be.

17 unclejerry September 12, 2008 at 6:10 am

I have yet to jump any of my cars myself. When I was a kid some neighbors had to jump their car and they must have had their wires crossed or something cause when the guy in the dead car turned the ignition, the battery exploded and one of the guys was hit in the face with battery shrapnel. Not bad enough to have to go to the ER or anything but it hit him hard enough to leave a mark. That scared the hell out of me being a little kid and now that I’m 32 yrs old, whenever I’m stranded and need a jump or have to help somebody jump their car I always let the other person hook them up and I stand back behind the cars or in the car while the jump is happening…
Guess I need to man up and do it myself next time…

18 emdoozie September 12, 2008 at 6:20 am

Funny you should right this post. In the last month I have had to jump start both my cars and replace two batteries, sheesh. Funny thing is when I or someone else needs a jump my cables are usually no where to be found, most times their in my garage. Go figure…


19 T September 12, 2008 at 6:26 am

haha, I work on a farm where this kind of thing is commonplace and contrary to popular belief am not a hick (I work there, not live there). You do not need to connect the black end of the jumper cables to the engine block or another clean unpainted surface: it is often much easier (and contrary to this article, will not cause ‘explosions’ unless you mix up the terminals) to connect it to the battery in the PROPER place. In addition, REAL men leave the boosting car running, as there is no real danger unless you touch the opposite ends of the jumper cables together. Then again, even if the car is off and you touch them, you will be shocked. So leave your car running, help the lady out more quickly, get her phone number more quickly, and be on your way more quickly. All while doing it correctly.

20 Mike September 12, 2008 at 7:12 am

Push starting a car will work, but not if the battery is COMPLETLY dead. (No dim lights, no clickclickclick from the solenoid, no radio, etc.) In that case, a jump or new battery is your only option.

21 G. Lynn September 12, 2008 at 7:27 am

Good article. But I do have one huge problem with it. Simply, you should NEVER connect the positive first, and, when finished, you should ALWAYS disconnect the negative first. Otherwise you could incur a ground short and kill the battery, if not yourself. Plus if there’s any lingering hydrogen gas lingering around that dead battery, the spark from the ground short will ignite it, and BOOM,, you’re dead.

22 Art September 12, 2008 at 7:32 am

It’s good to know I’m not alone. I’ve jumped dozens of cars and always need to think for way too long about what order to go in. I also don’t turn off the jumping car. The cables are hot anyway, and if you manage to short them out with the engine off you now have two dead batteries.

At least the polarity is usually hard to confuse. Most cars either have a red cable going to the positive terminal or a red cap covering it.

23 Brett McKay September 12, 2008 at 7:42 am
24 Albert September 12, 2008 at 7:43 am

Does it matter what color the cable is? Or does it just matter that the ends are touching the correct terminals?

25 Brett McKay September 12, 2008 at 7:46 am


The color of the cable doesn’t matter, it matters what color the clamps are. All jumper cable clamps are standardized in color-the black clamps are negatve, the red clamps are positive. You must connect the red to positive, the black to negative.

26 CalebC September 12, 2008 at 7:56 am

No. It does not mater. Electrons are colorblind. Just be sure to connect same to same (+ to +, and – to -). Its just a cable. I’ve used (large gauge) speaker wire to jump a car in a pinch.

27 Rob September 12, 2008 at 8:11 am

It is a very good idea to orient yourself with your car’s layout before you are stuck. My car’s battery is under the rear seat inside the car, but there is a positive battery post in the engine compartment. Figuring this out while broken down would have sucked. Pop the hood, take a look, and you’ll be all the more prepared should you do something silly like leave your lights on.

28 James Wood September 12, 2008 at 8:47 am

I’ve jumped a bunch of cars (and I occasionally forget where to put stuff and in what order). But I have to say that my proudest moments have been when my wife was able to help someone else out because we had the cables and she knew what to do. I think that it is very manly to be a teacher as well as a helper – my wife can jump cars, change flats, etc. That makes me proud to be a man.

29 Crazy Ivan September 12, 2008 at 10:42 am

Once when out 4 wheeling, we stopped for a while to chug a few brews. One of the trucks would not crank and nobody had cables. Someone found a length of rebar just long enough to reach battery to battery. We put two trucks bumper against bumper and touched the rebar from + to + and got the dead truck started. Touching the bumpers together completed the circuit. These were old trucks back in the late ’70′s with steel bumpers. Can’t do that w/ these plastic trucks.

30 Dred September 12, 2008 at 11:19 am

Next article should be how to change a tire. It’s amazing how many so called “men” out there are stuck calling AAA for such a simple task. It’s also more manly than jumping a battery since it actually involves a bit of manual labor.

31 drakono September 12, 2008 at 11:23 am

The mnemonic for remembering red=positive and black=negative is COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY. After all, the two cables are exactly the same, except for the color. Just make sure you connect them to the same polarities on each vehicle. Problem solved.

32 Kent September 12, 2008 at 11:32 am

Hmm, I have always heard that you should never push start a car that has a catalytic converter, though, as the unburned gas will damage it.

33 Natovr September 12, 2008 at 11:38 am

Thanks :D learn something new every day. In a propeller aircraft, you call the second solution “windmilling”, not sure what it’s called in a car

Nice box you got there

34 B September 12, 2008 at 1:53 pm

sorry if it’s been said, but if your car is the injection kind (as opposed to carburator) or has a catalyst ehxaust system, do NOT push-start the car. You’ll ruin the catalyst and it’s a $1500 replacement on my 2002 car. So beware.
If anybody knows different, do tell :D


35 Tommu September 12, 2008 at 2:39 pm

B – Fuel injection and CAT, you can jump them both. The only issue with a CAT would be a build up of fuel vapour in the cat that could burn the honeycomb away when started. It’s not stopped me before!

A tip – if your diesel engine doesn’t start because you ran out of fuel – a couple of sprays of easy start in the intake will kick it into life.

Another tip – sometimes your battery’s so dead or cold that your car won’t start even with a jump leads. I can help to leave the leads attached and the donor car idling away for 10 minutes or so. This’ll give the dead battery a low charge and your call will eventually start!

Always run the donor car when jumping, you may need the power. A few revs don’t hurt..

36 chris September 12, 2008 at 4:39 pm

I dont know who said this crap but you always go negative first postive second and always leave the other car runing or you can fry the electical system!

37 Britt September 12, 2008 at 5:09 pm


Another reason to have the ‘live’ car running is that then it’s alternator is putting out 13.8 volts, not 12, thus the car in need of a charge will get it’s charge faster.

In general you should not buy the cheap jumper cables, you should look for the best ones you can afford. Best as defined by cable gauge. The lower the gauge, the thicker the wire part of the cable. Thicker wire (not insulator, the plastic/rubberry coating on the wires, the faster the other car will get a charge from your car, thus making you have to stand there less time. There is no such thing as too low a cable gauge, the lower number the better, but beware, lower gauge means higher price.

Longer cables are better than shorter cables, presuming that they are of sufficient gauge… longer means that if you have to jump someone and get get as close as you would like (perhaps they are parked nose in and your batteries are on opposite sides in the engine compartment or something) then your longer cables will make the jump regardless.

38 mechmike September 12, 2008 at 5:48 pm

Car Battery FAQ:

Specifically, how to PROPERLY jump-start:

Your owner’s manual should give specifics as well.

39 mechmike September 12, 2008 at 5:51 pm
40 Brett McKay September 12, 2008 at 5:55 pm


You are mistaken. Please see my response to G. Lynn above. The link that Mechmike provided says the same thing.

41 morpheuse September 12, 2008 at 6:14 pm

how about this alternative?

i dont have jumper cables, but i do have acces to a friends car. i took out his batteries, hooked it up to mine after my batteries are removed, started the car, and then swap his batteries with mine again. then i just leave the engine running for about 30 minutes to charge my old battery. works with any type of car batteries…

42 Jobagga September 12, 2008 at 7:21 pm

couple of thoughts…when ‘bump’ starting a standard, select second gear so that you, your buddies or the hill has more mechanical advantage over the the engine…just be prepared to shift to first REAL quick at the first hint of it firing…and on a different, but like minded, note if during cold weather your nearly dead battery doesn’t have the cranking power to turn the engine fast enough to fire turn on your headlights for a few minutes and try again…the battery’s voltage is provided by what is essentially a chemical reaction and, like all such reactions in a closed system, it is more energetic if more energy is put into the system [ eg. your engine compresses the fuel/air charge before igniting it ]…the heat from the amperage of lighting the head lights warms the battery and increases the voltage the battery produces…not much but, perhaps enough to to get the engine to fire [ heat is also athe reason why the first mass produced electric cars were sold in california and arizona and not nunavut; cold batteries produce lees energy ]..and if not and you drain the battery, hell you were already fucked anyway…this tricked saved my ass many times while working for a cheap assed funeral home in northern british columbia…lastly…why don’t the car manufacturers produce cars with standardized ‘jumpers’ built in so that you can simply plug one car, any car, into another as simply as using an extension cord?

43 Don September 12, 2008 at 9:29 pm

The more I find out about younger people these days (I’m 45) is they guys lack of certain areas of knowledge like basic auto maintenence. Easy way to rememeber the battery/jumper cable this is to rememeber that another term for positive is hot. And hot is usually red. Ergo, red is hot and black is not.
On the battery, think addition and subtraction. A plus sign is also called a positive sign and is used when you are adding one number to another and a minus sign , called a negative, when you take away. Ergo the plus sign on the battery is the postive that you connect the red (hot) side of the cables to, and the minus sign is negative and are the place you attach the black side to.
What next, y’all don’t know how to change the oil or the spark plugs?

44 Baniz September 13, 2008 at 12:14 am

Its amazing what you can do with a car

45 Dave September 13, 2008 at 1:50 am

It is my understanding that in the UK, the + and – sides of the battery are the other way around, so watch out. There probably are some other countries which have this.

46 Dennis Volz September 13, 2008 at 2:01 am


Its been my experience that using SECOND GEAR gets better results and causes less gagging, skidding and lurching when you pop the clutch. Makes a smoother start and is probably less wear n tear on the car.


47 Brett September 13, 2008 at 8:09 am

@Dennis and other 2nd gear advocates-

The couple of times I have push started a car, I used first gear and it went smoothly. But I’m willing to concede that the consensus seems to be that it’s better to use 2nd gear. Thanks for the feedback.

48 Shadoglare September 13, 2008 at 9:04 am

Dude, you swap out the batteries while the car is running?? Why does that strike me as a really, really bad idea??

49 morpheuse September 13, 2008 at 6:28 pm

why is it bad? you just want your ignition to start, so the engine can charge the dead batteries for a while. unless you are touching both cables at the same time =P

50 herr_tichy September 14, 2008 at 9:59 pm

@Shadoglare: You can swap all kinds of stuff while machinery is running – you just have to a) know what you’re doing and b) be careful. Reminds me of the time I had to swap a bios eeprom in a running pc in order to revive a borked eeprom (someone had trapped over the power cord during flashing). Fire up second machine with same mainboard, boot into dos, remove original bios chip using plastic tool, insert borked chip, flash – tada, everything worked again.

;) So, swapping a car battery in a running car is about to magnitudes less fiddly :D

51 Eddie September 16, 2008 at 7:11 am

I am that person with the pizza box – in 2 mins I had jumper cables. No need to hold have your own!

52 Ryan September 16, 2008 at 8:50 pm

Couple things about this article I’m not quite sure about. I’ve jumpstarted mine and others’ cars many times.

I have always been of the impression that RED does NOT have to be connected to positive. The important thing is that SAME color cable is on the same charge for each car, ie: both cars have red on +, or both cars have black on +.

Also, I have never had a problem with connecting the negative cable directly to the terminal on the dead battery… Never even heard of that.

Also, I’ve always left the good car running while hooking up the cables. Never had any problems. Haven’t blown up any batteries yet.

53 Will September 20, 2008 at 7:44 pm

Uh. Several things.
1) The donor car should be RUNNING when the cables are connected to avoid discharging the battery before you jump the dead car.
2) The dead car’s ground cable “should” be connected to the engine block because the starter is grounded in the engine block and it will have a better connection to start up the car. The dead battery or crappy grounds or small wires, or many other things can interfere with a proper jump start.
3) However I have never yet bothered to jump from anything but both cars’ battery terminals except once when a minivan couldn’t pull enough juice between the poles and I HAD to use the ground. It would be best to find an engine hoist point if you can find one.

And another important one
4) MOST manual cars CANNOT be push started because of a neutral safety switch. The clutch has to be pressed to the floor to start fuel flowing and EFI operation, it if it’s not carbureted …though some models have bypasses.

Oh, and if you ever are in extreme cold and your car apparently has a dead battery, try running the headlights for 30 seconds to draw a bunch of juice. It may be that the battery is SO cold it can’t provide enough current and running the headlights may warm it up. I heard about this from some radio show (cartalk I think) who had people in minnesota and russia who would literally keep their batteries in their house at night to prevent problems starting.

54 ASMODEAN September 21, 2008 at 11:14 am

In response to #4 on your list….
The neutral safety switch doesn’t keep the car from firing or fuel from flowing .it just keeps the ignition switch from sending current to the starter while the car is in gear ,so you (or you wife) doesn’t accidentaly start it with the clutch ingaged and in gear thus ruining the new drywall you just put up in the garrage. :)~

55 Stan September 21, 2008 at 7:51 pm

#1: Those that say it makes no difference what color cable or clip you where, as long as you make sure you use the same for both +s and -s are correct, but convention says red is + and black is -. I am an electronics engineer, and if I somehow hooked the +s to the – terminal, I’d have to double and triple check they’re connected ok, and may put them ‘proper’. I dare say you’ll find this ingrained in a lot of people.

You are ‘supposed’ to connect the negative cable to the dead car to a bare engine part as a safety precaution. I’ve also read that you’re supposed to wear safety glasses. I’ve never done either.

Today I think there are reasons not to remove a battery on a running car, but I very much remember doing this up till about 15 or 20 years ago. You could take the battery out of a running car to start another with no problem. Today, you may have a computer issue.

I once bump started a pick up at the bottom of a dip by jacking it backwards and chocking a wheel with a rock several times, and then bump starting it as it went down the ‘hill’.

I had a dead battery about 2 years ago, and went to a neighbor’s house to ask for a jump, but only their gardener was there, so I asked him. This guy was real chatty, and before I knew it he’d opened the hood of his little truck and pulled the cables off his battery. He carried the battery over to my car, that already had the hood open, with my cables ready.

When I tried to help him attach the cables he stops me and says to get in and try it. After a small discussion he jumped my car without cables! —> He placed his battery almost upside down, it’s terminals to my batteries terminals, and I hit the starter. <— He’s probably going to hurt himself someday, but it sure worked like a charm. I thanked him and he said that ‘…it’s like this in El Salvador.’ He had his battery almost upside down for just a few seconds. I saw no sparks and can’t tell if any acid spilled on the car.

I don’t think I’d try it, but It IS different!


56 web design company September 26, 2008 at 8:52 am

Jump starting a car is simple. Just follow these steps.

57 chris September 29, 2008 at 2:34 pm

re: the push-start
second gear works nicely if you have a smaller engine, if it’s larger you’ll likely need to use a higher gear to overcome the compression. i’ve had to push-start my “fun” car (85 camaro) without the benefit of a hill to help out, it came to a dead stop in third from jogging speed. it started on the second attempt in fourth gear. and the battery was so dead nothing worked, no fan, no lights, no stereo. so it really doesn’t take much.

58 A-Rock October 5, 2008 at 11:15 am

Great “Man-torial” – I had totally forgotten how to jump start a car. Read this post a few weeks ago, and got to use my newly acquired skill last night. It was so easy to do – it literally took fewer than five minutes – and boosted my confidence to know exactly what to do.

I wish it had been a nice young woman with a dead battery (alas, it was a middle-aged guy), but it was still nice to be able to help out a person in need. As towns sprawl, people become more insular, and the bonds of “community” weaken, it’s nice to have a simple/easy way to fight back and reconnect with those around you.

Keep up the good work and helpful posts!

59 Brett October 5, 2008 at 2:06 pm


Good to hear the jump start tutorial came in handy. Even better to hear there are men out there willing to stop and be the “Good Samaritan.” Keep fighting the good fight.

60 Barry October 10, 2008 at 11:15 am

As for the order of things, it helps if you remember that the last connection should be to ground. It is the last connection that will spark and you want that away from the batteries, which splatter acid when they explode. Sure, you can connect that last one to your battery and it won’t explode almost every time. But you want a little more certainty than “almost.” When removing the cables, it is the first disconnection that will spark and for that reason, you disconnect the ground first. If someone else is doing the connecting, stand well back so there will be someone able to call 911 when he screws it up.

Keep the good car running so it will provide more current through the jumper cables and won’t be left unstartable by the drain.

And remember to stash a set of cables in your car because when the day comes when you need them, you won’t be able to find any otherwise. Don’t do it for yourself… do it for that unbelievably hot underware model in the Ferrari that won’t start.

61 Heather October 11, 2008 at 11:55 am

Well here is a rumor that I found out might be true:
My sister and I were about to be late for work and the engine wouldn’t start. One of my Geology professors had had this problem in college and a friend got a coke and poured it on the battery terminals. It tuurn out the carbonate build-up has a chemical reaction with the coke whichs puts off enough electricity to get the car started.
We tried it and it worked! Bearing in mind the car had been jumped off the night before by the campus police and we had driven around for an hour. I was told later the battery may have had a charge still in it from the night before.
Has anyone else tried this with success?

62 Thomas October 12, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Here is the pattern to help someone remember the sequencing of the cables
Red Bad to Red Good, Black Good to Black Bad. So Red first (bad to good), Black (good to bad).

Suggesting for the pictures: use the same car.

63 Barry October 13, 2008 at 9:56 am


The coke trick can be helpful but the idea that it generates electricity is not correct. The Coke is reacting with and cleaning away the corrosion that has built up between the battery terminals and the battery cable clamps and this results in a better electrical connection and enhances the delivery of current from the battery to the starter. You can achieve the same result with a mixture of baking soda and water and this can be used as an effective terminal cleaner. Sometimes a “dead battery” is not just about low voltage in the battery, but partially or completely about poor connections (loose and/or corroded). The Coke addresses the connection issue.

I recommend you remove your battery cable clamps from the terminals and clean them along with the terminals thoroughly with the baking soda and water mixture, rinse well with pure water, dry and firmly reattach them. For extra credit you can then coat all the exposed metal of the terminal area with a battery terminal coating spray or vaseline to keep the corrosion out permanently. Good luck.

64 Barry October 13, 2008 at 11:08 am


Along with jumpstarting a car, the other simple, essential car repair skill that a man should have is changing a flat tire. These are two skills my father taught me even before I could drive and they have served me well many times. I once found a friend walking home and I stopped to give him a ride. When he told me about his flat tire, I turned around and took him back to his car. He insisted his new car had no spare tire in it. He simply didn’t know to lift the rug in the bottom of the trunk. He was also puzzled by the jack.

Guys, there is no excuse for this. If you have never changed a tire before, it’s time to open up the car’s owners manual and work through the procedure in your driveway. This is not the kind of thing you want to figure out when you are stranded, especially if it is dark, cold and raining. This might also be a good opportunity to check the tire pressure and toss in an extra flashlight and some old work gloves.

65 Barry October 17, 2008 at 5:03 am

The final tip in the article is to keep the jump-started car running for at least 30 minutes to charge the battery. Bear in mind that many cars will hardly charge at all if left running at idle. This is especially true if any electrical accessories are on (lights, fan, radio, wipers, etc.). A better way to charge it is to drive it for a while, preferably with most accessories turned off. And the next time you park, park facing out in case another jump is needed, or on a hill if it has a manual transmission.

66 Tom October 30, 2008 at 8:50 am

To all you fellas out there with ladies to impress, it’s easy to do, just follow these steps:

1. Cut a hole in a box.
2. Oh, wait, wrong steps!! I’m sorry!

Hey seriously, I have never been a “car guy,” but when forced to jump a car without any help, I read the instructions that came with my cables. I then hand-wrote a shorter version of them on a piece of paper that I keep in my car. Now I’m a pro! I’m spoken for, so I won’t be scoring any ladies with my new wisdom, but the girlfriend was mighty impressed when I got her up and running after she left the trunk slightly ajar all weekend.

67 Amber November 6, 2008 at 12:09 pm

I lol at this “art of manliness” when I, a 16 year old girl, know how to do it better than my best friend, Mike, 17. haha. Hahahaha. Haha.
I’m more of a man! :D!

68 Steve November 8, 2008 at 8:25 am

Isn’t it to make sure the live battery doesn’t run out of juice?

69 Bernard November 8, 2008 at 1:24 pm

I’ve always had old bangers and have had to perfect the jump-start. It’s easy when you have a long enough hill but if there is a junction or a dead end like a brick wall, then it can get a little scary. Once the car had started I had to remember to depress the clutch and move my foot over to the brake before I hit the wall. The main frustration is when you get it started then you stall it!
Heather on October 11th, 2008 11:55 am
Does it work with Pepsy? Only kidding!

70 Steve Marshall November 10, 2008 at 5:35 pm

>> I don’t have any really manly stories about jumping a car. I did it for my girlfriend once who needed to get to class. And she thought I was her hero. So that was pretty cool.

Dude: that’s the manly story. The rest is noise.

71 kbellows November 11, 2008 at 3:42 pm

@Michael – That way you use the alternator to provide the needed current to the dead car rather then take a chance of draining the good battery. A dead battery in parallel can kill a good a battery rather quickly thus leaving you with two dead batteries.

72 Jeff inDallas November 22, 2008 at 11:07 pm

I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of a jump start. My old truck was manual transmission and I push-started it several times.

I have a lot of experience with batteries and charging, both for auto and other things. Here’s my two cents in response to questions above:

You want to put the negative (black) lead on the chasis of the dead car LAST. You put it on the chasis somewhere away from the battery because it will spark. A dead battery is a possible source of hydrogen gas and that spark could cause an explosion. Batteries are pretty safe these days but a dead/faulty battery is your best candidate for this type of problem so avoid the spark near the battery by connecting the black lead LAST and connect it to the chasis of the car a foot or more away from the battery.

The reason the good vehicle needs to be running in so that the alternator is working. The moment you make the last connection between the cars the batteries will begin to come to equilibrium. The voltage will begin to drop on the good battery and rise on the dead battery. It is possible to start the dead car without the good car running but it is risky in terms of ending up with neither car starting. For example, the battery on the good car may be at a good 14.2 volts while the dead battery is in the range of 5 volts. When the cables are connected the current will begin to flow to the dead battery and eventually it will reach an equilibrium between the two batteries at a voltage of about 9 or 10 volts, which probably won’t allow either car to start. However if the good car is running, the voltage will be continually restored by the alternator. So the bad battery will charge without depleting the good battery.

Also I recommend a large gauge of cable which will allow large amount of current to travel rapidly to the dead car. Smaller gauge cable will limit the amount of current and it may take a few minutes after making the connection for enough current to travel across the connection.

Always be prepared to help your fellow motorists who become stranded and both parties will leave with a good feeling. Good luck and be safe.

73 Matteo December 1, 2008 at 12:34 am

Thank you very much… I had trouble with a friend tonight… and this website totally helped :D

74 Randy December 4, 2008 at 5:37 pm

Because the good car battery can go dead. It’s the same as leaving the lights on; It’s a drain on the battery.

75 Sean December 7, 2008 at 7:09 pm

@Michael – The idea here is, that if you don’t start the ‘good’ car, and they either have a.) a weak/old battery, or b.) it takes a little while for the engine to start, you might wear out their battery enough that they have trouble starting it. By running the live car, the alternator will be charging it as you go. Also, if the cables are too thin/too long, they will have a lot of resistance, therefor taking a bit more to turn the dead car over.

76 Luke January 1, 2009 at 3:28 am

I’m an ASE certified automotive technician, and the best comment I can give on this subject is that jump-starting is bad for most cars. Sure, it works fine for older 80′s models with old-school coil ignitions and simple analog fuel injection, but newer cars are far too sensitive. The best thing to have is a Jumper Box, you can buy em at Home Depot or any auto parts store. It’s basically a battery and two cables in a plastic box with a handle. They usually have a light on them, too. Red clamp goes to positive, black clamp to negative, and you start your car. No need for two cars or worrying about frying something.

77 Ruben January 18, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Hmm, should be connect positive (red) first and disconnect negative (black) first. Just had to jump start a car yesterday using jumper cables.

78 Jumper cables February 26, 2009 at 9:59 am

I agree that this article was a big help. Since we luckily don’t have to jump-start our cars often, it is hard to remember what to do. I found another site that has really helpful information. They say to connect the positive end first!!

79 Cassie March 30, 2009 at 5:11 pm

wow, this is the most sexist artical i’ve ever read. what? girls cant do it themselves? why is this the art of manliness????

80 not a man, but hey April 4, 2009 at 11:22 am

The one thing this article fails to mention is what to do if the positive post of the battery happens to be the grounded one. Isn’t the case very often, but has implications for what order you hook cables up in (and how many sparks you see if you try to follow these directions!) Be sure you know how your battery is hooked up, or you may end up with your 100A and other fuses fried!

81 not a man, but hey April 4, 2009 at 11:23 am

The one thing this article fails to mention is what to do if the positive post of the battery happens to be the grounded one. Isn’t the case very often, but has implications for what order you hook cables up in (and how many sparks you see if you try to follow these directions!) Be sure you know how your battery is hooked up, or you may end up with your 100A and other fuses fried–an expensive mistake!

82 K!P July 14, 2009 at 5:16 am

If jumpstarting a car by rolling it, (manual shifter) Most newer cars require to be in 2nd gear, it wil state so in the manual :) Also, if pushing the car be aware of the sudden braking force when the driver releases the clutch.

Side note: also make sure the key is turned in the start position, not in the least becase the stearing lock might engage when you turn a few degrees.

83 Dan July 19, 2009 at 4:05 pm

I’ve jump started cars more times than I can count but yesterday my brother’s rented moving truck (Ford S550 Super Duty Diesel) died on him because the batteries were drained (2 battery setup). We didn’t have another Diesel truck to jump start with and couldn’t fit more than one car near by to jump start both batteries so I just used my Explorer and 16′ length of 6 gauge cables and charged it for about 10 min. Nothing. So I removed the negative lead on the dead truck from a (presumably) grounded bolt in the engine bay (no owner’s manual) to the negative terminal throwing caution to the wind. Another 5 min of charging and the truck started right up! Either the bolt I was originally hooked up to wasn’t properly grounded/connected or the truck battery simply needed more time to receive the charge from my vehicle.

Btw, in this scenario I hooked up the cable to the battery closest to the alternator in the dead truck (passenger side in this case).

84 R. J. Vincent August 12, 2009 at 3:53 pm

I had to jump start my car last winter. My neighbor was home and it took a few minutes to check in her manual (she had just gotten the car) to find the negative ground on her car. Once we found it, it was a matter of a couple of tries to get my car started. Needless to say, I went and got my battery checked and I needed a new one. Problem solved. Another sign that your battery is on its way out is hard starting. If it seems it takes more time to start your car in the morning (or any time) have your battery checked.

85 anonymous October 11, 2009 at 4:52 pm

This is stupid. Just take a mechanics class.

86 Katie October 15, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I’m with Cassie. Please don’t assume I’m in distress because I’m a damsel.

87 Dallas December 18, 2009 at 12:38 pm

@Cassie & Katie…why is it so insulting to give men an opportunity to help out. Sure it may be stereotypical, but it may serve you better to not be paranoid about receiving help from time to time right? I don’t find anything wrong with stopping & asking for directions, so maybe progress can be just relaxing rather than being so worried about every person being treated 100% fair balanced & equal. The world runs best when we help each other & say “can you lend a hand” & “thanks” rather than “I don’t need any of your help I can do it myself!” If it genuinely is that you get a satisfaction from a job well done, then my apologies, but maybe just maybe giving a man an opportunity to be a real man might be a kindness you could give. Real men & real women make the world a better place. Seriously none of us men here were being sexist at all. This website is just a positive resource for bringing back all the good instincts that real men at times tend to lack in society.

88 Car Batteries January 4, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Good tutorial. It’s amazing how many people don’t know how to properly jump start a car. You have to do it the right way or you can seriously damage your electrical system. Make sure you use a good set of cables. The few extra bucks makes all the difference in the world.

89 Julian January 5, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Question: If the negative terminal of the good battery is covered with plastic (so the metal negative terminal of the good battery is not accessible), will it work if I connect the black (negative) cable clamp to the engine block of the working car?

90 Tom January 5, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Jumping a car and changing a flat are two things a man should be able to do. Far too many times have I seen a perfectly able man standing by the side of the road waiting for AAA to do what should have taken him mere minutes. I also had a hard time remembering the steps. I don’t know if it will help anyone else, but I think of it as a journey from “red-dead” to the engine block, traveling through the good battery.

Oddly enough I also met my best friend via a dead battery back in high school. She was the handicapped girl standing next to a dead Mercury Sable. As I pulled my truck around, she was ready with her own cables and began hooking them up as soon as I opened the hood …. this wasn’t her first rodeo. I jumped that stupid car at least once a week (bad electrics would occasionally stay on and drain it) and 14 years later we’re still best friends.

91 anonymous March 11, 2010 at 12:01 pm

@Katie & Cassie, I think you 2 should stop worrying about this being a sexist article… I, I can’t speak for other men, don’t assume anything about women… My wife can do stuff on her own as well. She chooses not to because I take care of the cars. I think this article was written because men should know how to jump a car. Its “Written in the DNA” or something like stupid that. I, personally, think that EVERYONE should be able to jump a car, change a tire, change their oil, ect…

@everyone else, create a “Jump point” on your car…. I got some high power connectors, a high power relay (200 amp), and some 2ga wire. So when I hook up to the other car, I only have to worry about their battery, plug in my connector (located under the bumper) flip a switch and the other car has juice.

Something else you could do to keep you from getting stranded… If you plan on keeping your car for a while. Get a second battery, ground the negative, attach the positive side to a high power relay (again about 200 amps) then attach the other side of the relay to the other battery. Run a small wire to a switch located inside the truck from the second battery (to make sure you always have juice for the relay) to activate the relay. When your battery dies, flip the switch, start the vehicle, but don’t turn the switch off yet because you want to recharge the battery you just used for the “jump”.

92 Tony May 23, 2010 at 12:21 am

The one thing I would say different is make the last connection on the GOOD battery negative, or frame. Why? If you are worried about a build up of H gas, then why make the last connection, the only one that has a chance to spark, on or near the dead battery? The battery that is most likely to have H gas hanging around?

Make the last connection on the GOOD car, battery or other ground source.

93 geoff June 17, 2010 at 10:26 am

Just yesterday after the gym this guy i work with said he needed a jump for his car, me being the only one with cables i was sort of moraly obligated to help. My batterys in my trunk and. My car is manual 5 speedso i had to back up and stay in the car with foot on the brake so it wouldnt roll. Without proper supervision he connnected the cables and i began to press the gas to juice him up. After afew seconds smoke was billowing into the air in my rear view mirror. They yeld for me to shut down. When i pulled the melted cables off with and old jacket i was then informed that the poitive and negative had been swapped on my end… bumper=burned, amongst other things. Dnt let ur friends touch ur battery..

94 Dan July 3, 2010 at 11:11 am

You run the live car to keep recharging the good battery by the alternator. Depending how dead the car is it could take a while.

95 Ziggy October 17, 2012 at 11:55 pm

My Grandfather passed when I was five years old, 19 years ago. When he left, he gave my dad a really old Mercury Lynx with sheep skin seat covers. That car was magnificent to me as a five year old A. because it was my Grandfather’s and B. It was now my Dad’s and we got to ride in it to baseball practice by the flight line at the Air Force base we were stationed at. Being old it often crapped out. My brother and my dad got to push this powerful beast of a hatchback down the parking lot while I popped the clutch. We would get it started I would stop it (I was unusually tall so I could reach in such a small vehicle) pull the e-brake and get into my seatbelt in the back (no carseats for five year olds in 1993). It was fun, and I have had three vehicles.
The first was a 1988 VW GOLF. $895 of awesome. Yes a Hatchback like my old man. And if you were wondering it was a manual transmission. It got totaled due to someone cutting me off and pushing it into a retaining wall (broke the frame).
The Second was a 1985 Toyota SR5. $750 of rust, painted it metallic blue and sprayed a bedliner on it. Yes it was manual as well. I was 17 and I thought you could power wash an engine while it was hot. Blew the head gasket. Replaced the engine and put in a rebuilt one. It was poorly built and threw a rod.
Third one 2003 Ford Ranger. Worth ten grand in 05, offered cash and got it for 6k great deal. Had 35k miles when I got it after 7 years it has 170k miles on it. Only problem is a stripped oil plug. And yes, It Is a Manual. After another 130k miles I hope to give it to my oldest son who is 5. He can’t reach the pedals yet, but he loves to steer and shift it while I work the pedals. Stick shifts will hopefully stay in the family as long as I’m around. Thanks for reading.

96 Robert November 5, 2012 at 5:25 pm

A word of warning, Always keep the hand you aren’t using behind you’re back. This way you are less tempted to tough something that will give you a nasty shock.

Also If you wear shorts, be mindful that old cars have metal bumpers that you may feel would be a good place to lean against. Don’t, you can stand up strait and avoid a shock.

97 Jill November 6, 2012 at 8:05 am

This was excellent help. Up and running again.


98 Dave Tufte November 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm

I can confirm that you can start a vehicle by pushing it. But, it takes several guys to get it going fast enough (you’ll probably build up to a fast jog), and good touch on the driver’s part to slip it into gear without stalling.

Did this to a jeep in the parking lot at the Niagara Falls Convention Center after a Grateful Dead concert in 1984. And the douche in the jeep had a pretty girl with him, and they rode off together. Go figure.

99 joe m November 27, 2012 at 2:15 pm

One thing I did not see about pushing or rolling down a hill . If the battery is totally dead,you can push and roll untill you a blue in the face.
Alternators will not start producing any juice without some juice to start with. Once producing,they will continue. They have to have 12volt source from somewhere.

100 Mifkin December 2, 2012 at 7:15 am

5. Then connect the other black (negative) cable to a clean, unpainted metal surface under the disabled car’s hood. Somewhere on the engine block is a good place. Unless you want to see flying sparks and a possible explosion, do not connect the negative cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery, .
6. Start the car that’s doing the jumping, and allow it to run for about 2 to 3 minutes before starting the dead car.
7. Remove cables in reverse order.

Not to be nit-picky but I assume you connect the cable that you have attached to the engine block in step 5 to the terminal after the jumping car has been running for a few minutes?
It doesn’t actually say in the steps unless my eyes deceive me.

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