How to Use a Jump Starter

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If you’ve never had to jump-start your car, consider yourself lucky. While it’s not difficult to learn how to use a jump starter, it’s never fun to turn your ignition and discover your battery is dead.

Even though using a jump starter is fairly straight forward, it is wise to know what type of precautions you should take before pulling the jumper cables out of the trunk and connecting them to your car battery. Being aware of the precautions and types of jump starters available will turn you into a pro in no time.

Choosing The Right Jumper Cables

Not all jump starters are created equally. Understanding and knowing what is available in the market will ensure you a product that will better suite your needs. So how does one know what’s available and which jumper cables is best for them, read below.

Traditional vs. Portable Power – When it comes down to jumper cables it really comes down to two options: traditional jumper cables vs. portable power packs or booster packs. Portable power or booster packs are nice to have as they make you self-reliant in a time of need, because no other vehicle is necessary to jump start your vehicle.

What To Look For: For a traditional jumper cable set, a good durability test would be to check for the thickness of wire gauges, easy to grip clamp design and a minimum length of 12-foot cables. For wire gauges and cables, the thicker the better.

For a portable power or booster pack, look for one with a lithium cobalt battery for long lasting charge, amperage (depending on the size of your vehicle) with 400 amp starting current and 600 amp peak current should be ideal. Also, having dual jump-starting options for an easy jump start from inside your vehicle, making it as easy as possible for beginners.

Safety : Ensuring the cables are insulated is a huge test coming down to safety for traditional jumper cables as the better insulated they are, the more safe they are. When choosing a portable power or booster pack, make sure you get one that has reverse polarity. This is helpful for beginners as it provides optimal safety. 

Connecting The Cables

Before connecting any cables to anything, make sure that your ignition is off, and your engine is cool. Take a quick look at the engine, especially where the battery is located, and visually inspect the positive and negative terminals on the battery.

If there is corrosion on the terminals (a white spongy looking material) you can quickly brush this off with a wire brush. Brushing off this corrosion will ensure that a good solid connection will be available for the jump start. Also, keeping your battery terminals free of corrosion is the best way to extend the life and performance of your battery.

Once you have done these visual checks and have cleaned off any corrosion from the battery, you are then ready to start connecting cables.

Keep in mind if using traditional jumper cables, you would need two vehicles to pull off a successful jump, while with a portable power unit, you would only need the vehicle that needs the power.

First, pop the hood of your engine and identify your battery on your vehicle. Once identified, you want to differentiate what they call the positive or the negative. Positive is the red side of the battery marked with a +. The other would be your negative or black marked by -.

Begin by connecting the jump starter’s red cable to the battery terminal indicated as positive or red. If a plastic cover is over the terminal, remove it before you place the red cable on it. If you are not sure which one is positive, check out your owner’s manual so you can be sure to get it right.

Next, connect the ground cable to the battery. This cable is usually black, and the battery terminal should have a “-“ sign near it or can be covered with a black plastic casing. Just like with the positive terminal, consult your vehicle’s owner manual if you aren’t completely certain where to connect the cable.

If using jumper cables, mare sure both cars are shut off when placing the cables onto the battery and always place the cables on the vehicle that will be supplying the jump and not receiving first. If using a portable power unit that can jump start your vehicle from inside, disregard the first steps listed above and simply plug the 12v plug into the 12v port of your vehicle which is also called the cigarette lighter.

Once connected simply turn on the care that will be giving the power first for traditional jumper cables then let it run for a few minutes (depending on how dead the battery is on the receiving vehicle). For portable power simply press the power button on the unit and wait a few minutes and then try starting the car to see if it will run.

Start Your Engine

Once you have everything connected and powered on, you can turn the key and try starting your vehicle. However, depending on the type of method you are using outside vs. inside your vehicle, it may take a bit for your battery to fully charge. If nothing happens, recheck all the connections. Let the battery charge for several minutes, then give it another try.

There you have it! Now, the next time your battery decides not to cooperate, you will know just what to do to get it going again.