What a Shocker! How to Use Jumper Cables

Driving Records

Jumper cables are an essential item every driver should carry. It’s a good idea to keep a pair in your emergency driving kit if you ever break down. Or, simply having them on hand to help your fellow drivers in a time of need.

Many have jumper cables but don’t know how to use them, though.

This makes sense because you don’t get the chance to jumpstart a car too often. And, someone always seems to step in before you can help out — leaving you without any experience with the handy items.

The following sections share how to use jumper cables the safe way.

Jump a Car with Jumper Cables: A How-to

Safety is the utmost importance when using jumper cables because you are, after all, attaching cables to a battery. You don’t want to risk being shocked or send electricity back through the vehicle’s system and fry a component.

Getting ready to jumpstart the vehicle:

  1. Get both vehicles set in park or neutral
  2. Shut off the engine on both cars (and set the e-brake)
  3. Pop the hoods on both vehicles
  4. Gather your jumper cables or get theirs
  5. Examine the batteries

You can line up the vehicles however it works. Sometimes it’s at a tricky angle so consider pushing the dead vehicle into place if needed.

You should also check to see if the batteries have the same voltage. And, clean the area around the terminals so the clamps attach correctly.

The jumper cable orientation should be as follows:

Do note that your battery may not have color coordinated terminals. Check for its positive and negative terminals before moving forward. Then:

  1. Attach the positive (RED) cable to the positive (+) terminal of the dead battery
  2. Attach the positive (RED) cable to the positive (+) terminal of the good battery
  3. Attach the negative (BLACK) cable to the negative (-) terminal of the good battery
  4. Attach the negative (BLACK) cable to a metal surface of the donor vehicle with the good battery
  5. Start the donor vehicle and let it idle for a few minutes
  6. Start the dead car and let it idle for a few minutes

This is how to remove jumper cables safely:

You will repeat this process in reverse, starting with the black (negative) cables.

  1. Remove the negative (BLACK) cable from the metal surface
  2. Remove the negative (BLACK) cable from the donor battery
  3. Remove the positive (RED) cable from the donor battery
  4. Remove the positive (RED) cable from the dead battery

Have their (or your) car idle and revved a few minutes before driving off. You don’t want to leave and have their engine die right after!

Also note: Don’t ever touch the cable’s/clamp’s ends!

This can cause an electrical shock or damage vehicle components. Set the jumps on the ground when connecting and disconnecting. This will make sure they don’t touch/cross and become a disaster.

Jumper Cables Questions, Tips, and Tricks

Let’s wrap up this post with a few tips to get the most out of your jumper cables.

  • What size jumper cables do I need? The longer the better since you never know the size of the vehicle you’re jumping. But, shorter cables will tend to provide better current — perhaps carry both! You’ll also want thick, heavy duty cables at least a gauge 6 – 8 to give them enough power.
  • What are the best jumper cables? There are quite a few on the market but look for brands like Energizer, Forney, and Bayco. These are usually the highest rated and durable as hell.
  • Should I get a jump starter instead? That’s up to you, these units can do the trick but only if you remember to keep them charged. Look for brands like Stanely, DBPower, and Clore Automotive.
  • What amount of amps are needed to start a car? You’re looking at a range of 300 – 400 amps for most passenger vehicles. When it gets to bigger vehicles, you’ll want something closer to 1000+ amps.
  • Can you ruin your car by jumpstarting someone? There’s always the chance if you’re removing live jumpers and they touch. You can fry your¬†electronic components.
  • Can I jump them if they have a bad starter? Unfortunately, no. You’ll provide electricity but the starter gets the engine going. Without it working, you’re simply draining your battery.
  • The battery isn’t charging, what’s wrong? You could try wiggling the connections since their battery may have corrosion. Or, use a wrench to tighten the¬†terminal’s end. A post shim can help form a better connection if you carry these as part of your emergency kit, too.

There’s a lot of questions you probably have about using jumper cables. We suggest referring to the informational materials included with the kit. Else, see what else you can dig up online or on YouTube.

Knowing how jumpers work can save you in a pinch and make you a hero to others. Just be careful when using them!