A problem nearly every car owner will or has faced is a dead or weak battery, and with cars parked for weeks on end thanks to COVID, this is likely to be a bit more common. Apart from not starting a car for a long time, there are other reasons too for a car battery to get depleted, like leaving the headlights on without the engine running, extreme temperatures and even an ageing battery.
Starting a car with a dead battery is quite a simple task, but there is a set procedure in which to do so and certain safety precautions that one must always follow. And do note, if your car battery runs flat often, you need to get the electrical system checked.
To begin starting your car, you will need a good set of jumper cables. Ideally a set should always be kept in your car. Remember to buy a heavy duty set to be safe. A good set may be a bit costly, but it is a good investment.
Jumper cables consist of two thick wires with crocodile clips on both ends. Both wires are colour marked, one is red and the other black, denoting positive and negative, respectively. Next you will need another vehicle to provide the crucial power supply from its battery to the dead car. Once you have the jumper cables and the car with good battery ready, you need to follow the below steps to safely carry out a jump start:
- Park the vehicle with the good battery close to the one with the dead battery, park it in such a way that the jump cables can comfortably reach the two batteries.
Ensure that the handbrake is engaged on both the vehicles. If the vehicle is a manual, leave the gear lever in neutral position and if it is an automatic, leave it in 'Park' position.
Ensure that all the accessories including the infotainment system, lights and AC are turned off in both the vehicles.
Unplug anything that is plugged into the 12V socket.
Unwind the jumper cables and ensure that at any given time the cable clamps do not touch each other when the cables are connected to the battery.
Locate and identify the positive and negative terminals on each vehicle's battery, which is also colour coded in red and black, red being positive and black being negative. If you have difficulty in locating the battery and the terminals on your car, refer to the owner's manual.
Use the red cable and clamp it to the positive terminal of the dead battery, ensure that the terminal is clean before you put the clamp on and that the clamp's grip on the terminal is firm.
Take the other end of the red cable and clamp it to the positive terminal of the good battery.
Take the black cable and clamp it to the negative battery terminal of the good battery.
This is an important step, to avoid any sparks and to be safe DO NOT attach the black cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery instead attach it to a piece of bare, ideally unpainted metal portion of the dead car under the hood. It could be a bolt sticking out or even a metal plate or bracket.
Make sure that the cable is away from the fuel system and any moving parts under the hood like the belts, fans, etc.
Now get into the vehicle with the good battery and turn it on and let it idle for a couple of minutes. This will start sending a charge to the dead battery and give it some juice before you attempt to jump start the dead car.
After a couple of minutes get into the vehicle with the dead battery and attempt a start. If it does, let both vehicles run and remove the cables in the reverse order of how you attached them, as detailed below.
If the vehicle does not start, switch off the ignition on both the vehicles and check the cable connections again and ensure that the clamps are firmly placed on the terminals and the metal part and attempt again. In most likelihood it should work, if it doesn't, you may need a new battery or there might be other electrical problem/s that will need to be sorted by a professional mechanic.
To safely remove the cable after jump starting your vehicle, follow the below mentioned steps:
First remove the black cable from the vehicle you jump started and then remove the other end of the cable from the car with the good battery.
Now remove the red cable from the vehicle with the good battery and finally remove the other end of the red cable from the vehicle you jump started.
Remember to be very careful while removing the cables, ensure the clamps do not touch or foul with anything under the hood.
To avoid a dead battery
Ensure the vehicle is run regularly; simply idling for a few minutes isn't enough. Take the vehicle on a short drive to allow the alternator to be able to maintain the charge level of the battery.
Avoid using accessories or any other electricals that draw power from the car's battery without the engine running.
If you plan to park your vehicle for an extended duration. Either, remove the cables connected to the car battery or use a trickle charger which will maintain the battery charge while the vehicle is parked and unused.