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How to Jump a Car—Even a Hybrid

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You can learn how to jump a car in a few minutes. Just follow some steps in the required order and a set of important safety precautions.

This will help you avoid damage to the vehicle's computer and electronics, the battery, and, potentially, to yourself or others around you.

All you need is a good set of jumper cables and a vehicle with a good battery.

You can also use a battery jump box instead of a booster vehicle. In this case, just skip the instructions that apply to the booster vehicle. The rest of the steps and precautions still apply. And make sure to read the instructions that come with your jump box.

In This Article

1. Safety Precautions
2. How to Jump-Start a Car
3. VIDEO: How to Safely Jump Start a Vehicle
4. How to Jump-start a Hybrid
5. Using a Repair Manual
6. Resources for Battery-Related Issues

Make sure jumper connections are correct.

Make sure jumper connections are correct.

1. Safety Precautions

Before you start, pay attention to and apply these safety precautions:

  • When connecting the jumper cables, follow the exact order and setup described below.
  • Don't allow the jumpers' clamps to come in contact with each other or engine components while making the connections. Following this rule will prevent damage to the vehicle's computer, and sparks that may ignite explosive battery gases.
  • Don't wear any jewelry that might come in contact with a power circuit and ground, thus causing electrical shocks or burns.
  • Don't jump-start a frozen battery. Hydrogen gas trapped in ice crystals inside may explode when current goes through the battery.
  • And don't allow lit cigarettes near the batteries!
Follow this sequence when connecting your jumper cables.

Follow this sequence when connecting your jumper cables.

2. How to Jump-Start a Car

When connecting your jumper cables, follow these steps in the same order described here.

  1. Locate the battery. Some newer car models have the battery located under a plastic panel under the hood, under the rear seat, or even the trunk. If you don't see it under the hood, look for access points like ground and power connections for jump-starting the vehicle. If necessary, consult your car owner's manual or repair manual.
  2. Make sure the battery terminals and posts on the dead battery are tight and free of corrosion. If necessary, remove corrosion using a soft brush and a mix of warm water and baking soda. You may need a battery post cleaning tool as well.
  3. Park the car with the good battery close to the vehicle with the dead battery, but don't allow them to touch. This will prevent electrical arcs between the vehicles.
  4. On both vehicles, engage the emergency brake, and set the transmission to Park (automatic) or Neutral (manual).
  5. Verify that the ignition switch on both cars are in the Off position. This prevents electronic component failures while connecting the jumper cables.
  6. Turn off all electrical accessories on both vehicles.
  7. Remove the cell caps from the booster battery–if it is not a maintenance-free type–and cover the battery top with a piece of cloth. This helps drive away explosive gases from the battery.
  8. Connect the red jumper to the positive (+) terminal on the weak or dead battery, and then connect the other end of the red jumper to the positive terminal on the good battery.
  9. Connect the black jumper to the negative (-) terminal on the good battery, and then connect the other end of the black jumper to a good ground away from the dead battery. This ground can be an unpainted metal bracket on the engine or similar surface, or an unpainted chassis ground surface.
    • It's normal for the final jumper connection to produce a spark. Some newer vehicle models have a special ground connection–and possibly a power connection–away from the battery for this purpose. If necessary, consult your owner's manual.
  10. Verify that jumper cables are away from moving components like a cooling fan, drive belt, or some other moving part.
  11. Start and idle the engine with the good battery.
  12. Try to start the engine with the dead battery.
    • If the engine doesn't start, make sure the jumper cable connections are correct and tight. Wiggle the jumper cable connections and try starting the vehicle again.
  13. If the vehicle with the dead battery refuses to start, allow the vehicle with the good battery to idle for 3 to 5 minutes, and try starting the vehicle with the dead battery again.
    • If the vehicle doesn't start, take your battery to a local auto-parts store and have them check the battery.
  14. Disconnect the jumper cables in the reverse order as soon as the engine with the dead battery starts.
  15. Drive the vehicle with the previously low or dead battery on the highway, if possible, for about 15 minutes to allow proper charge of the battery.

The following video gives you a good visual rundown of how to connect your jumper cables.

3. VIDEO: How to Safely Jump-Start a Vehicle

Warning!

Make sure not to connect the jumper cables backwards or short them together while the other ends are connected to a charged battery. This could cause damage to the car's computer or other electrical systems.

Some hybrid vehicles provide a jump-starting terminal, like in this Toyota Prius model.

Some hybrid vehicles provide a jump-starting terminal, like in this Toyota Prius model.

4. How to Jump-Start a Hybrid

When jump-starting a typical hybrid vehicle, follow the same steps described in the previous section.

Also, take into account the following points:

  • Make sure the booster battery is the same voltage as the dead battery.
  • On some vehicle models, you'll find a special jump-starting terminal under the hood (see photo above).
  • When connecting the black jumper cable to ground, choose a spot away from the battery and fuel injection system. And don't clamp the cable to the camshaft or valve cover, a fuel line, or intake manifold.
  • Run the vehicle with the good battery for about five minutes, and then try starting the engine with the low or dead battery.
  • Once the engine with the weak or dead battery starts, allow both vehicles to run for about five minutes.
  • Disconnect the jumper cables in the reverse order.

Consult your vehicle's owner manual or repair manual for more information, if necessary.

Your vehicle repair manual can help diagnose and troubleshoot many common car problems at home.

Your vehicle repair manual can help diagnose and troubleshoot many common car problems at home.

5. Using a Repair Manual

Using a vehicle repair manual for your particular vehicle make and model can save you a lot of time and money on diagnostics, repairs, and maintenance.

If you don't have this manual yet, you can buy a relatively inexpensive copy through Amazon.

Haynes manuals include:

  • Photographs
  • Systems descriptions
  • Diagnostics and troubleshooting
  • Step-by-step procedures
  • Parts location
  • Parts and installation specs
  • Maintenance schedule

Also, you can follow your manual's maintenance schedule to prevent unnecessary breakdowns.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 Dan Ferrell