As a teenager, I was lucky enough to have my very own car — a 1988 burgundy Pontiac 6000 STE. It was very reliable — until I left the headlights on for about seven hours straight while I was at school. After classes ended that day, I hustled out to my car, turned the key in the ignition and… nothing. It’s a sinking feeling that I’m sure many drivers have experienced at one time or another — followed by the panicked question: What do I do now?
Luckily, I was able to call my dad, and he stopped by for a quick jump-start (a procedure that mystified me at the time). Now, I have two backup plans in place: I have a good roadside assistance plan through my auto insurance company, so there’s always someone on call who can help me with a dead battery, and I also took the time to learn how to jump start my own car — just in case. If you’re like me, and you never thought to learn how to jump-start a car, here’s what you need to know:
Add jumper cables to your emergency car kit.
First, make sure to add jumper cables to your emergency car kit. That way, you’ll have the cables on hand if you ever need them. You may also want to add a pair of splash-proof polycarbonate goggles with the “Z-87” designation, which the Texas Department of Insurance says you should wear to protect your eyes when jump-starting a car.
Also, if your battery is dead, you’ll need to ask someone to let you use their car to jump-start it. Exercise caution in this situation; if you can’t contact someone you know and trust, don’t ask strangers for help. In that case, it’s best to contact a roadside assistance or towing service for assistance.
Once you have the cables handy and a friend has agreed to let you use a working automobile to charge your dead battery, here are the steps to take, according to Tech-Cor Research:
The jump is meant to restart the disabled vehicle, not to recharge the battery.
The jump is meant to restart the disabled vehicle, not to recharge the battery. So, it may be a good idea to put the jumped battery on a battery charger, which you can buy at an automotive or department store, as soon as possible to ensure that it’s charged to full capacity, according to Tech-Cor.
Experts recommend that you avoid smoking or doing anything that could cause a spark when you’re working on the battery, to avoid causing a fire. The Sight & Hearing Association recommends these additional safety measures when jump-starting a car:
So, now you know how to be prepared in case of a dead battery — keep that roadside assistance number handy, and also arm yourself with knowledge.