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:
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 Edmunds:
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. If you’re unsure about the long-term health of your battery, consult a mechanic or a professional at an automotive store for advice.