How to Jump-Start a Car

As a dead battery is something most motorists face at least once in their driving lives, it’s a good idea to learn how to jump-start a car before you actually need to put your skills into practice. But if you ever find yourself with a flat battery and are unsure what to do, just call your RAC breakdown cover service for help.

Before you do anything, make sure you read your vehicle handbook. If it includes model specific procedures, follow those rather than the steps below. If there are no specific instructions, you can follow our handy guide on how to jump-start your car, with or without jump leads.

Safety first

To make sure you don’t hurt yourself or someone else, check:

  • If your battery is damaged, leaking or corroded – if it is, you must call a professional
  • That the battery in the other vehicle has at least as much voltage as your own
  • That all metal objects are moved away from the battery
  • That loose clothing and hair is tied back and/or secured so they can’t get caught in moving parts
  • There are no naked flames nearby – don’t smoke
  • That all headlights and other electronics are off, and remove the key from the ignition
  • The jump leads aren’t damaged – broken conductors or damaged clamps can overheat and catch fire
  • Position the cars so the engine bays are close together but aren’t touching as this can cause sparks or an explosion.
How to jump-start a car with jump leads
  • Place both vehicles in park or neutral, turn off the ignitions and engage both handbrakes
  • Attach one red clip to the positive terminal of your battery and one tothe positive terminal of the other car
  • Attach one black clip to the negative terminal on the other battery
  • Attach the other black clip to an unpainted metal surface on your car that isn’t near the battery – you could use the metal strut hat holds the bonnet open.

It’s time to start your vehicle. If it won’t start, make sure the cables are properly connected and the other car has been running for five minutes, then try again. If your car starts, drive around for at least 15 minutes to recharge your battery. If the car won’t start the next time you use it, the battery needs to be replaced.

How to jump-start a car without jump leads
  • Push down the clutch (do not release until step 4) and put the car into second gear
  • Turn on the ignition
  • Start pushing the car or simply release the brake if pointing downhill
  • Release the clutch quickly and the engine should start
  • Let the car run while it recharges.
How to jump-start a car with a portable power pack

Portable power packs are devices that carry enough charge to jump-start your car by attaching the built-in crocodile clips to your battery's positive terminal and an earthing point, and then turning the car on, leave it to run in order to recharge the battery.

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