How to jump start a car in ten steps (with video)

Learning how to jump start a vehicle is such an invaluable piece of knowledge it should almost be part of the national curriculum.

It’s a horrible feeling - jump in the car on a winter’s morning, turn the key, and the starter motor groans and fails to fire up the engine.

This may mean a dead battery but, if your battery is merely flat it may just need a jump start to get it going again.

If you need assistance you can call the RAC on 0330 159 1111 whether you are a member or not. You can also get immediate cover here, which might work out cheaper if you are not a member.

Below we outline the different techniques use our quick links to find the right section for you:

Guide contents:


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How to jump start a car with jump leads

The most common and effective means of getting your car going with a flat battery is by using jump leads.

What do I need?

Safety precautions before starting

When jump starting a vehicle, it’s important not to take risks. Consult your owners manual first and If you’re not confident that you know what you’re doing, give the RAC a call on 0330 159 1111 and we’ll be happy to help.

  • Check for damage - if there’s any obvious damage to either of the batteries, or the jump leads, don’t risk attempting a jump start
  • Remove any rings or metal jewellery you’re wearing and make sure nothing metal touches the terminals on the battery.

Jump start your car guide
Typical car battery

Ten steps to jump start a car

  1. Before starting, make sure any electrical systems or devices in the vehicle with the dead battery are switched off (Lights, radio/CD, sat-nav etc). 
  2. Park the second vehicle as close to the casualty vehicle as possible, without the vehicles touching, ensuring the jump leads will comfortably reach from one battery to the other.
  3. Ensure both vehicles engines are switched off, remove the ignition keys and open their bonnets (or boot if the battery’s located there). 
  4. Attach one end of the red jump lead to the positive terminal on the flat battery. The positive terminal will usually have a red plastic cover with a plus (+) symbol on it.
  5. Then attach the other end of the red jump lead to the positive terminal of the good battery on the second vehicle.
  6. Attach one end of the black jump lead to the negative terminal of the good battery.
  7. Then attach the other end of the black jump lead to a good earth point on the casualty vehicle – a solid metal part of the engine is usually best.
  8. Start the engine of the second vehicle.
  9. Now attempt to start the casualty vehicle. If it doesn’t start after a few attempts, it might be more serious than a flat battery. In this event, seek professional help by calling the RAC on 0330 159 1111.
  10. If it does start, leave both vehicles running for five minutes.

Jump start your car guide - earth
Attach the other end of the black jump lead to a good earth point on the casualty vehicle – a solid metal part of the engine is usually best

 

How to remove the jump leads

  1. Switch off the engines on both vehicles
  2. Disconnect the black jump lead that is connected to the casualty vehicle
  3. Disconnect the other end of the black jump lead from the second vehicle
  4. Disconnect the red jump lead that is connected to the second vehicle
  5. Disconnect the other end of the red jump lead from the battery on the casualty vehicle

After the leads have been removed

Restart the engine on the casualty vehicle. The battery will need to recharge fully for it to be fully serviceable, which is best achieved using a quality battery charger for several hours.

In the meantime, if possible, drive the vehicle normally (not in heavy traffic) for around 30 mins to try to put some charge back into the battery.

MORE ADVICE: 10 checks to prevent a breakdown this winter

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How to bump start a car

The RAC do not recommend bump starting a vehicle, please follow the advice in the How to jump start a car with jump leads or How to jump start a car with a portable battery pack sections.

How to jump start a car with a portable battery pack

How to jump start your car

If you're worried about getting stranded with a flat battery when you are unable to call for help or seek assistance from someone, then you can buy a portable battery pack as a precaution, to keep you mobile if your battery goes flat.

These can be purchased from the RAC shop and are able to jump start a car without the use of another vehicle.

Before you start

When jump starting a vehicle, it’s important not to take risks. Consult your owners manual first and If you’re not confident that you know what you’re doing, give the RAC a call on 0330 159 1111 and we’ll be happy to help.

  • Check for damage - if there’s any obvious damage to either of the batteries, or the jump leads, don’t risk attempting a jump start
  • Remove any rings or metal jewellery you’re wearing and make sure nothing metal touches the terminals on the battery.

Jump starting with a portable battery pack

First check that the battery pack is fully charged.

Locate the vehicle battery - usually situated in the engine bay under the bonnet, but in some vehicles, it is located in the boot. It’ll probably be hidden under a plastic cover – unclip this and you should see the battery with its two terminals.

Connect the positive (red) lead from the battery pack to the positive (+) terminal of the battery. Connect the negative (black) lead to a good earth point on the casualty vehicle – a solid metal part of the engine is usually best.

Be careful where you position the battery pack while you’re using it. If it’s placed on the engine it might fall off when the engine starts.

Once the battery pack is connected, switch on the pack and attempt to start the vehicle as you normally would. If it doesn’t start after a few attempts, it might be more serious than a flat battery. In this event, seek professional help by calling the RAC on 0330 159 1111.

If the vehicle does start, keep the engine running for about 5 minutes. Switch off the engine, then switch off the battery pack and remove the leads from the battery pack. Now restart the engine again.

The vehicles’ battery will need to recharge fully for it to be fully serviceable, which is best achieved using a quality battery charger for several hours. In the meantime, if possible, drive the vehicle normally (not heavy traffic) for around 30 mins to try to put some charge back into the battery.

Did you know, you can get fined for moving out of the way of an ambulance?

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