How to jump start a car with jump leads

Follow our easy recipe

We’re in lockdown and thus, so are our cars. Yes, we’re supposed to start them and move them but we’re human and we forget. We jump in to go to the shops for the essentials run, start the car, and then… nothing. The battery, she’s dead.

The heart plummets, this is going to require a jump start from another car. Those with insurance or roadside assistance can call their service providers who will dispatch help. Which is great if you’ve got time in hand, but for those in a rush, learning how to do it yourself may be the quickest way to get on the road again.

Some of us have jump leads, though have no clue how to use them or we know how to use them but the idea of working with a live current is not on our To-Do list. And for the rest of us, this all is something new.

We pride ourselves on practical advice here at WOW, so we’re going to simplify how it all works.

Recipe for jump-starting a car

Flat battery | jump start | how to | advice | cars


1 x jump leads

1 x working car


Step 1: Jump leads

Both cars need to be close together, normally facing front bumper to front bumper as jumper leads are not particularly long.

  • Both cars in neutral/park with the handbrake up
  • Open the bonnet of each car
  • Find the battery in each vehicle, some batteries may have a plastic housing over each terminal, these need to be gently lifted up
  • Detangle jump leads
  • Don’t let any of the metal clamps touch each other when they’re connected to a car

Step 2: Positive & negative

Car batteries have positive and negative terminals, these are clearly marked on the battery with a + denoting the positive, and a denoting the negative.

Jump leads are made up of two colours, red and black. The red section with clamp is for the positive + terminal, and the black lead with clamp for the negative – terminal

  • Identify the two terminals on each battery before starting
  • Connect flat battery first as it’s safer because it’s not live
  • Red-lead clamp to the terminal that’s denoted as +. The + terminal may have a red wiring/cable attached though it’s best to look for the symbols on the battery
  • Black-lead clamp needs to be connected to a solid metal earthing point, not the battery. Ideally, you would connect it to a bolt in the bonnet. Don’t connect it anywhere near the mechanics in case it sparks, and ignites on an unseen fuel source

Step 3: Attaching jump leads

Flat battery | jump start | how to | advice | cars

  • Do not let the clamps touch each other at any point going forward
  • Attach the red clamp to the  + terminal on the donor battery, do not touch any other part of the car or yourself with the red clamp
  • Attached the black clamp to the terminal
  • It’s important that the clamps are firmly attached

Step 4: Start it up

  • Start the car with the working battery
  • Let it run for a few minutes

Step 5: Let it charge

  • Start the car with the flat battery
  • Turn the key until the dashboard lights up, this is good progress if you had no dashboard lights before
  • Switch the ignition on. Once the engine is running give it 5 minutes to continue ‘feeding’ off the donor car

Step 6: Disconnecting the jumper leads

  • When disconnecting the clamps do so in the reverse order that they were attached
  • Keep the car with the flat battery running. If you can, go for a drive to give the battery time to recharge, if not, let it run in the driveway for 5 – 10 minutes

It’s not starting:

The problem may not be the battery here it could be something else. Two common gremlins that cause cars not to start are the starter motor failing, which makes a clicking sound when you attempt to start the car. Stop what you’re doing and call a mechanic to book your car in.

The other gremlin is if no lights come up on the dashboard at all your battery may be kaput, in which case you’ll need to replace it.


Images: iStock