Last Tuesday there was quite a sight to behold in the parking lot of my kids’ school. There was a lot of hooting and hollering, a lady doing the moonwalk, and two others with their fists in the air and looks of victorious satisfaction on their faces. This is what happens when three women brave the winter elements – it was -22C degrees here – break out their knowledge of how to boost a dead car battery and hear an engine come to life.
My dad was an automobile aficionado and knew everything about cars, but he did not pass the “car knowledge” gene to me unfortunately, my sister got that one. He did make sure that I was comfortable looking under the hood of a car though, and that I knew how to do the things I needed to, like filling the windshield washer fluid reservoir, and checking and adding engine oil. I don’t remember getting an actual lesson on how to boost a dead car battery, but I’ve had some experience over the years and with the help of a few google searches, I confirmed what I already knew. If you find yourself in need of a boost, or the one that happens to have a working vehicle when a friend is need, just follow these steps to get things up and running again.
Sorry, may have jumped the gun there. I split the steps up into Safety First (i.e. boring but necessary) steps and Sexy (i.e. let’s harness electricity and bend it to our will) steps.
How to Boost a Car Battery
Safety First steps:
- Pull the working car up close to the dead car, but they should not be touching. I know this sounds like “hey, don’t crash your car into the car that needs a boost”, but it’s a safety issue that goes beyond not denting anyone’s car.
- Make sure that all battery draining features are turned off/unplugged in both cars. These include the radio, lights, device chargers, etc.
- Turn off the working car.
- Pop the hood on both vehicles, locate, and inspect the batteries. If the dead battery is cracked or there is lots of corrosion around the terminals, you should call CAA or your favourite mechanic, because your battery needs to be replaced and it is dangerous to try to boost it. How dangerous? Possible explosion dangerous.
Think of this as a circle, you start with the dead car and you end with the dead car.
- Attach the red clamp to the positive terminal on the dead car, then have whoever is not doing the clamping hold onto the black clamp on the dead car’s side. It has to wait it’s turn and should not touch anything metallic before it’s time which is hard if it is resting on a car engine that is made of lots of metal parts.
- Attach the red clamp to the positive terminal on the working car.
- Attach the black clamp to the negative terminal of the working car.
- Attach the black clamp to a non-painted, non-oily piece of metal in the dead car’s engine, not the negative terminal. Again, this is a safety issue.
- Start the working car and let it run for a few minutes.
- Start the dead car.
- Detach the clamps in reverse order.
If the dead car still won’t start, you can try waiting for a few more minutes to let the good battery give a bit more charge to the dead one. If that doesn’t work, you might want to adjust the clamps to ensure you have a good connection. If you do this, it is best if you detach the clamps is reverse order and start again with Sexy step #1. Remember there is a reason the clamps go on in a certain order and randomly unclamping/reclamping flies in the face of the Sexy step order.
One last tip (which should maybe be the first thing mentioned in this post): make sure you have booster cables in your vehicle. They are not that expensive and chances are you are going to need them at some point or other. If you need to purchase booster cables, let me just say that this is a time when size does matter for both length and girth (sorry mom). Longer cables give more flexibility in how you can position the working car and booster cables with thicker wire are faster at providing power to the dead battery. Buy the longest, lowest gauge cables with sturdy clamps that your budget will allow. These 16′ 6 gauge ones are nice.