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The Proper Way to Boost a car

xBy Jay Lerue

It’s happened to just about all of us. You go to get in your car and notice that the door wasn’t completely closed, leaving the dome light on all night. You get in and try to start it, but nothing happens. It’s then that it dawns on you. You need a boost!

For this issue, I want to focus on what is factual where boosting cars is concerned. Before modern day computerized cars, boosting was not an issue at all. You’d just run the cables from one car to another and away you’d go. But, in recent times, folks seem to be more cautious, even adamantly against boosting from their cars, for fear of blowing out their car’s electrical/computer system. Whether or not there exists any risk or factual likeliness that this will happen when boosting from our modern day cars, I will focus on how to properly boost from one car to another, where safety is concerned. Safety for both you and your vehicle.

Firstly, one should never disconnect the battery of the vehicle needing a boost. Doing so can damage the electrical system of said car. Park the boosting vehicle close to the hood of the car needing boost, but make sure that the cars do not touch.
Set the parking brakes on both cars and keep clear of the cooling fan of each vehicle. Check the battery terminals and remove any excessive corrosion before attaching the jumper cables. Turn on the heater blower in both cars. Turn all other accessories off, including switches, and lights. Doing this will further protect from damaging either vehicle’s electrical systems.

To connect the jumper cables, (and this is where it gets a little technical, in a modern sense.) Connect one end of the first jumper cable to the POSITIVE (+) terminal of the dead battery. Most jumper cables have a red and a black end, representing red for positive and black for negative. Next, connect the other end of the red cable to the positive end of the boosting vehicle.

Next, connect the negative (black) cable to the negative (-) terminal of the boosting car. Then (and PLEASE don’t miss this!!) Connect the other negative end of the cable to the car receiving the boost, on a clean metal surface under the hood to properly ground the vehicle during the surge from the boosting car. A common mistake often made by folks boosting cars is to connect the red to red and the black to black. But doing so is very risky! If you do this, a spark may cause an explosion of the gases that normally surround the battery and severely injure someone. Never just do negative to negative and positive to positive!

So, now you’ve got your cables in the proper places, what’s next? First, make sure that the cables are clear of moving engine parts. Then, start the boosting car, running the engine at a moderate idle. Let the dead battery charge for a few minutes and then start the car with the dead battery. It may take a couple of tries before it starts. If your vehicle doesn’t start after several attempts, you may have other issues, eg., blown engine relay fuses, or alternator issues.

When both cars are running, let them idle for a few minutes to let the boosted battery charge and to let the engine “relearn” its idle conditions again. Now that the car is up and running again, it’s time to remove the booster cables. Take the jumper cables off in REVERSE order. Remove the negative (-) end of the jumper cable from the metallic surface that you grounded the cable to on the car needing the boost. Next, remove the other negative end from the battery of the boosting car.

Then, remove the positive end from the battery on the boosting car. Finally, remove the positive end from the battery of the car that got the boost. Now that your car is up and running again, take it for a good run on the highway and let your alternator replenish your weak battery. A common mistake people make is to simply let the car idle for a few minutes and then shut it off. But, typically, cars do not sufficiently charge at an idle. Get that car rolling!

Garages or car dealerships that offer boosting services will typically have an auxiliary boosting method, where upon they will use an external boosting device, like a loose battery and cables (tow trucks use this method) or a “booster pack” that must be recharged occasionally. While using these methods is easier and possibly safer for your car, doing the car to car method is usually no problem if done properly.

Till next time, take care and happy motoring.

You can Email Jay here