Car won’t start…what do you do? Most drivers at some point in their lives will face the inevitable car battery jump-start scenario.
Oh no. Not that awful slow-motion sleepy sound of ‘D-ddddd’…. Followed by…’rur rur rur’…then, nothing but a sad ‘click’ as you turn the ignition. Sigh, definitely a dead battery. Gratefully, in many cases you may not need to arrange a battery funeral; just a jump start!
Typically, the loss of battery life will occur when you’re already late for work or stranded on a campsite in the middle of nowhere – as required by Murphy’s Law.
Even people who NEVER leave the music on in their car for hours while they do the yard work should be prepared for this unwelcome surprise. Very responsible car-owners are also likely to encounter a flat car battery and find themselves in the market for a jump-start.
We’re here to help. Here are our super-charged tips on the causes of a flat car battery, and our guide to the process of SAFELY and successfully jump-starting your vehicle.
Common Causes of a Flat Car Battery
Your battery (along with fuel) is one of the most critical components of starting your car. With stored energy, it sends a burst of power from your starter motor to the spark plugs to ignite your fuel and also give power to your other accessories such as lights, radio and aircon.
1. Human Error Disease
The most common cause is leaving an accessory on for an extended period of time after the vehicle is turned off. It’s very common in older vehicles that don’t sound an alarm if you accidentally leave your lights on. Children are great culprits of not closing doors properly, therefore ensuring your internal lights stay on, ever slow slowly draining your beloved battery.
2. Bad Weather Fever – Extreme Temperatures
Extremely hot and extremely cold temperatures can cause a sulfate buildup which can hinder your long-term battery life. In extreme weather conditions, particularly extreme cold, your battery may also take longer to charge, so if you drive short distances with your heater cranked in sub 10°C conditions…your battery will soon conk out.
3. Short Drive Disorder
Your battery can easily wear out before its time if you don’t drive often, and when you fail to drive long enough distances for the battery to fully and effectively recharge. When you start your car the battery puts out a lot of power, the alternator needs to have the chance to replace that power. If you’re an infrequent driver who only drives short distances, your battery’s life may be at risk!
4. Corrosion or loose cable complaints
Check your battery connection cables frequently to ensure they’re not loose or corroded. Corrosion will show up as a white chalky substance and is battery acid, so please wear gloves when cleaning gently. You may need to carefully use a wire brush if it’s stubborn.
5. Old Age Battery Syndrome
Batteries can just get old and worn out like the rest of us! If it doesn’t hold the charge well or if your car consistently won’t start you may need to replace your battery. Typically this should be done every 3-4 years, or sooner if your battery is not properly maintained.
6. Electronic Parasites
Sounds ominous, but this simply means that another vehicle element is not pulling its weight to help your battery work efficiently. Your battery relies on your alternator, so it needs to be in good working order. Even a broken fuse can drain your battery even when the vehicle is off – so it’s worth having a mechanic check over your vehicle if battery problems are recurring.
So, with all these infectious illnesses out to kill your car battery, the best thing you can do is be prepared. Jumper cables are the old standby…here’s how to best use them.
How To Jump Start Your Car Battery
Before Jump Starting
- Make sure to the best of your knowledge that it IS the car battery with the problem. The culprit could be your starter, a faulty fuse or your alternator. The cause can become more clear if jump-starting your vehicle doesn’t solve the problem.
- Find a suitable donor car with a functioning battery of the same voltage as yours
- Ensure the battery is not exposed to a harmful environment in any way
Safety First! Perform a Quick Safety Check
- Ensure the ignition switch of both vehicles is off and keys are removed
- Make sure the batteries of both vehicles are undamaged. If the battery’s casing is broken or it’s leaking – don’t attempt to jump start
- Likewise, check the jumper cables are undamaged and find another set if they appear compromised
- Turn off any accessories that use power in your car – headlights, internal lights etc. If you’re jumping in the dark and need light – use the headlights from the donor vehicle.
- Be careful of battery acid; don’t touch corrosion or white powdery substances. Ideally, you should wear safety gloves.
- Ensure your vehicles are close enough for the jumper cables to comfortably reach both batteries; but that the cars are not touching in any way
- Ensure manual vehicles are in neutral and auto vehicles are parked.
Jump-starting The Battery
- Locate the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals of the batteries
- Ensure the jumper cables are untangled
- Place one of the red jumper cable clips onto the positive terminal of the donor vehicle
- Place the other red jumper cable clip onto the positive battery terminal of the vehicle that won’t start.
- Connect one end of the black jumper cable to the negative terminal of the donor vehicle’s charged battery and the other end to a metal solid part of your non-starting vehicle such as under the bonnet or around the engine block or chassis. It’s important to ensure it is clamped away from the battery and any fuel-related parts of your engine. You may see a small spark as you connect – this is normal
- Next, ensure the clips are fastened securely and will not come off on their own
- Make sure the cables are not obstructing any moving parts of either vehicle and don’t fall into the engine bay
- Start the donor vehicle engine and let it run for around five minutes before starting your vehicle. If your car doesn’t start, turn off the donor vehicle and check the clamp connections are solid before trying again
- If your vehicle fails to start, the problem might lie elsewhere like your alternator or starter, in which case there are other ways to troubleshoot.
What To Do After Jump Starting Your Car
If your engine started…hooray! You’re a hop skip and a jump away from making it to your next destination, but don’t say goodbye to your trusty donor vehicle just yet. Keep your car running for 15-30 minutes before you hit the road again just in case, this will give your alternator time to recharge your battery…otherwise, you may need to repeat the process all over again. So remember, take care of your car’s battery and engine, always prepare for the worst and stay safe out on the roads.