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Tips For Jump Starting Your Car

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Tips For Jump Starting Your Car

Levi Quinn
January 11, 2011

Levi Quinn

You may think that jump starting a car is a simple, no-frills process, and it can be. However, there are necessary precautions that you must take when working to do this correctly and to prevent injury. You need to know that car battery actually is a "live" thing and contains explosive hydrogen gas. Albeit while it is a small amount, it is a battery charging by-product and can be dangerous.

Here are some rules to obey when jump starting a car:

  • Always avoid having any flammable material that can produce sparks around a live battery. Furthermore, no live electric or flammable material should be kept around jumper cables that are in use.
  • Remember to never hook a car battery in a position that could be considered a series circuit. If this is done, there is a high possibility your car's entire electrical system could catch fire, also ruining the starter.
  • When jump starting the car, make sure the batteries that are connecting have the same voltage. While most vehicles today use a 12 volt battery, some older models use batteries that have different properties.
  • Always ensure that the batteries that are being connected to each other have the same polarity, in that they both have the negative terminal grounded.
  • Keep the vehicles a reasonable distance from each other, do not let them touch.
  • Make sure vent cap holes are not covered or obstructed by any material.
  • Do not smoke while you are jump starting a car and keep lit cigarettes away from the batteries.
  • If you are trying to jump start a car in cold weather first make sure that the battery electrolyte is not covered in ice or frost. This is highly likely if your car's battery has been discharging liquid in cold weather.
  • Make sure the electrolyte fluid stays away from your skin. Contact medical care if this fluid makes skin contact.

    It is important that you work to make sure you and other parties stay safe when jump starting a car. Always use your hazard lights and make sure you are pulled into a secure location or parking lot. If at all possible, avoid jump starting a car on the side of a busy road or highway in inclement or bad weather. Not only do you increase your chances of doing something wrong because you have to maneuver a car to reach a stalled vehicle, but it is dangerous to be so close to traffic.

    Finally, after you are done jump starting the car and feel confident that the vehicle has been sufficiently charged, make sure you turn on the headlights, the heater and rear defroster of the jump started vehicle and the vehicle that was being used for the charge as this will help reduce the possibility of a voltage spike after the jumper cables are disconnected. A voltage spike is very common, especially in cars that have computer controls. Follow these guidelines the next time you are faced with a car that needs a jump. Know it is an easy process, but you must consider correct safety measures in order to guarantee complete safety.

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