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Jumpstart your vehicle the right way

Jumpstart your vehicle the right way

With many of us still working from home and electing to order our essentials online rather than venture out to the shops, being stranded with a flat car battery could be an annoying reality, even if you drive the most modern of cars.

Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), says that’s why it’s best to make sure you’re aware of how to jumpstart your vehicle in the correct way. 

“While the jumpstarting procedure is relatively standard for all vehicles on the road today, boost starting can cause serious damage to the vehicle’s electrical system and computer if done incorrectly. It’s therefore important to first consult the owner’s manual for any specific boost starting instructions, as well as to identify first where the jumpstart terminals in your car are located.”

Once this has been done, he advises lining up the car with the flat battery as close as possible to another vehicle with the booster battery. Both cars need to be turned off, handbrakes need to up and the gear selector in Neutral or Park position before you connect the cables.

“Remember to also ensure all headlights, indicators, car radios and air conditioners are off and radar detectors and cell phones are unplugged. Also unplug all accessories from cigarette lighters and other power sockets from both cars and remove the keys from the flat car’s ignition until jumper cables are hooked up. With over 300 volts going through your system when the two batteries are connected, the transients can destroy equipment if the above guidelines are not followed,” he explains.

Ranft says it’s good to take some time to familiarise yourself with the Positive (+) and Negative (-) terminals of both car batteries so you know exactly which one is which. All batteries are clearly marked, so if you can’t find it, it’s probably under caked-on corrosion around the terminals. He suggests wiping off any battery acid that may have leaked however if the battery is cracked and liquid is leaking out, you should not go any further. “If you try to jump start the battery with a crack in it, it could possibly explode. It also doesn’t make any sense to jump a cracked battery, as it will die in a few minutes anyway and will need to be replaced.”

If all seems well, simply clean off any corrosion around the dead battery terminals and if you have tools, loosen the wires from the terminals, clean them off and then retighten the wires to the shiny posts. Corroded posts prevent the power from getting through the cables and into your battery to revive it. “Even if you have a file handy, try to file the metal battery posts until they are nice and shiny, ensuring that you do not touch both battery posts at the same time, with the metal file, as this may cause a short / spark. If you’re in a pinch, use pliers to clamp down and scrape off corrosion too as the metal is somewhat soft.

Now you’re ready to connect the car battery jumper cables. Usually the Positive battery cable is red or orange, and the Negative, or ground cable is black – but always check for yourself just to be sure, he stresses.

Remember that the cables must be connected in the correct order for safety reasons. Then do the following:

  • First connect one positive end of the jumper cable to the positive terminal of the dead battery.
  • Then connect the other positive end of the jumper cable to the positive terminal of the good battery.
  • Next connect the one negative end of the jumper cable to the negative terminal of the good battery.
  • Connect the other negative end of the jumper cable to a shiny nut or bolt on the dead vehicle. This will need to be a grounded piece on the engine or on the frame of the vehicle. You should only connect to the negative terminal on the dead battery as a last option to avoid an explosion by spark.
  • When the car batteries are hooked together, let them run for a minute or two before you try to start the dead vehicle.
  • Start the vehicle and let the engine run for approximately 3 to 5 minutes to allow the flat battery to pick-up voltage which will enable the battery to function on its own once the jumping cables are removed
  • Before removing the cables, switch on one or two of your electrical components like lights or aircon to avoid any high voltage spikes to the electrical system
  • Once the engine starts, remove the cables in the reverse order that you connected them. Also switch off any electrical components you may have switched on during the process and drive the vehicle for a few kilometres to assist recharging the battery.

“It is always wise to have the electrical system checked by a registered MIWA service technician post a flat battery. MIWA member workshops have all the tools and knowledge to ensure your vehicle’s electrical system is in good running condition and no damage has been incurred. The battery may just need to have corrosion removed from the battery terminals, or your vehicle may need a new battery or have the charging system inspected. Don’t wait until your vehicle will not start again. Rather take care of the problem before you get stranded,” Ranft concludes.