Getting stuck out on the road because of a dead battery can be a huge inconvenience. Although this doesn’t happen often, because your vehicle’s alternator is supposed to recharge your battery as the engine runs, there are times when you might still find yourself unable to turn over the engine and you need to use your portable jump starter to get going again. This guide will take you through the process of getting your vehicle started again, while still keeping you safe, and get you back on the road in the shortest amount of time possible. Your first step when an emergency happens is to evaluate your options.
Step One: Evaluating Your Options
When you turn your key and realize that your vehicle will not start, don’t just jump into action. Take a few seconds and think about what options you have available. Do you have a portable jump starter? Do you belong to an organization like AAA? Determining what your options actually are will allow you to take the next step logically and get you back on the road fast.
Step Two: Basic Safety Precautions
When you get stuck in the middle of the road, you want to take some basic safety precautions. First, make sure that people know that you are there. You can probably turn on your emergency flashers even if your battery is dead, but if this is not the case, you should have some road flares with you that you can light and place around your car to alert other drivers. If your car is in the middle of the road and you can safety push it in the less hazardous spot, you should do this as well. Finally, make sure that you have a flashlight or some other lighting source that will allow you to work.
Step Three: Checking Your Equipment
Your equipment will be the next detail that you focus on. What equipment do you have in your car? You might have already opened your emergency kit in order to light some flares, but what about other equipment such as jumper cables, an OBD-II scan tool, extra gasoline and of course, a portable jump starter. This guide focuses mostly on what happens when your battery dies, but it applies just as well when other problems happen on the road. Check your equipment and make sure that you know what you have before you begin figuring out what the problem is, so that you can solve it faster if you happen to have the equipment to do so.
Step Four: Troubleshooting the Problem
Troubleshooting the problem requires that you evaluate everything that is going on and make a decision as to why your car is having the problem it is. In the case of a dead battery – or what appears to be a dead battery – jump starting the car may not be the answer right away. If there is no reason for you to believe that your car should have a dead battery, then you might want to consider another solution – such as jiggling the battery cables to make sure that you are getting a good connection. If you left your headlights on overnight however, there is a good chance that your battery might be dead after all.
Step Five: Connecting Your Portable Charger or Jumper Cables
The next thing that you are going to do is connect your portable charger or jumper cables. If you have jumper cables, you are going to need to find another vehicle. If you can get someone to give you a jump, park both vehicles near enough to each other so that the cables comfortably reach and then shut off the ignitions. Connect the red wire to the red battery post (also marked with +) and the black to the other battery post (marked with -). Then, connect the cables to the dead vehicle, including the black wire to either the negative battery post or a metal part of the chassis. Then, give it a few minutes to charge.
If you are using a portable charger, it will depend upon whether you are using cables that connect to your battery or if you are using a twelve volt plug to jump start your car. Connect the cables the same way to the battery posts – red to red (+) and black to black (-) and then allow it to charge for a few minutes.
Step Six: Starting the Vehicle
From there, you can start the vehicle. If your vehicle is not turning over at all, it might mean that you don’t have a good connection. If you hear a slow cranking (Rrrw rrrw rrrw) then it probably means that you need to keep the battery charger on for longer and allow it to charge. Of course, in the best case scenario, you will be able to start your vehicle and then the alternator will recharge your battery.
Step Seven: Disconnecting the Cables
At this point, you can disconnect the jumper cables. Make sure that you disconnect them from the car that had the dead battery first and never let the two ends touch while it is connected to the other battery or you could suffer burns or an electric shock. Disconnect the cables from both ends and then store the cables.
If you are using a jump starter, then you are going to want to turn the jump starter off first and then disconnect the cables. Store your battery charger as you normally would.
Step Eight: Ensuring the Problem Doesn’t Repeat in the Future
So, you have fixed the problem temporarily, but what happens if you are on the road and it repeats? Obviously, you want to avoid this if possible, and that’s why looking into why the battery went dead in the first place is a good idea. If you left your lights on or have an explanation for the dead battery, that’s fine, but if not, you might want to let your car be checked out by a mechanic.