What to Do When Your Car Battery Dies
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4 Dead Car Battery Tricks to Get Your Car Started

You are all set for a weekend road trip, a well-deserved vacation, a night out, or just heading off to work.  You get in your car, buckle up, put the key in the ignition and turn it….. And you get click, click, click…click, click, click, you aren’t going anywhere. 

What do you do now that your car battery has died? There are several dead car battery tricks that you can try. But before we consider any of them, how old is your battery?  Batteries have a shelf life of about 4-6 years. 

If your battery is older than that, the methods discussed below will be temporary measures at best.  You will probably need a new battery or it’s a possible candidate to be reconditioned. With that being said, these methods below will give you a better chance to get to safety and not leave you stranded on the side of the road.

Here are four simple options that you have (although not your only options):

  • Call a tow service
  • Carry a booster pack to jumpstart your car ( my personal recommendation)
  • Jumpstart your car with another car
  • The push start method
Learn how to bring any battery back to life again

Call A Tow Service

Okay, maybe it’s not a ‘trick’ per se, but it is an option.

Old Tow Truck
I don’t want to ride in this!

If you are a subscriber to Triple-A or perhaps if your car insurance offers roadside services you can call them. They will either send a tow truck to jump your car or tow your car to a shop.

If you are a subscriber to Triple-A or perhaps if your car insurance offers roadside services you can call them.  They will either send a tow truck to jump your car or tow your car to a shop.

At that point, you are at the mercy of the tow truck driver and the mechanic shop.  But for the most part, it’s safe and for some, this is the best choice because it offers peace of mind. But for those who would like a more hands-on approach keep on reading.

Disclaimer:  The methods discussed below may not be suitable for all vehicles.  Please make sure that your vehicle can take a jump before you attempt it.  There is a possibility, especially on cars with electronic ignitions, alternative fuels, or hybrids that you can burn out some of the electronics.

Use a Battery Booster Pack ( AKA JUMP STARTER)

For the best battery booster packs for your car, check out my article over here.

This is my personal recommendation because I have used it many times.  Several years ago I was on my way from Florida to New Jersey. To my chagrin, things went bad pretty much right away. 

Battery Jump Starter
Will this one work?

After the first time I filled up with gas my truck wouldn’t start again. So I used my booster pack to get my truck running again.  I hopped back on Interstate 95 and continued driving, everything was fine.  

A few hours later my son had to use the bathroom, so I pulled off at a rest area.  After a little stretching and a snack, we were ready to get back on the road; click, click, click, click….battery was dead again. 

At this point, I knew my battery was bad and needed to be replaced. However, I continued to New Jersey, stopping as little as possible; because every time I did, I had to jump the car. 

My point is the booster pack allowed me 1) to be completely independent.  I didn’t have to rely on anyone else to get my car started, and 2) I was able to finish my trip.  In addition to allowing you to get yourself going; a booster pack is the safest way to jump a car.  

As you are probably aware most newer cars (anything after a 2000 model year)  have very sophisticated computers and electronics. A booster pack delivers a safe amount of voltage to your battery and lessens the chances of burning out the electronics in your car. 

So how do you use a booster pack to get your car started again?

It’s a fairly easy process, that anyone can do. It is a skill set that will serve you well.

Now you will want to read the instructions for your particular model of the booster pack.

The following steps are typically how to use a booster pack

First things first

Make sure that your jump starter pack is charged. Read over here to find out how. It won’t do you any good if it is not.

Learn how to bring any battery back to life again

Turn your car off and all of the electronics in your car.  Unplug any USB chargers or anything plugged into the charging stations.  You don’t want anything unnecessary to put a load on the electric system.

  • Pop your hood
  • Locate your battery and expose the terminals
        The battery terminals are usually red (positive)+) and black (negative(-)
        The terminals must be clean so you can make a good connection
        You can use a battery terminal cleaner to clean off the terminals
  • Rest the booster pack in a secure location
        DO NOT TOUCH THE RED CLAMP AND BLACK CLAMP TOGETHER, THEY WILL SPARK AND MELT
  • Connect the Red clamp to the positive (red) battery terminal
  • Connect the Black clamp to an unpainted, exposed piece of metal.  A nut on the engine block will do.
  • Turn the booster pack on and wait  ( Refer to your specific model for the recommended time)
  • Turn the key and your car should start
  • Disconnect the booster pack 
  • Allow the car to run for 15-20 minutes to allow the battery to charge.

If your battery died because a light was left on or something minor like that, and your battery is newish; then you should be all set.  The alternator will recharge your battery and you shouldn’t have any more problems.

The battery in my truck was old and would no longer hold a charge.  That is why I had to jump it each time I turned the car off.

If the jump fails you have bigger issues and will need to get the car towed or get a new battery to get going again.

JUMP STARTING YOUR CAR USING JUMPER CABLES

So how do you jump start your vehicle using jumper cables?  The idea is the same as with a booster pack. We will go through the steps below.  However, before we do this a caution…

Newer vehicles (i.e. after the year 2000), in addition to vehicles with electronic ignition and alternative, fueled cars, may be damaged by jump-starting with another vehicle.  Before you proceed, make sure that your vehicle can take a jump-start from another car.

A jump start with this method can produce an inconsistent electrical current, which can damage the electronics in newer cars.  Jump-starting may be better for older vehicles, both the donor car and the car needing a jump.

With that being said, proceed with caution, here are the steps to jumpstart a vehicle…

The very first thing is you need to have a set of jumper cables.  Find out what size jumper cables you need here. Before I got my booster pack, I always carried a set with me.

Next, you will need to find a willing donor.  As mentioned, perhaps finding someone with an older vehicle would be advised, so you do not risk damaging his or her vehicle.

After you have found a willing donor.  Pull the cars close to one another. I have read that energy from the donor battery can be lost traveling a long way. 

Now safety first.  Turn the vehicles off and set the parking brakes.  Also, once you connect the cables you do not want to touch the red clamps and black clamps together.  Lastly, unplug all external electronics; USB chargers, power converters, anything plugged into the cigarette lighter. I also, like to shut off the AC, because it is a load on the engine, and the radio just to be safe.

Now we can proceed.  The setup for this procedure is very similar to using the booster pack.

  1. Locate the battery terminals and make sure they are clean.  You need a good connection to make sure this works.
  2. Connect the Red (positive) clamp to the positive terminal (indicated by the +) on the dead battery.
  3. Then Connect the Red (positive) clamp to the positive terminal on the working battery
  4. Connect the Black (negative) clamp to the negative terminal (indicated by the (-) on the working battery.
  5. Connect the other black clamp to a clean unpainted piece of metal (again a nut on the engine block will do)
  6. At this point wait a minute or two.  Jumping a car in this manner may cause inconsistencies in the voltage and may result in burning out the electronics.  If the dead battery is not too drained, you may be able to jump-start the car, without having to start the donor car. This will help avoid any spikes in the voltage. If after a minute or two you don’t get any results, then proceed to the next step.
  7. Start the donor car and allow it to run again for a minute or two.
  8. Try starting the dead car.  If all goes well the dead car will start.

 If it does not. Try letting it sit for another minute or two.  You don’t want to go much longer than this because then you will end up with two dead batteries and in a real pickle.

After the car starts, drive it around for 10 -15 minutes. This will give the battery time to recharge.

I like to get someplace safe before I shut the car off again, especially if you don’t know why the battery died in the first place. 

Again, if the jump fails you have bigger issues that need to be dealt with and you will either need to have the car towed to find out what is wrong or get a new battery.

THE PUSH START METHOD

While this is not my recommended method for getting a car started, it is my favorite.  Unfortunately, you have to have the right kind of vehicle to do it and the right circumstances.

This method is one of the main reasons I would only drive a manual transmission car. You can ‘pop the clutch’ and get your car started again without an outside power source, other than gravity or push power. 

If you are successful in accomplishing this, it is a very rewarding feeling.

First, I have only done this with a manual transmission vehicle (That’s where you have a clutch and actually need to shift your car into the next gear).  So, if you don’t have a stick shift, don’t bother trying this.

Also, you either need to be on a hill or have some friends to help you push the car.  These are the requirements for pulling this method off. So now the steps…

First, as mentioned you need to either position your car at the top of a hill or have some friends that can help push.   You need to get the car to about 10 MPH.

  • Engage your parking brake
  • Then you want to turn the key on
  • Put the car in second gear
  • You have to make your first attempt count, especially if you’re on a hill. Chances are if you fail, you will not be able to try again. That’s what makes this method so exciting!

Okay, so you are ready to give this a whirl. 

  • Depress the clutch and put your foot on the brake. 
  • Release the parking brake… and take your foot off the brake…keep the clutch pushed in
  • Whether you are rolling down a hill or being pushed by friends you need to hit about 10 MPH.
  • When you hit the sweet spot, around 10 MPH, release pressure on the clutch FOR A SPLIT SECOND, and then push the clutch back in.

If you are successful the car will start…If not you can try again, assuming you are not at the bottom of a hill.

Again, drive the car around for 10-15 minutes to allow the battery to recharge, assuming it can.  But get to someplace safe, before you turn your car off again.

Starting a car this way takes some skill and practice.  So if you happen to have a stick shift, why not practice when your car is running. Then if you’re battery ever dies, you at least have some experience in starting your car this way. 

Sadly, I just read that stick shifts are becoming in less demand here in the states. This method of starting your car will one day be antiquated. Until then, this is a very satisfying way to start a car in an emergency.

Final Thoughts…

A dead battery is a very frustrating thing to deal with, but there are usually signs that your battery is dying; so you can avoid being caught with a dead battery.  However, we all leave a dome light on or our headlights on at one time or another and the battery drains.

Our batteries get older and one day they can’t turn your engine over.  It happens. Being prepared is half the battle in a situation like this. If you know what to do, and now you do, you can overcome this situation.

Sometimes batteries run there course and need to be replaced. Check out my article Best Car Batteries for Winter, it will give you some excellent recommendations and tips on which battery is best for your car.



Safe Travels…

References

https://www.autobatteries.com/en-us/jump-starting-and-charging/jump-starting-your-car-with-jumper-cables

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