Mechanically Speaking: Be a good and smart Samaritan when jump starting a car

"The latest technology has made jump starting a vehicle a little more of a challenge than it used to be"

The automobile is one of those things many of us just can’t seem to live without. Not for a minute. So coming upon a person suffering from an automobile problem we sympathize and want to get right in and help, if we can. We want to be that good Samaritan.

Many of us still carry jumper cables. Many a non starting vehicle will respond to the jump start. Do you feel confident enough to perform this procedure?

As all things automotive are concerned, the latest technology has made jump starting a vehicle a little more of a challenge than it used to be. Why? Where is the battery?

Yes, lift many a hood and the location of the battery will not be apparent. Used to be most vehicles had an easily accessible battery in one corner of the engine compartment. Now even Chevrolet, Ford, and Chrysler have been hiding their batteries from plain sight. The trunk, under a seat, in a fender, under the windshield wiper area, are all possibilities. Don’t even think about searching. Don’t give up your Samaritan status just because you can’t see it though.

Probably it is best to look up “jump starting” in the owner’s manual first. You might even find out that jump starting a particular vehicle is a no-no. I have seen that. Not sure why. In most cases you will be directed to finding a positive and negative post under the hood. The positive post will likely be covered in plastic, red in color preferably with an embossed plus sign on it. Unfortunately some will be black plastic (much more tricky to find). The negative post should be fairly close to the positive post and will most likely not be covered.

Just think after you find these posts on the jumpee’s vehicle you may have to open your own owner’s manual to find the same posts on your own vehicle. “Hope I at least get a Starbucks out of this deal.”

Okay, jumper post locations are out of the way. Let’s see, the jumper cables are 10 feet long. Snuggle your vehicle up to the jumpee’s and “TURN YOUR VEHICLE OFF.” Note the emphasis. Your vehicle’s electrical system is not a battery charger. It is a battery maintainer and only meant to maintain a good battery. Running your vehicle while connected to a vehicle with a bad battery will overwork your alternator. Running your vehicle while connected to another vehicle while it is trying to start is a recipe for needing a new alternator (mucho expensivo).

Now, with both vehicles off, connect the positive posts of both vehicles together followed by the negatives. Be careful. If the battery you are connecting to is visible and boiling hot and smelling like sulphur, better not to proceed.

LEAVE THE JUMPER CAR OFF. Try and start the jumpee. If you are in luck it will start right up. Disconnect the negatives and then positives. A job well done.

If your vehicle is the jumpee it is very important to know the cause of your problem. Did you leave your lights on or some other accessory? Is your battery five or more years old? Is the charging system on your vehicle functioning as it was designed? You may need to seek professional advice.

If your battery was dead from leaving something on, do not recharge your battery by driving around for hours if you are close to home or somewhere with a battery charger. As I said your vehicle’s electrical system was not designed to charge batteries. It was designed to maintain them.

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