In Case of Emergency, Jump Start Your Weekend

Invest in a pair of jumper cables. Hopefully, it’s painfully apparent that without them, your car — and weekend — is dead. Unless you enlist the help of kindly neighbors, if those exist. A set of jumper cables should only set you back $10 to $15, and you’ll always be prepared to help out a friend in need — or you know, yourself. Don’t be the cheap schmuck who inadvertently sabotages his first date because he never got around to buying jumper cables. 

So your car battery is dead and you have jumper cables in hand — now what? First, make sure the car that is helping you is bigger than yours. For instance, a mini cooper can’t help restart a Ford F-150, but it would easily work the other way around. Pop open the hood of each car (make sure they are parked close enough) and follow these steps. But remember, even though these steps seem simple, they must be followed to the T. Improvising will likely result in sparks flying and a possible explosion — and not the good kind. 

First turn off both cars, obviously. Find both car batteries — again, pretty obvious — and locate the positive and negative terminals. Usually, manufacturers make it pretty easy with red-positive, black-negative labels. Clamp the cables in the following order: the red positive cable on the stalled car’s red positive terminal, the other red positive cable on the helping car’s red positive terminal, the black negative cable on the helping car’s black negative terminal and — this is the important part — the other black negative cable on a unpainted metal surface in the stalled car, like the engine block. Failure to do the last step by attaching the black cable to the stalled car’s negative terminal will result in some pretty impressive pyrotechnics. 

Once the cables are sufficiently attached, start the car with the good battery and let it run for two to three minutes. Then crank the engine of the stalled car until the car starts, and remove the cables in reverse order. Yes, the engine is running, but suck it up and just do it. Your sweaty palms and heart palpitations don’t reflect well on the awesome deed you just pulled off. 

Now that both cars are up and running, drive both cars around for a bit — and be sure to not turn off your engine for at least 30 minutes to give your battery time to recharge. What you do after that is up to you, but the How-to Guru suggests celebratory drinks and some smug basking in the knowledge that you pulled a fast one on the finicky god of car misery.