Jumper Cables – Frequently Asked Questions

by | Sep 30, 2020 | Car Maintenance

Jumper Cables

By definition, jumper cables, which are also referred to as jump leads or booster cables, are a pair of insulated cables with alligator clips at each end, to interconnected a dead or a low vehicle battery of one car with an auxiliary source, such as another vehicle or battery with the same voltage rating.

What Are the Common Signs of a Dead Car Battery

A dead or low battery can be caused by a number of things such as, cold weather, a faulty alternator, a blown starter, leaving your lights on for too long, or of course additional draw from fuses, sound systems, alarms, and an old or dysfunctional battery. 

The following are some of the common signs of a dead car battery:

  • Dim headlights.
  • sputtering or clicking sound when you turn the key.
  • Slow-cranking.
  • Backfiring.

Why Are Jumper Cables Important?

 A pair of jumper cables is one of the most useful tools every car owner should have. It’s unrealistic to think that you’ll be lucky and never have a bad battery because at some point you will.

If you have kids, it is bound to happen that they will accidentally drain your car’s battery by leaving a light on in the car or by leaving the door open. 

The knowledge on how to jump-start a car is a great skill to have because you never know when that skill could be used to save you some time or help someone else who has a bad battery. This could be a friend, neighbor, or coworker who either doesn’t have jumper cables or doesn’t know how to use them if they do. 

Jump starting your battery yourself requires some special tools and a little bit of knowledge, but don’t worry, this article is going to explain everything you need to know! 

What Jumper Cable Gauge Do I Need?

You may think that all jumper cables are the same, but nothing could be further from the truth! Jumper cables are available in different thicknesses. A standard set of jumper cables has a gauge rating of 4 to 12. The smaller the gauge rating, the thicker the cables are and thicker the cables are, the more effective they’ll be. 

Nevertheless, a set of jumper cables with a gauge rating of 8 should supply adequate voltage to jump start most vehicles. For larger vehicles such as trucks, it may be necessary to use a set of jumper cables with a gauge rating of six, four, or even two. Most mechanics recommend jumper cables that a gauge rating of 4.

It is important to note that, the cost of jumper cables is inversely proportional to the gauge rating.

How Long Should Jumper Cables Be?

Sometimes, you may not be in the most convenient position when your battery dies or your car doesn’t start. Having a longer set of jumper cables will give you much more flexibility in the positioning of your car. 

If your jumper cables are short, you can connect jumper cables to another jumper cables. Just make sure that they don’t short together (black touching red by accident) and make sure they don’t touch the body of the car. 

If you hook up jumper cables wrong

If the red cable contacts the metal body of the car while it’s all hooked up, you’ll get a spark show.

How to Use Jumper Cables Correctly

When your battery goes bad, there’s nothing like the confidence that comes from knowing how to use your jumper cables to get back on the road again.

To jump-start your car, here are the steps:

  • Open the bonnets of both cars and locate their batteries.
  • Next, locate the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals of the batteries. 
  • Get out your jumper cables and connect one of the red clamps to the positive (+) terminal of the dead battery. Then, connect the matching end of the same jumper to the positive (+) terminal of the donor car (working battery).
  • Clamp the matching end of the same jumper positive (+) post on the working battery.
  • Next, clamp one end of the black jumper to the negative (-) terminal of the working battery and the other end to a bare, metal surface on the engine of the dead car.

What Happens If You Hook Up Jumper Cables Wrong?

Of course, when it comes time to jump your battery, it’s very important to handle the cables properly. 

Do not clamp the black cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery. This will lead to the production of hydrogen gas. Hydrogen gas is inflammable, and it can cause a fire or even a huge explosion in your vehicle.

Also, when clamping your jumper cables together, make sure that they don’t short circuit (black touching red by accident) and also, make sure the red cable does not touch the metal body of the car the body of the car. If the red cable touches the metal body of the car while it’s all hooked up, you’ll experience a spark show.

How Long Does It Take to Jump Start a Car?

After you have connected the jumper cables appropriately, start the donor car and wait about 2 to 5 minutes to charge the dead car battery. 

Once you have the dead vehicle running, remove the jumper cables in the reverse order at which you put them on.

Sometimes, a car battery can get so dead it will not receive a jump start anymore.

How Long Should It Take an Alternator to Recharge A low or a Dead Battery?

The approximated during for charging a dead battery is about 2 hours. However, this duration varies depending on the condition of your battery and alternator.

How Long Should I Drive My Car After a Jump Start?

It is recommended you drive your car for about 30 minutes before stopping again so the battery can continue to charge.

Does Revving Help Jump Start?

Yes, revving can help jump start your car. By revving, you’re increasing the output of your alternator and giving your battery a little bit of extra power, which it can donate to the dead car. 

Can Jumper Cables Electrocute You?

One of the fears that you may have when trying to jump-start your car with jumper cables is that you can shock yourself with the cables. Always adhere to the outlined procedures and you will not shock yourself.

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