You know the story: You're leaving a One Direction concert late at night, get to your car outside the venue, and realize it's dead. So it might not always be at a One Direction concert—that could just be me. But we all know the feeling of that instant knot in your stomach when you realize your vehicle Just. Won't. Start.
There are always resources like AAA (or the 'rents) to call when you need help. But it never hurts to have an idea about how to jump start your own vehicle—you know, just in case you're stuck outside a concert venue at 11 p.m.
How do you know if it's your battery that's dead? Look for these signs: Your headlights, radio, and inside lights won't turn on, or when they do, they're very dim. When you turn your key in the ignition it will make no sound, or you'll hear a clicking sound.
Here are the five tips you need to follow to ensure that you're ready when you need to be. It'll be you: 1. Dead battery: 0.
1. Make sure you have a solid set of jumper cables
Okay, this might seem obvious, but having a solid set of jumper cables is one of the most essential steps because without jumper cables, you quite literally can't do anything. Of course, there's always a chance that you'll stumble upon a Good Samaritan who does have a set and is willing to share, but they are a relatively inexpensive investment that will prepare you for the worst. You can pick up a pair at your local auto store, or even at retailers like Walmart or Target.
Once you have your own set of cables, you'll see there are red clamps and black clamps—but what the heck do they mean? Well, the red clamp is for the positive terminal of the battery, and the black is for the negative. (If on the chance that your cables are different colors, don't worry, they'll be labeled with positive and negative, too.) No worries; we'll talk about those "terminals" next.
2. Locate the battery
While having the jumper cables is important, knowing what to do with the cables once you have them is also essential. Know where your battery is in your car. Most often it will be under the hood, but some international models of cars will have a battery in the trunk or under the back seat.
Here's what you're looking for: A battery is a box, so find the almost cube-like car part with two little knobs on the top, one red and one black.
On your battery, you'll see that those knobs have a red, positive mark for the red clamp—likewise, you'll see a negative terminal to the black clamp. We're getting closer.
3. Time to make those connections
Next, find someone willing to help you with their vehicle (which still has a charged battery, of course). Then you'll be set for this next step. Make sure both are parked on sturdy ground and the engines are stopped. First, attach the red clamp to the positive energy terminal in the vehicle with the healthy battery, CNET says.
Second, attach the black clamp to the live vehicle's battery terminal—at this point, the only car with clamps connected is the live car.
Once you have the two clamps connected, it's time to move over to the dead car. (RIP—just kidding. It just needs a boost.)
4. Finish prepping the vehicles
You're getting closer. Attach the other red clamp to the positive terminal of the dead battery.
I know what you are probably thinking the next step is, but DO NOT connect the black clamp to the dead battery's negative terminal. According to Edmunds, you should connect it to an unpainted bolt or bracket several inches from the dead battery to ground it and prevent crazy sparks from flying everywhere.
Now you're all connected!
5. Start it up
You're close now! Start the engine of the living vehicle, and let it run for 30 to 60 seconds. Once a minute or so has passed, try starting the dead vehicle's engine. If it starts, congratulations! Remove the jumper cable connections, starting with the black, negative clamp on the dead car and going in reverse order to how you put them on, Edmunds explains. (That is: black clamp dead vehicle, red clamp dead vehicle, black clamp booster vehicle, and red clamp booster vehicle.) Then drive the car for at least 20 minutes so the alternator can recharge the battery. Keep in mind, though—there is a chance the battery may need to be jump started again once you shut it off.
If it doesn't start, sadly that might mean you need an entirely new battery, so you'll need to call a professional.
This isn't as intimidating as it seems, right? Just remember: You're a smart, beautiful woman who can totally do this. Now it's time to go take on the world, one jump start at a time.