What you need to know to jump start your car

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Being stranded by a flat battery can ruin a holiday road-trip. Even worse, incorrectly jump-starting your car can result in disaster. Read our guide on jump-starting your ride...

A flat battery and not knowing how to start your car with cables from another vehicle could ruin your holiday. Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) chairman Les McMaster  advises on the correct way to way to "jump" your car, bakkie, camper or motor-cycle.

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McMaster said: "While the jump-starting procedure is relatively standard for all vehicles on the road today boost-starting can cause serious damage to the vehicle's electrical system and computer if done carelessly or incorrectly.

“It's important first to first the car's manual for any specific boost-starting instructions and to ensure that the various locations are identified for the jump-start terminals in your car. In many modern cars these terminals are placed at strategic places in the vehicle due to the battery being in a hard-to-reach place."

Once the terminals are located and jumper cables made available he advises lining up another car as close as close as possible. Make sure the handbrake in each is on, that the gear selector is in neutral/park and that both cars are turned off and NOT TOUCHING before you connect the batteries/poles.

McMaster said: "It's important to remember that more than 300 volts goes through your system when the two batteries are connected and can destroy equipment. To prevent that, make sure all headlights, indicators, car radios and air-conditioners are off and radar detectors and cell phones are unplugged.

“Also unplug all accessories from cigarette lighters and other power sockets from both cars and remove the keys from the flat car's ignition until the jumper cables are hooked up."

‘Battery with a crack will explode’

Take some time to familiarise yourself with the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals of each car's battery. All batteries are clearly marked, so if you can't find it, it's probably under corrosion around the terminals. Usually the positive battery cable is red or orange and the negative (ground cable) is black.

McMaster said: "If you try to jump start the battery with a crack in it it will explode. It also doesn't make any sense to jump a cracked battery, as it will die in a few minutes anyway. Bite the bullet and buy another battery to replace the faulty one."

Jump start guide:

1 Connect one positive (red) end of the jumper cable to the positive (red) terminal of the dead battery.
2 Connect the other positive end of the jumper cable to the positive terminal of the good battery.
3 Connect the negative (black) end of the jumper cable to the negative (black) terminal of the good battery.
4 Connect the other negative end of the jumper cable to a shiny nut or bolt on the uncharged vehicle. This will need to be a grounded piece of the engine or the frame of the vehicle. You should only connect to the negative terminal on the dead battery as a last resort to avoid an explosion by spark.
5 Once the car batteries are linked, let the host car run for a minute or two before attempting to start the uncharged vehicle. Once the vehicle starts, remove the cables in the reverse order to that you connected them.