Blog How To Boost A Car Battery

Feb 21, 2024

Step-by-step guide for boosting a car battery

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We have all experienced that dreadful moment when we turn the key, and instead of hearing the comforting hum of the engine, we are greeted with silence. A dead car battery can happen at the most inconvenient times, but there is no need to worry! With a bit of know-how and the right tools, you can jump-start your car battery and get back on the road in no time. This guide will walk you through the steps to jump-start your car safely and efficiently.

Three main takeaways about boosting a car battery:

  • Often, battery repair or replacement will not be covered under insurance since it is a car maintenance related issue, not an accident or theft.
  • Understanding how to connect jumper cables safely is one of the most crucial elements to know if you need to jump start your car.
  • Car batteries last, on average, 3-5 years. Many auto parts stores and service centers offer free battery testing to help determine the condition of your battery.

What's on this page:

How to boost a car battery
Car boosting safety tips
How long does a car battery last?
Car boosting safety tips
Does insurance cover car battery replacement?
Boosting a car FAQs

How to boost a car battery

Boosting a car battery, also known as jump-starting, can be done by following these steps:

Step 1: Assess the Situation

To determine whether your car's battery is dead, listen for a clicking noise or check whether the dashboard lights appear dim when you turn the key. If you turn the key and nothing happens, it could indicate a more serious problem like a faulty starter or alternator.

Step 2: Gather Your Tools

To start your car when its battery is dead, you will require a pair of jumper cables and a vehicle with a fully charged battery. Jumper cables can be easily purchased from auto parts stores and are an important tool that every car owner should keep in their car trunk or with their emergency car kit.

Step 3: Position the Vehicles

To jump-start a dead vehicle using jumper cables, you need to park the car with the charged battery as close as possible to the dead vehicle so that the jumper cables can reach both batteries. It is important to ensure that both cars are in park or neutral and that the ignition and all accessories are turned off before starting the process.

Step 4: Connect the Jumper Cables

To connect the jumper cables, you should first locate both batteries' positive (+) and negative (-) terminals. Usually, the positive terminal is red and marked with a plus sign, while the negative terminal is black and marked with a minus sign. Check the manual to be sure.

To jumpstart a dead battery, follow these steps carefully:

  1. Begin by attaching the red (positive) jumper cable to the dead battery's positive terminal.
  2. Attach the other end of the red jumper cable to the positive terminal of the charged battery.
  3. Next, attach the black (negative) jumper cable to the negative terminal of the charged battery.
  4. Finally, attach the other end of the black jumper cable to an unpainted metal surface on the engine block of the dead vehicle. Ensure that this surface is not near the battery, which will help prevent sparks.

Step 5: Jump-Start the Car

Ensure the jumper cables are correctly connected between the two vehicles before attempting to jump-start the dead battery. Next, start the vehicle's engine with the charged battery and let it run for a few minutes. By doing so, the charged battery will transfer some of its power to the dead battery.

After a few minutes, try starting the vehicle's engine with the dead battery. If it starts successfully, keep both engines running for a few more minutes to ensure the dead battery gets a sufficient charge. This will help avoid any further issues and prevent the battery from dying again in the near future.

Step 6: Disconnect the Jumper Cables

Once the dead vehicle is running smoothly, it's time to disconnect the jumper cables in the reverse order that you connected them:

  1. Remove the black jumper cable from the unpainted metal surface of the engine block.
  2. Next, remove the black jumper cable from the negative terminal of the charged battery.
  3. Then, remove the red jumper cable from the positive terminal of the charged battery.
  4. Finally, remove the red jumper cable from the dead battery's positive terminal.

Step 7: Keep the Engine Running

It's a good idea to keep the engine running for at least 15-20 minutes to ensure that the battery gets fully recharged. This will give the alternator enough time to replenish the charge in the battery.

Car boosting safety tips

You might be in a rush to jumpstart your vehicle, but it's crucial to prioritize your safety and that of those involved. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • If the battery in a dead car is cracked or leaking, attempting to jump-start the vehicle could lead to an explosion. In such a condition, it is crucial to replace the battery. Additionally, if the terminals on either battery are corroded, wiping them clean (while wearing gloves for protection) is advisable to ensure a solid connection for the clamps.
  • When purchasing jumper cables, it is recommended to prioritize quality within your budget. Look for cables with well-insulated clamps and a minimum of 8-gauge wire to ensure effectiveness.
  • Exercise extreme caution when working around a battery due to the potential for explosive gases.
  • Choose cables that are corrosion-free and securely connect to the battery.
  • Always wear protective equipment and avoid smoking or using matches near the battery area.
  • If you feel uncertain during the process, seeking professional assistance, such as calling a service like CAA, for help and guidance is wise.
  • Always make sure that both vehicles are in park and that the vehicle contributing to the revival of the battery is shut off.
  • Avoid letting the cables touch each other, as it can severely damage the car's computer and charging system.

How long does a car battery last?

The lifespan of a car battery can vary significantly, depending on several factors. These factors include the type of battery, driving habits, weather conditions, and maintenance practices. A typical car battery can last anywhere from three to five years under normal conditions. Here are some factors that can affect the lifespan of your car battery:

  • Quality: Higher-quality batteries often have longer lifespans compared to cheaper ones. Choosing a reputable brand and ensuring the battery meets your vehicle's specifications can contribute to its longevity.
  • Climate: Extreme hot and cold temperatures can impact battery performance and lifespan. The battery may struggle to provide sufficient power to start the engine in freezing weather. On the other hand, high temperatures can accelerate internal corrosion and water loss in the battery.
  • Driving habits: Frequent short trips or long periods of inactivity can decrease battery life. Regularly driving your car allows the alternator to recharge the battery, helping to maintain its charge level.
  • Maintenance: Proper maintenance of the battery, such as keeping the battery terminals clean and tight, checking the electrolyte levels in non-sealed batteries, and ensuring the charging system is functioning correctly, can help extend the life of your battery.
  • Electrical load: Excessive use of accessories like headlights, stereos, and air conditioning can strain the battery, potentially shortening its lifespan.
  • Age: As a battery ages, its ability to charge diminishes. Even if it has been well-maintained, an older battery might not last as long as a newer one.
  • Vibration and shock: Excessive vibration or shock from rough roads or accidents can damage the battery's internal components and lead to premature failure.

It is crucial to monitor the health of your car battery regularly, as while the factors mentioned earlier can give you an idea of its expected lifespan, they are not definitive. If you observe any signs of a weak battery, such as slow cranking, dim headlights, or frequent jump-starts, it's advisable to have it tested by a professional.

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How to know if a car battery is dead

Here are some common signs that indicate your car battery may be dead or dying:

  • Engine cranks slowly or doesn’t start up: If you turn the key and the engine cranks very slowly or fails to start, it's a strong indicator that the battery may be dead or discharged.
  • Dimming headlights and interior lights: When you turn the key to start the engine, if you notice that the headlights and interior lights dim significantly, especially while attempting to start the engine, it could mean the battery doesn't have enough power.
  • Clicking sound when turning the key: A rapid clicking sound when you turn the key in the ignition is often a sign that the battery is weak and doesn't have enough power to start the engine.
  • Electrical accessories malfunctioning: If various electrical components such as power windows, door locks, or the radio start to malfunction or operate sluggishly, it could be due to a weak battery.
  • Battery warning light: Many modern vehicles have a battery warning light on the dashboard. If this light illuminates while driving, it indicates a problem with the charging system, which could include a dead or dying battery.
  • Corrosion or leakage: Visible corrosion or leakage around the battery terminals or on the battery itself can indicate a problem. Corrosion can interfere with the battery's ability to conduct electricity, while leakage can signal internal damage.
  • Lifespan: If your car battery is several years old and has never been replaced, it may be nearing the end of its lifespan. Most car batteries last around 3 to 5 years under normal conditions.

If you experience any of these signs, having your battery tested as soon as possible is a good idea. Many auto parts stores and service centers offer free battery testing to help determine the condition of your battery. By addressing battery issues early, you can avoid being stranded with a dead battery and prevent potential damage to other electrical components in your vehicle.

Does insurance cover car battery replacement?

Policies are designed to cover sudden and unexpected events such as accidents or theft. This means that auto insurance does not typically cover routine maintenance or wear and tear, including battery replacement. While it may be possible to get battery replacement covered in special circumstances, it is crucial to consider the low cost of the part when compared to the policy deductible before filing a claim.

If you are looking for coverage for battery repairs or replacements, consider roadside assistance programs. These programs can provide coverage for common roadside issues, including battery problems.

Boosting a car FAQs

Car batteries in Canada operate at a standard voltage of 12 volts, which powers several components inside the vehicle. These batteries provide a consistent voltage output for reliable performance in diverse weather conditions nationwide. However, it's important to note that car batteries' capacity and cold-cranking amps may vary depending on the manufacturer and the vehicle's specific requirements.

Car battery prices in Canada vary based on brand, type, size, specifications, and retailer. On average, prices range from $100 to $300 or more. Brand reputation, battery type, and vehicle requirements can influence the price. Research options and consult experts to find the right battery for your needs and budget. Some retailers may offer installation services that affect the total cost.

Consider buying a portable booster pack for around $100-200 at your local retailer if you don't have jumper cables. Larger packs offer added features such as built-in radios, lighting, and tire inflators. Boosting your car with a booster pack is fast and safe, thanks to its built-in circuitry that prevents accidents. Avoid storing the booster pack in your vehicle during extreme temperatures.

Boosting your car is an essential skill to have

Jumpstarting a car battery may seem intimidating, but it's a simple process that any car owner can learn with the right tools and knowledge. By following these easy steps, you can safely and efficiently jumpstart your car battery and confidently get back on the road.

Remember to drive for a while after jumpstarting your car to allow the battery to recharge fully. If you to boost it frequently, it may be time to have your battery or charging system inspected by a professional.