How to jump start a car without another car

29

8

There have been a few times when my car battery has died. Luckily, there has always been another car around to jump start me. I've always been scared that there will be a time when my battery dies and there is no one around to jump start me. How can I jump start my car without another car?

I have jumper cables in my trunk, but is there anything else that I should carry if I want to jump start my car alone?

michaelpri

Posted 2015-03-16T13:04:53.013

Reputation: 8 110

This link from a comment may be useful for future answers.

– Shokhet – 2015-04-03T21:08:59.610

Answers

38

Depending on how low your battery is, there is a way to start a car if you have a manual transmission, and that is to push-start the car.

Follow this procedure:

  • Set the ignition(/key) to the drive-position, i.e. the normal position it is in when driving
  • Put the car in 2nd gear, and hit the clutch and hold it
  • Get someone to push/pull the car so that you have a little speed on the car
  • Release the clutch swiftly, and the car will most likely start

If the car is moving too slowly, it will not work, but you don't really need to have a lot of speed either. It can also be done whilst in reverse, but it's a little trickier to steer and handle car then.

Please do use 2nd gear and the clutch pushed in. It's a lot harder to start if in 1st gear, or if the car is in gear!

I have followed this procedure a lot of times with success, but mainly on slightly old cars.

holroy

Posted 2015-03-16T13:04:53.013

Reputation: 6 311

I found as a poor student that frequent bump starting caused the starting motor to wear out. – Matthew Lock – 2016-08-05T02:24:42.110

Would this work in a car with push-to-start? – WeirdFrog – 2017-06-16T17:37:25.550

7Remember that in modern cars, there is a risk of the unburnt fuel igniting on the catalyst and damaging it. This can cause the catalyst to stop doing its job. Your emissions will get worse and eventually you can lose the certification. – yo' – 2015-03-16T16:05:44.390

2Slight variation: put the car in neutral and do the pushing yourself. Once the car is up to speed, jump in; press clutch, put in second, release clutch. – Floris – 2015-03-16T19:43:37.360

I've done this (just to see if it was possible) on my 2015 Fit. Works fine in 1st or 2nd gear. – Kevin Evans – 2015-03-16T20:30:59.903

@yo' This is a fair point, but the car will almost certainly be cold at this point leaving almost no chance of anything igniting past the ignition chamber – Dan – 2015-03-16T20:39:19.087

4Strictly this is 'bump starting' not 'jump starting'. – Pete Kirkham – 2015-03-17T11:03:28.653

Also remember that in modern cars, there is no clutch and no "second gear"; they have automatic transmission, and a lot of automatic transmissions these days will lock in P unless the motor is already running, as a basic safety feature. The days of push-starting a vehicle are rapidly drawing to an end. – Mason Wheeler – 2015-03-17T16:05:39.583

1@MasonWheeler An edit was made some time ago, stating this applies to manual transmission, so your comment is kind of in the wrong place. ;-) – holroy – 2015-03-17T16:07:37.363

I would recommend not attempting to pull the car. Sounds like a good way to get run over when the driver pops the clutch. Pushing is a much safer option. – Doresoom – 2015-03-17T16:44:37.107

Why is this easier in 2nd gear? I thought it would be easier in 1st. I would've thought that for the same number of turns of the tyres, the engine would have more cycles in 1st than 2nd giving a better chance of ignition. What am I not understanding? – Darren Hale – 2015-03-17T17:48:11.873

1I've done it in 5th. All you need is to turn the engine over, and the higher gears make it easier for the forward momentum to do that. So you may get a second chance before you have to push it back up the hill. However, there is a minimum engine speed to make it "catch" (maybe half of normal idle?), so a little knowledge of your vehicle may be in order so that you can estimate the highest gear that is likely to work given the forward speed. – AaronD – 2015-03-17T23:00:11.043

5@Floris: "Slight variation: put the car in neutral and do the pushing yourself. Once the car is up to speed, jump in; press clutch, put in second, release clutch." This is the worst thing you can do, always get someone's help! Otherwise you won't be able to create enough speed and steer the car securely at the same time. If you are outside the car and need to brake you are screwed anyway or if you never tried it, jumping in a driving car you could break your legs and then lose the car because it keeps rolling. – None – 2015-03-18T02:06:51.327

2I have done this on more than one occasion and I'm still here. You do have to push with the door open and a hand on the wheel. Obviously better to have help. And be nimble on your feet and strong. Not for the unathletic. – Floris – 2015-03-18T02:30:29.690

@DarwinAwardsWaitingApplyNow: I've done this plenty of times. It's surprising how little friction a car has once it gets rolling. I've even done it on a 2ton off-road 4x4 (Mitsubishi Pajero/Shogun). – slebetman – 2015-03-18T04:33:10.750

The most important step here is the first - if you do not turn the key not only will it not start but you may accidentally trigger the steering lock. And BTW - it is possible to do this on your own (I have several times) but a hill helps. – OldCurmudgeon – 2015-03-18T09:10:21.733

1A nice level open surface like an empty parking lot is useful. Better than a hill. Push in neutral yourself till you're rolling fast enough like @Floris says. – smci – 2015-03-18T12:12:05.030

34

For around $100 (USD) you can buy a battery pack that is able to jump your car. A quick google search for "jump starter battery pack" will show many options and price ranges. They'll often be able to inflate tires, charge phones and other handy utilities too. You clamp it on just like you would a jump start with another car and start, but you might not want to keep them attached too long. I have one that has saved me misery many times, but remember to check the charge frequently as the batteries do drain even when not in use. I fine mine should be charged maybe every two to three months and gets 3 jumps on a battery but YMWV.

alpha1

Posted 2015-03-16T13:04:53.013

Reputation: 449

How is a product suggestion (which is normally voodoo to everyone) the top rated answer? – MrPhooky – 2015-03-16T20:02:10.440

6@MrPhooky Because it's a suggestion for a generic product, not a specific item. – Nic Hartley – 2015-03-16T20:10:58.343

13

@MrPhooky Why do some people on Lifehacks have such a stigma against using simple solutions? I mean, not every solution has to be a whole Rube Goldberg machine made with paper clips and coffee filters; sometimes the obvious solution is the best one. For example, I suggested using scissors on a question about untying hard knots, and someone immediately called me out for it for "not being lifehacky enough".

– user3932000 – 2015-03-16T21:54:17.137

1@MrPhooky, I think the key to an answer is that the simplest solution that fits the question should be embraced. If it's a dedicated product, so be it. Often - as seems to be the case here - it's a product that many folks, including the author, didn't know existed. – Jaydles – 2015-03-18T17:18:11.877

17

If your battery is getting old and nearing replacement time, you can use a simple trick (provided you have a wet battery that can be opened from the top) involving just two aspirin tablets which are commonly available and used for treating fever and pains.

  1. Pop the hood of your car
  2. Unscrew the filler caps for each cell

    Note that opening a battery is dangerous so only do it if you are comfortable with the risks and know what you are doing.

  3. Divide the two tablets into equal amounts to be put in each cell (make sure every hole gets a piece of aspirin)
  4. Close up all the filler caps and shut the hood
  5. Immediately start your car, don't stand around admiring the scenery. The car should now have enough juice for one more start.

Note: This method can seriously effect the lifetime of the battery, so if it is a new battery and it has simply just run out of charge, avoid using this method. As mentioned this should be used for old and dying batteries so you should head to a garage to get it replaced as soon as possible.

MrPhooky

Posted 2015-03-16T13:04:53.013

Reputation: 4 696

12Opening the battery is DANGEROUS. – Mooseman – 2015-03-16T13:58:41.927

1@Mooseman I'll add a warning - wouldn't it be nice if text could be made red so it stood out even more... – MrPhooky – 2015-03-16T14:01:41.053

It is not dangerous if you know what you are doing. If you are not opening when it is connected with the cables – vladiz – 2015-03-16T19:15:20.540

10@Mooseman - dangerous? if it's the type that you can open, you are supposed to open it to top it up with distilled water from time to time. – peterG – 2015-03-16T23:08:45.717

3Opening a battery to top up the water used to be routine – slebetman – 2015-03-18T04:36:27.127

6Upvote because this one is the only one that seems like a life hack, instead of generally useful skill or set of knowledge. – agweber – 2015-03-18T13:50:39.740

2

I agree with @agweber. That comment inspired me to do some simple googling which revealed the ultimate cache of lifehack answers to this question: http://archive.makezine.com/extras/6.html

– R.. – 2015-03-18T21:09:34.633

10

Some additional methods:

Push-start with nowhere to push

Got a manual transmission you could push-start but nowhere to push it? This works if you're parallel parked or don't have suitable terrain to push-start. You do need sufficient battery charge to power the ECU/coils/injectors though. Jack up one of the drive wheels off the ground, put the car in 4th or 5th gear and the key in the ignition position, and turn the jacked-up wheel by hand to turn over the engine. If turning it by the tire is too hard, a ratcheting socket wrench on the axle nut with a long extension bar can be used instead.

Safety notes: Make sure you have the parking brake firmly engaged and also have a secondary method of blocking the non-drive wheels from moving. If using the wrench method, it must be a ratchet or once the engine takes over it will turn your wrench into a projectile!

Trickle charge with an electronic device's AC adapter

Got a laptop charger or other device with 13-15v output? Hook it up to the battery terminals for a half hour or so and, if the battery is in decent condition, you'll probably get enough charge to start. Not useful without AC outlets nearby though, but I've used this method successfully before at home. It can also be combined with the above method if you don't have sufficient battery charge to power the ignition system.

R..

Posted 2015-03-16T13:04:53.013

Reputation: 279

1Love the idea of the hand-crank method! – Floris – 2015-03-16T19:42:00.850

1Depending on make and model it might be the case that the paring brake blocks the drive wheels as well, I suppose. – Hagen von Eitzen – 2015-03-16T22:14:39.393

@HagenvonEitzen: Yes, good point. I'm used to front-wheel-drive vehicles. If it's rear-wheel or if the parking brake affects all four wheels, you should either use another method of preventing the non-drive wheels from moving, or just refrain from using this method. – R.. – 2015-03-16T22:17:07.397

1

If you have a charged battery lying around you can jump start a car off that. Attach the jump leads as you would to a battery in another vehicle. You probably won't get many starts off this battery before it goes flat. Of course it would make more sense to put the charged battery in your car, if it fits.

user3347392

Posted 2015-03-16T13:04:53.013

Reputation: 11

1

You can push-start a manual transmission car alone (with no-one to help you push) if you can push in reverse (using your back) to back the car up onto a slight hill. Not too steep otherwise you will not be able to push it up. Long and almost flat is the best. Even up a moderately steep hill, you can push car up one step at a time by your leg and back muscles.

Keeping the driver's door opened, put transmission into first gear, push the clutch down with your right leg, and push car backwards uphill with your left leg through the opened door (assuming steering wheel is on the left side of the car). When you are tired, disengage clutch and car will stop in the middle of the hill. Repeat until you are far enough uphill so that you have chance to develop enough speed downhill.

Then, to start, you put the car into neutral, push the car forward a bit, jump in, wait for a bit speed to develop using gravity, and put it into first gear to start engine (and pray it works first time so you don't have to repeat).

If you are in flat area with no hill to back up to, starting in reverse gives you more power: Get into reverse, push clutch with right leg and push thru opened door with left leg to develop some speed, then release clutch to try start engine. Be prepared to press clutch again, because when car starts, will have not enough speed to run (and might die like when you slow down without engaging the clutch).

If your batteries are dead because you forgot to turn off lights (for few hours not days, so battery is not 100% dead, only nearly dead and has not enough juice to start your car): Before starting, turn off the lights and wait an hour or few to let the battery recover. You may also use time to find someone to jump-start car or help you to push :-)

P.M

Posted 2015-03-16T13:04:53.013

Reputation: 119

0

The batteries age and their capacity to deliver the proper amount of current decreases, it is most noticeable when the temperature drops. All the drivers that live in areas where the temperature drops to -20Celsius - in the night - are aware of this. Your local battery shop should have a battery tester to assess the main electrical characteristics of the battery and the charging circuitry on the car.

It is worth to do a check on your battery, it might be just as simple as replacing the old battery.

Andrei

Posted 2015-03-16T13:04:53.013

Reputation: 1

0

There is a method that works for most manual cars, which simply involves getting the car moving before starting the engine, otherwise knows as a push start - this will work for new batteries without damaging them as the method above would.

Two variations of the method which would have the same effect:

  1. Get a few people to help push the car, push the clutch all the way down and put it into the second gear (do not release clutch just yet). Begin pushing the car and once it has gathered some speed - pop the clutch and the engine should start, and the car's alternator should start charging the battery again. The ignition should be turned to 'on'. If it doesn't work initially, keep depressing and releasing the clutch and it should eventually be successful.

  2. Park at the top of a hill / incline facing down - make sure you have the emergency brake on. When you return to your car, release the brake and do the same as mentioned in the previous method. - This method doesn't need people but there is a slight lack of control as your brakes will be less effective with the engine off should this method fail.

For both of these variations you only need to be up to a speed of ~ 5 mph (~ 8 kph) before releasing the clutch for it to work - any slower and it will likely fail, faster will still work but has greater risks involved (i.e. lack of power steering when engine off - child in road, no easy way to swerve, splat. Child pancakes for breakfast.)

kenorb

Posted 2015-03-16T13:04:53.013

Reputation: 3 001