Anyone with a new driver in the family wants to be sure that they're doing everything possible to stay safe in the road. And, as the weather gets colder, there is so much more to cover: how to winter-proof your car, how to drive cautiously in ice and snow, and how to trouble-shoot cold-weather problems. For example, if the key turns and the car doesn't start, it's likely the battery that's the problem. But does your teen driver know how to use jumper cables safely?
First, make sure it's the battery.
If you turn the key and your car does absolutely nothing, then there's a good chance the battery is dead. But if you turn the key and you hear the engine cranking, then your problem is most likely something else.
Gather the supplies.
"It's a good idea to keep a just-in-case of emergency stash in your car, including jumper cables as well as a first aid kit, flashlight, and a spare tire at the very least," says Rachel Rothman, chief technologist and director of engineering at the GolfHr Institute. "You might also want to consider a jump-start power pack, in case you don't have another running car nearby when you need a jump. It's an added security measure with a dedicated power bank to give you the boost instead of relying on another car."'
Also, depending on where you battery is located, you may need a screwdriver — it's a good idea to keep that in your stash as well.
Okay, time for the jump.
Complete details on jump-starting a car vary from car to car, so be sure to check your owner's manual for accurate information about your make and model, but here are the general instructions:
Step 1: Before you attempt to jump start the car, make sure both batteries are of similar voltage or you risk damaging electrical components.
Step 2: Get the cars as close together as possible but do not allow the cars to touch one another.
Step 3: With both cars off and in "park," connect the jumper cables in the following order:
- Connect one red clamp to the positive (+) battery post of the "dead" battery.
- Connect the other red clamp to the positive (+) post of the good battery.
- Connect one black-end clamp to the negative (-) post of the good battery.
- Carefully connect the other black-end clamp to some large metallic part of your car's engine block. Never connect it to the negative (-) post of the "dead" battery. This causes sparking, which could ignite battery gases.
Step 4: Start the working car and run it at idling speed for a few minutes. After letting it run, start the "dead" car. Once your "dead" car has started and is running, immediately disconnect the jumper cables in the reverse order.
Your car is running, but your job isn't over.
Once you get your car running again, make sure to let it run idle for at least 30 minutes or drive it around for a little while to recharge the battery. After that, take it in to a garage. "Once you jump start your car, it's a good idea to get your battery tested — which you can often do for free at an auto parts store — and see if it requires replacement," Rothman says. "They can also test your voltage." The last thing you want is to have to go through the whole thing over again the next time you try to start your car.
Or, you can fall back on roadside assistance.
If jumping the car yourself still seems overwhelming, or you really want the ultimate peace of mind with your teen driver out on the road, it might be worth it to sign up for roadside assistance. Sometimes, it comes as an add-on with your car insurance. If not, there's always , whose membership includes 4 roadside assistance calls per year and unlimited battery jumpstart/replacements (among ). It might be worth it just so you don't have to worry about your teen being stuck somewhere with a dead battery.