Teen Driver Lessons: How to Safely Jump-start a Car

Teen Driver Lessons: How to Safely Jump-start a Car

Jump-starting a car is especially intimidating for teen drivers with little experience.

As drivers, we’ve all found ourselves stuck somewhere with a dead car battery and no clue how to fix it. Jump-starting a car is especially intimidating for teen drivers with little experience, but teaching them how to do it safely can give them all the confidence they’ll need.

Here is how you can teach your teen to safely jumpstart a car.

  • Be prepared: The main tool your teen needs are jumper cables, which can be stored in the trunk. Each end of the cables should have two sets of clamps, with one clamp painted red and one painted black.
  • Jump with a working engine: In order to jumpstart a dead battery, your teen needs a second car with a working battery. Whether it’s from a friend, family member or someone he or she waved down to help, have the second car park nearby, then apply each car’s parking brake, shut off both engines and remove both sets of keys from the cars. This ensures they both stay put for the jump.
  • Attach the jumper cables: This is the crucial part to staying safe. With both engines off, attach one red clamp (positive) to the red terminal on the dead battery. Then, attach the other red clamp to the red terminal on the working battery. Next, attach the black (negative) clamp to the black terminal on the working battery and, finally, attach the remaining black clamp to an unpainted, metal section of the car with the dead battery.

Do not attach the black clamp to the dead battery’s black terminal.

  • Start the car with the working battery: Allow it to run for at least a minute, then your teen can start their own car. If it does not start, wait several minutes before trying again. If everything is working, your teen’s car should start right up the second time.
  • Remove the jumper cables in reverse order: With both engines still running, remove the black clamp from your teen’s car (with the formerly dead battery), then the black clamp from the car with the working battery. Next, remove the working car’s red clamp, then the remaining red clamp from your teen’s car. Be careful not to touch the clamps together at any point in this process. 
  • Drive around to charge the battery: Without shutting the engine off, your teen should drive the car around to give the battery a chance to recharge. If it won’t start, there may be additional problems for you and your teen to inspect.

You won’t want to kill your teen’s battery just to practice jumping it with them, but you can give them hands-on experience by letting them handle the jumper cables, having them identify the battery terminals and walking them through this guide. And remind them that if their battery dies for real and they need some extra help, it’s better to call you or a service like AAA than to risk jumping it on their own.


GM Foundation