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If you have a cell phone, you have a matching charger which you religiously use each day so your phone is always accessible when needed; so you can make the calls, send the texts, check email and social media networks that we all need to survive ~ smiling.

Sometimes our cars need a boost too, especially mine.  If the battery or vehicle has any age to it then it has to be handled with care.  There seems to always be a little person leaving the backseat light on, or a big person (me) not quite shutting the door that appears to drain my car battery.  When this happens the trusty jumper cables must be acquired from the back of the vehicle or from under the seat of the truck and a jump-start occurs.

When you crank your car the starter pulls (juice) as my Papaw called it, or amperage (amps) from the battery.  The starter acts as an electric motor that turns the engine until the combustion process beings and the engine fires, thus your car runs.

All works well if the battery holds its charge,.  You can hop in your car, crank her up and head on down the road; however, several things can occur to make a battery lose its charge and your cranking power.

First, the battery terminal can become corroded not allowing the alternator to recharge the battery while the engine is running as is the normal process.  Two, the battery can be drained of its stored voltage or power by any combination of incidents.  If the doors are not properly closed and left ajar the interior lights will remain on or leaving the headlights burning for an extended period of time is also a culprit; both of these would be when the car is not running.

If the battery is three years old or older it probably has a dead cell which is a burnt out electrical pathway within the battery.  This results in the battery no longer being able to be recharged or hold an existing charge and it will have to be replaced.

This last one doesn’t happen as often as the others but leaving the keys in the ignition with the ignition turned on, such as when one listens to the radio in the car without the car being cranked will definitely kill a battery.  I am guilty of each of the above incidents which drain my car’s battery always resulting in a needed jump-start.

This morning I experienced this event of having a dead battery.  While my husband retrieved the jumper cables my son stood by to watch and absorb the knowledge of how to handle the situation as he is only a few years from driving.

When attempting to jump-start a vehicle the process is usually a quick but also tricky one.  The most important thing to remember is that the ends of the cables are metal and very dangerous as they are the electrical release of the power from the vehicle providing the jump.  DO NOT TOUCH or allow them to touch each other or anything else.

Before either vehicle is cranked the cables must be attached to both batteries, the one in the dead vehicle and the one providing the jump.  They also must be attached in the proper order.  A battery has two terminals, a positive (the red side) and a negative (the black side).  Most batteries should indicate their polarity at each terminal with the universal signs of (+) and (-).  Second only to not touching the cables to each other or anything else is the importance of correctly attaching the cables to the battery.  If the cables are incorrectly attached crossing the positive and negative a dead short can occur, thus frying the dead battery’s internal cells and possibly damaging the vehicle’s battery that is providing the charge.  Either way, you may need to purchase at least one new battery so remember Red to Positive (+) and Black to Negative (-).

Once the cables are correctly attached the vehicle providing the jump should be cranked prior to attempting to start the vehicle with the dead battery.  If the dead battery is still good but lost its charge sometime ago then it may not crank on the first try.  Once both vehicles are running it is safe to say that they should remain connected together for at least a few minutes to allow the dead battery to regain ample charge to run the vehicle and to restart on its own.

Disconnecting the cables, one vehicle’s battery from the other is also tricky as once the cables have been removed from the first vehicle the metal ends are again a dangerous weapon and should be kept apart until completely disconnected from the second vehicle. Always hold the cables by the rubber grips.

Jumper cables sometimes called booster cables are every car’s necessary evil, can be purchased at any hardware, home improvement, automotive or chain retailer and range in price from around $9 upwards to $80.  I have seen them with orange and black clamp grips but most commonly red and black.  The longer the cables and the higher the gauge wire the more expensive they can be.

I did work on this post with my husband and have learned the process from watching him use the jumper cables on my vehicle too many times in the past but I was impressed with the knowledge and technicalities of this process that I really did already know and understand.

Contributing to this post: Dave Wilcox