Sometimes your car won’t start because of the battery. Sometimes your car won’t start and you think it’s the battery but it’s actually the starter. When you turn over the key, all you hear is a click. That’s when you think you’re in trouble because you can’t jump a starter like you can a battery, right?
Believe it or not, you can jump a bad starter with jumper cables just like you can a dead battery. A quick jump with a portable jump starter will get it going again. It’s a little known secret unless you’re talking to a mechanic, a secret in the auto industry.
We’re going to walk you through the steps it takes to jump a starter with jumper cables.
1. Find the Starter Solenoid Under the Hood
The very first step is locating your starter solenoid. You need to know where it is if you want to jump it.
Most of the time you can find the starter solenoid next to your car’s battery. It’s a cylinder shape and sits on top of the starter motor. The starter motor is a cylinder shape, too. Another common place for a starter solenoid is between the transmission and engine.
2. Check the Connection from the Battery to the Starter
You know where the starter is but you’re still not ready to get started just yet. There are some checks you need to do first. Some problems can cause your starter not to turn over. It’s worth checking these because, in some cases, it’s not safe to jump a starter and you’re better off calling roadside assistance or a tow truck.
Check the connections. Any loose wiring can prevent power from running to the starter solenoid. If there’s not enough power, you won’t be able to jump your starter.
Double-check the wiring from the starter to the battery. They should be intact and connected. Make sure there is no fraying.
If the wiring is loose, use a ratchet to tighten the terminal posts on your battery.
You should check the wiring from the starter solenoid to the starter, too. These are tiny wires that run from one to the other. If they’re loose or damaged, this could be the reason your vehicle won’t start.
Since you’re already under the hood, you should also check for any corrosion on your starter. Make sure you check the solenoid connector and the terminals on your battery, too. To remove corrosion, there’s a great cleaning solution you can use. Just mix equal parts of sodium bicarbonate and water in a small bowl and pour it on the area that needs cleaning. Before you do, though, make sure it’s disconnected.
Let the area soak for a few minutes before you start cleaning. Once you’ve rid yourself of all the corrosion, rinse it with warm water.
3. Check the Engine Grounds to the Starter
A starter solenoid isn’t grounded like what you’re used to with other parts in your car. There are no wires on the starter for grounding. Instead, the starter solenoid is grounded from touching the transmission. The transmission is grounded by the ground wires between it and the car’s body.
Problems with grounding can prevent your starter from turning over and it’s not easy to ground a starter yourself if you’re a novice.
4. Locate the Post to the Starter Motor
Now, you need to know where the important parts of the starter are. Locate the black post (sometimes gold in color or brass) that’s connected to the starter’s motor. There’s always a thick wire that runs to the motor. That’s the post you need for the positive jumper cable.
5. Place the Jumper Cables
You need a battery charger with jumper cables. Make sure the battery charger is off for now. One end of the jumper cables should attach to the battery charger.
First, place the negative or black jumper cable on the body of the starter’s motor. Make sure it’s securely connected.
Next, place the positive or red jumper cable to the post on the starter solenoid that leads to the motor. This jumper cable needs to be securely attached as well.
6. Time to Jump the Starter
Now that the jumper cables are attached, you’re ready to jump the starter. You need an insulated screwdriver and someone to help you. Having an insulated screwdriver is to protect you from getting shocked and it’s always a good idea to have an extra set of hands.
Be careful during the next step. There are going to be flying sparks while you do it.
Place the tip of your screwdriver on the terminal where the positive jumper cable is. Bring the shaft of the screwdriver down onto both terminals.
While you bring the shaft down onto the terminals, have your helper turn the key while in the ignition. It helps to have a signal or to yell out so you’re both on the same page.
This is the point where sparks are going to start flying. Make sure none of your skin is touching any metal during this process. Don’t keep the screwdriver on the starter solenoid for too long. The electricity coursing through everything can melt the screwdriver to the starter solenoid. Leaving it on the terminals can also burn your starter’s motor.
If it’s going to start the first time, it’s going to start right away. So, there’s no reason to leave the screwdriver on the solenoid for too long anyway.
We wanted to share with you how to jump a starter if you’re ever in need. That said, it’s not a process we recommend unless it’s an emergency and it’s always worth consulting a professional.
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