How do I jump start my car safely?
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We received an e-mail from Mary who went on holiday for a month and her battery was flat. She wanted to know how to jump start her car correctly.
Q: Hello. I bought a BMW X1 at the start of this year and after going on holiday for a little over a month, my battery is flat. Firstly, how do I jump start my car properly? And, can I just buy any jump starting cable to do this?
A: Jump starting a car isn't as easy or safe as some people assume it is. There is a very real potential to incorrectly connect two vehicles using jumper cables and cause degradation of electrical components or injury. Firstly, let's have a look at first principles: An electric charge is required to operate a starter motor, which basically moves engine components to a point where a fuel can combust to create sustainable internal combustion. A battery's primary use is to provide this charge to the starter motor and generally operate headlights and auxiliaries. When a battery is going flat, it can sometimes operate auxiliaries, but doesn't have enough charge to operate the starter motor. Then, when the battery is totally flat, it won't operate auxiliaries or the starter motor. You can tell that your battery is flat by using a simple voltmeter across its terminals, or by observing a clicking sound when you try and start the car.