Jumper cables – an emergency item your car should never be without
One of the most important components of a car is its battery. It is designed to start the car when the ignition is switched on. Most of the time it does its job perfectly, but once in a way it fails to start the car and this is where the jumper cables – known also as booster cables – come in handy.
The battery system of the car operates in a sort of loop. Once the battery turns over the engine and it starts, the alternator takes over and supply’s the cars electrical needs. It also recharges the battery and keeps it ready for future starts. At times the battery’s power is too low to start the engine.
This may occur due the electrolyte level in the battery being too low or the recharging system malfunctioning, the battery being old has crossed its lifespan etc. This is where the car jumper cables come into the picture.
We can use the jumper cables to connect the dead battery to the battery in another vehicle and kick start the dead one. Since these cables allow electric power to jump from one battery to another they are called “Jumper Cables”.
How to use jumper cables
Jumper cables have to be suitable for the crucial job they are intended to perform. Usually they are heavy gauge insulated lengths of cable and can be up to 10 feet long. They have spring loaded alligator clips on either end.
The positive terminals are identified using red color insulation tape and the “+” sign. The negative cables are identified using black insulation tapes and the “-” sign. This identification is very important since this the battery delivers DC current and the positive terminals are to be attached to the positive terminals only. The failure to do so will result in sparks.
The best way to jump start a car is to use the jump starter pack. First ensure that the power switch is in the ‘off’ position. The red positive alligator clamp of the jump pack has to be attached to the red positive terminal of the battery post.
The black negative alligator clamp has to be attached to any non moving metal part of the car as far as possible from the battery but within reach of the cable. Keeping your head turned away for reasons of safety, turn the jump starter pack on. Remember batteries have hydrogen gas which can be explosive and this is the reason we have ground the negative terminal to the metal body to minimize the risk.
Let it run for some time and then switch off the jumper pack. See if the car starts. If it does not, check to see that the clamps are properly clamped on the terminals by cleaning them if necessary. Try again. It should start. Switch off the jumper pack and disconnect the terminals in the reverse order.
If unfortunately you do not have a battery booster, but only jumper cables then you will need another car with a good battery. Connect the cables in the same order and after jump starting, disconnect the jumper cables in the reverse order.
Use only good quality jumper cables
It is imperative that only best jumper cables, manufactured by a reputed manufacturer are used. It has to be well insulated and the alligator clamps should be sufficiently large and have sufficient spring force to clamp properly onto the battery terminals.
The positive clamps have to be well marked using red handled alligator clips or red insulation tape. The same applies to the negative clamp, which should be in black. Copper cables are the best for heavy duty auto jumper cables.
Cheaper booster cables, using aluminum, are available but have a much shorter lifespan. The cable should be about 10 feet long. It should ideally have a storage device such as a spool, so that it can be stored in the boot using minimum space.
A jumper cable is a simple device and is very essential in an emergency. One of the common reasons for batteries to go dead is very cold weather. If you do not have jumper cables, you could be stranded and get into a life threatening emergency.
A portable jump starter pack is ideal, but a jumper cable, though the second best option, is at least one step closer to getting you out of the predicament you are in. Make sure that your car carries one at all times.
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Related external resources:
HowStuffWorks.com - tips on car maintenance
Wired, How to wiki - how to jump start a car
Wikipedia: jump starter
Autogeek.net - autodetailing facts, DIY
eHow.com - how to use jumper cables