Saturday, September 17, 2005

How to jump-start your car
H. Kishie Singh

Illustration by Sandeep JoshiWinter will be here in another two months and that could spell hard times for your car battery. The cold does sap the car battery of some of its energy and the low voltage may not be enough to start the car.

In the days gone by it was a common sight to see cars being push-started. It worked with the older models of cars like the Ambassador and Fiat. You cannot do this with the new breed of cars that have MPFI engines, power steering and power brakes. None of the systems will function without the engine running.

First, to begin with, if you bump-start or push-start a car, the fuel pump will be activated before any of the systems begin to function. If the fuel pump is working, fuel which has not been fired up will flow into the exhaust system and into the catalytic converter. When the engine fires up, the excess fuel will catch fire and cause extensive damage to the catalytic converter. This could bring a very expensive repair bill.

Second, if the engine has not started, the power booster for the brakes and the hydraulic or electric power for the steering will not work. This will require a much greater effort to turn the steering wheel and activate the brakes. Depending on the system in your car, your brakes may not work at all.

It is for this reason that you should not free wheel i.e. switch off your engine while rolling down a hill in an attempt to save fuel. You may (though it is doubtful) save fuel but you could also be putting yourself in grave danger. Rolling down a hill, the car is bound to pick up speed. And, consider this, your brakes and steering may not be working.

So how do you start your new breed of car if the battery is low and the engine wonít turn over. The simplest remedy would be to get a new battery and save yourself embarrassment and inconvenience.

However, youíll still need to get the car running to get to the battery shop. For this, you will need to jump-start your car. To carry out this exercise, you need jump wires. This is a set of wires, about two metres long with clamps at either end which are to be attached to the terminal of the dead battery and the battery which will provide the charge.

There is a very definite procedure to be followed for jump-starting a car. Connect the positive terminals of the two batteries. Then connect the negative jump lead to the dead battery. Now, do not, I repeat do not, connect the other end of the negative jump cable to the terminal of the battery of the car providing the power.

Connect the negative end of the cable to one of the many earthing points provided in the engine well.

The reason for this is simple. The battery contains acid and this gives off hydrogen fumes which are flammable. Connecting the negative cable to the battery terminal directly could produce sparks which could light the hydrogen fumes emitted by the battery.

You could carry one of those thermos-sized fire extinguishers in your car. Itís not very expensive and could come in handy.

On the point of fires, there is another danger present in parking lots. Itís that time of the year when trees shed their leaves. The sweeper gathers them up and piles them up against the curb. The parking lot is neat and clean but piles of dry leaves dot the places where you park.

A catalytic converter and other exhaust components could make the car very hot, hot enough to ignite the dry leaves that have been piled up in the corner.

Indian drivers donít park, they simply abandon their cars willy-nilly. Painted lines in the parking lot are ignored. It is in your own interest and safety to park properly. Driving a car is easy, parking is not.

Happy motoring.