No one likes the idea of being stranded with a dead car battery. But many car owners don't know how to jump-start a battery safely. This lack of knowledge causes many Americans to lose their sight or suffer serious eye injuries each year in auto battery accidents, according to the group Prevent Blindness America (PBA).
All vehicle batteries contain sulfuric acid and produce hydrogen and oxygen gases. If the gases come into contact with a spark, flame, or a lit cigarette, the battery can explode, sending battery fragments and acid flying.
Motorists should be aware of basic car mechanics and jump-start procedures before they find themselves stranded. Knowing how to properly jump-start a dead battery reduces the chance of an explosion.
PBA advises you to take a few moments to read through your car owner's manual and familiarize yourself with the basic mechanics of your vehicle. Many cars are equipped with sophisticated computer systems, and jump-starting them improperly may "fry" the system.
Be prepared for battery failure by having an emergency jump-start kit in your car. The kit should include splash-proof safety goggles, jumper cables, a flashlight, and jump-start instructions.
Check the battery for damage--cracks, corrosive materials, and loose wires--once a month.
Make sure your jumper cables are rust- and corrosion-free with no exposed wires. Cables repaired with electrical tape are not safe.
Do not drop metallic objects on a battery. A spark can ignite the gases produced by the battery.
When jump-starting, inspecting, or testing your battery, never lean over the battery even if you are wearing safety goggles. The battery could explode and injure your face and body.
Squeezing the battery casing may cause the sulfuric acid stored inside the battery to spill through the vents. Use a battery carrier when available and always handle with extreme care.
Dispose of auto batteries properly. Some service stations and stores where batteries are sold will dispose of the old batteries for free or a nominal charge.
Call a professional if you think there may be trouble you cannot handle or if you cannot remember how to jump-start a car.
First aid for eyes:
Chemical burns. Flush the eye immediately with the first available "drinkable" liquid, such as water, milk, or a soft drink. Flush continuously and gently for at least 15 minutes in all cases of eye contact with chemicals. Hold the eye open as wide as possible, allowing the liquid to flow over the eye. After flushing the eye, seek immediate medical attention. Do not cover or bandage the eye. The emergency room doctor will have to waste valuable time removing the covering before treatment.
Contact lens wearers. Do not attempt to remove the contact lens. Begin flushing the injured eye, allowing the liquid to dislodge the lens.
Cuts and punctures of the eye or eyelid. Cover the eye lightly to protect the eye from excess particles and see a doctor immediately. Do not flush the eye with any liquid. Flushing may remove fluids that maintain the eye's structure and function. Do not try to remove an object stuck in the eye. You could make the damage to the eye much worse.
Specks in the eye. Lift the upper eyelid outward and down over the lower lid. Let tears wash out the speck or particle. If the speck does not wash out, keep the eye closed, bandage lightly, and see a doctor as soon as possible.
How to safely jump-start a car:
Position the car that will provide the jump-start so that its battery is as close as possible to the dead battery. The cars, however, should NOT touch. Turn off that car's engine.
Very carefully attach the positive (red) clamp of the jumper cables to the positive terminal (plus sign) of the charged battery.
Connect the other positive clamp (red) to the positive terminal (plus sign) of the dead battery.
Carefully attach the negative (black) clamp of the jumper cable to the negative terminal (minus sign) of the charged battery.
Clamp the other negative (black) cable to any shiny, unpainted metal part of the car with the dead battery. This is the ground connection.
Start the engine of the car with the charged battery.
Make sure the transmission of the car with the dead battery is in park or neutral, with the hand brake set. Try starting the car.