I had a question about jump starting a car. I was asked today to help a woman jump start her car. I obliged and had jumper cables in my car. I hooked everything up as instructed. For the black cable on the dead-battery car, I attached it to the piece over the battery (that I thought was metal). The car would not start. It turns out the piece over the battery was not metal. Anyway, another guy came over and attached the black cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery and the car started right away. Is this bad? I haven't seen any instructions that tell you to do this. Finding a piece of metal was hard and if attaching the second black cable to a battery is an option, why doesn't anyone tell you to do it this way? Thanks for your help!! -- Bill Straderman
Chivalry is alive! You're a better man than most, Bill. These days people would rather rush to Wal-Mart than help a stranded motorist. As for the battery danger, it's a toss up. Clearly the best connection for jumper cables is at the battery terminals. So why do most instructions tell you to attach the negative cable to the car's chassis rather than the negative battery post? These days, batteries are maintenance free and sealed for life. No loose caps or spilled juices. Not too long ago, however, the acid in car batteries could easily escape through the caps in the top of the battery used for adding water. It's not the acid itself, but the gases that were the problem. A leaky battery could have a cloud of gas around it. A spark near the battery could cause fire or explosion. Thus the danger. To avoid the spark near the battery, attach the cable somewhere else. These days, the chances of a fire are even slimmer than the slim chance back in the day. It's still probably a good idea to attach the cable to the chassis. Safety first!