Can you push-start an automatic vehicle?

The short answer? No. Read on to find out why.

You’re running late and you grab your bags, run to the car, and turn the key – only to find that your car won’t start because you accidentally left the lights on all night. The problem, however, is that you have a car with an automatic transmission, and you’re not sure if you can push it on the road to get going. Does this scenario sound familiar? Read on to find out what your options are.

First, a little background

You can push a manual transmission vehicle until it picks up speed, shift into second gear, and then fire up the engine. With an automatic transmission you will need help, but not to push the car. This will not work because it has an open clutch. With the manual version, you can close it to start the engine by cranking, but the engine of your automatic transmission can only be ‘cranked’ by jump starting it. The alternative is to have it towed to a garage.

Jump starting your automatic vehicle

You can revive your automatic transmission by using another vehicle’s battery as a jump starter. The cables that carry the power and current from that car’s cell directly to your dead battery must be connected.

You cannot connect your car to just any battery to jump start it. It could suffer significant damage if the other car’s battery has a higher voltage than yours. That said, most car batteries are 12 volts, so it should be easy to find another car with the same voltage.

Make sure that the alligator clips on the ends of your jump leads never come in contact with the metal surfaces of the car when you connect the batteries, as this could cause a spark. Keep both cars turned off when you connect the jumper cables.

Once everything is safely connected, turn your engine on, and allow enough time for the surge to reach the dead battery. This could take several minutes. Do not rev the engine to start a surge. Disconnect the cables as soon as the engine starts, first disconnecting the positive terminal and then the negative terminal. Ensure that they do not touch during this process.

Jump starting on the go

Consider having portable jump starters on hand for these kinds of emergencies. They look like a car battery, perform perfectly with an automatic transmission, and don’t need assistance from any other vehicles. The small battery used in a portable jump starter can be recharged by plugging it into an electrical socket.

Another benefit to this option is that there is no risk of reverse polarity with a portable jump starter. This happens when you accidentally connect the negative cable to the positive terminal and the positive cable to the negative terminal. This can cause a spark in the battery and start a fire under the hood – in addition to causing massive damage to the battery itself. You also don’t have to worry about higher voltage or overcharging. Plus, it’s a great choice if there is no one around to help you.

If your vehicle has an automatic transmission, we advise that you invest in portable or regular jumper cables and keep them in your car at all times. They are the quickest, simplest, and cheapest method to start your automatic car.

Other alternatives for automatic vehicles with a dead battery

There are other options besides jump starting your automatic car, but they can be more elaborate and a bit more expensive. These are:

· calling a tow truck;

· removing the fan belt and spinning the alternator. Only do this if you are well versed in what’s going on under the hood of your car. If you’re not sure, rather get a professional to help; or

· purchasing and installing a new battery.

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