I realized this afternoon that my car’s batteries were already weak. I’ve been expecting this for quite some time because I’ve been noticing a degradation in headlamp strength when I operate other electronics (like the power windows). Good thing my driveway is sloping (and I park in reverse), so I didn’t have to push the car to get it started.
If you have a manual transmission auto, and you suddenly find yourself in the same situation, fear not. You can almost always push-start your car if you can’t get your ignition to work. Here’s a step by step tutorial from eHow.
- Make sure that the problem is either the battery or the starter: If the engine cranks (“rrr-rrr-rrr”) when you turn the key, then the problem isn’t the starter or the battery.
- Plan to have at least one person sitting in the driver’s seat and one person pushing. Mid-size and large cars require two or three people to push, depending on the strength of the people and whether or not the car is parked on an incline.
- Turn off all accessories (radio, wipers, lamps).
- Turn the key to the “on” position.
- Depress the clutch pedal with your foot.
- Put the transmission in first or second gear.
- Release the hand brake and the foot brake.
- Note that the people pushing need to get the car rolling as fast as they can. This works best down a hill or an incline.
- Release the clutch pedal while giving the engine a little gas with the gas pedal once the car is moving about as fast as you can run. The engine should start.
The choice of gear depends on your car and how fast the people (or the incline) can push your car. I find second gear to be best. Some say using first gear can damage your engine as the shock can either over-rev your engine, or damage the engine support.
You can do this in reverse, too–useful especially when you’re parked in an incline or parked facing a wall, and backwards is the way to go. But be sure that there are no obstacles and no oncoming traffic. Shift to reverse instead of first or second gear.
Also, cars with completely drained batteries can NOT be push-started. This is because your engine cannot run without electricity (spark plugs need to, umm, spark, to ignite fuel in your engine cylinders).
Remember, your brakes won’t work as effectively as they do when your engine is running. Brakes rely on hydraulic pressure, and you only have about two bursts left for backup when your engine is turned off. This means you shouldn’t be too eager in going downhill or when pushing your car, because you might not be able to stop in time to avoid obstacles. If you have power steering, you will also have a hard time steering because you’re essentially driving a non-power steering car when the engine is off.
Do make sure you check your car’s manuals if it’s all right to push-start the vehicle. Of course, cars with automatic transmission can NOT be push-started (will never work, because its automatic clutch will not engage the engine while being pushed).
Once you’re successful starting your car this way, it’s best to bring it to the garage so they can check what exactly is wrong with your vehicle (may be a weak battery, loose connections, or damage in the alternator). If you cannot do this, be sure to run the engine at least five to ten minutes just to get the alternator to charge the battery just enough for the next start. I usually give the gas about three bursts right before turning off the engine, just to make sure there’s enough juice left the next time I crank the ignition.