The risks of jumpstarting a modern car

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  • Modern vehicles can usually be jumpstarted but it's a high risk job and mistakes can be costly. If you are in any doubt, contact us and we'll send an expert.

  • Only use quality jumper leads with spike protection, or a jump start pack.

  • Don't attempt to jumpstart a damaged battery. You'll know it's a damaged battery if: (i) you can smell rotten egg or, (ii) if it has only been off for a short period of time before failing to restart.

The risks of jumpstarting a modern car

There are complex electronic systems in today’s cars, which is why jumpstarting a modern car can cause major damage if done incorrectly. 

For example, engine control units (ECUs) constantly monitor the engine to keep its operation as efficient as possible, on board trip computers guide the driver on fuel efficiency and servicing requirements, plus airbags, cruise control, Bluetooth and other standard features of modern cars all rely on computers to function.

That's why jumpstarting can cause expensive damage to the on-board electronics of a modern car, as NRMA technical trainer Darrin Tucker explains.

“The big change is computers and it’s not as if a modern car has just one – a Mercedes-Benz S-Class from a few years ago has 64 ECUs (Electronic Control Units). Hooking up jumper leads can zap these computers,” he says.

"A five-year-old Audi was recently taken to an NRMA approved repairer with an electrical system so badly damaged by an attempted jumpstart that, in the end, it was actually cheaper to write the car off rather than repairing the damage. Well-meaning car owners can do massive damage very easily,” Darrin says.

Important steps to follow

  • Do not jumpstart a damaged battery. If you can spot physical damage, get a rotten egg smell, or if the vehicle fails to restart after only a very short short rest period, the battery is potentially damaged.
  • If you are sure the battery is not damaged, closely follow the specific instructions in the owner's handbook as different cars have different procedures.
  • Only use high quality jumper leads that have spike protection. Ensure the jumper leads are oriented the right way and connected in the correct sequence as described by the manufacturer. Failure to follow these critical first steps can lead to expensive repairs or a write-off. 

It's safest to call an expert

NRMA patrol vehicles are equipped with top of the range surge protectors to safely revive a flat battery in a modern car, plus our experienced technicians know what risks to look for and always put safety first.

If you are in any doubt, it's safest to leave the revival of your car's flat battery to an expert. If you need help book NRMA roadside assistance or call 13 11 11 to request a patrol.

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