Hybrid cars might have a leg up on conventional gas engines, but they’re not infallible. They can still break down, run out of juice and leave you stranded. Although there are some things manufacturers have done to lessen this risk with hybrids, it’s still helpful to know how to jump-start a hybrid car and to keep a few key points in mind.
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One important thing to remember about hybrids is that the powertrain has two batteries. One is a 12-volt unit (like a regular car battery), and the other is significantly larger with way more voltage. When jump-starting a hybrid, remember you’re working with the 12-volt circuit or you could get yourself into serious trouble.
Hybrid manufacturers have gotten creative with battery location, placing the 12-volt battery under the hood or in the trunk. Furthermore, many hybrids have provided special jump-start tabs that don’t resemble a battery whatsoever, but should be used when reviving the vehicle. They can often be found inside a fuse box, but it varies by model. Familiarize yourself with the owner’s manual well before you are forced to find those points on a snowy day.
First of all, please make sure you’re not just out of gas. Many hybrids have an automatic shut-off when fuel is low, so double-check that’s not the culprit before moving ahead. Secondly, refer to that owner’s manual again. Some hybrids actually have the ability to jump-start themselves by pulling the needed power from the bigger battery. This will make things much easier for you, and the friend you would’ve had to otherwise call for a jump will thank you.
If you know you need a jump and you’ve located the right connection points, the procedure is much the same as it is on a non-hybrid vehicle using booster cables:
- Park the cars with the batteries facing each other, turn off the engines and engage the parking brakes.
- Connect one red clamp to the positive terminal (+) on the working vehicle, and the second red to the positive terminal (+) of the dead vehicle.
- Connect the black cable clamp to the negative battery terminal (-) on the working vehicle, and the other black cable clamp on the dead hybrid vehicle to a non-moving, unpainted metal surface.
- Start the jumper vehicle and let it run about five minutes before trying to start the hybrid. Once it’s back in action, you can carefully disconnect the cables in the opposite order they were attached, but let the formerly dead engine continue to run for a while so the battery can keep charging.
- Swing by your local NAPA AutoCare location to have your hybrid car’s batteries and charging system tested to ensure you don’t end up in the same situation later that week.
Hybrid vehicles bridge the gap between the conventional gas vehicles of the past and the fully electric cars of the future. But manufacturers are not so bold as to think their creations will be without incident. Therefore, they’ve made it easy and as familiar as possible to jump-start a hybrid car, but as it’s still a relatively new technology, placement is not standard across all makes and models. Always read up to know what you’re dealing with before it becomes a problem.
Check out all the tools and equipment available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to jump-start a hybrid, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.