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Jumping your car for the first time using the car jumper cables?
Wondering if it is normal for you to see sparking when completing the jumper cable electrical connections?
Should you expect a small spark or a large spark?
In this post, I cover:
- the different times when you should expect to see sparks with your jumper cables,
- whether it is normal for the sparks to firm,
- the likely dangers from sparking and
- if it is possible to avoid or prevent the sparks at all.
1. The Different Ways Jumper Cables Spark
Making the final battery jumper connection. When working with jumper cables to jumpstart the car, there are two main ways that you can have sparks generated.
You can have to spark at the point where you complete the electric connection – for example, you have one side of the jumper cables connected to the good battery, the second positive to the positive of the dead battery and you are completing the connection at the negative of the dead battery.
A large spark can also form when you connect the positive and negative clamps together with the other side of the jumper cables connected to the good battery.
It can also form when you connect the black battery clamp on the negative battery post of the dead car first (instead of last) and your spanner accidentally touches the car body, welding it to the car!
When this happens, you should expect to see loud, prolonged sparking and arcing of the battery clamps from the excessive current flow when the battery is shorted!
Disconnect the jumper cables immediately!
2. Are Jumper Cables Supposed to Spark?
It is normal for a spark to form at the point where you complete the final connection to the dead battery using the jumper cables.
You should expect, a small spark when you’re connecting the second black clamp to the car’s ground – the exposed metal of the car’s body under the hood.
This sparking is momentary and stops when you have made a firm, solid connection to the exposed bare metal of the car.
This should be a single spark when you complete the connection, not continuous sparks which can point to broader electrical problems such as loose wiring with one of the battery cables.
A large, loud spark is likely a sign that you have wrongly connected the battery clamps – positive to the negative battery post and vice versa.
When this happens, immediately disconnect the jumper cables and verify that the jumper connections are made to the right battery terminals.
Hopefully, you are able to jumpstart your car. In the event that your car is unable to start, you may have to have it checked by a professional auto technician for possible damage to the car’s electrical system
This assumes all other connections are good and you are remaining with that one connection to the dead battery to complete the jumper electric circuit running from the charged battery to the dead battery.
If a spark does not form, this is can be a sign that either:
- the supposedly charged battery is flat also,
- or there is a break in the connection.
Check that the jumper clamps are firmly connected to the battery posts.
If there is any corrosion on the battery posts, clean them and make sure your jumper clamps make good, solid, and firm connections with the battery posts.
3. Causes of Sparks when Connecting Jumper Cables
A spark is formed when the electric connection between the jumper cables and the two batteries (charged and dead) is completed.
The large difference in voltage between the good and dead battery initially results in a large current flow which breaks down the air – the spark around the point of contact.
This current gradually reduces as the dead battery charge increases.
So subsequent sparks will be smaller because the difference in voltages is smaller.
The bigger the current, the bigger the spark that will form.
Sparks will form regardless of whether you connect the jumper cables the right way, reverse them (accidentally), or short them (one end of the positive and negative clamps connect).
4. Is it Safe for Jumper Cables to Spark?
While most times you will likely complete the jumper connections without any incident, there is always the inherent risk of an explosion if there is a spark where there are inflammable gases such as hydrogen.
These are given off during the charging process of the dead battery.
Fortunately, the spark is always at the point of contact – so you can minimize this danger by completing the connection away from the battery at the exposed metal under the car’s hood.
The Danger of Jumper Cables Sparking
The main danger is that of the car battery exploding.
This spews acid, not only damaging the battery but can cause injury to you.
5. Can you Avoid Sparking of Jumper Cables?
It is not possible to avoid the sparking – it comes about when there is a voltage difference when the jumper cable connected to the good battery connects to the dead battery.
You can minimize the likelihood of the danger from the sparking – the battery exploding by connecting the black battery clamp to the exposed metal within the car’s hood – away from the battery instead of the dead battery’s negative post.
#1. Why is there No Spark when connecting your jumper cables?
A lack of a spark when you make the final jumper clamp connection may be because of any of the following:
- There is a break in the connection between the two batteries. This may be caused by jumper clamps not connected, not firmly connected, or damage in the jumper cable.
- A drained, or weak car battery that is meant to charge the drained battery. A low voltage difference will result in a small spark or no spark at all depending on the difference in voltage between the two batteries.
#2. Why Jumper Cables Spark and Melt?
A spark forms when the electrical connection is completed between the two batteries by the jumper cables and the current starts flowing. If the jumper cable wires used are cheap and flimsy – not thick enough (thin gauge), they’ll heat up as soon as the current starts flowing to the point of melting the jumper cable insulation.
Additionally, if there is a short in the battery or you connect the jumper cables the wrong way (positive of one battery connected to negative and negative to the positive – reversing the polarity), the jumper wires will heat up, melting insulation and possibly smoke.
To minimize jumper cables from melting, use suitable sized or heavy-duty jumper cables and connect them the right way.
It is normal for car jumper cables to spark at the point of contact of the last connection provided that the electrical connections from the charged battery to the dead battery are complete and that the battery to be used to charge is actually charged.
Make sure the last connection is made on the car’s ground – any exposed, unpainted part of the car’s body, away from the battery instead of the negative battery post of the dead battery.