Can jumping a car kill the internal computer?

I drive a 2008 Honda Fit Sport, and I managed to leave the overhead dome light on for a few days when I didn’t drive. Naturally the car died, but when I asked my boyfriend for a jump, he got really skiddish.

He drives a 2005 Volvo R-something that has a lot of internal computer parts and he’s pretty fussy about the vehicle. He told me he had heard “somewhere” that jumping a car could possibly fry internal computer components, and he was afraid that if he jumped my car, it would damage his.

Is this true? I’d like to be able to tell him that he’s being a big car-hypochondriac, or at least come back with some good knowledge about it. I hate being stuck and not getting my own boyfriend to help out.


Doing it correctly will cause no damage. Reversing the jumper cables will likely do great damage to the car being jumped. (It’s possible, but less likely, to do damage to the jumping car too.)
Get your boyfriend to buy you a $50 battery charger (and maybe and extension cord) and you can both be happy.

As far as old wives tales go I have also heard especially in cases where a battery is stone cold dead some cars can suffer problems when being a good Samaritan. Any real world examples of trouble out there?

I have only heard of damage when the cables were reversed. Anyone else?

While “Volvo” is a make of car, it’s also a state of mind. Is YOUR boyfriend a Volvo??

Maybe you should try a Mustang GT for a ride through the park…

Motorweek did a segment in Goss’s Garage on this. Apparently voltage surges can get through battery system to the ECM or PCM and damage the low voltage components. The segment also included jumper smart cables from Michelin that recognize the polarity and buffer the cars from voltage surges. Since it’s public TV, I tend to think it’s legitimate. But I culd be wrong. For the most part, this show and segment provide good advice, IMO.

Hi There: If I were your boy-friend I would tell you the same as he did. You sure can do damage on most of the newer cars. What i have wrote up and attached under my 2006 Honda CRV hood is as follows. Hook up cables the proper way, I’m sure your boy-friend knows the procedure ,leave it sit that way for maybe a minute, start the car with good battery, then try starting the car with the dead batt. Now be careful, before disconnecting the cables turn on high beams,fan on high speed, rear window defroster,even the signal lights, do this on both cars, now you can disconnect the cables, this will make sure there are no voltage spikes which can damage computers in todays cars. Show this to your boy-friend & maybe he will help you next time.

“Car Talk” is public radio, so what does that tell you about a public TV car show? Just kidding! “Motorweek” has been produced here in Maryland by MD Public TV like forever and they do an excellent job. Although I don’t always agree with their vehicle tests. Goss’s Garage has been part of the show since it started and his advice is well researched and Pat very knowledgable. I would say that he is 99% spot on. Of course, that’s in comparison to Click & Clack who are normally off by 99%

After seeing the same segment and doing some other surfing, I bought one a Michelin jumper set to keep in my 2010 Equinox.

Good luck,



Your boyfriend is wrong.
As others have already mentioned, done correctly this is a VERY SIMPLE task, on the level of pumping gas.
A quick Google of “How to Jump Start a car” would have yielded, good, safe and reliable, step-by-step-with-pictures info, anyone could follow.
Apparently he seems to value his Volvo more than your safety.
If I were you, I would start looking for a new boyfriend.

Now having said all that, you should be aware that a discharged/run-down battery is not supposed to be recharged by your 2008 Honda Fit alternator. An alternator is designed to MAINTAIN the charge of a battery. A discharged battery must be charged with a BATTERY CHARGER. Otherwise you are running the risc of killing your alternator, or at best, greatly reducing its lifespan. A battery charger is $20-25. A new (actually remanufactured) alternator for your car is at least $300.00 before any installation labor is included; could probably add at least another $100 for that. IMHO $25 is a lot cheaper that $400.00

“Naturally the car died, but when I asked my boyfriend for a jump, he got really skiddish.”

Asking him to jump start your car caused him to go into a skid?
Perhaps he needs new tires, or maybe he needs to reduce his caffeine intake.

Seriously, however, I can understand him becoming a bit skittish regarding your request. While it may seem that he was less than helpful or not sufficiently accomodating, the fact remains that jump starting your car did have the potential for damage to his car–especially if not done correctly.

The suggestion regarding those new Michelin jumper cables is a very appropriate one. Carrying that equipment, and/or having AAA membership, and/or having an auxiliary battery-powered jump starter might be something to consider for the future.

Now, if we can just prevent your BF from going into a skid when you make a request of this nature, we will really have accomplished something!

^ :-))

I always answer these type of posts by asking if the car of concern (in this case the Volvo) is equipped with jump posts. BMW (one of the most electronic laden cars made) has equipped their vehicles with points to be a jumper or jumpee. If the factory says it is OK I would feel comfortable doing it. Reverse the cables and all bets are off.

I’ve watched them on MPT like forever, too.

if the car were tuching each other it can happen and if the ground was not tight on the battery on your car