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Starter "no click" after jump start attempt

A friend was having trouble trying to start their car after their battery had been run down. He had lights on the car, but when he went to crank the ignition, it did not do anything other than the clicking noise — which I assume is the starter solenoid.

I offered my jumper cables to help them out. We hooked up the cables. However, when we attempted to crank the ignition on the “dead” car, the clicking noise went away. We still had lights on in the “dead” car.

I am afraid that we must have done something wrong when we hooked up the jumper cables.

Now, I have to admit that I did not hook up the cables EXACTLY correctly. I was able to match the terminals correctly, BUT I put the negative cable on the ground on the “good” car, NOT the dead car.

As I realized later I should have started by connecting the “positive” cable to the positive terminal on the “dead” car and then connect the other end to the positive terminal on the “good” car, and then take the “negative” cable and connect it to the negative terminal on the “good” car, and then connect the negative cable back to ground on the “dead” car.

My question is this: by not connecting the ground properly, did this somehow create a short that would prevent the starter solenoid from engaging on the “dead” car?

In other words, did I break something on my friend’s car?



Year, make, and model of both your car and your friend’s car please.

If you in fact had the cables connected in reverse, you’d have not be able to start his/her car. But not being able to do so would not necessarily mean you’d done damage. You could also damage the alternator, specifically the voltage regulator portion, but that would not prevent the starter motor from turning the crankshaft.

You’ll not know if you’ve done damage to your friend’s car until you try starting it with the leads correctly connected. You might have lucked out.

Unfortunately, I do not know the make and model of my friend’s car – though I do know that it is a relatively late model SUV. Please help me to understand, but I just assumed that nearly all starting systems on gas-powered vehicles over past few decades operate on the same basic principles. Are there other factors on some cars that could make a difference?

After I realized my mistake in connecting the ground to the wrong vehicle, I did re-connect the cables correctly. Unfortunately, the car still did not start and the solenoid clicking sound that we had heard prior to jump starting was still silent.

Are there any other possibilities to consider?


The main possibility that comes to my mind is that your friend has a problem with the cables that run from the battery to the starter - or perhaps the starter itself is just dead. In this case a jump start won’t help.

Unless you did reverse the polarity I seriously doubt that the order you used caused any problem. If the starter is ok and the cables to it from the battery are ok then the most likely issue is that you didn’t get a good connection on one or more of the hook ups and/or you have a cheap set of cables.

What happened after all of this? Was the car ever started?