2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – October 2010

Survival: Stuck at a Remote Trailhead With... A Dead Car Battery

The click, click, crap of a dead battery is about as welcome as the rattle of a diamondback in the latrine. Here's what to do.

by: Jason Stevenson

Check The Juice
Clean crusty deposits from inside the battery posts and terminals. That ensures the engine’s starter is receiving a full charge, says AAA-certified master technician Michael Calkins. Nothing? Ask another hiker for a jump. If no one is around, call AAA. No cell reception? Don’t worry. As long as the dashboard warning lights flash when you turn the key—indicating the battery has some juice—you have options.

Warm the battery
If you think subzero temps (and not the overhead dome light) drained the battery, you can try warming it up (at 5°F, a lead-acid battery produces only half of its normal cranking power). Calkins recommends removing the battery from the engine block and placing it in a pot of hot (not boiling) water, submerged to within two inches of the battery top. Don’t fully immerse it, or place a heat source directly under the pot. Hot water bottles and bladders are less effective, but will still warm up the internal plates. After an hour, try starting the car. Never place a stove or flames near a battery being charged or jumped; it could ignite hydrogen gases.

Try Pushing
If you drive a manual (stick shift) car, you can push-start it if the battery retains enough reserve power to activate the car’s computer, Calkins says. Shut off the radio, heat, and anything electrical, turn the key to the ‘on’ position, and press down the clutch as you shift into second or third gear. Release the brake pedal, and tell your friends to start pushing. As the car speeds up to 5 or 10 mph (downhill helps), release the clutch, let the engine turn, and give it gas. Note: This doesn’t work with an automatic because the transmission won’t allow the engine to be cranked by the wheels’ motion.

Be Proactive
Get your car inspected pretrip, and buy a portable jump-starter like Black & Decker’s Start It ($90,

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -


Dec 28, 2013

Gee thanx BP'r for wasting my time!

Papa Joe
Apr 30, 2011

Hello Bonnie, Posted Dec.09, 2010. On a low battery how many aspirins per cell is needed?

Dec 09, 2010

Throw some aspirin in the battery. You might get enough of a reaction (it's an acid) to get one more start out of your battery.

Oct 15, 2010

When Push starting a car I use a higher gear. Say 3rd with a 4 or 5 speed. Then be ready to push the clutch back in as soon as the engine starts to "feather" the gas pedal to keep the engine running.


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

What sleeping pad are you using?
Posted On: Aug 22, 2014
Submitted By: Blazer
Trailhead Register
Elephant Coffee, Anyone?
Posted On: Aug 22, 2014
Submitted By: big_load

View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions