Does Jump Starting a Car Damage the Computer?

By Sayeed Parvez •  Updated: 04/07/22 •  7 min read

Even though Jump starting a car is the best option in desperate situations, it can damage the car’s computer (ECU). It’s advisable to stop by the nearest mechanic shop for proper jump starting procedures.

Over time, most car owners keep wondering, “does Jump starting a car damage the computer?”. Let’s examine the answer to the question in full detail.

What is ECU?

The full meaning of the acronym ‘ECU’ is Electronic Control Unit, otherwise known as the “computer .”The computer is a control system that gathers information to control the different parts of a car’s engine and its functions, such as braking systems, towing abilities, and climate control. The ECU is responsible for the total smooth running of the car’s engine.

There are different sensors within the engine compartment that send maintenance information to the computer. With the help of this information, the car’s computer adjusts the engine’s electrical components for enhanced efficiency.

Sadly, whenever this part of the car is damaged and needs to be replaced or repaired, it’s usually very expensive.

Ways to Prevent Damage to Your Car’s Computer

Car owners jump-starting their car incorrectly is one of the major ways to cause damage to the computer.

There are certain rules you must observe to ensure that even if you have to jumpstart your car, you won’t be causing any damage.

Below are some tips to follow to help extend the life expectancy of your car’s computer.

Be conscious of the jumper leads’ polarity when jumpstarting a car with a flat battery because most ECUS are damaged when short-circuiting the jumper leads.

Never fail to connect the jumper leads negative to negative and positive to positive.

Even though some car manufacturers have featured voltage protector devices in their cars, the damage is still likely to occur in the system before the fuse blows.

Connect the positive jumper leads to both batteries first, then the negative terminal leads.

This connection will reduce the power flowing through the earthing system, preventing spikes or power surges.

Never try connecting the jumper leads with the key in the ignition. The appropriate time to insert the key is after the leads have been connected.

If you fail to adhere to this rule, there’s a high risk that the coding between the computer and the key will become corrupt.

Why Should You Avoid Jumpstarting a Modern Car?

When there’s a voltage spike or power surge, there’s a high risk of damage posed to the electronic components of a modern vehicle. A jump start can cause a power surge, causing a negative influence on the safety systems and onboard computers.

Below are some of the results of jumpstarting a vehicle:

Inconsistency with Start/Stop Systems

Almost all modern cars have start/stop technology. Jumpstarting incorrectly can disable the start/stop system and will need you to take your car to an auto dealer for intense assessment.

So, it’s not advisable to jumpstart a car with a start/stop technology because the battery used is specifically for that car.

Compromised Traction Control Systems

Jump-starting a car with a traction control system without adhering to the manufacturer’s instructions can cause compromise of the traction control, resulting in shaky and unstable road grips and adventures.

This instability endangers the lives of other road users.

Boosting Car Damage

Sometimes, people use a new car to jumpstart an older car. This technique would most likely cause power surges or spikes on the new car, causing damage to its electronic components.

Damaged Engine Control Unit (ECU)

When there’s a spike in voltage when jump starting, the ECU can blow up, this spike also affects the car’s alternator and other electronic parts like the fuses, computer, and fuel pump.

Airbag System Flaws

When you jumpstart a modern car, there’s a high possibility of the airbag system becoming inconsistent. This inconsistency will cause the airbags not to deploy because of the electrical fault.

Steering Wheel Damage

When the instructions of the manufacturer aren’t followed, the steering system will be damaged, causing a stiff power steering experience and making the steering wheel tougher than it’s supposed to be.

This condition is dangerous and life-threatening.

How to Jumpstart Your Car Without Damaging the Computer

The electrical systems in most modern cars, most especially, are complicated and must be operated with strict caution.

For instance, you could damage some components if you don’t abide by the manufacturer’s instructions when jumpstarting your car.

The simplest way to jumpstart your vehicle when its battery has exceeded its lifespan or when the dome light switches at the back seat were tampered with is to use a battery jump box.

This box allows for Jump starting without any damage to the alternator or starter.

Alternatively, you can jumpstart the car with a vehicle that has a good battery.

But, when using this method, ensure that the car that is used for the jumpstarting is off and the key isn’t in the ignition.

Nowadays, it’s not advisable to hook the jumper cables together and rev the engine because the charging system is very sensitive and can damage the charging or starting system.

FAQs

Can Jumpstart a Car Damage the Computer?

Similar to other electronics, a power surge can affect your car’s electronic components (including the computer). Jumpstarting a car inappropriately can damage your car’s engine, computer, and safety system. Most of all, you’ll have to break the bank for repairs.

Can you Jumpstart a Car With Electronic Ignition?

Definitely! The ignition systems of most cars are electronic. They are equipped with leads and coil packs. The battery jump box is a small car battery with a set of jumper cables attached.

Is it Bad to Jumpstart a Car Every day?

Every time you jumpstart your car, you’re increasing the risk of damage to all the car components, except the battery that’s already dead. Jump starting drains the alternator and battery of the donor endlessly. During the “jump” process, the alternator of the car jumped strains to charge the dead battery.

Can Jump Starting Damage the Starter?

Jump starting a car repeatedly using flat batteries can damage the starter motor. Low current and voltage at solenoid terminals (that is, switch (50) or S-terminal and the switch (30) or battery post) can also cause starter failure or damage.

What Happens When you Jump Start a Car the Wrong Way?

The car’s electrical system polarity (an indicator of positivity or negativity) and the dead battery are reversed for some seconds when the jumper cables are wrongly connected. This reversal can damage the sensitive electronic components like the electronic sensors and electronic components beyond repair.

Do I Need to Replace the Battery After the Jump Start?

You may not need to replace the battery immediately after jump starting. Instead, allow it to run for 20 minutes to let the engine do the recharging. If it doesn’t discharge, there’ll be no need to worry about replacing it.

Final Thoughts

If you ever need to jumpstart your car, contact a battery specialist or your auto dealer. Avoid jumpstarting your vehicle without proper guidance so you don’t damage the computer and other sensitive electrical components.

It’ll be better to pay little bucks to your auto dealer to help you jumpstart your car rather than have to sort out an exorbitant cost for repairs.

Sayeed Parvez