Introduction: Start Your Car With a Rope (Dead Battery Life Hack)

Picture of Start Your Car With a Rope (Dead Battery Life Hack)

In this Instructable, I demonstrate a way to start a manual transmission car with a dead battery.

We won't use jumper cables or push the car.

This trick is great for situations when you need to start the car, but there is nobody to give you a push or a jump start.

What's needed:

  • Manual transmission car
  • Jack
  • Rope

If you are Interested in the video version of this Instructable and the embedded video does not appear on your mobile device, here is an alternative link

Step 1:

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Jack up one of the front wheels (if front wheel drive car)

Step 2:

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Pull the handbrake and put the car in 3rd gear.

Step 3:

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Turn the key in the ignition to ACC or On position (depending of the car)

Step 4:

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Wrap a rope around the wheel lifted and pull.

If you are (strong) lucky enough, the car should start.


It will work best on petrol cars.

I did try it on a diesel, but it was too hard to pull the wheel.


☠ Warning ☠
As mentioned in the video, It will NOT work on any car. Trying to start the car this way can be Dangerous.

Use this Instructable at your own risk.


br1ght (author)2017-03-31

That is incredibly dangerous... Should the jack fail/car falls you are going to be under your vehicle as it stalls leaving you trapped...

IF you are desperate enough to NEED to do this method lets do it as safely as possible so our paramedic friend isn't needing to attend to your crushed body.

1st) use reverse as the gear ratio is better for starting and wind the rope accordingly --It's also much less likely you'll end up under the vehicle should the jack fail...

2nd) chock the other tires so if it the jack fails the car will be apt to stall instead of heading into nearest ditch/car/fence or person that just came out of their house to give you a hand...

MikeB195 (author)2017-03-29

Calling BS, he put car in neutral, that disengages the wheel from drive train.

AktivniP (author)2017-02-21

Hand brake blocks all four wheels. It is not possible to turn around. I am a European, we all have manual transmissions.

Dombomb123 (author)2016-10-17

My uncle has a manual corola with no battery, i might try it out on that.

alzie (author)2016-10-16

Yeah, i like it it.

Beats pushing it by the drivers door,

hopping in, and popping the clutch,

booung (author)2016-10-16

Modified from my previous comment...

Ever been alone out in the deep bush (no
cell reception) come back to your car and found you left something on
that drained your battery, this would be a lifesaver. Stop all your
about safety ! Only things I would add is jack up both front tires in
case of creep. Just don't put your hand through the eye of the strap or
wrap the end around your hand for a quick release in case car starts
quickly and the strap wraps back around the tire, also don't wear gloves
when pulling strap. Simply shift into neutral and lower car.

always carry a 4 meter x 5 x 1 cm. tow/recovery strap, this would give
excellent grip as well as a long pull for a cold engine.

Great instructable , thank-you Very much man from Spain.

booung (author)2016-10-16

Ever been alone out in the deep bush (no cell reception) come back to your car and found you left something on that drained your battery, this would be a lifesaver. Stop all your winning about safety !

Great instructable , thank-you Very much man from Spain.

Lovetra (author)2016-10-12

WOW! There were a few times I could have used this "back in the day" when all we had were "Manual Transmissions". Of course then we also had fewer idiots who knew how to sit a jack so as not to get hurt, Patience to think through safety precautions, lots of common sense and experience of being in "lonesome situations" where we had to come up with our own "How toos" were the name of living. At eighty, I would not be afraid too try this. HOWEVER I would take into consideration location of my vehicle --- Mostly what sort of slope or slant (forward, backwards, side ways, and prepare), for that before pulling the rope having given careful thought to the possible movement of the car in ANY direction. Yes! With a driving wheel up it's motion is limited.

ClaudeA2 (author)2016-10-06

Great video. BTW in the 60s you could buy a pulley to add to your VW Beetle motor so that you could start it by pulling on a rope, like a lawnmower or an outboard. Obviously works only with reasonably low compression motors.

nstvstv (author)ClaudeA22016-10-06

Additionally old Beetles did have limited slip differentials, so would drive off the jack and probably keep going even in third gear, if you used the rope method. Unless both rear wheels were raised securely off the ground. Same for the early VW buses, transporters and Karman Ghias.

mamod (author)nstvstv2016-10-07

Older model Beetles DID NOT have limited slip differentials

nstvstv (author)mamod2016-10-07

I'm pretty sure my 1957 model beetle did, along with the other transaxle ones.
Also had a DAF 44 belt drive auto with lsd.

Chris W.J (author)nstvstv2016-10-11

You both are correct. I owned several Beetles and a Thing and one of the beetles had it but it was rare. You can still buy them on ebay

mamod (author)nstvstv2016-10-07

None of the vehicles you mention had LSD A quick perusal of the vehicle manufacturers specifications will confirm that. In the case of the DAF the belt drive system comprised two vee shaped pulleys linked by a fixed length belt. The engine end pulley being split vertically with the outer half having centrifugal weights attached which depending on the engine RPM would cause that pulley to move sideways thus altering the diameter of the contact area of the belt at that end and thus creating varying rpm ratio.

nstvstv (author)mamod2016-10-08

Quick perusal of om spec should have revealed one belt to each wheel, which with the CVT system has same effect as lsd, so the wheel with least resistance does spin most, but the load bearing wheel still moves. That's why the little 44 was so good in snow and mud, it kept going. The 2 engine end pulleys are linked to the engine by a prop shaft.
The point was you wouldn't start one with this method.
As for the old beetle, the loaded wheel did continue to creep, this was my experience from the time, apparently confirmed 50 years later. If it wasn't a full lsd it did a good imitation.

mamod (author)nstvstv2016-10-08

What the early Beetles were fitted with was the ZF Type B-70 sliding pin and cam differential which was an automatic locking type differential, not a limited slip type differential.

Automatic locking type differentials have certain similar operational characteristics to a LSD But are designed to perform a different function.


nstvstv (author)mamod2016-10-09

Didn't the loaded wheel move then? I was sure that's what caused mine to fall off the jack, but it was a few years ago now, about 1971 when I had the oldest Beetle, a 1958/9 model. Also seemed to keep both wheels turning in snow, sand, mud, etc.
Either way, as I said with the Daf, you couldn't apply this method of starting, which was the point.

ButchD2 (author)2016-10-11

I have done quite a bit of sport flying and believe me, this is far less dangerous than swinging the propeller to start an aeroplane's engine. And yet with reasonable care I have done that hundreds of times despite not having had specific training. Of course after a while you might get careless and an accident could happen.

In the case of an emergency start of a vehicle, it would be sufficiently unusual for people to take extreme care as I did the first time I swung the propeller of an aircraft.

tjado11 (author)2016-10-10

Not a bad idea, just make sure to also look for two large stones to place in front and behind the back wheels!!! LOOOOOOL!!!

DaRealSnakebyte (author)2016-10-10

LOLOLOL, for all the folks that say "This is so dangerous". Well, no kidding!?!?! Really. Obviously it's more dangerous than turning the key and starting your car, but I'd have to say, it's somewhat less dangerous than:

1) Cutting off your leg with a swiss arm knife because a tree fell on you

2) Walking through several feet of snow with your family to try and get to safety

3) Jumping out of a building to escape a fire

4) etc.

Point is, this would be a last ditch effort (as mentioned in several other people's posts), and obviously there is a risk in doing this. That being said, if I were in a situation where pushing my vehicle were not an option (mud/snow/odd angle/etc.) I'd much rather do this than sit and wait for someone to come along. Yeah, if your in the city, prolly not a great idea, call a tow truck, but being a deep woods camper, I can't count he number of times I'd have been in deep trouble if my Jeep hadn't started. I take precautions for this, but not everyone does.

Do we REALLY need to append every instructable with "If you're a really dumb person, and common sense eludes you, then don't do this". Sadly, I guess so, but to the writer of this instructable, great idea. I'm sure it will help someone at some point, and likewise, probably kill a person that couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag. We can chalk that up to Darwinian theory I guess. :)

David the R (author)2016-10-08

Note - The battery cannot be 100% dead on a car with an alternator, that is all modern cars, because the alternator requires electricity to generate it. If there is even the slightest click when turning the key, it's possible. If you are driving an old car, say 1960's and British, it has a generator which needs no electricity to generate electricity. Alternators have advantages like producing more current but generators have the advantage of needing no electric field to begin with.

Good idea, I hadn't heard of it. Thanks.

jawtig (author)David the R2016-10-09

I believe you may be a tad off. I have driven cars with out a battery in them that had an alternator. You can drive a car for a long time with an alternator and no battery; yes it does put a strain on the alternator. I'm also an auto mechanic.

mikecz (author)2016-10-08

This seems a rather pain-in-the-butt way to do it. Why not just "bump" start it? It's much safer (you're in the driver's seat controlling the steering wheel and pedals) and you don't have to get out the jack, jack the thing up, find a long enough strong enough rope to do this, & hope you have the strength (I'd like to see you do this on a full sized pickup or SUV with, say, a 6 liter engine).

As a proof-of-concept --- just barely acceptable. As a working solution --- NO!

yrralguthrie (author)2016-10-06

Hmmm...I don't think manual shift cars will start unless the clutch
is depressed. I believe this is made up to look like the car started.
If a manual shift car is in any gear the clutch has to be depressed to
start it. Sometime the car can be rolled down a hill and the clutch
"popped" quickly and immediately depressed and it will start. That
would be pretty hard to do if outside with a rope started on a wheel.
I had a 2003 manual Saturn and if you just rolled it down a hill in gear and let the clutch up it would just slow down quickly.

Maybe having the parking brake on changes things????

gafisher (author)yrralguthrie2016-10-06

I used to start my Toyota Tercel by letting it roll down the driveway and popping the clutch, but this spin-the-wheel method gives me the willies. ;-)

M. DwayneS (author)gafisher2016-10-06

Yeah, reminds me of my old '75 Honda Civic. I was so poor at the time when my alternator died and wouldn't charge the battery, I always just parked on a slight incline. Easy to find in a port city (Halifax). Did this for about six months. "Wid a stick-shif, we don't need no stinkin' battery!"

oky jim (author)M. DwayneS2016-10-06

I dont think any car will start if the alternator and battery are both dead. I think you might have meant the starter had died. then that would make sense

mikecz (author)oky jim2016-10-08

Agreed. You need one or the other. A gasoline engine car will usually run a few miles (in the summer, without headlights on - I've done it.) on a decently charged battery with a dead alternator or indefinitely on a working alternator but a dead battery.

M. DwayneS (author)oky jim2016-10-08

Nope, if it was the starter, I would have said the starter.

oky jim (author)M. DwayneS2016-10-08

Then I think you should reassess what was wrong. No gasoline fueled car has the ability to ignite the fuel in the cylinder unless the battery or the alternator is working. A diesel car can ignite the fuel and I have done it on a completely dead diesel tractor by rolling it down a hill but gasoline fueled? way

georger73 (author)yrralguthrie2016-10-08

The clutch has to be depressed to turn the starter not to start the engine if something else is spinning it. (pop start rolling down a hill or this rope thing) this will work if you are strong enough. When you pop start a car the clutch is not pressed in when the car is starting. You let the car roll to build up speed and then quickly release the clutch. The clutch will Co next the wheels to the motor transfer the momentum and start the car. You only depress the clutch after the engine is running so you can stop the car without stalling the motor like you normally would

DavidS531 (author)yrralguthrie2016-10-06

No, the clutch does not need to be down to start all, and in most cars, it could actually be disabled quite easily (mechanic of 45 years). If you had a long enough downward slope, you could pop the clutch, start the car in 1st or second depending on your speed, then shift up no problems. Actually, both would apply to older automatics and a couple newer ones as well (believing you could get up to sufficient torque, say 15-20 MPH worth). Also, as was mentioned, you need a small, good working engine to do the pull start on either one.

BUT!!!!! Please, please, please chock the back wheels if you absolutely had to do this and only as a last resort and with a strong back!

jozka (author)DavidS5312016-10-07

I do not think that the clutch needs to be depressed, that is only required when starting car by the key in momentarily "start" position, in order to complete electrical circuit for starter motor. The reason is NOT to start engine by mistake if gear is engaged. By requiring to press the clutch then doesn't matter if gear is engaged or not.

zagrot (author)DavidS5312016-10-07

Automatic transmissions that I'm familiar with derive the hydraulic pressure necessary to engage the clutches from the input shaft. It is possible to shut the engine off and restart it if the car is moving, but pull starting doesn't work at any speed, because the transmission's pump won't turn if the clutches aren't engaged. Please explain.


Mechanic of 22 years.


moon161 (author)zagrot2016-10-07

Old benzes will do this, one pump is driven by the output shaft, I think. Pull start for the auto is described in my owners manual. Because of this, the safe tow speed with the drive wheels on the ground is maybe 40 mph.

zagrot (author)DavidS5312016-10-07

Also agree with chocking the wheels, and on FWD pulling the emergency brake. There probably isn't anything better to see than a run-away car after a scissor jack collapses.

autotech1 (author)yrralguthrie2016-10-06

You are correct, the clutch needs to be
depressed when starting many cars with a manual transmission, (older
cars could be started without depressing the clutch), but that is a
safety procedure when you are starting a car with the key to prevent
starting the car in gear.

What he is describing here would
accomplish the same thing as push starting, (or letting the car roll
down a hill as you tried), and starting the car. The reason why your car
didn't start and just stopped rolling is that you probably had the car
in first gear. Without getting too technical, the torque multiplication
of first gear makes it very hard to push start a car with a manual
transmission, especially if your Saturn was the small SL series. Again, without getting too technical, it was not heavy enough to turn the engine in first gear. You would
have needed to put the transmission in at least 2nd gear and when the
engine started quickly push the clutch back in so the car would stay running
or not take off unexpectedly. I hope that this helps.

yrralguthrie (author)autotech12016-10-06

How heavy a car is is not too technical!

Nope, actually tried drive. I am 71 and I assure you I know how to roll a car down a hill and start it!

And actually using the method I described I could start the car in any forward gear. Just because you've not experienced it, doesn't mean it won't happen.

You should not assume. You know what they say about that word.

autotech1 (author)yrralguthrie2016-10-07

I don't understand what you mean by "Nope, actually tried drive." as there is no named "drive" position in a manual transmission.

Remember in physics: "a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force"? Well you can add to that the heavier a body in motion is the longer it will stay in motion unless acted upon etc. In this case the heavier the car is, the easier it would make it to keep the car moving forward while the higher gear ratio of low gears provided resistance to that forward motion. I worked on many Saturns at a Saturn dealership and push starting quite a few of them just for fun because hooking up a jump box may make it easier, and quicker but it's not as fun. We could push start an L series car in 1st gear, but the S series car had to be put in 2nd second. The L series was the midsize heavier car. The gear ratio for 1st gear in the S series was either 3.077:1 or 3:250:1 with a final drive of 4.063:1. The L series 1st gear ratio was 3.58:1 with a final drive of 3.084. So the S series had a 13.2:1 1st gear final drive ratio and the L series 1st gear final drive ratio was 11.04:1. The higher the number is, the easier it is for the engine to turn the wheels, but it is the opposite when you are using the drive wheels to turn the engine. A heavier vehicle would make a difference even if they both had the same gear ratio because it would carry more momentum to begin with.

Of course there's another variable that I forgot to mention in my first reply; if the battery didn't have sufficient voltage in it, then it would not have been able to power up the ECM, (engine control module), and the coils that are controlled by it would never have been activated to fire the spark plugs. That's an oversimplification.

zagrot (author)yrralguthrie2016-10-07

The clutch safety switch is only required to activate the starter motor. Otherwise anything that turns the engine fast enough to fire will work. That goes for this method and the time honored method of just pushing the car, hopping in, throwing it in gear and releasing the clutch. Granted, when I had to do this by myself I owned a '81 VW diesel rabbit, which is much lighter (and easier to push) than any modern car I could name off hand. It seemed to be easiest to push start in reverse -- which could be done at a walking pace.

dlebryk (author)yrralguthrie2016-10-06

Whoa - everybody went in left field on the question you are asking yrralguthrie. To run the starter motor, the clutch has to be depressed.

To start the car as described here, you only need the ignition on, you aren't running the starter motor. If you had to have the clutch depressed for the ignition to be on, the car would die in gear. Right?

tjdux (author)yrralguthrie2016-10-06

I assure you this isn't a fake way to start a car. It's saftey is debatable and depending on differential setup may be more complex than the author describes.

Roll starting a vechicle is easy and I have done it on over 20 different cars, trucks, atv, motorcycles, and even tractors.
m engine has a magneto ignition roll starting can be done without even having a battery hooked up.

This rope method will work as long as enough momentum can be built to overcome the internal forces of the engine.

itsmescotty (author)tjdux2016-10-06

I'm really curious, what car has a magneto anymore? Did you adapt an outboard engine?, I saw that done once in Turkey!

tjdux (author)itsmescotty2016-10-06

not cars but many atv and dirt bikes have magneto ignitions especially older ones.

scoley1 (author)yrralguthrie2016-10-06

So if thats true, how does your car drive down the street? The way displayed in this article. By passes the starting system. It is just rotating the tires as if you were driving rhe car. And as for your Saturn try 2nd gear and pop the clutch out. That just means once you are rolling down hill you let your foot slip off the chlutch this will cause the motor to turn over fast enough to start. The reason for using 2nd or even 3rd gear is the amount of torque it takes to turn the motor over is less in those gears. I have roll started cars and trucks of every size. It works.

DrJoMaVa (author)yrralguthrie2016-10-06

You're right that the clutch has to be pushed in before the starter motor will turn. However this technique is not engaging the starter motor.

carneeki (author)yrralguthrie2016-10-06

Think about what the clutch does. It disconnects the gearbox from the engine when the pedal is held down (depressed).

The author describes using the wheels to start moving the engine. When you do a hill start, you push the clutch back down to disconnect the engine from the gearbox so that the engine doesn't keep the car moving down hill at uncomfortable speed.

In your Saturn, in low gear at idle, the wheels wanted to spin faster than the engine. This is called engine braking and some trucks take advantage of this to prevent wear to the brakes.

Having the parking brake on will prevent the wheels from spinning (in most front wheel drive cars, the parking brake holds the back wheels still), and if something does go wrong, it will prevent the car from moving (usually just stall the car).

ThomasK19 (author)yrralguthrie2016-10-06

Charge your battery with the hand brake? Cool idea. LOL

ZeeshanZulfiqar (author)2016-10-07

does it works for the rear wheel powered vehicles too?

mrandle (author)ZeeshanZulfiqar2016-10-08

Yep, might be a bit harder to do but it should. I've seen it done on a Volkswagen beetle.

About This Instructable




Bio: Innovative Projects, Diy's, Life Hacks
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