Introduction: 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:

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

Step 2:

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

Step 3:

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

Step 4:

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.


I am very surprised at all the people badmouthing this excellent instructable that can help get you out of a bind. In no way was this method ever recommended as something to do routinely. It is being advertised as a last resort tactic. To the people who think the car is gong to lurch forward and kill the guy like it was "Maximum Overdrive", you obviously have no clue as to how a differential behaves when one wheel is lifted off the ground and you have probably never driven a manual transmission so you have no idea how easy it is to stall the engine. Surely this is tactic is not without risk but neither is ice-skating or parachuting and I don't think you'd be criticizing this guy if he was demonstrating those sports. I am grateful for having seen this. I doubt I will ever need to use this but it is good to know just in case.


I take it, you've never personally seen the results of a car coming off a jack and mutilating or killing someone. I have - I'm an Ambulance Paramedic - and it isn't a pretty sight. One of the worst deaths that can happen to a person is having a car come off it jack and fall on that person slowly crushing them to death. And given that anybody resorting to the described method would only be doing so because there was no one else around to give a helping hand, being trapped under a car that is slowly crushing you to death is a horrible way to die.

Those people badmouthing this instructiable are doing so because no matter how you try to persuade us otherwise, this is an extremely dangerous thing to be doing. It's that simple!! As for your analogy about ice skating or parachuting, those who do those sports have spent countless hours being instructed in what to do along with many hours of practising before being let loose on their own on the ice or stepping out of a plane.


If you are under this car when pulling the rope then you are not following the clear instructions that were given which in no way involve being under the car at any time. I grant you that there is some inherent risk in using this method but the risk can be mitigated quite easily by chocking the rear wheels. You are overstating when you claim this to be "extremely dangerous". Caution should be taken for sure but it is not deep fried death on a stick like many are portraying it to be.


"Deep fried death on a stick" I think this is my new favorite saying.


As I said, I'm an Ambulance Paramedic. Every day I deal with the unintended results of supposedly only slightly risky situations and actions. The point here is that anybody contemplating using this method would be untrained and inexperienced. Even if someone followed the instructions precisely as detailed, there is no guarantee of a safe outcome. One factor that has not been mentioned is if the transmission is in third gear, a huge force is still needed to be applied to the wheel in order to get it to turn. Stop for a moment and think about what happens with the rope after it comes off the wheel. There is so much energy created in that rope due to the force being applied to turn the wheel that once it's free of the wheel, inevitably the end of that rope is going to whip around and strike something, in all likelihood the person pulling the rope. End result: someone horribly maimed or killed. So if the car falling off its jack doesn't get you, the whipping end of the rope will. Just ask any 4wd car owner why they don't stand near the cable when they're using their vehicle's winch So no, I'm not being alarmist in describing this action as extremely dangerous. As I said, I deal with the results of such supposedly "low risk" actions every day of the week and I've seen what happens as a result,


First of all, you are being an alarmist. Just exactly how much force do you think in in a whipping rope pulled by a man VS a snapping steel cable that was supporting the weight of an entire vehicle. Sounds like you have some PTSD from seeing some horrible stuff. I get that and thanks for doing what you do...but you're wrong. I have come up with a solution for you. Cock the front wheels so that you can wind the rope in such a way as to be behind the front wheel and off to the side of the car when you are pulling the rope. This way, if the car comes off the jack (much less likely since you are introducing more of a side load and the jack/car is much more stable under that kind of load) and the car lurches forward, you are out of the path of the car. It will be traveling away from you. Problem solved. Couldn't have done it without you. Thanks for the help.


No I don't have PTSD. As I have said several times, I am an Ambulance Paramedic. As part of my job, I am also a senior training officer. Everything I've said is unequivocally backed up by thousands of hours real life experience. Now I'm not wanting to sound rude or arrogant but everything you've said is purely theoretical, whereas everything I've said is based on real life situations and experience. Irregardless of whether the force being applied to a jack is that of a downward load or a side force, no jack is stable simply because by dint of the nature of their design the base has only a very small footprint area [no more than a few square inches in most cases] whilst the lift head is even smaller in area and is usually only held in situ by a thin easily twisted strip of metal projecting down from the bottom of the vehicles sill [box] section. If you peruse any vehicle owners instruction book, you'll find very prominent warnings about just how unstable jacks are.Those warning are there for a reason. So why are vehicles still equipped with such unstable and dangerous devices by their makers? Simple, such devices are cheap to manufacture, weigh very little and are compact and take up very little luggage/load space.

Chris W.J (author)mamod2016-10-11

Mamod, actually how many Ambulance calls have you personally taken as a result of a car falling on someone from starting it with a rope? My guess would be zero. I have not found any direct accidents relating to this instructable.

mamod (author)Chris W.J2016-10-11

I love it when people who don't know what experiences I've had or what accident data I have access to as part of my job, try to infer that I don't have the experience or knowledge that I say I have. And since you have obviously already decided you don't believe anything I've said it would be rather pointless to answer your "question" as it's unlikely you'd believe it anyway.


I apologize. I had no idea that you had real world experience with mishaps involving people getting hurt attempting to start their car in this manner. So it appears you are saying you would voice the same objections if someone posted an instructable on how to change a tire using the factory supplied jack since they are such dangerous death machines? Where is Ralph Nader when you need him? Thank you for this life saving information you have supplied us all. Next time I am stranded with a flat tire I will make sure not to change it and I will just wait for a professional to happen upon me to change my tire rather than expose myself to the mortal peril that is involved in such a task.


Whatever action you decide to take is entirely up to you. However if you do embark on a particular coarse of action after having been informed of all the associated dangers involved in doing so and you subsequently do injure yourself you have only yourself to blame, nor should you expect someone else to come along and help you out of the situation you've created for yourself. As for the safety aspects of using a car jack, suggest you do some research on the web and find out how many people are injured or killed each year from jacks slipping or collapsing. I think you'll be quite shocked. And next time you do use a roadside assistance service to come change your flat tyre, note what they use to jack the vehicle up with. Hint: it's not a car jack, itll be either a garage type hydraulic floor jack or an inflatable air bag type. And why? because they've been proven to be reliable and safe. The same cannot be said of the standard car jack!!

moon161 (author)mamod2016-10-07

In this case we're talking about a rope with maybe 100 lb force in it. Take care to not wrap it around an extremity or your neck, and you most likely won't be Isadora Duncan. I acknowledge nothing here is risk free, but consider that your sample is biased, because nobody calls you when things go right.

mamod (author)moon1612016-10-09

I learnt long ago that people do not like being told that certain outcomes could occur as a result of someone's own actions.Most people will go to great lengths to discount such warnings or refuse to heed or acknowledge the documented outcomes of such activities; and indeed we've seen numerous examples of just that on this very discussion with some posters labeling other posters as being alarmist or negative nellies and the like. Just because I've detailed some possible outcomes if someone tries this technique doesn't make anything I say biased. All I'm doing is speaking from experience and data accumulated over many years. It makes no difference to me whether you heed what I say or not.

I've also learnt over time that it is often those same people who accuse others of being negative or alarmist who end up going out and having an accident or seriously injuring themselves and then afterwards say why wasn't I told of the potential dangers or you could've at least warned me.


I learnt a long time ago that some people think they are authority figures. They like to lord their self proclaimed expert knowledge over others for self gratification and due to a feeling of self importance and righteousness . They will go to great lengths to defend their expert knowledge status to the point of exaggerating their own experiences and misreporting statistics or using statistics that are not related to the argument at hand. I do not dispute that scissor jacks lack stability. I do not dispute that cars can and do fall off these jacks. I do dispute that the result of your car falling off the jack when used in this manner will lead to serious injury, especially if precautions I mentioned before are taken. I am all for healthy warnings but what has occurred on this post and what you have been supporting (in my opinion) is a complete overreaction to and overestimation of the "danger" involved in performing this self-rescue skill. Certainly this is not a risk free activity but knowing the nature of the risks and taking steps to mitigate these risks can allow someone to do this with an acceptable level of safety.

Please note that I tried to let this die by not replying to your previous post but your last post unfortunately demanded a reply. I suggest we let this die now.

Good day


Your response simply confirms what I've learned about people over the years. You don't like what I've said so you label me as someone who thinks they're an authority figure using their self proclaimed expert knowledge to lord it over others. Your response is quite childish.

felipelicon (author)mamod2016-10-09

Based of that logic I should never ride my motorcycle. People should never stay out of home and you should not leave home without a helmet. This method is not as bad as you think it is. Yes, you see horrible things and I appreciate your profession , however you cannot factor in the human error all the time. This method has certain risks, but if you are doing this with a small car, with hand break applied, and rock or wedge in from of rear tires, then is not that risky if you are smart about it. Thanks for the safety input, at least it can make think people think about it. Keep up the good work buddy.

KenC7 (author)mamod2016-10-06

He did say to set the parking brakes. That almost always means locking the rear wheels. (I've heard of, but never seen, a system where the parking brake worked on other wheels.) So, if the car came off the jack, it would have either been because the parking brake didn't work properly, or because the person pulling the rope applied enough force to drag the rear wheels across the ground without them turning. That seems pretty far fetched.

nstvstv (author)KenC72016-10-07

Lots of post war Citroens, and the more recent ones often have those crazy electric parking brakes.

ul9601 (author)nstvstv2016-10-07

post-war? crazy electric parking brake? I don't think you know what you are taking about... name a few pls?

nstvstv (author)ul96012016-10-08

My C4 Grand Picasso has an electrically deactivated parking brake, look on any citroen owners site and judge from the number of questions and problems how stupid an idea they are.
Extract from C4 advertising:
"Automatic electric parking brake (standard)

The automatic electric, parking brake, which is fitted as standard with all gearbox versions, improves both comfort and safety. The brake is automatically applied when the engine stops. An ECU works with the ESP to calculate the force required to immobilise the vehicle depending on the gradient of the road. The system includes a continuous monitoring function to readjust the brakeforce when, for example, the vehicle is loaded on a slope or the temperature changes significantly. The parking brake is automatically released as soon as the torque applied to the drive wheels is sufficient to move the vehicle forwards."
If the engine won't start the brake has to be released manually, I'll leave you to look that procedure up yourself.
I don't think it was citroen who started this on cars, BMW and Audi had a version before Citroen I think. It's now becoming quite common.
I suppose it's only a step on from the brake coming on when you put an automatic in Park.
I prefer the manually operated parking break, just as I prefer the manual gearbox, in my little Citroen AX.
Alfa sud had front wheel handbrake, SAAB have used it ,and again some citroens on the drive shafts. Our old SEAT, that looked like a Peugeot 404 or Austin Cambridge, had handbrake on the prop shaft.
Any variation on a design has probably been tried somewhere.

ul9601 (author)nstvstv2016-10-08

The term "post-war" normally means "after the second world war" - you'd have had to wait a few decades for the first vehicle with an electric parking brake... It is a feature with a questionable benefit and yes, I do have a car equipped with one. Most Citroens have parking brakes applied to the front wheels, which makes more sense for emergency purposes as well as parking situation. Prop shaft parking brake is only good for parking and nothing but parking. As for stupid ideas, anything that you can't get yourself out of trouble without simple handtools is stupid - is EFI stupid? only if it's broken. same with ABS brakes, electric windows, power steering - you name it, it's stupid.

nstvstv (author)ul96012016-10-09

Which is why I said more recent ones, and mentioned other manufacturers when referring to electric brakes. And gave examples of other cars from other manufacturers with parking brakes on the front wheels, some at the hub, some inboard, as you asked.
My little AX has conventional rear handbrake, and no modern features at all. No central locking, no EMU, just a normally aspirated, mechanical injectors, diesel. It only has single wipers front and back. (Doesn't have the hydraulic suspension either, but I quite liked that on the BXs I've had.) The only reason I don't use it so often now is our age and increasing girth is making getting in and out a bit more difficult. I keep it for a spare, because it's so cheap to run ( 65 miles per imperial gallon, 4.4 litres per 100kms) and easy to maintain, and I have snow chains for the rare times we have enough snow to require them. It's worth less than a set of tyres for the C4 anyway.


I agree it's been a good instructable in exposing ignorance and provoking discussion, but some of the added cautions are valid, including
Make sure its not a limited slip diff
Make sure the secondary brakes are not on the same axle as the driven wheels
(Make sure you know how to release the electric parking brake manually if you have a modern Citroen)
Only one of my 3 vehicles meet these criteria, none of them automatic.


The biggest safety concern would be to rock the car off the jack - then regardless of the knowledge of vehicle mechanics, you will get run over (or someone else).

I would recommend chocking the rear tires at minimum along with the jacking.

Just my opinion, but still a cool idea.

KenC7 (author)JTracker2016-10-06

If you have the parking brake set, how much extra would chocking the wheels be? On my cars and truck, if the parking brake is set, you're not going forward (you might go backward, because of the way drum brakes work). I've had a rear brake locked on my truck. I could only go backward, even in 4wd, and barely even backward. OTOH, if I chock two of the wheels, unless it's a big chock, I can just drive over them if I give it enough gas. I've done that plenty of times - put bricks under the wheels as a chock, forget it's there, drive forward after the repair, 'what the heck was that' as I drive forward running over the brick.


Agree about chocking the rear tires but it would most likely stall if it fell off the jack.

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????

About This Instructable




Bio: Innovative Projects, Diy's, Life Hacks
More by ShakeTheFuture:3 Things You Can Make From Roll-On Deodorant BottlesFidget Spinner Made From a PVC PipeAwesome Gadget for Pringles Fans
Add instructable to: