A Hybrid Car Dead Battery Is Not As Complicated A Situation As One Might Think

April 24, 2019

Just like regular gasoline cars, not all hybrid systems are created equal and this includes their batteries. Jump-starting any car is dangerous if you do not know what you are doing.

In general, most hybrid vehicles can be jump-started just like a regular car with a conventional gas engine. However, the unusual layout of many hybrids’ powertrains can cause some confusion.


  • Powertrains are not standardized across the hybrid auto industry, there are variations across brands and even within the same brand over model year redesigns.
  • Many hybrid cars have more than one battery, and they might not be located where you expect them to be.
  • Some hybrid cars do need a trip to the dealership if the battery dies.
  • Some new hybrid models can jump-start themselves.

Most hybrid models have two distinct batteries:

  • The main high-voltage battery in the powertrain, which takes over when the car is not using its gasoline engine or runs in tandem with the gas engine for better efficiency.
  • A smaller 12-volt battery tasked primarily with starting the vehicle, which can be located under the hood but is often located in the trunk.

The presence of a hybrid’s high-voltage battery pack is most likely why some people believe it is unsafe or impossible to jump-start a hybrid, but those batteries should be distinctive from the smaller, more conventional 12-volt battery used for starting the car. A hybrid battery pack should be sealed, to prevent electric shocks caused by accidental contact, and should be marked with warning labels. Be extra careful to ensure you are working with the correct battery.

Both of those batteries can drain. If you are having battery trouble, you will have to determine which battery is the source of your problems. If your hybrid car will not start, and jump-starting does not work, you will need a mechanic to look at the main hybrid battery.

Some vehicles feature a jump-start terminal under the hood, which you should use instead of the 12-volt battery. Once you have located this terminal, the steps to jump-start the hybrid are pretty much the same as jumping any other car.

By the way, if you need to use a hybrid car to jump-start another car, the smaller 12-volt battery is what you will need to use. In a lot of hybrids, it is located in the trunk instead of under the hood, and the terminals should be marked with plus (+) and minus (-) posts like the battery of a regular car. If you do not find the battery in the trunk, or see marked terminals for jump-starting, check your owner’s manual.

So far, we have been careful to say that “most” regular cars have a 12-volt battery responsible for starting duty. That is because until 2017, every modern car had such a battery, according to Car and Driver. Instead of the 12-volt battery, some have opted for a lithium-ion battery located next to the main hybrid battery.

Some hybrids are capable of starting themselves, they cannot be traditionally jump-started, nor can they be used to jump-start another car. If the starter battery dies, a switch inside the car, labeled “12V Batt Reset,” pulls enough current from the main hybrid battery to jump the starter battery. In addition to the convenience, the lithium-ion starter battery is 26 pounds (nearly 12 kilograms) lighter than a regular 12-volt starter battery, which helps make these vehicles more efficient.

If you own a hybrid car, your best bet is to familiarize yourself with the jump-starting options and procedures for your make and model before you actually need them. Your owner’s manual is always a good source for this kind of information. You also can contact your dealership’s service department or the manufacturer’s customer service. If you don’t know what you’re doing in an emergency, call a roadside assistance service. That will keep you from getting hurt and not cause permanent damage to your hybrid car’s complicated powertrain.

Threewitt, Cherise. (2018). “Can You Jump-start a Hybrid Car?” Retrieved from

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