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Car won't start after months of not using


Hi CarTalk community,

I have a 2003 BMW 325i which I got a new battery installed into my car. Then I was out of town for 5 months without driving the car and when I go to start the car it won’t start. Even somethings like clicking the unlock button on my car key won’t work, so I manually have to put the car key in the door to unlock it. This leads me to think the battery is dead after not being used.

Today I tried to jump my car and and it seems like it was charging because the inside lights and the doors would lock/unlock from the key fob. So when I turned the key in the ignition it started to make some clicks (before jumping there were no clicks at all). I gave it 5 more minutes and tried to start it again and this time it made less clicks(maybe 1) and the lights in the car inside the car stopped working. I am guessing the battery didn’t have enough charge after trying to jump it a second time. During this process, I definitely let my car connected to the donor car for around ~20 minutes.

Any ideas what could be going wrong? Does this sound like a battery issue or could it be something else? What would be the best next steps to take?

Thanks in advance!

Yes, it will take 8 to 12 hours to recharge the battery. Your car battery is many times larger than your telephone battery, you don’t expect your phone battery to charge in 20 minutes.

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Are you jumping it off a car that’s running?

Definitely recharge the battery which should take overnight. Did the battery ever freeze? I wouldn’t be surprised if the battery cannot be recovered.

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Somehow I suspect the best, quickest way of getting this problem resolved it to buy a new battery. Yes, I know you just bought one 5 months ago. But leaving a battery, even a new one, to discharge over 5 months wasn’t a good idea.


5 months ??? Yeah the battery is completely dead .

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I would hook up a battery charger on slow charge for overnight or longer. The battery may be good enough then, but it possibly has lost some capacity and longevity.

I would try:
Clean your battery terminals
Charge your battery, more than for just a few minutes.
Then try starting it.

Charging a completely dead battery is tough on your alternator (or the alternator of the donor car). As others have said, it would be best to charge the battery with a battery charger in this case.

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I agree but you need a battery charger, not jumping it from another car. Hopefully the battery is still ok after sitting dead for a while but needs to be fully charges. Given that it is a BMW, you can’t just put a new battery in without going through the install procedure or so it seems.

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My pickup has sat around unstarted longer than this without discharging the battery (it was disconnected.) Buy a jump starter outboard battery.