Car's Been Sitting for 1.5 Years

Hello. I’ve neglected a car in my garage for over a year and a half. Mice have been hanging out in there, tires are flat, all that fun stuff. About to install new battery. Are there any particular steps I should take in starting it the first time (time to to let the engine run, etc.)? Thanks in advance.

Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind is checking the level of the oil before starting the engine. However, you neglected to tell us the model year, the engine type, or the odometer mileage of this Camry, if it has a timing belt, and if that belt is more than 8 years old (including the time that it has been sitting).

If the timing belt is more than 8 years old, I would suggest that you not even attempt to start the engine. Have it towed to an independent mechanic’s shop for replacement of the belt, the tensioners, and the water pump.

Depending on the age of the car, it might also be wise to change the coolant and the brake fluid before driving it.

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Why has it sat for 1.5 yrs? Any issues you are neglecting to mention?

Agree with @VDCdriver

I would add, the car need fresh gas. If it has a mostly empty tank, add at least 5 gallons. If the tank is full, you need to drain out the fuel and put in fresh.

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I would disable the fuel pump or the ignition and turn the engine over with the starter motor in a few short bursts. That’ll get oil circulating. Then let it start and run for a few minutes.

Thank you. It’s an '07 Camry. New to this site. Thought it was in my profile. What you stated seems like the right way to go, but I’m not sure I can swing it.

To the best of my recollection, the 4-cylinder engine uses a timing chain, and the V-6 uses a timing belt, but this should be verified with your mechanic. Which engine does your Camry have?

No. I’m used to driving my truck and I had recently purchased this car ('07 Camry) and was doing some cosmetic damage, so I grounded it in the garage for a month. Well, I accidentally popped the trunk with the key-fob and the battery drained. Couldn’t unfreeze the locks, so I couldn’t get in. Just said screw it and let it sit. Bad move.

V-6. So the belt might be rotted?

Hadn’t considered that. Thank you. I never did add stabilizer. Oops.

Draining the old fuel and disposing of it might be a problem in your area . If you know of a good trust worthy shop ask them what they would charge to look at this thing and tell you if you should put money in it . The things that it needs ( damage from the mice - drain and fill with fresh fuel - possibly clear clogged fuel lines - New tires - new coolant - new brake fluid - fresh oil and filter - new battery ) these could easily reach 1000.00 to 1500.00 .

Plus have you kept the registration up to date ? If not there may be penalty’s involved .

I’m in upstate NY and I’m sure the DMV will penalize me for that. But yeah, if I put in some fresh gas I’d like to be able to at least get it too the shop.

Nope, no penalty.

If you are going to send this to a shop why not just have it towed there ? That way the shop can make sure that there will now damage by trying to start it .

How old is it–including the “sitting” time?
Most mfrs specify about 8 years for the change interval, simply because after that length of time, a timing belt can snap, with no warning whatsoever.

Even if it looks okay to the naked eye, an old belt is a threat to your engine’s internal parts if it is of the “interference” type. Some Toyota V-6s are “interference” engines, and others are not. Check with your mechanic for specifics.

Don’t be dumping a lot money in this vehicle unless you know it’s running right.

At this point, installing new tires, coolant, brake fluid, oil/filter would be a waste of money if the tranny crapped out a week from now.


I’m a little more risk tolerant. Cars sit on dealer lots for quite a while after all and a year and a half isn’t that long. My main concern would be if the fuel has soured or not. If you could get a sample and smell it, that would help. Mice? That could be a big wiring issue. Then battery, crank it a little, some fresh petrol, and fire it up to see what happens. Might run very rough for a while.

Just thinking when I bought my Corvair many moons ago it had been sitting in a field for a long time. It fired up and ran enough to drive it the ten miles home for further attention.

The V6 uses a timing chain.

After 1.5 years, you may or may not need to check for rust in the cylinders. If you decide to, remove the spark plugs, disable the fuel pump (remove fuse) and the starter. The rings will score the cylinders if there is rust when using the starter. It has plenty of power to rip the rust off and damage the cylinders. Remove the plugs, and put some oil in the cylinders. Let it sit overnight, then use a socket wrench to turn the crankshaft. If you feel any resistance, stop immediately and rotate the crank backwards a little, then forward a little. Repeat until the crankshaft turns easily. Then you can reinstall the plugs, hook up the starter, and put the fuel pump fuse back in and try to start it.

It’s an '07 Camry w/ 80k miles. Had 1/4 tank and filled the rest with fresh fuel. She turned right over and everything sounded alright. Exhaust smelled funky, but I think I might alright.

Thanks. I’ll look into that.