Dead battery sounds/then slow cranking/then car starts, in cold-ish weather

When I first turn the key, the car makes clicking sounds for a few seconds as though there were a dead battery. Then it goes silent for a few seconds, and slowly starts turning over. This speeds up a little at a time, and by maybe 30 seconds the engine catches and runs fine. After this, the car also has other ‘post-dead-battery symptoms’ - a reset digital clock and radio station presets.

Does anyone have an idea what might cause this?

It only seems to be a problem when I’m in weather that gets near freezing, say 35F degrees. On a night where the temperature

stays at 45F or higher, it’s not a problem.

Thanks for any ideas you’ve got!

Have the battery and the charging system tested. You don’t mention year, make, or model, but if your car is more than a few years old you may have a dying battery.

Loose or dirty cable connections at the battery, starter, or ground could also be contributing to the problem.

Sure sounds like a dead, or near-dead battery, though.

If the battery is low enough that the radio presets are lost I’m surprised it will still start the engine. Investigate the electrical connections closely.

This problem could be caused from poor battery terminal connections.

Remove both cables from the battery, negative first, and make sure the post/cables are clean. Reconnect the cables, positive first, and make sure the battery cables are tightly attached to the battery.


Thanks for the quick responses!

The car is a 93 Nissan Maxima DOHC…however the battery is relatively new. It’s a Costco Kirkland battery, manufactured in May 2006 and installed that August.

The cables appear to be in good condition with solid connections. There’s virtually no corrosion on the terminals. I figured the radio presets are lost because of the extended (30+ seconds) period of time where power is switched to the starter while I hold the key in starting position.

That 30 seconds is the part that really confuses me because as the seconds tick by, it seems like the power output of battery goes up and up. Either that, or the effort required for the starter to crank the engine goes down and down.

I guess other relevant information is that the car only has this starting problem if it’s been sitting in the cold, shut off, for several hours.

Hopefully, it’s just bad battery connections – you can’t tell anything by looking at them. Get a $1.99 battery terminal cleaner brush and clean and re-tighten them.

This almost has to be a loose connection either at the battery or the ground strap. You need to make sure both ends of the wires coning from the battery are clean and tight. Just because the connection is solid on the battery doesn’t mean the other end of that wire is solid. Corrosion can build up between the battery post and the connector, also. That is why there are wire brushes made to clean those.

The loose connection causes heat to build up as the starter tries to draw current, as the connector gets warmer it gets bigger and makes a tighter connection, but then the current goes up and heats the connection some more, and eventually it gets tight enough to start the car.

I suggest you have the charging system and battery checked out. The battery appears to have a low charge on it and this could be due to a problem with the charging system. Check the alternator connections for any signs of trouble and the belt tension. If you have a voltmeter check to see if the voltage at the battery is between 12.8 to 14.8 volts while the engine is running at around 2,000 RPM.