Does it sound like a bad battery, starter, or both?

First, let me admit that I’m probably going to Hell for not running an old 1997 Lincoln Town Car for about 2 years, and just letting it sit in the driveway.

That said, here’s the deal. As mentioned, the car has not been run (or even started) for about 2 years. It was used daily up until then. I bought it for a whopping $1 from my previous employer and it ran just fine, but needed a few other things done to it. I bought it as a tinkering project. I tried to start and run it at least a few times a month. Up until a couple years ago.

So now I have someone interested in paying me $700 for it. (Yes, that would be 700x what I paid for it so I figure, what an great return on my money!)

I went to it a few days ago and obviously it was totally dead. I expected that. The battery has been hooked up all this time. The battery is about 4 years old, with an 84-month warranty, but I have a feeling the sitting for 2 years probably did a number on it. I initially tried to charge it with a charger (about 30 hours at a 2amp charge), and it looks like it’s holding somewhat of a charge, but when I try to turn it over, I don’t even get a click of the starter. Haven’t looked at the headlights while I do it. The dome lights are on when I open the door, and the digital dash comes on, so the battery is not dead.

I did disconnect the battery and jumper another car to the dead car’s electrical system using the wires that went to the battery. The dome lights were then much brighter. When I turned the key, I could then hear the solenoid in the starter click but no turning over. One other variable - I had disconnected the starter about 6 months ago with the idea of possibly using it as a spare part, but decided not to, since it’s very rusty and I have no idea how old it is. I re-connected it a couple days ago.

So in my mind, I’m thinking I probably need a new battery, and either have a bad connection at the hot battery terminal of the starter (which I also see corrosion on the braided wire going into the starter), or the starter for some reason took this opportunity to also go out. Like I say, it worked fine up until I stopped starting the car. And I never had an issue with it starting before that.

So my question is do you think I need a battery and starter? (Maybe some other variable to check?) Would just aging cause the corrosion on the starter to deteriorate? I don’t mind putting $150 into the repair but before I put much more into it, I’ll just donate it to a charity.

By the way, I do see 12 volts at the always-hot lead of the starter so wiring seems ok.


A USED battery that old and that sat around for two years is junk.

Get a new battery and let’s go from there.


Sitting for two years will leave the best of batteries in questionable condition.

swap the battery out of the other car. don’t waste money buying a battery at this point. re check the connections. both at the battery, and the starter. You mention corrosion. start there. if the other cars battery solves the problem, buy a new battery (for your car) give the old one with the TC. If the battery swap doesnt fix it, then it is up to you to decide how much more you’re going to pour into this for 700 bucks. Do you like this potential purchaser?

btw, it is possible the starter bendix has just frozen up after all this time of inactivity. If the battery and connections are fine, remove the starter, and manipulate the bendix by hand to ensure it moves freely, and spring returns to home.

Last month I faced the identical problem – starting a car that just sat for two years. After charging the battery (so I thought), the car cranked but too slow to start.

I swapped in a battery from another car. It cranked strongly for a while and then the engine roared to life. Bingo! I did the happy dance. Try it.

It’s likely the battery doesn’t have enough cranking amps left or has a dead cell. Another thing to consider if you keep the car, is that if it had gas in the tank it’s likely gummed up the fuel pump and it may go out soon after starting to use the car again. I had this happen on a car I let sit for an extended amount of time, so your $1. car may turn into a money pit. I think I’d take the $700. offer.

A fully charged battery will read at least 12.6 volts. A battery that has 12 volts is considered 75% discharged.

Put another battery in it.