How to start a car after a year of sitting


My daughter is considering buying our neighbor’s '98 Ford Contour that hasn’t been started in a year.

I am familiar with this situation in older cars but not sure how having fuel injection vs. a carburetor might change how we approach this.

Will draining the gas tank and adding fresh gas be enough? Obviously we will also have to either jump or replace the battery.

Is there anything else I should do to “prime” the engine so it will run?



I believe it was fuel injection, but I am not sure.  If it is FI that is not an issue, if carb, it may well require a rebuild.  

I would not drain the gas yet.  Usually one year, wile it is not good for the gas, is not enough to keep it from starting and running.  

I would try recharging the battery first. Then see if it needs to be replaced.  If you bring it into most auto parts stores they will check and maybe even recharge it for free.  If they say it is dead, just buy a new one and ask them if they can put it on a charger for a while before you bring it home. 

I would suggest removing the spark plugs adding a tablespoon of oil in each cylinder then slowly turn the engine over a couple of times.


Check tire pressure. Usually listed on a door pillar or inside the glove box. Change the oil and filter. Do not overfill the oil. Pull the spark plugs. Check for condition and re-gap if necessary. A shop manual will tell you this or call your parts dealer. They’ll tell you type of plug and gap. Either re-charge the battery or buy a new one and install. In any case, clean any corrosion off of the battery terminals and cables. Put about two or three gallons of fresh fuel in the tank. Start according to manufacturer’s recommendations. A lot of vehicles have this info on the passenger’s visor. After it starts, test the brakes. Just pump the pedal a couple of times. If all of this checks out, check all of the lights for proper operation. When you are sure that the vehicle seems safe, go for a short ride.


To fury66: After it has been started and you have taken it for a short ride, ask the present owner for permission to take it to a good, reputable mechanic. If it’s not presently registered/insured, you may be able to get a temporary paper plate to move it onto public thoroughfares. I believe that for a nominal fee, either your insurance company or your neighbor’s ins. will put that vehicle on an existing policy, again for a nominal fee. You’ll probably be better off getting the present title holder to do this as he/she is the present owner and it would be less complicated as to the paperwork. (Independent shop–not a dealer). He/she might charge a nominal fee for doing a thorough check-up, but it’s well worth it. Perhaps the owner might knock down some or all of the asking price for the ‘inspection’? In any case, keep the receipts for the oil, filter, battery charge, new battery, etc. If you decide NOT to buy the vehicle, ----well, make a deal.