Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

I got a jump and then the car shut down

I got a nice old Toyota. Let’s say its a 88 Corolla, with about 215K on it. It was running well until the other day. The car was sitting outside during a rainstorm and when I hopped in, it wouldn’t start. I’d love to hear what you guys suggest looking at based on the following clues, which are listed in the order they were observed:

  1. Key in ignition doesn’t create any noise or try to turn over
  2. Battery is jumpable
  3. Car engine stopped after being jumped. Actually, after I put my foot on the brake pedal.
  4. Battery ceases to be jumpable.
  5. If I wait a half an hour, battery makes indications that it is operable - ie engine lite works, or buzzing noise is made when door is ajar.
  6. There is still no turn over noise.
  7. Battery is not jumpable.
  8. Maybe some smoke came out of the battery while I was trying to jump it.

In the past few weeks of driving I have rarely parked out doors in rainy conditions, although I drove plenty in the rain. (I am in the Pac NW).

I’d be happy to hear hints on the main source of the problem and what to look into. I am told the battery is new and the alternator was likely replaced recently, but there is no receipts for me to validate that.


When you hear hoofbeats, think horses and not zebras. There are a number of possible causes, but instead of coming up with possible scenarios I’ll just provide the most likely cause. You have a bad alternator or battery or both.

The battery is new? NEW stands for Never Ever Worked. But seriously, what you think and what you have been told isn’t really relevant. Testing and the results of that testing will lead you to the answer. The battery needs to be charged and tested. After that the charging system needs to be tested. Not just the alternator, but the cables, fuses, connections, etc.

The rain and the outdoor temperature have little or nothing to do with your problem.

@asemaster is correct. Battery needs testing first. Battery cables and connections need to be clean and tight. Old car, no after market battery posts. Batteries can short internally and make them just huge boat anchors.

I had a string of bad batteries. Luckily, they had warranties, including free replacement on two of them. The other was into the pro-rated portion and a replacement cost me $35. ‘New’ doesn’t mean good. @asemaster gave you spot-on advise.

Make mine another vote to start by testing the battery and charging system.
As usual, the guys above have given you excellent guidance. Let us know how you make out.

By the way, re: item 5, it takes almost no power to run the warning lights and the buzzer. It takes far, far more to start the engine. Do not interpret the warning lights illuminating or the buzzer buzzing as being an indication that the battery is “operable”.

Just for some info I agree with the same mountainbike…I did some tests on my 89 Mustang GT as far as starter current with a clip on meter that measure the peak starting current and average current of the starter motor…I did this with the ignition disabled…The initial start current was almost 400 amps. Once the starter started turning it averaged 150 amps pull from the battery.

A bad battery will run your headlights etc, but if it cannot deliver the initial starting current it will not engage the starter. Thats why they rate batteries in cold cranking amps. Most car batteries usually have a capacity of 50 to 60 amp hours…and cold CCA of 500 and above.

I also tried this on my lawn tractor with a 30AH battery…initial surge was about 185 amps and then 70 amps being pulled while cranking. This battery has a 275 CCA. If the battery gets old and cannot deliver the initial 185 amps to get the starter won’t turn. Its called surge current.

“When you hear hoofbeats, think horses and not zebras”

Says it all. I sold a car with a year old battery. The car sat most of the time and the battery was so shot it wouldn’t take a charge enough to even power the lights. It was a WM battery with a 3 year warranty that they finally replaced. I thought it was new too.

One day my Corolla wouldn’t start after filling up at a gas station. A rainy day, first cold day of the season. Not only wouldn’t it start, it wouldn’t crank, and when I tried to crank it all the dash lights would go dim and then out. The problem turned out to be the battery cables were loose.

That said, if a simple cleaning tightening of the battery cables doesn’t bring life back into the old beast, a load test on the battery would be next on the agenda.