My car died!

The last time I drove my car (98 Buick Century), for the first minute or two it was shaking and bouncing, and the check engine light was blinking on and off. This went away fairly quickly (by the time I was about a block away from my house). The only thing that continued was the check engine light stayed on (it blinked a few more times and then stayed constant). The car drove normally the rest of the way to the grocery store and back. The next day I tried to start the car, and all that happened was: the dashboard lights all came on for an instant, and then with a “click” everything turned off. The engine did nothing as far as I could tell. Since then every time I turn the key nothing happens except a faint “click, click, click” and the airbag light is on (faintly). Nothing else. What happened? Do you think if we get a jump we might be able to drive it to a mechanic? Or do we need to be towed?

The first thing to do is clean the battery connections to see if that clears the trouble. If there still is a problem then make sure the battery has a good charge on it. When you get it running have the charging system load tested to check the condition of it. If you have a good battery and things still won’t run then check the ignition switch for proper operation.

First off. If the check engine light is blinking, the only proper response is to pull over to the side of the road and turn the engine off. A blinking check engine light means “serious problem,” and if you don’t shut the engine off until it can be looked at, you might be in for a very large repair bill. A blinking check engine light generally means a significant misfire that is dumping raw fuel into the exhaust header. This can do all sorts of damage.

I suspect you may have a number of problems at work here. The dead battery may or may not be related to the check engine light. What you need to do now is have the car’s stored troublecodes read. Autozone does that for free, if you can get it there. Otherwise, have it towed to a mechanic.