How to start my car
July 1, 2009 6:56 PM   Subscribe

Car repair filter....Car has been sitting for 18 months, anything special to do before I fire it up?

Hello, I have a 1998 Mercury Sable that hasn't been started for 18 months. I'm worried about engine damage when I start I for the first time, after so long that the oil is probably all settled in the oil pan. Also, I wonder if the gas is still good. Thank you!
posted by mikedelic to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have some jumper cables handy.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:13 PM on July 1, 2009

Check ALL the fluids. We lost a transmission once because all the transmission fluid had evaporated, and that was just over a couple of months (although in August, in Texas.)
posted by restless_nomad at 7:20 PM on July 1, 2009

Have some jump leads handy, and disconnect the spark plug leads first. Crank engine on the starter (it won't start, but that's the point) to allow the oil to redistribute itself all around the engine at a lower speed than idle. Even if the battery is good, all this will make it work harder, so start with the jump leads attached (you can leave them attached with the donor car running for a little while to help the battery a bit).

In addition, cycle the ignition on and off several times during all this to make sure the fuel rail is pressurised. Check all fluids (check for wet or previously wet patches below the car that may be a bad sign of things being empty now) - the only things that will evaporate in a car is coolant/water and petrol, so anything that has leaked out should have left a trail or sign. Check there isn't a bird nest in the air intake.

Then start it. If it doesn't go, check all the usual - spark, fuel supply, air etc.
posted by Brockles at 7:32 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

The gas probably isn't very good anymore, so have some sort of treatment handy.
Also, instead of cranking it over and letting it fire up, tap the key so it cranks but don't let it start all the way. Do that a couple times to get some oil in the system without subjecting the engine to the RPMs of actually running.
Be prepared: it will sound TERRIBLE for a few minutes and you'll wonder if something's wrong. Just let it warm up and its clattery noises should go away, once oil pressure is built up in the system.
Also, oil can oxidize so you might want to drain and refill before you start it up.
Take a look at your belt(s) too. They might be all cracked and dry rotted and they'll squeal at the very least.
Good luck!
posted by Jon-o at 7:32 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I "inherited" a Mercury Sable that a friend had left sitting for a year. Outside. Over an Illinois winter. It was not a great car for me, but it hadn't been a great car for him beforehand, just a constant string of minor failures.
Anyway, on first start, battery was very dead, gas was fine. Brakes were bad. One wheel in fact had locked up so that it didn't rotate/roll as I backed out of the parking place, but it popped free after a couple of feet. I drove directly to the nearest service station, did their "big oil change" that involves fluid topups, and they gave me the laundry list of what was wrong with the car. I think, other than the brakes and the fluid top-up, everything else that needed fixing was already wrong with it when it was parked.
I can't tell you much about possible engine issues, other than it wasn't a problem for me (12 months or so), but I think summer's a better time for it than snow-time. Go for it, and I hope you have a service station picked out to take it to.
posted by aimedwander at 7:38 PM on July 1, 2009

Seconding Jon-o - the gas is almost certainly bad unless you had the werewithal to put some stabilizer in it. Additionally, your battery is probably dead, and you'll need the security code to your radio if applicable. Before you drive off, check your brake fluid for water as well.
posted by squorch at 8:52 AM on July 2, 2009

Best answer: Ummmm... trans fluid does not evaporate....

Anyways, I am a mechanic.... If there is room in the gas tank, take a gas can and put in a gallon or five of fresh gas before starting. Check the oil level before you start it. If it's full, go ahead and start it up (you may need a jump start or possibly a new battery). Let her run for about 10 minutes before driving it. Be sure to check all fluid levels. Check the tire pressure before driving, and inspect them as well as the engine belt(s) and hoses for signs of dry-rotting/cracking.

Oil settles in the oil pan normally 5-6 hours after an engine is shut off. As long as there is oil in the motor, it won't harm the motor. Get the oil changed ASAP after starting it though, as oil can collect condensation from sitting for so long without being used at an engine's normal operating temperature.

If the car seems to run rough, it is possible that there is condensation in the gas tank. Get a bottle of "HEET" and add to the tank.
posted by peewinkle at 9:37 AM on July 2, 2009

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