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My mom's 2001 Sienna won't start. When I try to start the car, I get a very rapid clicking noise. The lights are very dim; in fact, the dashboard lights flicker constantly and are almost going out.

I'm a noob to automobiles, so I'm not sure what to look for. I tried looking at the positive battery terminal; it seemed pretty firm/tight. There was some greenish crystaline stuff around the terminal; not sure what that was.

For sure, there's a problem with the power; but is it the battery, or something else? And what's that green stuff on the battery terminal? Should I try jump-starting it?

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Is the terminal you found part of the actual battery, or is this a "jump start" terminal that just has wires attached to it? – Move More Comments Link To Top Nov 12 '11 at 23:12
@Larry it's the positive terminal of the battery. – ashes999 Nov 12 '11 at 23:47
up vote 4 down vote accepted

99% of the time, the symptoms that you describe are a dead or dying battery. Charging the battery or jumpstarting the car should work.

The 'green stuff' is caused by the terminal oxidising - it's not good to have it on there but I doubt it'll affect the connection enough to make the battery unusable. Often, carefully pouring hot water over it will dissolve it, but depending on your outside temperatures I'd be careful with that.

The battery should have two terminals so good luck find the other one...

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This is exactly the problem. I did jump-start the car, but the battery died again. Cheers. – ashes999 Nov 12 '11 at 23:48
@ashes999 you may have a draw, the alternator may not be charging, or it may be a bad battery. See my answer here to check the battery. You can also check the charging system by jumping off the car and checking the voltage across the battery, if the charging system is working it should be in the 13 - 14 volt range with the engine running – Move More Comments Link To Top Nov 13 '11 at 0:21
@Larry I don't have the tools or knowledge for that. I will probably take it to a garage. – ashes999 Nov 13 '11 at 0:31

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