Yesterday there were a ton of ants crawling out of some hole in my backseat. I sprayed the them to death.

This morning, when I try to start the ignition, my engine clicks a lot but won't turn over. I did some research and found that this is a symptom of a battery problem.

I checked my oil, transmission fluid, and did an outer visual inspection of the engines. I'm not a car person at all so I don't know what else to do. I don't see any ants anywhere but I find it too coincidental that right after I spray the hordes of ants in my backseat, the car doesn't start the next morning. I'm visualizing a ton of ants crawling around my inner engines..

What are next steps I need to take to troubleshoot and repair my car? I have a nissan 1999 maxima.

Would appreciate any help, thanks!

  • 5
    Is it possible that you left your car door open overnight, or left the dome light on overnight, after spraying the ants? Either (or both) might have been plenty to drain your battery down over twelve hours. Sep 21, 2015 at 21:21
  • I think the clue is when you say you sprayed the ants. What did you spray them with? Was it in any way water based? Could this have gotten into your cars wiring loom and caused a short which would subsequently drain your battery? Sep 22, 2015 at 9:24

3 Answers 3


Ants are unlikely to be the source of your issue. Your battery is filled with sulfuric acid, and that is sufficiently strong enough to completely dissolve any ants that made their way into your battery. Above that, your battery should be completely sealed. Also, even if the ants did manage to get into your engine: metal > ant.

This issue is more than likely a result of the fact that your battery has lost the ability to hold a charge; these car batteries do not last forever. However, like most things, the situation may not be this simple. It could be that the battery charging circuit has a fault such as a bad alternator. I would suggest either trying to get your hands on a car battery charger, or removing the battery and taking it to a local auto parts store for a health check. They will be able to tell you whether you need a new battery or not (and you can get one while you are there!).

  • 1
    As a side, chemists of yore used to boil ants to manufacture methanoic acid. But then again, sulfuric acid > methanoic acid.
    – Zaid
    Sep 22, 2015 at 2:08
  • Well I don't know why everyone says ants are impossible because guess what guys Interstate just had to warranty out a battery for me because it was full of ants..... Yep don't feel bad I have never seen anything like this before and it was a sealed, well maintenance free, battery at that. How in God's name did they get inside my battery??? Sep 27, 2020 at 22:18

First, check the cable connections between the battery post and the cable clamps, they have to be clean and tight. Is the battery 5 to 6 years old? To really understand this battery problem you'll need a volt meter, or DMM (digital multi meter). They're cheap, some stores even give them away with purchases. Set the meter to DC volts measure your battery. A fully charged battery will measure 12.7 V. If the voltage is down the best thing to do is charge it. Once it's charged the car will start as normal. Then take the volt meter and measure the battery with the engine running and it should be 13.8 to 14.2 Volts. This extra volt is the alternator keeping the battery charged. If the battery voltage doesn't go up with the engine running the alternator isn't working.


You say your engine "clicks a lot" but won't turn over. That doesn't sound like a battery problem. If you have a battery problem it will either make no noise at all, or try to turn over then get exhausted and give up. It sounds to me like you have a problem with the pinion on the starter motor. EDIT: according to the comments apparently this can happen with a flat battery.

TDHofstetter's comment that maybe you left the courtesty light on after killing the ants seems quite likely.

There is an easy way to check if the battery is the problem. Put the headlights on and have someone try to start the car. They should dim a little. If the headlights dim excessively, it's a battery problem. If they don't dim at all, it means power isn't reaching the starter motor. Even if it is a battery problem, you need to be sure if it was a damaged battery or simply that you left the lights on all night. Before you pay a garage, get someone to give you a jump start, go for a half hour drive to charge the battery, and see if the problem happens again.

The one thing it isn't, is ants. The ants were on the back seat, nowhere near the engine. I googled to see if the Nissan Maxima is one of those rare cars that has the battery in the back, but all the photos I got showed it in the usual place, in the engine compartment. So that's nowhere near the ants either.

  • 1
    Huh? On some of the older cars i've owned, on rare occasion the starter motor would click repeatadly when the battery was discharged without even sounding like it was turning over. It was only a small percentage of the time, but it certainly does happen.
    – James T
    Sep 22, 2015 at 7:51
  • 2
    @JamesTrotter is right, on cars I've had of similar age the starter solenoid would try to switch the starter on, but the current draw of the starter motor itself would cause the battery voltage to sag and the solenoid to disengage. At which point the cycle starts again. Click click. It's even mentioned on wikipedia.
    – Chris H
    Sep 22, 2015 at 8:17
  • Well, obviously from the comments this clicking thing does happen, but it's a new one for me, and I'm the kind of guy who left his lights on quite regularly (until cars started having warning alarms for this sort of thing.) It may be a regional thing - all my cars have been European or Ford Europe. (these days I like a diesel.) It seems to me a design flaw that the solenoid should be so weak that it denies the starter motor the opportunity to start the car. If it was to protect the battery from overdischarge, I'd understand, but there are better ways of doing that than having a repeated click. Sep 22, 2015 at 11:00
  • @steverill funny you should say ford because the car thats in mind was a ford fiesta registered in the year 2000.
    – James T
    Sep 22, 2015 at 12:05
  • @JamesTrotter I've had a few fiestas, both petrol and diesel, one which I bought for 150GBP. And they never did this clicking thing. Hmm. Sep 22, 2015 at 12:57

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