My parents have a 2001 Pontiac Aztek that's been sitting for two years.
Apparently, before they stopped using it, there was an oil leak that caused starter problems (they couldn't find the leak), and they replaced it multiple times. And, the battery is as dead as dead gets...doesn't hold a charge to save its life.
Based on the first part, I would assume it's a starter problem, but articles like this one: https://www.championautoparts.com/Parts-Matter/automotive-repair-and-maintenance/Car-Wont-Start.html, make me think the blame lies squarely with the battery, because it does turn over without any clicking or weird noises.
However, it only turns over when hooked up to another car, but even after leaving it jumped for 30 minutes, it was still barely (slowly) turning over. The headlights are bright when I turn them on, while being jumped, but dim significantly when trying to start the car.
Electronics seem to work, and the only warning light I get is for the battery.
First question: should a car with a completely dead battery always start while being jumped if there are no other problems?
Second: can a starter or alternator go bad without any weird noises?
I got it started, woohoo! I replaced the battery (which was way more difficult than it should have been), and got the car started. However, the following things happened:
my first time turning the key, the car turned over and then stopped. I thought maybe the battery was low quality, so I jumped it.
Car clicked over and over without turning over.
Tried again, click, click, click, then nothing.
Fiddled with the jumper cables, tried again. The car started turning, then grinding, then smoke. Based on a quick search, it seemed the starter was gone.
Tried again, and after a few turns, it started! I was really excited, and thought it would start again, so I shut it off.
It didn't. I tried a few more times..more clicking, more turning off.
After maybe thre more tries, it started again. I reved the engine to hopefully clear air or old fuel from the lines. I took it out for a quick drive and gassed up a bit.
When I first started the car, a lot of really thick exhaust came out, but it seemed to clear up when I put more gas in it.
So, is this definitely a starter problem? Also, the starter was replaced recently before the car was parked. My sister told me the starter went out twice because of an oil leak that can't be pinpointed. Does this sound plausible?