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Got a 1998 Toyota Camry that has an empty battery and am wondering what the best course of action is.

I have a battery charger that I am thinking of using but it's currently inconvenient to do.

My question is: If I just jump start the car and run it for long enough to charge the battery, is this the same as charging the battery with a battery charger? Or would there be benefit to using the battery charger?

I plan on running everyday to keep the battery charged.

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Added:

The car had been unregistered for a while and wasn't driven for an extended period (~3 months) which has lead to the battery running flat. I am not 100% on the age of the battery but it doesn't "look" that old but I know that may not matter.

At this point I know the car needs a new battery eventually, but to get it registered it needs to be seen by a mechanic and have a few things done and checked. Until then just want to get the car running again to keep it in good condition.

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    Just to contribute, I have a battery that was completely discharged due to the cold weather, and sitting out to jumpstart it for about 20 mins did nothing to start the vehicle. I have now resolved to charge it before putting it back in the car. You said in the comments that it's been dead for three months; with that amount of time, I'd say definitely just charge it. It took me a whole day to charge from about 40% to 100 – Pelumi Feb 14 at 21:44
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    If it's been dead for 3 months, it's ruined. Replace it – Caius Jard Feb 16 at 17:01
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    For the record, it's not good to charge a dead battery with the engine, as it causes excess stress on the alternator and charging circuits. knowyourparts.com/technical-resources/starting-and-charging/… Also, jump starting simply starts the engine, not charges the battery, unless you have the vehicles hooked up for several minutes before the start. – computercarguy Feb 16 at 17:04
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Got a 1998 Toyota Camry that has an empty battery and am wondering what the best course of action is.

Why is it empty?

Is it empty because the battery is old and dying and won't hold capacity?

Or is it empty because you yesterday forgot the lights on?

The correct course of action depends on the reason for it being empty.

If the battery is good but you just forgot the lights on, and it has been empty only for a short duration of time (lead-acid batteries don't like extended deep discharge), then go ahead and jump start the car. That's the fastest way. You have to be careful when driving the car afterwards because if you accidentally misuse the clutch and cause the engine to stall, there's a risk you can't start it again. But with a little bit of care, you can drive it.

If the battery is empty because it is old and dying, do not jump start it! The problem is that when jump starting, it is actually the donor battery providing charge. When you disconnect the donor vehicle, the only good battery in the electrical system goes away. The dying old battery in the recipient car can't act as a buffer for the electrical system. The alternator can then produce voltage spikes, destroying expensive electronic equipment all around the car. The newer the recipient car is, the more damage you will see. I would say 1998 car has enough electronics that you don't want to destroy all of them.

So with an old and dying battery, you can try to see whether charging will remedy the situation. You can charge it slowly with a battery charger or rapidly from a donor car with jump start leads, but in that case don't turn the recipient car engine on. Then check to see whether the old battery is able to start the engine (with charger / jump start leads disconnected). If not, it's time to purchase a new battery. If it can start the engine, keep an eye of the situation and estimate when you need the new battery, if you need it at all.

If you forgot the lights on, and then left the battery sit for a week or two not bothering to fix the situation, then the health of the battery is unknown -- on one hand, the battery was good before the event, but on the other hand, lead acid batteries don't like extended deep discharge. So it is possible the deep discharge has damaged the battery. It's always safer to charge and then try starting than to jump start.

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  • Hey cheers for the detailed information. The car had been unregistered for a while and wasn't driven for an extended period (~3 months) which has lead to the battery running flat. I am not 100% on the age of the battery but it doesn't "look" that old but I know that may not matter. At this point I know the car needs a new battery eventually, but to get it registered it needs to be seen by a mechanic and have a few things done and checked. Until then just want to get the car running again to keep it in good condition – Vehicular IT Feb 14 at 8:31
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    @VehicularIT In that case it's safer to charge and start after disconnecting the charger. – juhist Feb 14 at 9:02
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    Make sure you charge the battery in a well ventilated area. The fumes are dangerous.. – Nelson Feb 14 at 17:08
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    The other important factor is the engine itself - running an engine for ten minutes every day, to charge a battery is not very efficient, and will put a relatively large amount of wear on a cold engine. On the other hand, leaving an engine stopped for months at a time isn't good for it either... – Mike Brockington Feb 15 at 14:45
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    @Nelson - important to explain why the fumes are dangerous... – Tim Feb 16 at 18:24
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If the battery is completely flat, then it will have been severely degraded in capacity. Lead acid batteries don’t hold their full charge after going completely flat, so it would be best to replace the battery and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

However if you want to try to charge it, it will be less stressful for the battery to be slowly charged by a battery charger than getting a very quick charge from a jump start. If there is a fault inside the battery, connecting it to a fully charged battery could cause a very large current to flow, causing danger to yourself.

For safety, it is best to try trickle charging it in an open space with good ventilation.

I would still recommend replacement, because this one is likely to let you down soon.

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    I wouldn't dismiss the battery just yet. Yes, it likely had some lasting damage done to it's capacity for full charge, but not certainly. Yes, it is likely not as good as a new one. It could still be more than enough to see the end of life of the car though.. There is little that actually strains the battery - mainly just feeding the starter motor. If the rest of the car is in decent shape and it starts easily, well... I'd not replace it yet (though, I would keep it in mind...) – Stian Yttervik Feb 15 at 12:48
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    @StianYttervik A valid comment. It all just depends on how reliably you want your car to be. If your car starts very quickly, it can hide a poor capacity battery. Then the one time when it takes a little longer to start, maybe due to cold weather, the battery won’t have the capacity and you will be stuck with a dead car. I would much prefer to know that I had a good battery and that it wasn’t likely to let me down. If the OP is short of cash, then maybe they are willing to take the risk for a while. It sounds like the battery could have been flat for 3 months, which will have affected it. – HandyHowie Feb 15 at 17:36
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    Yup - 10.5V is essentially "flat" for a 12V lead acid battery and continued discharge will permanently lower its capacity, fast. – Criggie Feb 16 at 2:58
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    I wouldn't equate a jump start with a 'quick charge'. Where did that come from? – Tim Feb 16 at 18:26
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    As soon as the jump leads are connected, the flat battery will start to charge, whether this is the desired effect or not. A large current will flow and if there is a fault in the battery like a shorted cell, then even more current will flow. This could be dangerous in the right conditions. – HandyHowie Feb 16 at 21:22

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