I've noticed it in the last year (2013) that my 2008 Jetta with the original OEM battery would be taking a little longer to start than before, sometimes (but very rarely) not starting in the amount of time I try to have it start through my reflex of using it for 5 years.

It was all still good, even in the freezing temperatures, until today -- I haven't driven the car in about 8 days (it was stored in a garage around 32°F), drove it to a gas station today, then to uni; as I drove to uni, I've noticed that there's some kind of slightly burned smell coming out from the heat (but I kinda thought it was normal, since I've been using the windscreen vents most of the time earlier, but was using the driver/passenger vents today), then I notice that the front lights were kinda flickery as I spent a couple of seconds idling at my destination, and idling was slightly uneven.

Subsequently, the car didn't start back at this destination -- at the uni. I kinda panicked, and attempted to start it several times in a row, only then realising that I better apply the manual break to turn off DRL, and then it finally started on like 6th time (after having to wait a minute or so from the prior attempt of trying to start it right after the DRL went off), but idle was very uneven and the lights flickery, plus the engine light was on.

I drove it for a while, and idle was still very uneven and lights were blinking; I then realised that I better turn off the heat (and also radio, just in case), I drove the car like that for like 10 miles around town (to recharge the battery), trying not to idle it, still with the engine light on (but idling was now very stable since turning off the heat), then left it off for one or two hours in the freezing temp (20°F) at a Walmart.

After that, the car started just fine at the Walmart -- no issues or delay whatsoever, however, the engine light is still on, and I am kinda getting the impression of receiving somewhat of a weird burned smell from the heater (I've tried to only keep it on when driving on highway), however, upon my arrival at home, and opening the hood in the garage, there was no burnt smells from within the hood whatsoever (the smell from the heater was weak, but I haven't noticed anything like that before; although, to be fair, I haven't drive the car in 8 days). I've inspected the top of the battery, and it's also just fine.

  • Any ideas what's going on?
  • Is starting the car with the low battery damaged the engine?
  • Is there some problem with the heater?
  • Is the check-engine light being on due to a more-than-usual dying state of the battery?
  • Do I have to change the battery, or is it just the extra cold weather and several days of not-driving that gave it a hard time?

I'd like to stress again that the very last time I've used the starter (at Walmart), after recharging the battery by driving 10 miles without heat, there was absolutely no signs of the battery being dead (alas, I did have the heat, DRL and radio off during this starting), so, I'd rather not replace it now if it can still serve me for a while.

  • Have you read the CEL to figure out what it is? Until you have, there is no way to tell if it is related or the root cause of your issues. Feb 10, 2014 at 11:01
  • @Paulster2, I guess I should do that, as soon as I find my ODB-II bluetooth addon. It would seem like with other cars by other manufacturers it takes a few engine runs until the CEL clears (so other people on the net report), so, I'm just asking if that's what I'm somewhat likely to expect, too, or if the engine can really be somehow ruined by attempting to start a couple of times on an empty battery.
    – cnst
    Feb 10, 2014 at 22:29
  • It should not kill your engine/PCM to do this, and is why I am suggesting pulling the codes. While most car's CEL will clear if the problem goes away, the code themselves will still be stored until manually cleared or until loss of power for an extended period of time. It doesn't lose this automatically just because the light goes out. Feb 10, 2014 at 23:08
  • @Paulster2, It would seem like yesterday, the CEL has disappeared! So, after the unsuccessful starts at the uni prior to going to Walmart, I drove to Walmart (0 -- partially successful), then home (1st fully successful start), then uni (2), then home (3), then uni again (4), and this final time going to the uni, the CEL was no longer lit. E.g. it disappeared on the fourth successful start. I guess I'm all good then, and shouldn't worry about it anymore, just make sure to take care of my battery?
    – cnst
    Feb 11, 2014 at 15:07
  • If you have access to an OBD-II reader, or can take your car to an Autozone/O'Reillys/Checkers/etc (somewhere which will do it for free), get your codes checked. These will tell you if it was something passing or something serious. It has been my experience that problems in cars usually do not fix themselves. The problem may go away for a time, but will likely be back. If you can figure out what the problem is (was) before it comes back, you can get it fixed so it doesn't happen again while you still have use of your vehicle. Feb 11, 2014 at 16:16

4 Answers 4


A couple things:

  • Starting the car with a low battery will not damage your engine, unless you're cranking it for several minutes.
  • When was the last time you cleaned your batter terminals? If there's corrosion on them, clean them up. If this is the case, you can continue using your battery.
  • Go to a local car parts store and have someone scan your car for ODB2 error codes. Maybe they could measure your battery voltage as well.
  • I highly doubt your battery issue will cause your CEL.
  • At 5 years, you are on the end of life on your battery. I recommend replacing it.
  • How am I supposed to check the terminals? I looked at the battery, and it all looked clean. In my prior '94 Altima, the battery did leak out from the terminals all the time, so, those did require cleaning -- but here it seems very clean as-is, plus there's an extra plastic cover on top of the battery.
    – cnst
    Feb 10, 2014 at 22:31
  • The terminals are the metals posts on the car battery that the red and black wires are attached to. Take a visual look at where the wires meet the terminals and look for a white/green buildup. If it's very clean, then corrosion isn't your problem and you'll need to get a new battery.
    – cpp
    Feb 11, 2014 at 18:21

Check your battery and make sure it's not hot after driving around! I just had a battery fail on me last week by dropping a cell. It'd been weak for a little while, but still seemed to work. I started smelling something burning while driving and found that the battery was extremely hot (too hot to touch with bare hands) after a half hour of driving. It was only reading 12.1 volts too (even though the charging system in the car was putting out the full 13.9 volt charging output).

If this is the case for you too, replace that battery immediately before you have a carfire/battery explosion.

  • I did check it -- it was hardly warm after arriving back from Walmart in the story I've described, so, I don't think it's about to catch fire.
    – cnst
    Feb 10, 2014 at 21:12

I had a similar issue today while driving the engine light came on.

The battery terminals were corroded. So I used the baking soda to clean it off. Removed the -ve terminal for a minute or so then connected it back.

Engine light has turned off now :)

Battery issues do light the engine light on due to low voltage caused by corrosion.


Its an ignition coil, about $25, just had to do mine, keep one for a spare. Also seems once they start going the car usually for the most part is on its way out.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .