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1987 4Runner cold start trouble (starter does not disengage immediately)

My 1987 Toyota 4Runner 22RE has a weird cold starting issue. When the temperature is in the low 30s F or below I have to use the gas pedal when I first start it (for only a few seconds) in order to make the starter disengage. If I don’t push the gas pedal it chugs at around 250 RPM and the starter remains engaged. If I kick in a little more gas (up to about 1,500 RPM) the starter will immediately disengage and then it runs just fine at around 800 - 900 RPM.

When it’s warm out (40 F or higher) it starts up and runs perfectly without any of the aforementioned happening.

Maybe related is the following: when the weather is warmer out this SOMETIMES happens: the engine idles too high (1,100+, sometimes up to 1,700). If I “kick” the gas pedal this usually knocks the idle back down but not to 750 - 800 where is should be.

Input is greatly appreciated. I have thought about replacing the (I think it’s called) idle air control valve (the big metal thing with the flappy gate inside) that sits atop the air intake above the driver’s side headlight but $150 I want to replace this only if it’s going to fix it.


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Are you saying the starter remains engaged after the engine fires up, or that the engine won’t start unless you push on the gas pedal, or both??

I’m having the same cold start issue with my 98 4runner 4 cylinder. It will start in the mornings ONLY if I hold down the gas pedal a little bit for a few seconds. After that, it cranks up fine for the rest of the day (unless it sits for 5 or more hours again) … any ideas?

That doesn’t sound like the same problem as the OP is describing. You seem to just have not quite enough idle rpm bump on cold starts. Not sure how that function is implemented on your car. Either you have an electric controlled throttle, or and idle air bypass gadget. In either case, giving that part a good cleaning to remove the gunk is a good place to start.

btw, if you post this as a separate thread you’ll probably get more responses here.

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The “big thingy” is likely the air flow meter which may be part of the problem but I would recommend that you clean the throttle bore and throttle plate. The idle air control may be a stepper motor at the throttle but it’s been a while since I have seen one of those early EFI Toyota engines. The computer will register codes which can be read with a VOM or test light if you are patient. Is your truck a manual or automatic?

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Does your engine have a “cold start injector” in the intake manifold like my '90 Camry had? If so, it might not be working.

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Thanks for the quick response @GeorgeSanJose! @Rod_Knox I cleaned out throttle (wasn’t too dirty) and then spray cleaned MAF sensor on air intake. Then I adjusted the little bolts that control the idle. It now idles at a higher rpm but cranks okay (so far) on a cold start now. @Insightful I was told by the 4runner Facebook club that my model did not have the cold start injector (rz engine? i think he said) shows a “cold start valve” (assume yours is fuel injected).:

For the starter not disengaging, I’d pull it and spray the sliding mechanism with WD40.

If it has a cold start injector, that part only operates during cranking when the engine is cold. That’s to enrich the mixture & make it pop and start running when the engine is cold. Only injects gas during that rr rr rr sound in other words. So even if you have one, and even if it failed , it wouldn’t have any effect on the idle speed once the engine is started. The idle speed control once the engine is started is either handled by an electric actuator motor that controls an electronic throttle function which actually moves the throttle butterfly valve under the control of the computer, or by an idle air control gadget, which opens a passage and allows a little extra air into the engine when the coolant is cold.

fyi, with time and miles the throttle body will gunk up from the PCV and EGR systems, and this often either clogs the air bypass passageways and reduces the idle speed, or makes the operation of the electric idle actuator gadget balky.