This is a question that will stump the chumps - nobody has really been able to figure it out.
I bought my college-age daughters a 1987 Toyota Camry wagon back in December 2012 with a little over 30,000 miles. We are the third owner. The second owner was a mechanic and bought it from an elderly acquaintance who barely drove it and he told me that the car sat for a long period of time before he bought it.
The car drove great for a few weeks, but then it started to stall and die and took several tries to start it - reving it seemed to clear the problem. Our family friend, who seems to have a knack at fixing anything, took a look at it back then - the had us put in additives to remove water and clean the fuel injectors. He checked the spark plugs and wires and changed the fuel filter. All of that helped, except it did not completely make the problem disappear if you let the car sit for two or more days until he drained the tank - he said there was varnish in the bottom of the tank. After he drained it, the problem went away for over a year!
After that, the car ran fine for about a year and a half (we put on about 1000 - 1500 miles on it per month). No it is starting to doing it again but only for the same repro steps that I originally found before the neighbor drained the tank.
For the past 3 Mondays, after the car has been sitting in the car over the weekend, the problem will reproduce during my trip to and from the coffee shop before work. It will not happen at any other time and it will not handle for the same repro steps on Tuesday- Friday, because I think the car was not sitting long enough. Note that we are in Seattle and the temperature around 7 am has been around 65 - 70 degrees F (yeah, awesome!), if that helps.
Here are the steps:
- Leave the car in the garage for at least two days
- Monday morning (usually this is at 7 am), drive to the coffee shop. It is about a 5 minute drive. Note that the car started fine and drove fine up to this point. I think the car’s temperature gauge is about 1/2 way when I arrive at the coffee shop, or very close to it.
- Go in and get a latte - this takes about 3 minutes.
- Come in and start the car. Back out of the parking lot and head towards the parking lot exit (only about 50 feet). Car will sputter and die on approach to exit. It feels like it is starved for gas, but I’m not a mechanic! It takes 1 to 5 restarts and revving the gas pedal to make the problem go away. It is almost like revving cleared it out.
Once I get the car started and driving after that, it is fine.
The problem will not happen again even though I go to the coffee shop at the same time of day for the rest of the week.
A big key in all of this (I think!) is that the car sat for 2 or more days. Could have the fuel pump gotten damaged or gummed up after drying for two days (due to the car moving) or perhaps it is getting re-gummed up after anything bad that may have happened when the car sat too long when owned by the first owner? Or perhaps some other part?
The car has about 38,000 miles on it now and my current mechanic didn’t think anybody rolled back the odometer. The car is in great shape for its age. I also have a 1988 Toyota Camry station wagon with 56,000 miles that is in pristine shape and drives perfectly.
Both cars were made in Japan - their VIN number starts with JT. I’m going to try to repro the problem for the mechanic tomorrow morning who I’ve been going to now for about 6 months - who has his shop right next to the coffee shop tomorrow so hopefully it will repro just fine at 10 am as well. But the car is too old to have diagnostics. No ODB-2 (?) sensor and the sensor diagnostic plug (?) I saw under the hood was all beaten up and didn’t look functional.
Note also that a year ago, the problem would reproduce even in the afternoons as long as hadn’t driven the cars in two days, but I don’t think it was very warm. Maybe in the 60s. I am mentioning it in case there is a temperature factor in all of this. It is strange that the car always starts fine in the driveway at home and drives fine to the shop. I think if I didn’t stop for coffee it would continue to drive fine. I think the stopping is a key as well as not driving it for two days.
thank you so much for your help