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1988 Toyota Cressida - Won't Start...Again!

This one actually left me stranded. Since there’s a lot of details to this, I’m going to make a “list of events” instead of writing it out. Hopefully that’ll make it easier to understand - shoot, I hardly understand it.

Some of you may remember my little problem with a poorly connected battery preventing me from starting the car. Well, I can tell you it’s tight this time. One other quick note. This occurred after adding seafoam to the gas tank as well. The car sat for a couple days after a good run with the seafoam and it took a bit longer for ignition and the car to start. Now, on to the story.

1.) Got out of the store to start my car. I put the key in and everything was normal. I got accessories, the automatic seatbelt came back, etc.

2.) When I turned the key, I got a loud “click” noise, just like I got when I first had a loose battery. The car didn’t even turn over.

3.) I turned the key back to the “off” position and noticed there was a whining/buzzing, though there was no accessories on. Eventually, the whining/buzzing stopped.

4.) I tested the horn and headlights and they didn’t work. However, I noticed that when I turned the headlights on, I got a buzzing noise, similar to the whining/buzzing mentioned above. Note that this was not a door buzzing noise since it wasn’t open.

5.) I got out to check the connection on the battery. Secure. I also checked to see if one of the boots was loose on any of the spark plugs. Nope.

6.) I went back in the car to try again, hoping that somehow the automotive gods would save me. I turned the key and there wasn’t any accessories this time, but I could’ve sworn the door idiot light was on somewhat. This time, the automatic seatbelt didn’t move. Also, the horn still didn’t work and the headlights still did make that buzzing noise when I tried to turn them on.

7.) I gave up and called a friend for a ride. When he came to get me, I pulled my groceries out of the trunk and noticed that the light for the trunk worked. Weird.

So that’s pretty much it. This is an utter mystery to me, with no obvious solution. Tomorrow, I’ll get a ride out to the car and try replacing the spark plugs (car needs it anyway) and then try replacing all of the fuses under the hood. If that doesn’t work, I’ll replace the battery - though I don’t think that’s the problem, since there was obviously power going through the car. If that doesn’t work, may the automotive gods spare me.

It’s pretty distressing. If more details are needed, I can scrape deeper in my scarred memory and try to help with that.Thanks for listening - I appreciate any help you folks can offer.

How old is the battery?

I suggest you have the battery and the charging system tested. Most auto part stores will do this free.

A weak battery will still operate the headlights, radio, etc, but not have enough amperage to turn over the engine.

Don’t worry about the spark plugs until you get the engine to turn over. Check the battery.

Find a friend that knows how to use a volt meter and start at battery and follow cable while checking voltage, also with ohm meter check for ground on the motor and car body.
It get expensive throwing parts if your not sure.

It appears there is a power problem to the ignition system causing this trouble. The trouble may be with something discharging the battery while the car is parked, since you mentioned a buzzing was heard while the ignition was off. There may also be a bad connection in the main power buss area under the hood. A faulty ignition switch connection or power relay is possible also.

I first recommend you clean the battery posts and cable connectors using a battery post cleaning brush. Don’t replace the battery unless load testing it shows it should be done and don’t waste your money replacing all the fuses needlessly. Spend that money on a good service manual for the car and at least a test light probe or DVM to check for voltage. You will be spending the money wisely doing that.

If the battery tests ok and cleaning the connections doesn’t clear the problem then you need to check the main power buss area for the trouble. Use the items you mentioned that didn’t work at the time as clues to find the common trouble point. Having a service manual as a reference guide and test equipment to check power with you will find the trouble fairly quickly. We can help you further if you need it.

Right, the plugs are not causing the symptoms you have. This is a battery or other electrical problem.

Some years of Toyota have a power cable which bolts to the main power cable. If yours does, loosen the bolt a turn, or two, work the cable (their scraping together can give a better connection), and tight the bolt (or, nut). [Some of this stuff is so much easier to check with a voltmeter!]

I’ll be sure to get the battery tested and buy a voltmeter first. Would a voltmeter that plugs into the cigarette lighter be enough? I’ve never used one before, so I don’t know when you’d test for a charge or whether it should be 12 volts, etc. If it’s a faulty ignition switch connection or power relay, does that mean I’d have to buy a new ignition? Right now, unfortunately, it’s still in the Walmart parking lot and very long way from my house, so I’ll have to work on it there tomorrow. Since it’s so far away (like 15-20 miles), I think towing is out of the question.

Here’s to hoping it’s something simple to repair and possibly even the battery. I’ll follow the battery cables to see where they lead to and if anything is loose or out of place. I appreciate everyone’s input and further updates will be provided.

Your problem sounds like there is low voltage to different things. Relays will buzz when the voltage gets low enough. The starter, head lights, horn (and other stuff) work through relays.
Even though the cables, and other wires, are tight, they may have corrosion which causes the voltage to drop too low. Disconnect the wires, and cables, and scrape the areas where they touch other wire terminals or bolt to something. Don’t forget the smaller wire that comes off the big battery wire (I wrote about this earlier).
If you have a buddy who can use a voltmeter, have s/him to check the battery voltage. Then, go to the fuses and check if the voltage to the fuses is close (within one volt) to the voltage at the battery. If it isn’t, there is a poor electrical connection somewhere.
Get a jump start and see if the car will start. If it does, get it home to where you can play with it at your leisure. Somebody be here 24 / 7.

Using a voltmeter is fairly simple and can really be a big help in solving this kind of trouble. So can a simple test light probe. Since the car is at a Walmart you should at least purchase a battery post cleaning brush and test light probe from them in their automobile department. Remove the battery terminals and clean them with the brush. Also clean the accessory power connection that Hellokit talked about if you see it.

Use the test light by clipping to a good ground point and then touch the probe tip to areas you want to test for power. If normal power is present the light in the probe handle will glow brightly. Use the probe to check the battery power while you try to crank the engine by placing the probe leads across the battery posts. If the light goes real dim then the battery is low. If the battery checks out ok then check for good power to the fuses under the hood. Some fuses may not have power to them until the ignition switch is on but I think most at least should be hot at all times.

I suspect the real trouble you are having may just be due to a low or bad battery. I recommend you have a set of jumper cables and a fair assortment of hand tools with you when you go to check the car. If the battery is really ok then there is a bad connection in the main power buss somewhere or the battery/chassis ground, so check that out. If you need a new battery then Walmart should have one.

Well, folks, today is my lucky day. It was just the battery. For some reason, it decided to die on the spot at that moment. The jumpstart got it home for me and the moment I turned it off, all accessories were gone. I pulled the battery and swapped it with a new battery purchase, after which the accessories were back and it ran.

Lucky me, I dodged a bullet on hunting down electric gremlins or replacing an expensive repairs like ignition or relay parts. Thanks again, everyone, for your help. Case closed.

Hey! Thanks for coming back. We need more people like you. I’m glad that you seem to have a fix; but (you figured there was a “but”, didnt you?),if a similar problem arises, some of the ideas we’ve sent you will still apply. Happy motoring!

You’re welcome for the help. Glad you got it going and thanks for the feedback.

Since you now have it running you should at least get the charging system load tested. You need to make sure that the charging system is working like it should be so it will keep your new battery alive.

Glad to hear it was something simple. Always start with the simple things. Happy motoring.

Good idea. How do I do that? I assume it involves testing the alternator?