1990 Toyota Corolla 64,000 miles

Hi-- hoping someone can help my mechanic can not figure out the problem. My 1990 Toyota Corolla which I hate to retire has only 64,000 miles on it. Starts and runs but while I am driving the dash lights up and the engine shuts off and won’t restart. He thinks it is the NEC (?) switch which is about a $1,200 dollar repair but he said he is not really sure. Spending all that money and then finding out it is not fixed would not be worth it. It also is dangerous what if I am on the expressway? Ok so anyone please-- the car is a few days away from the junk man. (:

This is the first time it has actually stopped while I was driving in the past it has not started so I cal my husband and by the time he gets to me it starts.

Ignition switch?

If you cannot own a car that might quit on the expressway, this car (and any other 10+ year old car) is not for you.

Is the battery new and are the battery terminals clean and tight? Also, clean and tighten all the ground straps on the engine and chassis. If all that is good, replace the alternator.

Had it to the mechanic and all is fine with the battery etc

In my opinion, a bad alternator wouldn’t cause the engine to quit while driving, without any warning whatsoever

I think your dash lights are coming on because of the engine stalling. Ignitors and the distrubutor were common issues on these cars. Both items can cause the car to stall.

My guess: ignition control module.

[No? Try coil.]

[No? Try distributor.]


Yup, needed to read better. The other thing could be is fuel pump. Had a 92 that did this.

Normally I’d say the centershaft bearing of the distributor is worn, but with only 64k miles, that is not likely. It would be nice if you could isolate the problem to either spark or fuel but typically, if it is a fuel problem, it usually sputters before it quits, ignition problems generally quit suddenly.

I’d try the ignitor first.

I agree with both SteveC76 and Keith regarding the ignitor.
That part was the Achilles Heel for Toyotas during that era, and at some point they all fail–leading to engine stalling.

On my 1995 Corolla 1.8, the coil failed on me once, without warning. As far as resistance goes, it checked out fine, primary and secondary. But it was cracked, so it failed the visual inspection. With a new coil, it started right up

But the ignitor didn’t fail. Had I kept the car longer, it probably would have, from the sound of it

That symptom is usually related to something electrical on the fritz. I own a 92 Corolla w/a 4afe engine and have never heard of a NEC switch. So I’m not sure what your mechanic means. My Corolla has never up and quit running out on the road, so no direct experience with your problem.

If by NEC switch he’s meaning the ignition switch, yes, that could cause this symptom. 65K miles on a 1990 is very low. Do you do a lot of short trips? If so, that could wear out the ignition switch over years of use. What happens is the keys swing back if you go over a bump and forth and turn it from “on” to “acc”. One thing you could do as an experiement is to remove the car key from your key ring and just use that alone, w/no other keys attached. Does that seem to help? If so, that would confirm a problematic ignition switch.

If I had this problem on my Corolla and thought it was the ignition switch because of voltage and resistance measurements I’d made, I’d rig up a temporary ignition switch using multiple toggle switches if necessary and try that out first, before buying a new one. Your mechanic probably won’t do that for you though. You might ask if he can test a new ignition switch first, just rough it in so to speak. That can be done without removing the existing ignition switch. The problem is most parts suppliers won’t allow you to return electrical components like ignition switches.

$1200 to replace the ignition switch? To me that seems a tad on the high side. I see the part priced from $17 to $42 on Rockauto. I’d guess 2 hours to replace, so a price of about $250-$350 sounds more like what I’d expect. Maybe a little more if you use a Toyota OEM switch.

When the car won’t start, a little time spent with a multimeter and some wiring diagrams should narrow it down, if not arrive at the problem


Oh got more information mechanic things it is the MAF or the MAP sensor? Sorry about the confusion–does that make more sense. He said it is located deep in the engine and would cost between 600 and 1200 to repair depends on how long it takes to isolate it and even then he is not sure if that is it.

Your mechanic doesnt sound too sharp to me. If I had your vehicle…I would keep it and drive it until it quit on me…and then immediately figure out whether she stalled from spark or fuel…its one or the other. The issue probably manifests itself when the car is HOT…and if so…starts to point to electrical components of the ignition system.

Im not familiar with the NEC Switch…perhaps I need to look that up. I wouldnt try to pin this on one item just yet…You must determine what is causing the engine to shut down…

It could be the ignition switch…the fuel pump…the distributor…the coil… Not that hard to figure it out when you have the vehicle when it fails… so…leave it with the mechanic and tell him to drive it till it fails…once it does…it will reveal its secret. The dash lights are lighting up because of the stalling…this is their test mode setting as if you just turned the key to all the way on…which is one vote for a bad ignition switch…one that makes and breaks the main power connection.

Do you have a Heavy set of keys in this car? I.E a key ring with 300 keys and baubles hanging on it? If so…these have a way of destroying ignition switches and locks…

Just get the thing to shut off on you again…and then test for Spark and or Fuel…or lack therof


Maf is on the airbox, map is on the firewall, both quick and simple.

I don’t think a 1990 Corolla has a MAF sensor

I’m not absolutely sure, but I think it’s speed density, which would mean it doesn’t have a MAF a sensor

In any case, as the others have suggested, this mechanic is starting to sound quite questionable