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1995 Toyota Corolla DX Dies on Highway, again


The car’s engine just stopped while driving on highway, then would not turn over, nothing.
Took for repair, said battery had bad cell or something, still under warranty, replaced.
Fixed a few other things that were overdue, spark plugs, wires.

Okay. Next day, took the car on a few city driving short trips. While going across town on hot 85 degree day w/ ac on, it died again. Don’t remember any lights coming on, didn’t last time either. I think the AC died first then car died. Wouldn’t make a peep. Right in middle of heavy traffic. When police came couldn’t even steer. There might have been a slight weird noise which I thought was the ac making trouble right before it stopped, can’t describe it really.

Had it hauled to shop again. It runs fine for them so far. They are still working on it.
What in heck could it be? All belts were replaced a few years ago, car has always run well, never any major repairs just maintenance. It has about 133,000 miles on it. It has a clutch.


There are too many possibilities for us to guess from here. It sounds like something is being affected by heat in the engine compartment. My guess is that you have a failing coil or igniter. If my memory is correct, both are part of the distributor on this car (the coil is under the distributor cap).

Let the shop do their job and post back with the shop’s findings. We care.

The shop has spoken. When they looked at the new battery they had just put in the day before the 2nd incident, it had only 5 volts, but all the cells were evenly charged, so the alternator must be okay, but the battery another dud…and they cleaned up the battery connections which were not really up to snuff. They never got the problem to reoccur when driving the car before installing another new battery. Shall I drive on and feel safe? They didn’t do tons of tests, etc. They felt 99 percent sure this would take care of the issue.

I would vote a yes. They’ve corrected the error, and they think it’s OK. I would say it’s not their fault the battery was bad (since they don’t make them). Presumably this was free, so go for it. Keep an eye on things, of course, but yes. There are only so many tests they can do, and they fixed the charging system, so they tested it.

IMO, If you really heard something funny in the A/C, I would pay close attention to that.

Thanks. No, I don’t blame them for a bad battery. Just odd I would get two bad batteries in a row (the first one that died had just been replaced about a year ago). Interstate. The AC was running both times the car died. So we will see.
There was a sound, but everything happened to quickly I can really describe other than to say it sounded like it was dying.

I’m dubious about the two bad batteries in a row. Batteries aren’t rockets and Interstate builds a solid battery.
I read a lot about the lack of reoccurence of the problem on this site and in the past have heard it from a mechanic concerning a fuel pump issue that I ended up diagnosing correctly. It was acutally pretty similar to your problem, in that the conditions changed when the car went into the shop, because the car went from wet to dry conditions when it got to the shop. In your case the car goes from hot to cool.

I expect that this problem will re-reoccur. When (okay, if) it does, let it get fully cool waiting for triple A to come jump the (get AAA if you haven’t done that) to jumpstart the car. One thing that I think is happening is the shop is jumping the car’s battery and THEN trying to get the problem to happen again so they can plug it into the computer which tell them what to fix.

It’s almost as if no one knows how to troubleshoot a problem anymore. Your problem most likely has to do with heat-related resistance, and the coil (already suggested) is a ggod place to start.

Good. Good place to start. I’m still spoiled from the old format.

I would agree with that…troubleshooting is an art. I’ve been doing it for years in the IT sense, and mostly second hand in the car sense. Not many people go through the trouble now…they just plug in, believe the computer, and Bang…you’re paying $1000’s for a part that hasn’t failed. It’s unfortunate, and sad, really. The (vast) majority of people who own and drive cars have no idea of what makes them go, so they blindly pay the price, and we have this forum.

I rambling. Beer hits the mark again. Well said, kizwiki. You can edit and change the comments. Right next to your handle, you should see an “Edit” link. “Nothing to see here…these are not the droids you’re after.”

Later, guys…Chase

Thanks for the ideas. I just found out from my husband, who picked up the car, that the mechanic wants us to call him if it happens again–to call him instead of the towing company–so he can see the car right after it happens. The last two times we got the car towed to the shop (after regular hours each time, so no one saw the car 'til cold). It doesn’t sound like the computer on this car is of much help in diagnosing problems, other than emissions.
The thing is, it’s pretty scary having your car stop on you in traffic. Guess I’ll only drive it in town and try to stay in the right hand lane when possible and carry flares or something! It died in a quite dangerous spot last time…no telling.
So, I will remember the coil. I did ask about the alternator, but because the cells were evenly charged (or something) they didn’t think that was it but I know nothing about it.
Is it expensive to replace a coil or time consuming to check if it is working properly? Thanks!

Sounds to me like you’ve found a mechanic who cares. Keep the number - and your cell - handy. He’d be one of those I’d call quickly.

Coils aren’t expensive (~$40), or that hard to replace nor test. He will need to see it as soon as possible.

We owned a 1993 Corolla that would do a similar trick…fail on the highway, and start right back up after a couple minutes sitting with all the traffic screaming past. My wife was a bit freaked out, but it always started again. Turns out it was the coil/ignitor assembly. I couldn’t figure it out, but it eventually got fixed by default, as something else that pointed at the coil became evident.

Good luck!

Thanks for sharing your story Chase. I definitely freaked out the second time it happened. I will ask about the coil/ignitor assembly and see if he will look at it before it dies again. Mine is a bit different in that it won’t start after a few minutes. Not even after an hour! The time it took the tow truck to arrive. I have been spoiled by the fact the Toyota has never failed me before.