1998 Toyota Corolla - stalls at startup, grey smoke

Hi, I have a 1998 Toyota Corolla with > 160,000 miles on it. I drove it about 50 miles yesterday (from NYC to NJ) and parked it on a gentle decline on the street. It sat for at least 5 hours. In the evening, I moved the vehicle into the driveway. In doing so, the car started a bit rougher than usual, then immediately stalled after I started it. I tried again. It started rough, but I let it idle for a moment before I put it into drive. I then drove it into the driveway. There was a very distinct smell of gasoline.

I left the car overnight. In the morning, the next day, I moved it back into the street and experienced the exact same scenario -start, stall, restart, smell-. I had someone watch the car while it started. He witnessed grey smoke coming from the tailpipe on startup. The engine seemed to run fine after startup, so I took it around the block. The car ran fine and the smell dissipated.

I’ve had various issues with the car over the past few years, but nothing quite like this.

First and foremost, I want to know whether it’s safe to drive the 50-miles back from New Jersey to New York City, and bring it to a mechanic tomorrow, or whether I should bring it in today, immediately.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

It has been warm, very humid, and rainy here.

I would suspect the fuel pressure regulator, but without being able to test it, that is just a guess.

As to whether it is safe to drive, I would say probably it is. However, you would be well advised to be carrying a cell phone, a AAA card, and a fire extinguisher–just in case.

Pull the oil dipstick out and smell the oil on the end of the dip stick. Does it have a gas smell? If it does, don’t drive it.

As suggested, the fuel pressure regulator may be leaking. Locate the regulator, and remove the vacuum hose. If gas leaks out of this connection, the regulator is defective and requires replacement.

If you find the regulator was the problem, change the oil and filter if there was gas in the oil.


Thank you so much for the responses – I pulled out the dipstick and smelled the oil. I didn’t smell any gas. If there was a gas smell, it was very, very faint. From what has been said, it sounds like it’s prudent to bring it to the mechanic – i.e. it will get worse if i drive it?