95 Prizm, no spark at distributor

My car was running perfectly, then one day I parked into my home and that was the last time it started. A mechanic came by and showed me that the distributor was not creating a spark and that I needed a new distributor. I bought one at a junk yard which looked much newer than mine but when we installed it, no spark. I went back and replaced the distributor for another at the same junk yard and the same thing happened, no spark.

I live in a very remote small town and this is the best mechanic that I have found, but they are not sophisticated, no real shops, diagnostic equipment, etc.

After going through the expense, trouble, and having my mechanic tell me that it may be the computer, I decided to investigate myself and read a problem that appeared similar to mine indicating that it may be possible that the Crank Position Sensor may be bad.

This is what I read on a post on a different forum: “The first thing I would do is to check out and thest the CRANK SHAFT SENSOR. If this has shorted internally, you may have destroyed the IGNITION MODULE and or the COMPUTER. You might be lucky in that the crank sensor is the only faulty item.”

Anyway, the car will crank over but will obviously not fire due to lack of spark, and like I mentioned, it had been running perfectly immediately before this problem began.

Any comments would be greatly appreciated, thank you.

A bad crank angle sensor could indeed produce a no-spark condition, as could a bad ignition module or computer.

In a remote area with few diagnostics or experienced mechanics, you may be forced to simply replace parts until something works. Start with the least expensive parts, ie the crank angle sensor. Then ignition module. Hopefully you don’t have to replace the computer.

jesmed, the distributor for this vehicle has an integrated ignition module, I’ve had two different distributors put in and no spark.

It’s almost as if a fuse had blown, because the last time I used the car, everything was fine. I parked it and the next day tried starting it but just cranked over and over.

I am really stuck out here. My mechanic seems so clueless and has only suggested that it may be the computer. I called another mechanic and described the problem and was told that he was going to look for his repair manuals. As you can see, my options are very limited.

I’m almost thinking of buying a crank shaft sensor and getting it put in to see if that help.

As always, I’m open to any suggestions whatsoever. Thank you.

It look like the distributor has the crank and cam sensors in it too. You need to check for power to the ignition module from the ignition switch.

The Crank Postion Sensor and the Cam Postion Sensor are in the distributor as well as the ignition control module. So you have changed those when you replaced the distributor(s).

The signels from the CrPS and CmPS are sent to the Power Control Module which sends back a command signel to the ignition control module.

Is the Check Engine Light coming ‘on’ when you turn the key to the run postion? Make sure that power is getting to the distributor and to the PCM.

Hope this helps.

I think I’d start with that ign fuse. The coil is piggybacked on the distributor, did the junkyard distributors come with the coil attached?

Last critical question, have you tried leaving the distributor cap off to see if the rotor is actually turning? This is important as timing belts tend to break under the conditions you describe.

Edit, are you using the same distributor cap and rotor? The rotor could have shorted or the high tension (coil) wire built into the distributor cap could have burned out.

Have you had this OBDII hooked up and all the codes read? That’s be the first place to start I think.


It’s a 1995. OBDI.


As others have already mentioned, the very first step in locating the trouble is to make sure power is getting to the ignition system.

Remove the distributor cap. Remove the coil and check for cracks. It’s not uncommon for the epoxy to crack after several years. But you won’t see it unless you remove it entirely.

It happened to me. The coil had the correct resistance, primary and secondary. But no spark.
The crack was the cause of the no spark.

Do you have the 1.6 liter?

Dear friends, thank you for all of your responses, I called a person that fixes electrical problems and he pointed out that it was just an electrical short. This is sad because I threw away the original distributor but at thankfully the junk yard one worked as well.

Glad you got it solved anyway. Just FYI @CarolineBeltran, if you have similar problems again, even though as mentioned above your car is OBD I, it still has computer diagnostics built into it, and those diagnostics would usually be the first thing a Toyota experienced mechanic would use for diagnosing problems like this. On OBD II cars, the codes are displayed using a scan tool. But OBD I cars have codes too. On OBD I, the codes are often displayed by the ECM blinking the check engine light in a pattern where you count the number of blinks. So a diagnostic code “51” would be displayed as “blink blink blink blink blink … pause … blink”. (The ECM has to be put into the diagnostic mode by the mechanic using a test-jumper usually; the above blinking doesn’t happen automatically just because a code condition is detected.)