'99 Corolla 150k mi running w/o key in engine!

For the record, I reside in southern CA and cold weather here is defined as T<50*F.

When trying to start the car in cold weather, the engine struggles to turn over (almost like a battery going dead…but this was recently replaced) and will occasionally start with a LOUD and unidentifiable screeching/slipping/knocking noise under the hood. When this happens, the key can be removed from the ignition (as well as reinserted and re-engaged) and the engine continues to run. The car can be driven in this condition, but does not sound safe to do so.

Only remedy so far is to either let the engine run itself off when key is removed (~2-5min) or attempt removing/reinserting key and hope it turns off when you turn the key. This does not reoccur once the engine has been run, which makes me believe it is temperature related.

Thanks for the help! I’m a college student and this is my first car.

You put the key in the ENGINE?? Where in the engine? The key locks the steering column. A link (a metal rod) runs from there down to the ignition switch which is usually (but not always) located down at the base of the steering column. It SOUNDS like you might need a new ignition switch OR perhaps the STARTER is hanging up and not disengaging when you release the key from the start position. If a mechanic can duplicate the problem, he will be able to sort it out in short order…