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A dying 09 tacoma

good day, I have a 2009 Toyota Tacoma with 25k miles on it. At about 20k miles, it died on me while I was driving in a state park in Maine. Took it to the dealer who worked on it for 8 hours and could not find a problem. They got it restarted and I was told it might have been bad gas. A month later I was in Key West, and it died on me while I was sitting at a stop light. Took it to the dealer, told him about the problem in Maine, and they hooked up the truck to the diagnostic computer, and got no error readings. They ended up replacing the fuel sending unit computer. 3 month later in San Antonio, it died again while I was driving. 3rd time I had it towed to the dealer and they got no computer errors. They performed no repairs once they got the truck started. The 4th time it happened was at the dealership I bought it from in Houston. It died as I was attempting to drive off the dealer lot after my 35k oil change. I got the tech out, he started the truck, started asking me if it died while driving or in park, and it died in him in park. they put it on the computer, checked it for 3 days, and still could not find anything wrong with it. That made 4 times in 5k miles. Toyota can not seem to fix the problem. I am concerned it is going to die on me again and I will get rear ended. Any ideas on why it keeps dying? Its an automatic transmission, no recalls that I can find.

Well, this will be like throwing darts while blindfolded. So just keep that in mind.

Describe the death - exactly what happens when the truck stalls? (Very sudden? Sputter sputter sputter cough…? Noises, sights, sounds?)

Describe what happens immediately after the death. Apparently sometimes it has to get towed, so it must not be starting back up. But is it cranking over just fine when you try to start it? But apparently sometimes it will start back up. Does it start immediately? Or require some cranking? Or what?

Start carrying around a spark tester & can of starting fluid (watch the interior temps with that can of starting fluid). Be at the ready for a stall and non-restart episode. Use the spark tester the check for spark. Use the starting fluid in the intake - if that makes is fire even just a little that implies a fuel problem. Whatever the outcome you’ll know a lot more and cut the search down considerably.

Intermittent problems like this can be difficult to find. There are a number of possibilites that can cause the trouble and leave no code errors to help solve the mystery.

I assume that when the trouble happens you are unable to restart it for a while at least. To see if this is a fuel related issue I suggest you carry a can of starter fluid with you and spray some into the intake when the trouble happens again. If the engine fires then you do have something wrong with the fuel delivery system and the shop will have something to go on for the fix. If the trick doesn’t work then there is most likely a problem with the ignition system in which case the first check should be to make sure power is getting to it as it should be.

It dies immediately, no warnings, funny noises, etc. It will not crank over after it dies until a while later, when it has been towed to the dealer. It has only been worked on by the dealer. I try to crank it, and the starter will turn over, but the engine won’t start. The last three times the dealer has tested the fuel and found it to be good. I only use 93 octane.

By saying “tested the fuel” what do you mean? The octane rating is meaningless. The questions are:

  • does the fuel pump actually run (you can hear this if you listen carefully when you turn the key to the Run position - before cranking)
  • does the fuel show up at the fuel rail at the proper pressure for this engine
  • do the fuel injectors actually operate?

Did anyone ever check to see if it has spark during these episodes? These are the things you need to know.

Do you keep getting young guys at the dealer service departments? Sometimes young guys can’t figure out what to do if there isn’t a computer to tell them what to do. If you end up at another shop ask for an old timer who knows enough to pull a spark plug and use some starting fluid. Or ask one to show you how to do this.

(Cranking and the starter turning it over are the same thing. So I’m assuming by “it won’t crank over” you actually mean it won’t start.)

Thanks for the advice. Not sure how the dealer tested the fuel. The 2nd time it happened, the mechanic said the fuel ‘smelled funny’. I said it only gets 93 octane and he moved on. I will have to ask on the fuel pump, injectors, and spark. I actually had the repair shop foreman(?) looking at it after the last episode. I am pretty sure he only used the computer diagnostics because I told him the front drl has a short. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. He replaced the bulb and the short still exists. I am actually going to arbitration for a buyback as no one in toyota seems to care that the truck keeps dying whlie I am driving it. I am eventually going to get rear ended, and am doing my best to avoid this.

I suggest contacting a lawyer, or the state attorney generals office to see about the “Lemon Law(s)” applicable in your state of Texas. Let Toyota know of this action and tell them to figure this out, or give you a new truck.

We should not have to diagnose this problem for Toyota. I’d look for a fault in the fuel pump circut, the intermitten nature could be a bad connection or faulty relay. Another possible is the theft deterrant system isn’t reading the chip key properly and shutting down the truck.

Whatever it is, Toyota is responsible to find the problem and fix it. A truck that dies on you without warning is a safety hazard. If they can’t fix it you can report it to the NHTSA. I think you need to get really tough with Toyota on this one.

I agree with you here. We are going to arbitration in a week. I am having the truck towed in as it is unsafe to drive. The arbitration is nonbinding, so if I lose I can still sue. I will keep you posted

I’m on your side, good luck!