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Clashing or Sparking noise after turning ignition but before engine starts only in very cold weather

have an 2009 Toyota Corolla 62K miles. If the car sits out 8 hours or more in VERY COLD (zero degrees) weather makes a 1-2 second clashing/sparking noise the split second after turning the ignition on but before engine starts. I tried to attach video/audio. The car starts and runs fine. isn’t a ticking or knocking or tapping noise assoc. with bad engine. It isn’t squealing noise assoc. w/ serpentine belt. I’ve been waiting for it to get cold enough to leave overnight at Toyota dealer. I keep wondering if it isn’t related to the botched oil changed at the Toyota dealer a couple yrs ago when they forgot the oil & I ran car about 30-60 seconds. At the time, they said all was okay and did compression test (Cyl 1=178psi, #2=175 #3=180 #4=178) all within the normal specs 145-189. I got a 2nd opinion at another Toyota dealer at time who removed valve cover and inspected cam caps and scoped cylinder walls and said all was okay and compression good. No mechanical problems- uses no oil, check engine light not on, etc. Does anyone have any idea what noise is and why just when very cold and car sits out long time?

Kind of hard to tell…but it sounds like the starter isn’t dis-engaging for a second or 2.

The only two things that operate when the ignition is turned to run before starting the engine are the fuel pump and the ABS pump.

So the starter can’t be the problem because it hasn’t been engaged.

So if the noise seems to be coming from the rear of the vehicle, it’s the fuel pump. If the noise seems to be coming from under the hood, it’s the ABS pump.


separate your starting sequence into two steps and report the results of each.

  1. Turn key to ACC position.
  2. turn key one more step to the start position.

Could it be the well known VVT-i noise? Google it and watch/listen to youtube videos and see if this is what you have.

It is because the VVT gear gets starved from oil when the car sits and when you start the engine, it takes a while for oil pressure to get there and release the VVT pin.

OP states, “makes a 1-2 second clashing/sparking noise the split second after turning the ignition on but before engine starts”.

The devil is in the details.


I googled the VVT-i noise and found videos. That isn’t it. The noise is in the attachment. It is just after I turn on the ignition and a split second before or exactly when engine turns over. Sorry if I am not 100% clear but this process takes only a few seconds. But it starts fine and will run fine.

The wife’s ABS pump on her Accord makes a racket when it goes thru it’s self-test mode when it’s cold.

Just open the hood when it’s cold, have someone turn the ignition to run, and the thing you hear the noise coming from is the ABS pump.


But, isn’t the self-test mode usually accompanied by a vibrating brake pedal?
The OP didn’t mention anything about the brake pedal.

The ABS system runs a self-test mode as soon as the ignition switch is placed in the run mode.

It runs for a second or two to make sure the hydraulics are there.


Yes, I am well aware of all that, but every ABS self-test that I have experienced was accompanied by a slightly vibrating brake pedal for the duration of the self-test.

I have never seen a vibrating brake pedal after the self-test has been performed on an ABS system and has passed.

Anybody else experiencing a vibrating brake pedal with their ABS after the system has done it’s self-test procedure?


If it is the ABS pump, is the solution to replace the pump or is it harmless? If its the starter, I know you get it replaced. I always thought if it was the starter, the car won’t start at all or has difficulty starting? But I don’t know. I really appreciate all the replies!

I haven’t either, but this doesn’t sound like an ABS self test problem to me.

My guess is that when the engine is very cold the starter assembly isn’t fully engaging the starter gear with the flywheel ring gear.

But I confess to being unable to run the audio. I think a competent shop is going to need to listen to this happen. That might mean leaving the car overnight on a cold night, but problems like this sometimes require extraordinary measures.

The sound I hear is after the engine has turned over and is running. Sounds like a starter not disengaging properly to me.

I couldn’t listen to the audio, but I trust ASE’s judgment.

I hear the bendix remaining engaged in the flywheel for a split second. If the engine is run for a few seconds and then shut off and restarted does the noise remain? The grease in the bendix may be jelling and not allowing it to free wheel. But then what effect does extreme cold have on a weak bendix return spring? Replacing the flywheel is a real hassle and the bendix can destroy the flywheel starter ring so it might be worthwhile to have a shop take a close look at the problem on a cold morning.

The noise that I hear occurs after the starter motor operates, not when the ignition is switched on.

This sounds like the common cam gear noise that galant mentioned. This is such a common problem on Lexus vehicles (Toyota 2GR engine) that a recall was issued. No recall for the Corolla however. The powertrain warranty covers this repair for 5 years/60,000 miles, if you’re fortunate perhaps the dealer will “Goodwill warranty” this due to low miles.

I couldn’t listen to the audio, but I trust ASE’s judgment.

I don’t need that kind of pressure!