Electrical Demon-possessed Corolla

Please help!

I have a 2003 Toyota Corolla CE manual transmission with 431,000 (not a typo) miles on it. About 7 weeks ago I noticed that when I turn on my high-beams after driving for awhile, the car dies for a few seconds. All lights go out, radio stops, engine stops and then it starts up again as if nothing happened. It will just do it once in about a half-hour time frame. I can switch the high-beams on and off repeatedly afterwards and it doesn’t do it again. I have to drive for about a half-hour before it will do it again. I usually hear a slight pop sound when it does it.

A month later I noticed that if I parked it after driving for awhile, like at a gas pump, and get back in it, it acts as if the battery is dead for a few seconds. If I step on the clutch or open and close the driver door, the car comes back on. It appears that the battery was disconnected. The CD pops out of the player and all the radio station settings are gone. One morning last week I got in, and it had happened during the night. The CD was out, station settings gone, and the clock was 6.5 hours off.

I have had the car to a Toyota repair center 3 times. They have checked fuses, battery, battery cables, grounds, alternator, tensioner, looked for rodent nests, squirrels and I don’t know what-all, etc. They can’t find what is wrong. I am scared to drive it, but I depend on it. I commute 200 miles/day. I won’t leave anything important in the car because I am afraid it will catch fire. I am scared I am going to have a wreck, too, with no lights and no power steering suddenly.

We had a 1974 Chevrolet Monte Carlo that had similar symptoms. A heat shield on the starter at rusted and would sag down and ground out the electrical system. I suggest that because there may be some intermittent grounding of the electrical system.

There also may be a wire between the body of the car and the engine that is defective. This may explain why stepping on the clutch brings back the power

When it comes to electrical faults many shops often don’t think these things out although I’m hesitant to say they were guilty of this.
The first thing I would do is peruse a wiring schematic for the car and go over the main power supply part of the wiring before blindly poking and prodding at wiring.
I’m not saying the shops went in blind; only that it’s far more common than not.

This problem is likely going to be in a main battery cable end (not necessarily where it mates to the battery but between the end and battery cable strands, poor ground connection on a battery cable, faulty ignition switch (electrical part, not key and tumbler), or or the first thing I would take a look at; the main fusible link(s) that provide power throughout the car. (Links are a type of fuse)
Sometimes with age and much use the wire connector on the link will burn or corrode or the solder inside the link will melt and cause an erratic or poor connection.

The trouble is most likely with a connection at the battery or the other end of those cable connections, like the others stated. The battery itself may have a internal connection problem. Not a common problem but it has happened.

Thank you so much for your help with my scary Corolla!

Yeah… could be a short in the battery or bad cell. easy to test a newer battery. Common grounds should be checked. Be surprised with common vibrations ground cables “back off” and other nuts and bolts become loose on these compacts. Really poor grounding in many cases with using a cheap ground wire to a body panel and expect a ground. That includes many a American truck and car I’ve added ground cables to as well.

Thank you to everyone who wrote in to help me with this problem. I finally found out this morning what the problem was.

I had the tensioner and alternator replaced in August. When they were finishing up, one of the mechanics somehow crossed a wire and blew out a fuse. Apparently they disconnected the main power cable leading to the fuse box, replaced the fuse, but forgot to reconnect the cable, or at least tighten it.

A different shop I took it to on Wednesday, Oct. 26 discovered by accident that they could wiggle the fuse box. That led to the discovery of the loose power cable. They tightened everything leading to the fuse box and the car works fine now.

They told me there was no sign of wear or anything burned out. It had simply been disconnected.