CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Fuel or Electrical problems? What's going on

I have a 2001 Toyota Camry with 165k miles. This morning I noticed a damp spot under the rear of the car about where the tires are which smelled like gasoline. I just filled the tank up 2 days ago and haven’t driven it since other than to reposition on the driveway. Being in Texas, temps have soared in less than a couple days. I started to drive and got about a mile before the car started acting up. The RPMs dropped to zero and car surged as they jumped to 1.5. The car continued to surge and jerk until I came to a stop where the car idled normally for a few minutes, then dropped to zero rpm’s and died. It started right up, where i drove it to a mechanic. They have not been able to find any problems with fuel lines, etc. They have been able to recreate the problem, but unable to locate the source but have noticed a possible bad electric connection but cannot locate where bad connection is coming from. The car alarm has been randomly going off (always has since i bought it) with more frequency as of late and my dad believes that the only issue is the gas cap. There are no warning lights illuminated and no error codes that pop up. Any ideas?

Please help a poor college student in need!
Thank you!!

See if there is a way to disable car alarm, then fill only to 3/4 tank as it may be an evap problem. Trial and error at this point, unless you want to spend megabucks on analysis.

Thanks! I’ve tried to disable the alarm before and only thing that seems to work is disconnecting the battery and hoping that maybe the computer will reset itself and we can go from there. The shop is keeping the car overnight to have their expert mechanic look at it tomorrow. Will talk to them about the evap problem and see what we come up with.

You need to get and report more details about exactly what the shop has done, including what they did with fuel and at least something specific regarding the possible bad electrical connection. An electrical connection for what? What did they observe that led them to an electrical connection?

Because you suspect a relationship with an electrical problem, find out if the fuel pump, which is probably electric, is located inside or near the tank. It could be acting up when the car is shut off, and possibly causing the apparent fuel spill. It’s also possible that this errant connection affects others, even the alarm system. Your Camry’s six years younger than mind, but it might also be good to know whether an aftermarket alarm was used, and who installed it. I think both systems may be on a circuit that is always on when the car is running, so there’s at most one fuse protecting the car from them (or from each). If someone used the wrong fuse, or wrapped it with aluminum foil for lack of a replacement, all kinds of electrical mischief could have occurred. BTW: here’s the foolproof old fashioned way of determined whether you have an electrical leak when none should be flowing: loosed the ground strap and, in the DARK OF NIGHT, tap it on the ground post of the batter. If you see sparks, something’s drawing current when it shouldn’t.

And remember that some of the best mechanics hate electrical problems, so you might want to find a specialist.