CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Geriatric Toyota Corolla and owner need help

Hi folks, I have an automatic '95 Toyota Corolla wagon that over the past year has had intermittent problems dying after turning on the ignition. It happens mostly when starting for the first time in the morning in our carport (which is generally flat) [are there enough red herrings yet?]. However, we can go for weeks without problems. Our battery is relatively new (1yr) and the car starts-- however, sometimes the car dies unless the gas pedal is depressed for long periods of time in neutral or park. If I can pull out of the carport without having the car die, we’ve never had any problems on the road. Any thoughts as to what might be the problem and a possible solution? Many thanks! D

Could be a moisture problem. If it is mornings with heavy dew or rain I would look at new plug wires first, distributor cap second.

Along with Barkydog’s comment, you could test for this by spritzing some water by the plug wires and distributor cap with a plant mister. Of course, do this on a day when you don’t immediately need the car, in case it causes the car to not start or stall.

Could be a fuel pump or fuel filter. I would bet on the pump. It can be checked for pressure with a gauge and let you know if it is maintaining pressure.

I kind of agree about the fuel pump or filter. Try this for awhile, turn the key to the run position, count to ten, then start it. If you never have the problem of it dying when doing this, then you may actually have two problems, the fuel pressure regulator or an injector is leaking and the fuel pump may not be able to build up pressure fast enough right after start. A leak would be definite, fuel pump/filter too, a maybe.

Hi folks- thanks for the comments. I’ll try the suggestions out. Keith- should your suggestion also work as a temporary remedy if the car dies after ignition again? D

I’m not sure I understand your question but if the car does not die after ignition when using my suggestion, then it is a temporary remedy. If you have a fuel leak or bad fuel pressure regulator, you will be wasting gas though and it will probably get worse and possibly lead to other problems later.

Hi folks, just wanted thank everyone again for their thoughts. I replaced spark plug wires and plugs. The wires look like they were the original 1995 ones and the measured resistance was about 10x higher than what was recommended for replacement thresholds. So far, no problems with the car dying in the last month.