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Have to crank starter for several seconds before starting

Hello everyone, new to the forums. Got a weird problem here I’m hoping somebody can help with.

2002 Toyota Corolla. 152k. After turning the ignition on and engaging the starter motor, it takes several seconds of cranking before the engine will start. The starter works fine, it cranks fast but it just won’t start right up like my other 2 Toyota’s, same year same model. It takes 3 to 4 seconds of the starter cranking the motor, regardless if it’s hot or cold, before it will start.

I’ve taken it to two mechanics, one a “Japanese car specialist”…neither had any idea what it was and were unable to fix it. Car has been tuned, new spark plugs, wires, etc.

Any ideas? Thank you in advance.

The next time you go to start the engine, turn the ignition switch on so the dash lights come on for two seconds, and then turn the ignition switch off.

Repeat this a half dozen times and then try starting the engine.

If the engine starts right up, the problem might be with the anti drain-back valve on the fuel pump assembly.

A residual fuel pressure test can confirm this.


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I’ll pose a hypothetical situation, and please answer to the best of your knowledge

You finally get the engine started

You drive the car for several miles, going about your business

You shut the car off and head inside the post office to drop off some letters

A few minutes later you come out

Does the engine now start readily?

Or is it as difficult as before?

It could also be leaking fuel injectors draining fuel and pressure.

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Whether it’s a leaking anti-drainback valve or leaking injector(s) or leaking fuel pressure regulator, the “key dance” should bring up fuel and fuel pressure to the engine so it will start. If it doesn’t start right up but cranks for longer than usual, that’s a hint the problem is leaking injector(s). If pressing the gas pedal helps it start, that’s another hint of leaking injector(s) - pressing the pedal lets much more air into the engine, which clears an over-rich condition, caused by… leaking injector(s).

Will try this when I am with the car next and report.

My Corolla – older than yours – almost always starts within 1 or 2 seconds of cranking, but does the same delay starting thing the first start after I’ve changed the fuel filter. The reason is b/c I had to depressurize the fuel system to change its filter. So it takes a few seconds of cranking before it re-pressurizes. I’m guessing that’s what’s happening, your fuel system is depressurizing when the engine is turned off for some reason. A fuel pressure hold test would prove/disprove that straight away. Two common causes, the most likely is the one way check valve in the fuel pump isn’t doing its thing, or less likely, a leaky fuel injector. If once it finally starts you hear a lot of sputtering & coughing, maybe some black smoke coming out the tailpipe more than normal, but just for a brief time, that could be a clue the problem is the injector leaking rather than the fuel pump check valve.

Re Tester’s comment above, worth a try, but on my Corolla at least the fuel pump won’t turn on unless the engine is cranking; i.e. just turning the key to “on” but not starting the engine has no effect on the fuel pump. It might work on your newer Corolla though. If it does you should be able to hear the pump making a humming noise.

My '89 Toyota Pickup, carbureted, would drain overnight when it got old. I simply got used to doing the “key dance” (I like that phrase) every morning. It only took a few extra seconds, and since the truck drove perfectly for the rest of the day I couldn’t justify fixing it.

Tester: That worked! Every time…so I should tell the mechanic to do a residual fuel pressure test? So I guess that also means it does not have a leaky fuel injector (probably?)

You don’t need a mechanic to do a residual fuel pressure test, because you just did one.

If it were a fuel injector leaking, one cylinder would misfire while the others would fire normally.

You can live with this until the fuel pump no longer provides the proper fuel pressure.


I eventually replaced my fuel pump ('87 Toyota Pickup, carbureted). It cost $40. I wish I had done it earlier as I had been dealing with its increasingly sluggish performance for years.

If I hadn’t busted off the temperature sender gauge, which had bonded to the block, which required drilling it out then chasing the threads with a tap (I had to buy a 9/16-inch bit ($20!), the correct tap, and the screw extractors I hoped would get it out more easily - all of which added up to more than $40.) it would have been easy and well worth the cost. I chalked up the additional cost as an educational fee: I learnt I was a dolt, a lesson I still haven’t learned.