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Ignition problems

My name?s Shane. I?m 25 years old and have done minor repair/maintenance work on my vehicles for the past 10 years and I know my way around a car mechanically, not electrically.

About two months ago I turned the key to my ?98 Toyota Corolla CE and it wouldn’t start. I turned it off and tried again. It started right up. This has been happening about once or twice a week for the past two months. Two weeks ago I went to start my car, when I turned the key, my car started right up. Only this time it was different. For a few seconds after it was started it sounded as if it was still trying to start itself. Imagine your car started and is idling and you’re still turning the ignition key. It made this sound for maybe two seconds then stopped and continued idling.

A week later it did exact same thing so I immediately turned the key and pulled it out of the ignition in an attempt to turn the car off fearing the worst. Only the car didn?t shut off. The key is out of the ignition. The ignition is in the ?off? position and my car is running ? per say. It?s making the same noise as last time. If sounded like a mix of idling and like I was trying to start the car after it had already started - maybe with an added sound of misfiring. It continued to do so for about thirty seconds after the key was off and out of the ignition before slowly winding itself down, fading off and finally shutting down. After this I gave it a few minutes before trying to start it again. I turned the key and it started right up as if nothing happened. I continued driving with no problems for about a week.

Yesterday, I hoped in my car, turn the key? and nothing. No clicking of the starter, no dome lights, no power locks. Needless to say I took the girlfriends car to work. God bless her. After work I threw some jumper cables on it. It started on the first crank. I let it run for a few seconds and turned it off. I immediately attempted to turn it back on and nothing, again, no clicking of the starter, no dome lights and no power. I jumped it again again and it started.

Today, I jump it to get it started . This time I let it run for a few minutes to charge the battery. I shut it off, gave it a minute and started it on the first try.

What is going on with my ?reliable? 98 Toyota Corolla?

I may have missed it, but I don't recall you having the battery and charging system checked (free at many auto parts stores) and I don't recall anyone making sure all the contracts to the battery and the other end of the cables are clean and tight making good connections.

It’s maybe the ignition. Do you have a a key chain that weighs two pounds? If so, you might try trimming the key chain and changing the ignition.

It’s likely either the ignition switch or a sticking starter solenoid.

A heavy key chain may very well wear the ignition lock prematurely, but it won’t hurt the switch that the lock controls.

I checked the bettery. It and the conenctions to the battery are fine. Also, I ony have two keys on my key ring. I was having a problem gettign my key to turn about a year ago. It wasn’t disengagign the ignition lock. I believed the problem to be that the key I was using was a copy or a copy of a copy or the original. I went back and made a copy of the original and the lock disengaged immediatley. Ever since the ignition lock has been working fine. Do ignition switches go bad frequently? Can I test for a bad ignition switch?

I think it’s the ignition switch. Not unusual for a 12 y.o. car.
“it sounded as if it was still trying to start itself.” plus “I was having a problem gettign my key to turn about a year ago.” convinces me.

The electrical part of the ignition switch comes separately and isn’t very expensive.

It’s already been said, but as soon as I read this I said “ignition switch.” and the heavy keys is also a sure way to break the new one. Trim it to the car key, remote and maybe a house key. Use a 2-part detachable set if you want to keep 20 keys and a 2 pounds of knick-knacks on it

Checking the ignition switch with a test light probe is easy to do. You just place the probe on the switched side of the wiring and see if you get power to that point when you turn the key to the RUN or START position, depending on what area you are testing. In your case thought it does sound like there is a problem with the switch contacts making connection to the START position when they shouldn’t be. The probe will light up on that position if that is the case. There may also be a problem with the RUN position contacts that is causing the battery to discharge while the car is parked. The probe will show that also.