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I'm at the end of my rope- PLEASE HELP!

I have a '95 Toyota Corolla that has about 180,000 miles on it. Everyone tells me I should be able to get like another 100,000 miles out of my car easily. My car has a problem of not starting. The car dies all the time. I’ll go to my car and it just won’t start. The battery is about a year old. I just got it tested about 4 months ago and AAA told me it was just fine. In July I replaced the alternator. The car has spontaneously died three times after that alternator and the shop that replaced the alternator in the first place gave me 3 new ones saying that they were all dysfunctional. Meaning the car has had 3 new alternators since July. The car died on Wednesday. I took it into the shop and on Friday they told me they thought there was a drain from the stereo or the dome light so they disconnected them. (I assume this to mean they tested the battery and alternator and that they were fine.) Drove the car sunday at 7pm and today at 2pm it wouldn’t start. I’ve been told for the past 2.5 years (by mechanics and an electrician) that there is no draw on the battery yet it keeps dying. It used to die after not being driven for about 3+ days, and now since August it’s been spontaneously dying after having been driven the previous day. I absolutely don’t know what to do. I AM AT THE END OF MY ROPE!!! HELP PLEASE!!! I’m so desperate you have no idea.

I always view with suspect any repair that involves the continued replacement of the same part while laying the blame on the part.

Just to clarify this problem, does the no-start condition involve an engine that turns over in a sluggish manner, no starter motor operation at all nor any click sound, etc, etc?

If it’s been sitting for several days (like when I’ve gone out of town for Christmas or Thanksgiving) it will be totally. dead. No power locks/windows-just absolutely nothing. Today it gave me two cranks and then just clicks. Air, and lights came on. I also live in Utah so it’s pretty cold and it’s been snowing, but this shouldn’t be happening. I’ve lived here for 5 years and I’ve not had this much of a problem before. Problems began 3 years ago. It’s been rough.

You need to bring the vehicle to someone who can do a proper parasitic current draw on the battery. And you may have to leave the vehicle with them for a few days.

A parasitic current draw occurs when something like a trunk or glovebox light doesn’t shut off. But a parasitic current draw can also occur if a module fails to go to sleep. And those can be tricky to locate.

But find a shop that knows how a battery disconnect switch can be used to locate a parasitic current draw on the battery, and I bet they find it.


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Your year was not the Corolla with the problem with the ground wire from engine to inner fender. It used to be installed onto a painted surface and would eventually fail. The solution was to remove the end from the body of the car and scrape the paint off.

If the wire is loose, you can have the same starting problem. Your wire, braided with no insulation should be near the end of the engine on the passenger side of the car. Also, the entire negative battery cable should be changed.

The ground can be tested by attaching a jumper cable from a metal part on the engine to a bolt or stud on the fender or strut tower. If that gets your engine started when it doesn’t want to start, you have found a problem with engine to body grounding.

This test may do nothing on your car because it may not have that problem, but if you had a 79 it would probably work out. Good luck with it.

Usually when I hear of this problem, I have to ask if there is anything else on the car that doesn’t work, like a power window or something. Often something else that is not working is the source of the current drain.

Another thing would be a light that has stuck on that you might not see, such as a trunk light or glove box light. It might stick on intermittently so you go a couple of days with no problem, then all of a sudden, you have the problem a couple times in a row.

If you have folding back seats, fold one of them down and see if the trunk light is on at night.

I agree with @keith here. I just found a “parasitic drain” on my wife’s Blazer. It turned out to be the crappy sun visor mirror light switches that GM chose to turn off the mirror lights automatically. Good idea probably but they don’t function as advertised. When both sides are defective I see a real problem. Snip…snip solved the problem. Who needs lighted mirrors anyway?

I really appreciate everyone’s hypotheses. I will mention all of these to the mechanic!

To be clear. The alternator is working right? Putting out 13+ volts? And battery is good. So, get a 120v charger. OR, buy a portable booster pack. They are only $40. Than u always have battery backup. Till u find the drain.

Find a new mechanic. This one isn’t doing the proper diagnostic steps, and I suspect he’s just guessing at the parts.

As already asked, exactly what happens those times that the engine refuses to start?
Does it crank? Slowly?
If it doesn’t crank at all, is there any clicking?

I can tell you that at that mileage on that car I would not be at all surprised if the starter motor assembly (specifically the contacts) was becoming flakey, but DO NOT simply change the starter motor assembly…get a decent mechanic who’ll do an actual diagnosis.

It just depends. On Sunday it cranked twice slowly and then gave me clicks. Today when I went to jump start it it was TOTALLY dead. Nothing at all. When we jumped it it cranked 2-3 times slowly before it came to life. Really frustrating. I’ve also been told that the battery is good and the place that I took it to last week said nothing about the alternator being bad. I didn’t take it to the place that gave me 3 new alternators because they said each one was bad.

This is just my humble opinion, but whenever someone has an electrical issue related to the battery, alternator, starter, etc, a comprehensive electrical check should be performed.
This would include:

  1. Charging and testing of the battery.
  2. Alternator output test.
  3. Starter current draw test.
  4. Test for a parasitic current draw. This test would not necessarily mean determining the exact cause of any draw; only to verify if one exists and whether it’s a concern or not.

This covers the bases so to speak. I might add that there are things which may cause an alternator to appear inoperative and may even be intermittent in nature; say a poor connection in the power lead between the alternator and battery.

The sluggish cranking could be caused by the battery weakening due to a parasitic draw or excessive current draw by the starter motor; meaning the starter motor is worn and needs replacement.

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Laura, your symptoms are classic for a starting system that is not getting full 12VDC to the starter. Everything taken together, I’m going to guess that you have a corroded battery cable end, possibly a loose post (internally) on the battery, possibly fried contacts in the starter motor assembly, or something else in the circuit that’s “dropping” voltage.

“Dropping” voltage is an electrical term. If two resistive devices, like a motor and a highly resistive (corroded) are connected in series, each will use some of the available voltage in proportion to its contribution to the total resistance. Each will be said to be “dropping” a portion of the total 12VDCV available. That means if you have a bad connection in the circuit, the starter motor will not see the full 12VDC that the battery is putting out. It’ll have less power.

This is not rocket science to diagnose, but it needs someone willing and able. It does not sound to me like the guy you’ve been taking it to is willing and able.

I’m sorry I can’t say “change XXX and it’ll be fixed”, but of I did I’d be doing exactly what your current guy is doing…guessing. At your expense. You were right to take it elsewhere. Is it still there?

It should be pretty simple for a good shop to determine if there is an excessive current drain causing the battery to die and they should be able to find the source of the trouble pretty easily also. From what you say about the problem it does seem like there is a draw from somewhere.

The alternator problem could be due to a wiring problem between the battery and the voltage regulator. If there is a bad connection between them it could make the alternator work extra hard all the time and burn it out over time. A bad battery cable could cause the same thing. Again, a good shop should be able to see if that is the case very easily. I suggest you try to find a shop that specializes in electrical repairs and tell them what you have said here. Ask them to check for a current draw and see if the alternator output is putting out more current than it needs to. The battery voltage should be the same at the battery and the voltage regulator, or battery sense connection.

I used to live in Colorado, and you are absolutely right your car should reliably crank and start in typical Utah winter weather. Maybe I can chime in with some help info. I own an early 90’s Corolla and have myself experienced some “no crank” and “sometimes won’t crank” problems. In my case there is – in my opinion anyway – a design problem with the way the “Start” function is wired up. Too much current is going through the ignition switch during cranking, which eventually damages the ignition switch and I think it damages the starter motor solenoid contacts too.

After a bunch of frustrating fix-it this way, fix-it that way, I broke down and installed a separate 40 amp relay into the “Start” circuitry, bypassing the ignition switch. Has worked fine since. I don’t think you have this particular problem as you have a newer version Corolla. They fixed this design problem by then I believe.

So what should you do? You’ve got to figure out if the problem is with the starter motor, or with the car’s battery and wiring. To rule the starter motor in or out, your mechanic could measure the voltage at both terminals during attempted cranking. If both are 10.5 volts and up and it doesn’t crank, likely the problem is the starter motor. If either are 9.6 volts or lower, the problem is the battery and/or wiring. Start with that I suggest, and go from there. This can be solved, but it may take some time to determine what is wrong.