Mysterious Revival

Last night when I was leaving work (after 2.5 hours of teaching in an after-school program), I discovered that my car, a '96 Toyota Rav4, was completely dead - even the power locks were out, and the car didn’t do anything when I turned the key. This seemed strange since the battery was replaced only 8 months ago. It wasn’t in the safest neighborhood and it was getting cold fast, so I left it for the night and took the bus home.

This morning I took the bus back to my car and lo and behold, it not only started, but made it the 15 minute drive home. I noticed a few strange things in the car - the clock is now about an hour and a half slow, the radio station had been changed in my car and the tape in the tape deck had been ejected. Otherwise, everything seemed normal. What could cause these specific circumstances??

Thanks for any input!!

Check the battery terminal connections.
More than likely, they are loose or have a lot of corrosion on them.

If everything checks out correctly with the battery terminal connections, my only other thought concerns a remote-start system. A friend of mine had very strange, phantom electrical problems (no-start, clock with the wrong time), and it was finally traced to some weird malfunctioning of the remote start system when it did a periodic self-test. And, interestingly enough, his vehicle was also a Rav-4, albeit a much newer one.

Even if you don’t think that you have a remote start system, if this vehicle was purchased as a used vehicle, it is sometimes difficult to know exactly what was done to it prior to your ownership.

Besides VDC’s good advice, take a multimeter and check the battery voltage. If the Rav-4 is driven mostly on short trips the battery may be not recharging fully. The battery’s voltage should be between 11.9V (discharged) and 12.6/12.7V (fully charged). When the battery was partially discharged (12.1V ~25% charged) on my 2000 Blazer, it started but had driveability problems). I use a Battery Tender ( trickle charger to keep the batteries on my cars fully charged.

Don’t discount a bad battery, I’ve had batteries go bad in 8 to 10 months. If the voltage is 11V or less the battery probably has a bad cell and needs to be replaced. But try charging it first.

Another issue could be a neutral safety switch out of adjustment. I had a pickup that occasionally would not start in Park. After shifting to Neutral, the truck would start right up.

Ed B.