Stalling 1994 Toyota Camry-slow to restart

Hi All, this is the first time that I am reaching out to this group. I have a puzzle. I drive a 1994 Toyota Camry with 170K miles that is a two-door and five speed. Last year it began occasionally stalling in certain situations-specifically on hot days when I was driving for more than 15-20 minutes, arrived at a stop light, removed pressure from the accelerator and idled at the light. After stalling it was hard to restart…my typical approach of whisper swearing, trying to restart it, putting the hood up, more whisper swearing often while pushing vehicle out to of the traffic malay has always resulted in the vehicle restarting. The issue was clearly not related to power. Note, I got very good a keeping the car from stalling by putting the car in neutral and depressing the accelerator to keep an idle-after this the car drives rough for a bit.) My sense was the problem was related to fuel? I used stabil and a fuel injector fluid on suggestions of friends. After finally resorting to my trusty mechanic he said that he wasn’t sure, he could walk down the line, probably a sensor or something but that he did not have a diagnostic kit to test it. “Bring it to the dealer, they can test it and narrow down the problem.” August 2011, they ‘solved’ the problem by replacing a cracked ignition coil. The vehicle did stall once-It restarted-after this repair but I chalked it up to my own error-releasing the clutch a little too quickly. Then winter in Maine. And then May and warm weather again, the radiator failed and I had it replaced along with two fresh front tires. I also received an inspection and a to do list. About two weeks later amid a heat wave here in Maine I stalled at a light (I have already described my process). This continued in a generally predictable but not completely reliable stalling pattern. Once again my local mechanic balked at the repair after replacing fuel and air filter, and suggested that I drive with the gas cap loose, “seems to be related to fuel and or pressure or…not really sure, you should bring it back to the dealer if it stalls again”. It did. Now it is June 2012, the dealer contact, who is not the technician but a customer service rep (hopefully not his greatest strength) relayed that it was a thermostat issue that was causing the car to not use coolant to cool the engine. He also loosely summarized the other $3500 dollars in repairs that the car needed. Most of which I was aware of but had been quoted at more like $2000-$2500.

(1) Is the thermostat going to solve the problem? The ignition coil replacement did not. I just ok’d the repair and vowed to keep in touch about the long list of engine, strut, front brake, etc.
(2) How big a sucker am I? What is my course of action when it stalls on my way home after picking it up?
(3) Does anyone have any other thoughts about this?
Thanks for your interest and input.

When that mechanic suggested to drive with a loose gas cap, did that fix the stalling problem?
If so, it could be related to a clogged evaporation line, filter or check valve.

You need a new mechanic.

On an 18 year old 4–banger with 170,000 miles a lot could be wrong. I’d start with two simple tests, a compression test and a fuel line pressure test.

In addition, I’d want to check the Idle Air Control system (motor + orafice) and the Exhaust gas Recirculation (EGR) system.

Then I’d want to proceed to actually look at the spark pulses. On a scope. Perhaps I’d even end up checking the crank position sensor pulses, or who knows what else.

I seriously doubt if it’s an evap system problem. It’s symptomology is wrong.

And what he told you to do, drive with the gas cap loose, is an extremely poor recommendation. It’s very dangerous. It can cause a minor fender-bender to instead end up being a raging inferno. I STRONGLY recommend that you do not do this.

Thanks for these thoughts. Driving with gas cap was not a solution but did seem to help the issue a bit. Mechanic also recommended compression test and fuel line inspection as well as EGR valve. But without kit to read engine errors etc. and put this engine on compression he recommended heading to the dealer. He also checked the spark plugs.

What are your thoughts about the thermostat replacement being a solution? Any suggestions on how I should proceed when I stall on my way home from the dealer after they ‘fix’ it by replacing the thermostat. Note they fixed it last year by replacing the cracked ignition coil…could this be cracked again?

Thanks folks!

Please define “help the issue a bit.” Did the stalling go away?

While I’m somewhat surprised that your mechanic stays in business if his go-to advice is “take it to someone who isn’t me and give them money instead,” he may not have been far off on this one. Any time someone mentions stalling in traffic and hard-to-restart, the first thing I ask them to do is to take off the gas cap and drive around for awhile. This is not a repair, it’s a free diagnostic procedure.

About the gas cap loose helping, I’ve seen it where there’s a wicked vacuum created in the tank that actually causes the delivery to the injectors to be hampered. The pump would be struggling when that vacuum builds because you’re basically not creating the right fuel pressure.
A dead give away is that opening the gas tank creates this ‘woooosh’ sound.

That’s why I was thinking it may be related to the evap system or related components in my previous post.
Of course, if the OP was able to duplicate that problem with the mechanic, she should have been able to check the fuel pressure to verify it.

Shadowfax-sorry to be vague. Stalling did not cease. Yes he was looking and suggesting some simple options before more expensive diagnostics. He was also forthcoming that he would be happy to work down the line of possible repairs but that he did not know what the issue was. I also think that he is hesitant because a '94 Camry is a little rusty and…

Meanwhile the dealer had no trouble having me sign off on the $130 diagnostic test set and then suggesting I ditch this car and make a purchase. The car is actually in pretty decent shape and does not owe me too much so I would prefer to maintain it.

Thank you.

Remco, yes that was the line of thinking. He and I have both observe suction when removing gas cap…and the ‘jumpy’ driving seemed to support that as a possibility, I think we have ruled that out at this point.

You mentioning loosening the cap threw us off. It wouldn’t have been my first guess.

Usually the EGR throws a code. Do you have a code? Your mechanic recommended an EGR check, I see now? How come he didn’t just clean the thing?
The EGR can usually be cleaned easily at no cost if you do it yourself. It hardly ever needs to be replaced.
Not positive on your car but usually it is on top of the engine somewhere, held in with two bolts. Unbolt it, disconnect it and thoroughly hose the inside down with carb or intake cleaner. Then just bolt it back on.

Edit - googling the location for your camry and EGR got me this:

Thanks Remco. Yes. I looked into this. Might be a next step but I didn’t get a code from the check engine. I had trouble getting bolt # 2 loose and wasn’t sure it was the answer…
Will keep you posted.

It isn’t particularly difficult but make sure you’re comfortable doing it.
I’m not saying it definitely is the cause but something worth doing as it is a cheap and inexpensive thing to try.

Does your 94 have the standard OBD port? I know it wasn’t officially instituted until 96 but some cars had them earlier than 96. If so, you can get the codes read by places like autozone and pepboys for free.
If it doesn’t, there’s usually some sort of procedure where it may flash the code on the dashboard after you do something specific to your car to read the code out (ie, shorting two pins on a connector, plugging a connector in, or somesuch thing).
You may want to google for that.
Don’t just throw parts at the car as that gets expensive and frustrating quickly.