How do I know if my car has a short or some other problem?

Tiny
SSPARGUR2S
  • 1985 TOYOTA COROLLA
  • 220,000 MILES

Lately my engine has been having some trouble starting. Replaced the battery, alternator, starter, and the spark plugs but I have to turn the key multiple times for it to start.

When I first turn the key there's no sound, no clicking, nothing. Then, I wait a few minutes (and turn the key again, really quickly) and it starts just fine. A tow truck driver jump started my car (about two weeks ago) and it made a noise it's never made before, since then I've been having this problem. The car needed to be jumped because I left the lights on and it drained the battery.

Also, the car now runs hot sometimes but as far as I can tell the cooling system is fine. I flushed and replaced the coolant, replaced the radiator and both the hoses, the pump works (the coolant circulates when the engine's running), and the fan turns on when the car is warmed up.

How do I find out what's causing the problem without replacing everything under the hood?

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Monday, August 13th, 2012 AT 12:19 AM

17 Replies

Tiny
ASEMASTER6371
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Have a shop verify the battery, starter and alternator are working.
The ignition switch needs to be checked as well. Jumping a car these days is never a good idea as computers hate voltage spikes.

Roy

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Monday, August 13th, 2012 AT 12:48 AM
Tiny
SSPARGUR2S
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Thanks,
The battery, starter, and alternator were tested and are working.
The ignition switch is something to look into though. I'll have it tested and get back to you.
*If it helps, the clock and radio turn on when I turn the key in the ignition but the engine only turns on after a couple of tries.

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Monday, August 13th, 2012 AT 3:16 AM
Tiny
ASEMASTER6371
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Get back to us with the results

Roy

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Monday, August 13th, 2012 AT 10:08 AM
Tiny
SSPARGUR2S
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Well, it's not the ignition switch.

I really appreciate you guys working with me on this.

Is there anything else that it might be?

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Thursday, August 16th, 2012 AT 12:14 AM
Tiny
SSPARGUR2S
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Could it be the timing belt?

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Thursday, August 16th, 2012 AT 12:24 AM
Tiny
KHLOW2008
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The timing belt would not cause non cranking.

You have a problem with non cranking so this is basically an electrical fault.

http://www.2carpros.com/articles/car-engine-will-not-crank-over

The above link explains the system and how to go about looking for the source of the problem.

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Thursday, August 16th, 2012 AT 8:58 AM
Tiny
SSPARGUR2S
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The battery works, the alternator works, the starter works: they've been tested four times by four different people, just to be sure

It has an automatic transmission. I made sure the parking brake was on before I attempted to turn on the car, plus the ignition switch was tested, so it's not that

No alarm in the car

Internal Engine Damage?

I'm taking it to a new repair shop today. I'll have them check and let you know how it goes.

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Thursday, August 16th, 2012 AT 6:53 PM
Tiny
KHLOW2008
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Parking brake has nothing to do with non starting. The Park and Neutral Position switch could be.

No clicking and non cranking should be an easy to detect problem and I would suggest getting an electrician to check rather than a mechaninc, from which I can see you do not have any good electrician on your list of mechanics.

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Friday, August 17th, 2012 AT 10:40 AM
Tiny
SSPARGUR2S
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About an hour ago I saw an auto electrician.

His wife translated for me, but she said, "As far as he can tell, there's no problem with the starter, battery or alternator. There could still be an electrical problem, but he'll have to spend more time with the car to find it"

She also suggested that they could install a "push-start" button to bypass all the wires and just connect the battery to the starter if I didn't want to spend the time and money to find the problem. I told them I'd rather wait until I know for sure what the problem is.

They were telling me that it's common for older Toyota Corollas (between 83 and 87) to get electrical shorts in "the shaft", but I don't know enough about cars to know what "shaft" they're talking about or if any of this is true.

She told me it's going to take time because he's going to take all the electrical components out and test them individually to see if he can find the problem. He's going to do it in his down time between working on other cars and she'll call me when it's done.

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Friday, August 17th, 2012 AT 8:28 PM
Tiny
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One thing about older vehicles is that when wires ages, resistance increases in the wiring and for the starting circuit, the solenoid requires a rather high current to work. I have encountered many such cases and you either replace the wire harness or add a relay to the circuit to rectify, which would be easier, faster and more economical and also prolong the ignition starting circuit life.

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Saturday, August 18th, 2012 AT 7:27 AM
Tiny
SSPARGUR2S
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"either replace the wire harness or add a relay to the circuit to rectify"

That's essentially what the electrician and his wife told me. It's certainly something to consider.

My uncle wants to take a look at the car before I decide. He knows more about the car than I do and he just wants to make sure it's getting the care it needs.

I told him he can have it until Monday. I'll let you know if he finds anything different from what we already know.

Thanks for all your help.

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Saturday, August 18th, 2012 AT 7:18 PM
Tiny
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Replacing the wire harness didn't work. I'm not sure what else to do. It worked fine for about a week and then last night it just didn't start. Also, I found out it's leaking oil.

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Tuesday, August 28th, 2012 AT 4:57 PM
Tiny
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Where is the oil leaking from?
What wire harness did you replace?
Did you add a relay to the starting circuit?
Is it the same problem where the starter only clicks when you attempt to crank the engine?

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Tuesday, August 28th, 2012 AT 5:44 PM
Tiny
SSPARGUR2S
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Yes, it's the same problem as before: one click when I turn the key and the engine doesn't start.

Not really sure where the oil is leaking from: it's not pooling on the ground overnight, it's just not staying in the engine. It was empty last weekend, filled it back up and it drove during the week. Then yesterday I checked and it was missing some oil again. Not empty this time, just low. Still trying to figure out how badly it's leaking and from where.

About the wire harness: the electricians wife translated for me. She said there's a set of wires in the ignition shaft as part of the starter system and called that the wire harness. That's the best I can tell you on that one. They didn't show it to me, she made gestures with her hands to try to explain it to me. What I got from her explanation is that it's a bundle of wires in a shaft that connects from the starter to the ignition and a bunch of other components.

Didn't install the push-start button because I wasn't sure it would fix the problem and I didn't feel comfortable letting them cut a hole in the dashboard if it wouldn't resolve the issue. They told me replacing that bundle in the shaft would fix the problem and they wouldn't have to tear up the dashboard. So I let them replace the wires in that shaft.

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Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 AT 9:01 AM
Tiny
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If you do not see any oil leak to the ground, chances are it is not leaking. The engine is consuming engine oil and that would mean bad valve seals and/or piston oil rings. Note if the exhaust is smoking while engine is running.

You replaced the ignition switch which is not what I had in mind. The ignition switch wire goes to the dashboard to the side panels/firewall to the starter solenoid. It is this portion that is faulty and wasnot replaced. You do not need to cut anything nor install a push button switch for installing the relay. Seems the electrician you have is not really as good as I expected.

What you need to do is to wire a relay in the engine compartment and parts stores should have the relay and wire set for this. Wire them up between the starter solenoid wire and terminal.

Disconnect starter solenoid wire and attach wire to relay coil terminal #85. Ground terminal #86 of relay. When ignition is turned to crank(start) position the relay would click.

For the power supply to the relay terminal #30, you can tap it from the starter main cable from battery, the fuse box or the battery positive terminals, attach a 30 A fuse in between if you are getting power source from battery or starter.

Attach a wire from terminal # 87 of relay to the starter solenoid terminal and we are done.

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Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 AT 10:10 AM
Tiny
SSPARGUR2S
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The car started today, I had someone else start it a second time so I could check the exhaust and there is indeed smoke coming from the tailpipe but only when the car first starts up. The fumes are clear after that, but the smoke is just a puff of grey and then its gone. I don't have a way to follow the car to see if there's smoke in the exhaust while it's driving, but there probably is.

I ordered a service manual and as soon as it gets here I'm dedicating my free time to memorizing it. It looks like I'll be doing all my own repairs from now on.

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Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 AT 10:59 PM
Tiny
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Grey smoke from exhaust indicates oil is present in the exhaust system. As it appears immediately after starting, that is an indication of oil being burnt in the engine and is from worn valve seals which allows oil to get past them. When engine is stopped the oil is able to accumulate thus the smoke after startup.

When engine is running, amount getting past are being burnt and being minimal, the smoke is less noticeable.

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Friday, August 31st, 2012 AT 12:12 PM

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