2004 Toyota Matrix Pulley assembly damaged?

  • 4 CYL
  • 2WD
  • 57,500 MILES
2004 Toyota Matrix w/57,500 miles. Car just had major service by dealer 2 mo. ago. All of a sudden, engine would not turn over immediately, as usual, when starting one night (no prior symptoms). Thought it was the battery going dead. When I got home, 1mile later, I opened the hood and found a cable from what appears to be a pulley assembly (steel cable wrapped around a metal drum) hanging over the top of the engine. A nut is missing from the front of the pulley drum, and there is red fluid or grease all over one side of the engine compartment. Any idea what this is and what may have happened? Images have been uploaded.


Do you
have the same problem?
Saturday, March 6th, 2010 AT 2:40 AM

1 Reply

That is either the throttle cable from the gas pedal or the cruise control cable from the servo. You are one of the lucky owners. Throttle cables do not cause runaway engines. These cables are replaced now with computer-operated motors that are just ripe for electronic malfunctions, lawsuits, and recalls.

Throttle cables have nothing to do with grease or leaking fluids, and from what I can see in the photo, there's nothing wrong with it other than possibly a missing nut. Without knowing all the details, blaming someone who serviced the car, especially two months ago is very unfair. Mechanical breakdowns often occur without warning, and you can't necessarily blame it on what happened the day or month earlier.

The engine not turning over "all of a sudden" is the classic example of worn solenoid contacts in the starter motor. This happens to the little silver Nippendenso starters used on Toyotas, Nissans, and Chryslers. The contacts can be replaced for 20 bucks, but most people just replace the entire starter. Blaming this on a mechanic who worked on the car two months ago makes even less sense than blaming it on putting in gas last week. One of the most frustrating things about being a mechanic, or tv repairman, or plumber, is being blamed for everything that goes wrong weeks or months later.

The gas pedal has obviously been working, and it's entirely possible you're seeing the end of a bolt that never had or needed a nut. If the bolt isn't loose or falling out, it is likely held tight by threads in some other part. That I could only tell by looking at another similar car. I'm not sure why you think the cable is "displaced". Unless there's something I'm not seeing in the photo, it appears to be normal and correct. If it wasn't the gas pedal wouldn't have worked and you wouldn't have been able to drive it home.

The starter is going to continue to give you trouble but it will be intermittent. By cycling the ignition switch between "crank" and "run", it will eventually crank the engine. As the solenoid contacts continue to wear, it will take more and more tries to get the engine started. When this happened to my mother's Grand Caravan, I ignored it for so long, the final straw was the day she lost count after 700 tries and a blister on her thumb. There is absolutely nothing anyone did to cause this problem. It happens to all of these starters. I don't think there is a problem with the throttle cable. You need to find the cause of the red fluid, then we can try to determine what happened.

Besides the intermitent starter, what are the symptoms? Could the red grease just be left over from the previous service and it didn't get cleaned off? Is the fluid dripping on the ground? Transmission shifting ok? Engine not overheating? Power steering working properly? Automatic transmission fluid is red. Antifreeze always used to be green, but now it can be red in many cars. Power steering fluid was always clear years ago, but today it too can be red. Any of these leaking will be evident by simply checking their levels.

After rereading all of your comments and observations, you could very well have nothing more wrong than the starter. Can't get much better news than that. If you're not convinced, have a mechanic take a peek under the hood. Holler back if you learn anything or have any more details.

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Saturday, March 6th, 2010 AT 4:29 AM

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