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Thread: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation

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    Default Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    I will be thorough here in hopes that someone has a suggestion I haven't thought of..

    My wife's car (2011 Toyota RAV4, 4-cyl, 120k miles) had a starter that was going out so I replaced it 6 months ago. The new (refurbished) starter had a fault and needed to be persuaded with a hammer a few times over these 6 months so I was able to get a replacement under warranty. The car has been running perfectly without issue otherwise. I replaced the starter again last week after the car was sitting for about a week. Immediately after replacing I started it up to make sure it was good and on the first start it sputtered and died. So I checked over everything and my intake breather hose was a bit loose so I tightened it up and tried again. Started perfectly and ran smooth so I let it idle for about a minute and turned it off and assumed a job well done.

    The next day my wife went to run errands and the car wouldn't start. It cranked but wouldn't fire up. At first I thought the new starter might be bad again (didn't think to check for the pulleys and belts spinning) so I put the old starter back in and had the same issue. At that point I looked at the pulleys and saw they were turning with the engine so I figured the starter was doing its job. I put the new starter back on and made sure to check that I didn't unplug anything accidentally while doing it the first time. Same issue, cranks but won't start.

    So I checked spark and fuel. I pulled each spark plug and checked that it sparked as my wife cranked the engine, all were good. They all smelled like fuel from the cranking so I'm pretty sure the fuel delivery is fine as well. I can also hear the fuel pump prime when I turn the key to on. To be sure, I sprayed starter fluid in the intake hose and tried again, still nothing.

    The next probable components are the crank and cam position sensors. The rpms jump slightly while cranking which is a sign that the crank position sensor is working. Its a pain to get to so I'm glad that one checks out. I tested voltage and ground to the two cam position sensors and they both check out. I can't actively test them without splicing the wires so I can't say for sure of them is not faulty. Maybe I'll buy a new sensor and swap it one at a time and see if that fixes it, but I don't want to just throw parts at it.

    I checked that the immobilizer wasn't activated and tried the spare key in case the main one got disconnected somehow but that did not make a difference either. I also went back through and checked everything in vicinity of the starter that may have been shifted or unplugged, but everything checks out. I only had to take the battery out to get to it. I also unplugged the mass air sensor and tried starting without it connected in case it was giving a bad signal. Still nothing.

    Tomorrow I will check all fuses (I know this is probably step 1, but if its cranking, sparking, and I'm adding starter fluid I'm not sure what fuse would keep it from starting), and compression. I have no reason to suspect loss of compression since the car ran perfectly before this but its all I have left at this point. If neither of those things are culprits I will have to tow it to a shop.

    So if anybody has any other suggestions I'm all ears, I'm at my wits end here! Otherwise, I don't have a local trusted mechanic so if anyone can recommend a knowledgeable mechanical that can help diagnose and won't just throw parts at it please let me know.

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    Default Re: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    +1 to the check for spark and check for fuel. "Timing" of the spark does not often change unexpectedly such that if you're getting good spark, we'll assume it is on time. You mentioned I sprayed starter fluid in the intake hose - was this the intake from the outside environment where the starter fluid would have to pass through the air filter or had you opened up the air filter box, possibly removing the air filter, or ensuring the sprayed fluid was as close to the intake manifold - no air filter in the way?

    Have you checked for OBD codes?

    When you changed the starters, what wiring did you have to disconnect or move or touch when doing that job? Any chance that some related wiring could have been disconnected or pinched / cut?

    As for I can't actively test them without splicing the wires another method is to pierce through the insulation to contact the wire within or, if possible (read - not always possible), slide the contact tool along the wiring at a connector to contact the metal pin/plug that the wire terminates at.

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    Default Re: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    Timing belt slipped perhaps? Has it beeen changed ever. Or does it have a timing chain?
    ___________
    Tom
    -.- . ----- .-- - -.-.

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    Default Re: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    For Jim's questions:

    I checked for codes with my basic code tool but nothing comes up. It had no codes before this issue and I imagine unplugging the battery reset it anyway and if there is another issue its not coming up maybe because it can't start? Not sure if a proper code reader like an Autel could see something different.

    The starter fluid went in through the breather hose opening, which is past the air filter and mass air sensor, right before the manifold. I sprayed it for about 4-5 seconds so it should have had ample fluid to at least attempt to fire.

    To get to the starter I just had to remove the battery and its support bracket. One of the bolts for the bracket holds down a ground which I checked and cleaned multiple times. Otherwise the starter just has the power and control wire, which are both on securely as well, nothing else was touched.

    if possible (read - not always possible), slide the contact tool along the wiring at a connector to contact the metal pin/plug that the wire terminates at - This is what I was referring to as not being possible due to the connector, there is no space to slide my multimeter connectors in. I want to avoid piercing the insulation for fear of cutting the wire. I may get the spare cam sensor just to rule that out.

    Tom:

    It is a timing chain engine, I haven't heard them skipping timing or ever really having issues in a Toyota. The car has been well maintained its whole life, my wife has had it since new and has full maintenance history.

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    Default Re: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    Re starting fluid - Was your wife in the car trying to start the engine while you were spraying? If not, I'd say to give that another try - with the motor being cranked / trying to start - spray fluid and see if there is any life. If the motor does not try to fire, where you believe it to be receiving fuel, I'd look at an electrical issue (vs. fuel issue).

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    Default Re: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    Update:

    I just did a compression test with interesting results. Cylinders 1-3 all around 105 psi, cylinder 4 was showing 70 psi the first time, which made me think of the worst, then I went back to it and it got to 105 psi also and kept it for a minute until I disconnected. Additionally that cylinder had a gas smell on the spark plug and the pressure test probe even though I disconnected the fuel pump fuse while pressure testing. That coil and spark plug look rougher than the other 3 so I think something is going on in cylinder 4?

    Could I have a stuck fuel injector that was releasing the rest of the gas in the line into that cylinder? Would that give me a bad pressure reading?

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    Default Re: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    105psi seems very low for the 2ARFE, even at altitude. Forum results say it should be 210psi at sea level. Did you do the test with the throttle body wide open?
    If so, all cylinders dropping that low suddenly seems to point to a valve timing issue - or your compression has been dropping steadily over time and just now hit the critical threshold.
    It's possible to check the piston rings by squirting oil in each cylinder and running the test again, this seals up the rings temporarily. Another option to gather data is doing a leak-down test.

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    Default Re: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    Oh wow I didn't even look for the spec, I was under the impression that if all cylinders are within 5-10% and above 100 psi it was good enough. I just had my wife crank it and did not open the throttle. Its an electronic throttle body so I wonder if it will go to WOT before starting up if you hold the gas pedal down? I guess I can take off the intake hose and see what it does. I'll give that a try and maybe add some oil as well. My battery might also be getting a little low from all the cranking so I'll plug it up to a jump pack to make sure I get full power from the starter. Will try again tomorrow, thanks for the input!

    I have no reason to think it was losing compression though. It doesn't burn or lose any oil, and the oil has been changed every 4,000 miles. That would be really bizarre but nothing is making sense at this point..

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    Default Re: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    Update:

    Well it started! But I have no idea why and why it wouldn't before.

    Andrew's post made me wonder if the throttle body stopped working and I wasn't getting air since it is electronic (my first car with an electronic throttle body). I had checked fuel and spark but just assumed air was fine. So I checked the throttle body and it wasnít moving with the key in the on position (I couldn't find anything online that confirmed if it should or only if the car is on), but it did open all the way if I went full throttle while cranking the motor. So we tried that and still nothing.

    Now I was pretty sure I had air, fuel, and spark, so I wanted to do a proper compression test at WOT. I put a jumper on the battery to make sure I got good crank, and tried the first cylinder, but strangely it wouldnít activate the throttle without the fuel pump fuse. So I put the fuse back in since in a lot of newer cars fuel should be cut when you go WOT while cranking, and it wasnít starting anyway, but that was not the case! It tried to fire up while I was testing the compression! So I put the spark plug back in and fired it again with the intake still off and it ran and threw some codes which was expected. MAF sensor and intake temperature sensor (both were disconnected at the time), but also codes for both cam sensors high voltage, and a coil code as well (there is one coil that had some oil on it and looked rougher than the others, but still sparked when testing). Then I put the intake back on and tried again and it started with no problems so I let it run for a few minutes. Then I cleared the codes and itís been running perfectly with no codes coming back.

    I drove it around for an hour with stops where I turned it off and started back up without issues. I really have no idea what the issue was, but I may replace both cam sensors and the worn coil just for some piece of mind. I also added some fuel injector cleaner in case there was an issue there. I guess we will see how it runs now and if the problem comes back. At least it looks like we avoided any major mechanical issues and the problem is probably some kind of electrical gremlin.

    Thank you all for your input!

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    Default Re: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    That's GREAT news!

    A head scratcher - but GREAT news. Thanks for the update.

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    Default Re: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    Weird as heck, at least it's running now. Probably a good call to switch out sensors, be sure to go OEM for those.

    I'm a simple man, I stick to carburetors and distributors

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    Default Re: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    Awesome it's running again and will echo what the other guys were saying, weird issue.

    a1gemmel previously posted:
    "I'm a simple man, I stick to carburetors and distributors"

    - Something to be said for keeping it simple.

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    Default Re: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    a1gemmel previously posted:
    "I'm a simple man, I stick to carburetors and distributors"

    Haha I've thought about getting a carbureted car just to learn/experience it. Might still do it at some point.

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    Default Re: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    Have you checked the throttle body? A buddys golf was acting like this years ago and the tb was the culprit, we cleand it out, esp the idle air control section IIRC and it ran normal again.

    Just a thought.

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    Default Re: Car wont start - Mechanic help or recommendation



    Yea the more I think about it I feel like it was an issue with the throttle. It only started after I was messing with it by opening and closing it manually. I will say it was perfectly shiny and clean so I donít think it was getting stuck from build up. Usually the IAC will have it running rough, which is why this is so weird, it ran perfectly before and still does, just didnít want to start for a few days. Iíll give it some time and see if any issues pop back up since itís been totally normal the last couple days.

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