When you turn the key to your Toyota, you expect it to start. That is one of those little things in life that is taken for granted. A vehicle that does not start can be a source of frustration because it can be a number of problems. It is up to you to determine where the problem lies.
If the key will not turn in the ignition, your vehicle may have a steering lock on it. Just turn the wheel a bit to unlock it and allow the key to turn.
Not all solutions are that simple, so let us look at some of the other problems you may have when your vehicle refuses to start.
Fuses – Not all cars have a fuse that is connected to the starting system, but a simple check of the fuses can rule this cause out quickly.
Battery – If the connections on your battery become corroded, there is no longer a connection to the rest of the car. This can keep you from starting. Clean the posts and try to start the car.
Additionally, the battery may be dead. Take a battery tester and test the cranking amps to see if they are weak. If you do not have a battery tester, you can test it by jump-starting your vehicle. If it starts right away, the battery is bad and needs to be replaced. Replace it and clean the connections. (Tips for jump-starting your vehicle and changing the battery in this article.)
Ignition Switch – If the battery is working, but you still cannot start your vehicle, it may be the ignition switch. Turn the key to ON and look for the red warning lights on your dash. If you get no lights and your battery is working, the ignition switch could be to blame.
If you get dash lights, then turn the key to start to see if the lights go out on the dash. If the lights go out, your ignition switch is okay.
Starter Connection – Corrosion on the starter can keep the car from starting. In order to test the connection, hold a circuit tester lead on the starter wire. It will be the smaller of two wires. Keep clear of any moving parts in the engine and have someone turn the key. Check the current on the starter. If the starter has current but it is not spinning, then you need to replace the starter. If the starter checks out okay, then the problem lies somewhere else.
It is possible that you are getting no spark, so the next place to check is in the ignition system. But if you're convinced it's the starter, this article may be helpful.
Coil – Test the ignition coil with a multi-meter and if it is bad, replace it.
Distributor Cap – Remove the cap and check to see if there is any moisture in the cap. While this will probably not be the issue, it is always good to check it for cracks or moisture. Dry it out and put it back on or replace it if it is cracked. See if the car will start.
NOTE: Most new vehicles do not have a distributor cap.
Coil Wire – A broken or shorted coil wire can keep your vehicle from starting. Look at the wire to make sure that it is not cracked or split. Use a circuit tester to check for continuity.
If you are getting power and the starter is spinning, the problem may lie within the fuel system.
Electrical Connections – Your fuel injection system has many electrical connections. They are connected at the top, on the intake airside, and on the cylinder heads. If there is a connection, then check it.
Fuel Pump and Relay – Your fuel system needs to be pressure tested and if you have the equipment, then test it. Use a circuit tester to check all the electrical connections to the fuel pump. Turn the key to ON. If you see a current, then it is not the pump. If there is no current, check the fuse. If you have a good fuse, then replace the fuel pump relay. (More about changing the fuel pump in this article.)
Fuel Filter – If you have a working fuel pump, the fuel filter may be clogged. It should be a part of your maintenance plan, so if it is clogged, replace it. (More about fuel filters in this article).
All of these suggestions are something you can do at home in your driveway. You can do more extensive tests with the proper equipment.
- Starter – Your starter may be loose, so make sure it is bolted in place.
- Injectors – A bad injector can keep the engine from firing.
- Cold Start Valve – If the engine is cold and the cold start valve is bad, it can keep your car from starting.
- Flywheel or Ring Gear – Worn teeth on these gears can keep your car from starting. They will screech when they are engaged.
- ECU or MAF – Your car’s computer may be bad. If that is the case, you will need to get with your dealership for assistance.
While any one of these things is generally where the problem is when a car will not start, you may run into a situation where it is beyond the scope of these issues. If you have done all the checks you can and it still will not start, then you may need to consult with your local Toyota dealership.