87 MR2 Problem Starting and staying running.


Asked by Aug 20, 2012 at 07:32 PM about the 1987 Toyota MR2

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

My MR2 was driving fine until it randomly just didn't want to start. I tried a few times and it finally got running again so I started
driving home. On the way home I pulled up to a red light and it died. I had to continually try to make it start before it finally did.
Once I got on my street it died again, and once again I had to work with it until it started and I parked it. The spark plugs and
wires are brand new, just ran sea foam through the vacuum line, the fuel pump isn't clogged, and trying to jump start it does

14 Answers


The first thing I would check is the distributor. Pull the cap and check to see if oil leaks out... That's a common problem and would explain your symptoms.

1 people found this helpful.

After messing around with things to check for what may be causing it we noticed how low on coolant I was. My brother has a Fiero GT and when his car's low on coolant it will refuse to start. So we refilled the coolant and it's been starting better. BUT, I took it for a short drive pushing it pretty hard to see if it'd stall out when stopped and it didn't, but when I got home we noticed the coolant in the reservoir was bubbling extremely loudly.


Hopefully not same case as mine--headcasket needed rebuilt. Aka blow-by. That would be major, you friend. Best of luck.


Bubbling coolant could be caused by a bad head gasket. Did you bleed the coolant when you added more? There are three bleeder valves, two in the front trunk and one on top of the transaxle. Definitely check your oil. If the oil is a milky color, then the head gasket is probably bad.


I've checked and my oil looks normal. But yesterday I replaced all the water in the coolant reservoir and I checked today and it's empty again.


Does the MR2 not like starting with low water?


The MR2 will run with no coolant. It does not have any sensor to determine low coolant that I'm aware of. If it's losing coolant that quickly, it has to be going either onto the ground or into the engine. If it's not going onto the ground, then my guess is that the head gasket is leaking coolant into the cylinders (luckily not into the oil, and also luckily not enough to lock the engine). That would definitely cause trouble when starting. When it's running, is the exhaust invisible or can you see white smoke?

1 people found this helpful.

I haven't seen any smoke.


Btw, I'm not trying to be difficult, I just can't for the life of me figure this out.

1 people found this helpful.

Sorry for taking so long to answer... I understand how frustrating problems like this are... Have you bled the system? It's possible that there is air in the system and that's causing the bubbling / emptying the reservoir. There are three valves that need to be open when bleeding the system. Two are in the front trunk (one on the radiator, upper driver's side. The other is on the firewall in the middle.) and one is on top of the transaxle. If you're not familiar with the bleeding process, I can take some pictures and get back to you with more detailed instructions (or you could look it up in the BGB or Haynes / Chilton manual).

2 people found this helpful.

Strangely it's been starting like a brand new car lately. Do you think there's a chance that there was clogged line that naturally unclogged?


I would assume that there was a lot of air in the system. If it's running well and you're not seeing any smoke (white or blue) from the exhaust when the car is fully warmed up and the fluids (coolant / oil) look good, it seems like there are no major problems!


My guess is that there is air in the system. The reason that it is intermittent is that the seasons are changing and the temperature is probably been varying more lately. The water expands and contracts. I would bleed out the system well. This is the best walk through I have found on bleeding the MKI. http://mr2oc.com/showthread.php?t=227934 Hope this helps, the board is a great resource and they have helped me with all the mr2s I have had (5 at this point). Good luck.


Thanks guys for your help. I've noticed that when I run the heater on full blast at all times this problem doesn't happen as often, so it's good thing I have T-Tops I guess haha. I haven't had the chance to bleed the system yet since I work 3rd shift, do kickboxing, and I'm in the national guard I've got a pretty busy schedule haha.

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