Intermittent Starting Problem with 1985 Toyota Celica


Asked by Feb 13, 2012 at 03:34 PM about the 1985 Toyota Celica GT Hatchback

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

My 1985 Toyota Celica beauty is just about to turn over to 40K miles. Overall she is great, but for the last two months she has had an intermittent problem starting that neither me nor my mechanic can solve.

Sometimes she starts fine, but there are a variety of false starts she has:

- Cranks and immediately dies out
- Cranks and cranks and cranks.... won't roll over
- Starts, but with a putt-putt shuddering/gasping noise that makes it sound like its about to die out
- Starts okay, but then shakes and putt-putts
- Has one false start, (crank and then nothing), then starts up just fine on second try
- Has a number of false starts, one after another, just won't start and then finally sputters to a weak start
- Any other number or weird non-starts

So the first time I took it in, my mechanic changed my spark plugs, which were pretty corroded. I took it home, and it false started again, pretty soon after.

I took it back a second time, and my mechanic cleaned out some other corrosion, and sent me back with it. Same story, fine for a bit, then false starting again.

I gave the car to my mechanic for two weeks the third time. He replaced the temperature sensor in the car and cleaned out some more corrosion. The celica, of course, starts fine when it is with him. He was starting it once a day in all conditions. When I finally took her home, she was fine for a week, then went downhill, with one false start, two, and then a horrible time when she took 20 minutes to finally sputter and start.

My mechanic taught me to do a spark test. The first time I did it during a false start, it did spark. More recently, it did not, though I am not 100% sure this was not due to human error.

There has never been a time where she has 100% not started after many tries. And keep in mind that she runs just fine otherwise and there are times in between the bad starts where she does start just fine.

Help me take care of my baby please!


Berkeley, CA

20 Answers


Get your mechanic to check the igniter, if so equipped.

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.


1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

************************************UPDATE**************************************** @Kirk, this is what my mechanic suggested after I told him about the lack of spark in the test. The ignitor/coil assembly was replaced on Friday, after tracking down the part. When my mechanic put the part in the car and I started it (it started up right then of course) he said that he could hear a rattling that let him know that the timing valve needed adjusting ($400). Unfortunately, the next day, the car miss-fired again and the problem still persists. When I did a spark test, I still got no spark. I can get the car to start around the third try if I pump the gas as I am starting it and give it low steady gas right as it is starting. I still get a rumbling or shaking every once in a while in the car, usually right after it has been started or close after. Could the timing valve adjustment do the trick? Was the ignitor/coil assembly a bad one? Or is there still a bigger problem at play?

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.



Sounds to me like a clogged fuel filter or a dying fuel pump. I doubt it is the timing unless your cam bolts are loose or your cams are missing teeth as these have non interference engines. Basically what this means is if the timing belt was to break you wouldn't even be able to notice it to a significant degree. By this I am not saying it is not needed but it won't kill your car.


To Kirk: Can u tell me how to check the igniter? I have an '87 Celica GT-S and it's been a nightmare trying to figure out why my car would not start after driving it until it sat for 30 mins to an hour. That progressed to the car dying while driving or idling with same results. Have been told it could be coil, igniter, fuel pump, you name it. Having a hard time deciding what to do next -- can't afford to spend money on a non-fixer. But reading this question thread has helped give me some ideas, so thanks for that.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

The 85 celica and the 87 celica are 2 different beasts. The 85 is a rwd that has a 22re. 87 is fwd and uses a different motor. And 22re's use timing chains and are interferance motors. Vacuum leaks can cause havoc on these engines but i doubt the origional poster still has a problem.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

first try your check engine light...test it. second your egr. third your distributor. forth your starter. fifth timing.


Andrew, you would think that wouldn't you. But the problem still persists. My latest attempt was made about 3 months ago. A new mechanic saw that I still had the 1985 spark plugs in the car, so those were replaced. It worked for about a week, and then the problem came and went again. Most recently, I will have spells of bad starts that come and go. This wasn't so bad, but this was a bad month, almost every day in the morning. I can always get her going on the second start though, with a little gas. She'll also shake after a bad start, until I drive just a bit or give her some more gas. Just drove it up and down to Tahoe from Berkeley, bad starts and all, and decided to take it back to the mechanic now that I'm back. Of course, shes on her best behavior and not bad starting at all knowing she's going in on Monday (ordinarily I really don't care for car personification, but it has been UNCANNY how the problem won't show when shes overnight at the mechanic.) I'm hoping to come with a list of possibilities, the cold start injector (at the suggestion of the guy who just smogged the car), and fuel pump included. Thoughts?


First, to Andrew: I was asking if there was any way to test if it is the igniter causing the problem with my '87 Celica GT-S. You stated the differences between '85 and '87 but nothing else. Do you know about '87's and any way to determine what's causing my problem? My car will not start at all now. I forgot to mention that it will not start with a jump nor can it be push started. And second, To Roxie: Were you giving that information to me, I have an '87 Celica GT'S or 'her85celica' to try or both? Thank you to all for posting -- all information is appreciated. I am so stuck. Getting ready to jump on the bus to see if I can find the part at a junkyard. New ones cost $350 to $600!!!


Im sorry if i seemed rude, wasnt my intention. I have an 85 with the 22re and could test my ignitor as a compatison. But im sure the 87 is different and my results would differ from what your would read. To her85celica, have you had a compression test done? And does ur car have the 22re?


I missed the part where it runs fine once started. I belive in order to start. Cold start injector does what it says and wont affect warm starts. Idle air valve could be cleaned. Need to ensure voltage from ignition switch is being sent in the start positions. To kellywithaceli, sounds like its more than just a no start issue if you cant push start it. Do a spark test while tring to start it.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Time switch for cold start injector Could be causing Problems or injector itself


No spark look at the coil dist, look for crack on back of coil Almost look like it belongs they crack when they get hot take Cap off Look with light let me know email it out takes a min or two


I would point out that when you finesse the throttle on a fuel injected car, you are merely adding air. If adding air to the air/fuel mixture, that would indicate perhaps an excessive fuel amount has been added. If a cold start injector leaks and continues adding fuel after its initial shot, this test can be performed without throwing money and parts around. Remove the injector and put it in a glass container or suitable plastic to see. Have a helper operate it normally to start cold. observe spray and time. watch it after you stop cranking, if it continues to add fuel by dripping, that is out of spec. Remember the other injectors can do the same. raw fuel sitting around accumulates and tries to foul the plugs, washes down cylinders and ends up wasing down cylinder walls and rings, thereby lessening compression. There has not yet been an accurate description of the condition of the current spark plugs, and we haven't heard if it smokes after it starts. If the spark is trying to overcome a resistance in the secondary, this would, coupled with the other problems, create the problematic, intermittant condition. The car has the attitude because the conditions are not exactly the same for the tech as they are for the customer. "ms. her85celica." Please have your technician of choice read this and run resistance tests on your secondary ignition parts and test the injectors the ways the fuel injection manuals depict, and it can sometimes, be helpful. I hope.

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excuse me, (washing down cylinder walls). / There is some question about the terminology of "the timing valve" ? $400 ? I would get a better description of what exactly was meant or done there. why does the rattle equate? Are you talking about an advance? or base timing? is the noise preignition? or detonation? Ask your tech to read this so we can get past it. The way you recall what he was doing could be incomplete, or confused, or he was covering an excessive amount of time invested perhaps. I would start asking him to trade cars with me so he could experience the concern the way you do. is there a garage for the car? you would have him secure it outdoors if you haven't one. If he keeps the car in the shop overnite the conditions would be different. so duplicate everything and have test equip at the ready is my humble suggestion. Hoping you solve it.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

After thinking on this for a sec, it seems to me there has been an awful lot of cranking without starting and it is likely the engine oil is getting diluted by fuel, bad for the rings and getting to flashpoint perhaps. If the dipstick smells like gas change the oil and filter. suspend cranking the engine till this has been done, if you still have the concerns or are working with it further at this date. it has been a few months without resolution and readers coming to this post would be wondering what was what.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

It's hard to do this over computors but I'll try to help.the only way you can fix a car like this is to find the problem as it happens.ot sounds Ike bad cable ends or a bad grounds cable.havre them check the Charge lamp relay most cars don't have them but I believe yours does Then start at the charing system ender load.also pull codes from computor pull pos cable clear codes then restart new code will come up


The asker has not responded to this thread for a long time. The asker applies the throttle when trying to start. They received a suspect diagnosis from a tech that could not always duplicate the starting problem. suspect operator error and internal fuel leaks. The spark questions and fuel tests have not been answered so i am no longer following this myself.

it can skip timing if the timing tensioners come apart like mine did the chain starts slapping and gets slack and it jumps teeth on the cam... usually you can hear a small ticking or clacking noise but very faint due to the oil in the case.

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