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1981 Toyota Tercel - Intermittent Electrical Starting Problem


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10-14-04, 05:30 PM   #1  
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1981 Toyota Tercel - Intermittent Electrical Starting Problem

When I tried to start the Tercel two days ago, the dash lights did not come on when the key was turned to the ON or START positions. Also, there was no starter solenoid click.

When the key was in the LOCK or ACC position or removed, there was a buzzing sound when I turned on the headlights but no light. When the key was in the ON or START positions, there was no more buzzing sound when I turned on the headlights, but the headlights still did not light.

When I tried switching the wipers on and off, eventually, the dash lights came on. But, when I turned the key to the START position, the dash lights immediately shut off, and the car did not crank.

Also, the hazard lights did not work when the key was in any position.

In addition, once after turning the hazard light switch on and off, the dash lights came on when the key was in the ON position. But again, when I turned the key to the START position, the dash lights immediately shut off, and the car did not crank.

The ignition key lock cylinder, hazard warning light switch, wiper controls (this Tercel does not have intermittent wipers, it has mist wipers), headlight and turn signal controls are all on the steering column.

The battery was fully charged on a Vector battery charger after the car failed to start. It was also reconditioned for about 12 hours. The car has an automatic transmission, 3AC engine.

I tried to start the Tercel today, and everything worked normally again!! Naturally, I'm afraid to drive the car anywhere and have it not start again.

 
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10-14-04, 09:12 PM   #2  
You should have the battery checked at an auto zone or advance auto or some other place who can do a quick free check. If the battery is over 4 or 5 years old, it probably needs to be replaced. Also check for corrosion around the battery terminals. If you can jump start it without any problems, then you'll know its either the battery or corrosion or the negative battery cable, and you can eliminate anything else.

 
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10-14-04, 09:27 PM   #3  
On the other hand, if you can't jump start it, you'll know you have some other kind of problem but the 1st step should be to have the battery checked if you don't see any corrosion.

Not sure what you mean by having the battery reconditioned. It was charged for 12 hours?

 
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10-15-04, 11:56 PM   #4  
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As noted before, I was unable to start the Tercel and had the other electrical problems on Tuesday.

The next time I tried to start it, on Thursday, it started right up (without a jump start). All of the electrical items on the steering column and dash worked normally again (headlights, wipers, turn signals, hazard lights.)

On Friday, I turned on the headlights (with the key in my pocket) and again they worked normally. The car's dash lights also came on normally when I turned the key to the ON position.

I'm still very curious about what caused the following problem on Tuesday, maybe this is an indication of the cause of all of the problems:

When the key was in the LOCK or ACC position or removed, there was a buzzing sound when I turned on the headlights but no light. When the key was in the ON or START positions, there was no more buzzing sound when I turned on the headlights, but the headlights still did not light.

I will probably have a chance to take the battery somewhere on Saturday to have it load tested. The battery is a little more than three years old, I believe. There is some corrosion on the positive terminal that I'll remove with a brush.

When I charged the battery on Tuesday, it took only a very short time. The Vector battery charger I used also has a mode called "Battery Recondition." This supposedly breaks up and dissolves the buildup of lead sulfate crystals on the battery plates, so the battery can hold a full charge. Anyhow, I reconditioned the battery for 12 hours, but only charged it for a couple of minutes, until the unit indicated that charging was complete.

 
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10-16-04, 09:34 AM   #5  
It sounds like the buzzer is operating properly, but that takes much less current from the battery to operate than the headlights, hazzards lights, or anything else that needs a significant current draw from the battery. All kinds of odd problems can happen with a weak battery , possibly even a false reading from a battery charger.

Post back with the results of the battery test. Hopefully its just a bad battery and you'll get it replaced and be done with it.

 
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10-17-04, 10:41 AM   #6  
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I had the battery load tested at Advance Auto Parts and NAPA. It tested good at both places.

 
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10-17-04, 05:16 PM   #7  
Does the car always start when the all the lights (parking, hazzard, interior, signal, headlights,) turned off? Are all the bulbs on the car working? When everything is working, when you are driving, is there any flickering of the lights?

You could have a bad bulb, a short somewhere or a loose connection somewhere, or a bad switch, assuming the the battery cables are good and making good connections. I'm not sure if the ignition switch would cause this problem, but possibly. It may take a schematic and some probing with a meter to figure out what is wrong.

Turn on the lights and tap on the the steering column in different places to see if the problem comes and goes by doing that.

 
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10-24-04, 09:32 PM   #8  
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A few days ago, I worked on the Tercel again. I agitated the positive battery clamps and cables. In doing so, I was able to replicate the problems, including the unusual buzzing noise when I turned on the headlights. I took a closer look at the battery terminals, this time with plenty of daylight! I saw that there was a significant amount of corrosion that could be removed, mostly from the positive cable clamp.

I removed quite a lot of corrosion with the brush and a screwdriver. Also, the nuts and bolts used to tighten the positive and negative cable clamps on the battery terminals were rusty. I guess I'll have to replace those.

I have driven the car for several days now, and the problems have not happened again.

Thank you jeff67 for your advice in helping me solve these problems.

 
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10-25-04, 03:15 PM   #9  
Good to see you have found the problem.

 
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