Troubleshooting an engine no-start on your 1.5L Toyota Tercel can seem like an impossible task to do.
But there is a method to the madness of troubleshooting the cause of the no-start problem. In this tutorial, I will explain how you can get to the bottom of what's causing your Toyota Tercel not to start.
Contents of this tutorial:
- Difference Between A No-Start And A No-Crank Condition.
- Engine No-Start Diagnostic Basics.
- How Can I Troubleshoot A No-Start Problem?
- What Tools Do I Need?
- STEP 1: Testing The Ignition System For Spark.
- STEP 2: Testing The Fuel Pump's Pressure.
- STEP 3: Making Sure All Cylinders Have Compression.
- No-Start Troubleshooting Summary.
- More 1.5L Toyota Tercel Tutorials.
APPLIES TO: This tutorial applies to the following vehicles:
- 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 1.5L Toyota Tercel
Difference Between A No-Start And A No-Crank Condition
There's a difference between an engine no-start and an engine no-crank problem.
In an engine no-start problem, you turn the key to start the engine, and the starter motor comes out and turns the engine over, but the engine won't start.
In an engine no-crank problem, you turn the key to start the engine, but nothing happens. This is because the starter motor does not come out to play.
This tutorial only focuses on an engine no-start problem. So if your Toyota Tercel is experiencing an engine no-crank problem, I suggest you start by testing the starter motor.
The following tutorial will help you test the starter motor:
Engine No-Start Diagnostic Basics
The 1.5L engine in your Toyota Tercel needs three things to start. These three are:
- Air (compression).
If any of these three are missing when you're cranking the engine, it will not start. So let's find out what engine systems provide these three things.
1.) Ignition System
- The ignition system is responsible for creating and delivering spark to the engine cylinders. Without spark, the engine will crank but not start.
- In my experience, the most common component failures of the ignition system that cause a no-start no-spark condition are:
- A bad ignition control module (ICM).
- A bad ignition coil.
- A bad crankshaft position sensor.
- A bad camshaft position sensor.
- All of the above ignition system components can be tested systematically to find out exactly what has failed (if indeed something has).
2.) Fuel System
- The electric fuel pump (located in the fuel tank) supplies the gasoline the fuel injectors spray into the cylinders.
- When the fuel pump fails, it will cause a no-start condition.
- The fuel pump is easily tested with a fuel pressure gauge. Which helps in finding out if it's bad or not.
3.) Engine Mechanical System
- The engine pistons and cylinder head valves (and all the other related components like the timing chain, etc.) are responsible for the induction of the fresh air the engine needs for the combustion process.
- Although rare, internal engine mechanical problems can and do cause no-start problems.
- Possible internal engine problems are:
- 0 PSI compression in most if not all cylinders.
- A blown head gasket.
- A blown engine.
How Can I Troubleshoot A No-Start Problem?
Although it may seem challenging to diagnose a no-start problem, there is a method to find out what's causing the engine not to start.
As I mentioned earlier, the engine needs three things to start: air (compression), fuel, and spark. You and I can perform several specific tests (with some basic diagnostic tools) to pinpoint what's missing and causing the engine not to start.
These four tests are:
- Ignition system test: spark test.
- Fuel system test: fuel pressure test.
- Engine compression test.
- Blown head gasket test.
What Tools Do I Need?
You don't need an automotive shop full of tools to diagnose a no-start problem. Instead, a few basic yet essential diagnostic tools will suffice. You'll need:
- A spark tester.
- A fuel pressure tester.
- An engine compression tester.
- A multimeter.
- A code reader.
For the ignition system spark tests, I'm going to recommend that you use an HEI spark tester.
This is the most accurate spark tester that you can buy and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. You can find out more about it and where to buy it here: HEI Spark Tester (at: easyautodiagnostics.com).
You'll notice that I didn't include a scan tool in the list. But if you have one, I can tell you that it'll come in handy. Why? Because some of the components that cause a no-start condition can leave a specific trouble code (when they fail).
In this tutorial, you can perform all of the suggested tests without a scan tool. As such, I didn't included it in the list above.
STEP 1: Testing The Ignition System For Spark
I've diagnosed many no-start problems, and I can tell you that an ignition system component failure caused most.
For this reason, I recommend that you start your no-start diagnostic by ensuring that all four cylinders are getting spark (with a dedicated spark tester).
The following tutorials will help you test the ignition system:
- How To Test Ignition Coils (1995-1998 1.5L Toyota Tercel).
- How To Test The Igniter -Step By Step (1995-1996 1.5L Toyota Tercel).
- How To Test The Igniter (1997-1998 1.5L Toyota Tercel).
- How To Test The CKP Sensor (1995-1998 1.5L Toyota Tercel).
- How To Test The CMP Sensor (1995-1998 1.5L Toyota Tercel).
The ignition system is NOT causing the no-start problem if:
- The ignition coils are creating and delivering spark to all four spark plugs.
With both ignition coils delivering spark to their cylinders, you can conclude that the ignition system is NOT causing the engine no-start problem.
You can also conclude that:
- The crankshaft position (CKP) sensor is good.
- The ignition control module (ICM) is good.
- The ignition coils are good.
Since the ignition system is creating and feeding spark to the engine cylinders, the next test steps are to test the fuel pump's pressure. Go to: STEP 2: Testing The Fuel Pump's Pressure.
The ignition system IS THE CAUSE of the no-start problem if:
- Both ignition coils are not creating and delivering spark to the four cylinders.
- One ignition coil is not creating and delivering spark to its two cylinders.
The components that can cause this no-spark problem are:
- A bad crankshaft position (CKP) sensor.
- A bad ignition control module (ICM).
- A bad ignition coil that is not creating and delivering spark to its two cylinders.