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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi all,


I have decided to take over, for lack of a better term, a 1988 MR2 that has been sitting for ten years, last started briefly in 2014 or so. I do not have experience fixing cars, so I tried and search the internet for ways to at least get it started back up to limp to a repair shop to avoid a huge tow bill. I have done the following and will provide as much detail as possible:
  1. New battery (Interstate, Group 35, 640 CCA from Costco)
  2. New oil/filter (STP from Walmart, 10W-30)
  3. New spark plugs (NGK 7086 from Autozone)
  4. Mixed gas (remaining from ten years ago unknown, remaining gas from previous successful start unknown, put in ~5 gallons summer 2020, ~2 gallons on 1/1/22)
I am posting a bit early, but I will try to check to see if the fuel system relays/fuses are okay within the next week. The fuel gauge originally shows the low fuel orange light, but now reads past "E" with no light at all. I am listing further probable causes for crank/no start:
  1. Distributor? (Current distributor and plug wires are red made by Sumitomo)
  2. Fuel pump and/or fuel filter? (I cannot find a direct opening to the fuel tank)
  3. Fuel injectors?
  4. Timing belt slip?
Miscellaneous issues I will list here so I can refer back:
  1. I do not believe there are any electrical issues, but the front radiator fans automatically turn on when the key is turned to the on position, which I do not remember happening when I rode in this car when I was a kid.
  2. Climate control sliders yield nothing
  3. Radio buttons not functioning
I apologize for going off in a tangent for a bit, but besides trying to get the car to start, can anyone recommend me a knowledgeable and honest mechanic here in the south bay area near Milpitas, California in case I cannot resolve the issues at home. I have called a few Toyota specialists and miscellaneous shops, but they do not have time to or do not work on the MR2 in general. I have limited tools at home, up to a basic socket set up to 14mm, a three-ton jack, two jack stands, and two ramps. I do not plan to dump big money on tools so I would rather send the car to a mechanic to do everything right the first time. I understand this car will need lots of work but I am still interested in getting it back on the road and driving it.

Any mechanical feedback and tips, along with shop recommendations are welcome. Thank you.
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Depending on distance, a tow might just be $100. That's what it cost to tow my SW20 15 miles home on a flatbed when I ran into issues.
  • Have you tested for spark?
  • Have you tested for fuel delivery to the rail?
You can test spark by disconnecting one of the spark plug chords from the spark plug and holding it 1/2" away from the body while an assistant tries to start it. If you get no spark there, disconnect the chord that goes from the igniter to the distributor (at the distributor end) and perform the same test. If you get no spark there, your problem is related to your igniter.

You can test fuel delivery by bridging the FP and +B terminals in the OBD1 connector while the ignition is turned in the on position. Once the pins are bridged, you should hear the fuel pump actuate and feel the fuel flowing through the delivery and return lines. If you're getting fuel through the rail AND you're getting spark, pull a spark plug and see if it smells like gas. If it does, you know your fuel injectors are actuating open and delivering fuel.

I would start there.

EDIT: just saw in the title that it does crank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Depending on distance, a tow might just be $100. That's what it cost to tow my SW20 15 miles home on a flatbed when I ran into issues.
  • Have you tested for spark?
  • Have you tested for fuel delivery to the rail?
You can test spark by disconnecting one of the spark plug chords from the spark plug and holding it 1/2" away from the body while an assistant tries to start it.
You can test fuel delivery by bridging the FP and +B terminals in the OBD1 connector while the ignition is turned in the on position. Once the pins are bridged, you should hear the fuel pump actuate and feel the fuel flowing through the delivery and return lines.

I would start there.

EDIT: just saw in the title that it does crank.
Hi, thank you for your response.

$100 is very reasonable, as that's what I'd be paying AAA to upgrade my roadside assistance service for they year anyway. Which towing company did you use and which shop did you tow your car to?
  1. I have not tested for spark. I will follow your method and pull out the wires with the plugs and try to see if I can see the little sparks from each plug.
  2. I have yet to test the fuel rail. I was just trying to look up how to do it and will follow your method to test. Going to try and find diagrams. Will a paper clip work to jump the terminals?
Thank you again. I will try your tips and see if that will get the car started.
 

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$100 is very reasonable, as that's what I'd be paying AAA to upgrade my roadside assistance service for they year anyway. Which towing company did you use and which shop did you tow your car to?
The company I went with for towing was just one I found nearby on google maps with okay reviews. The shop I use is a nearby one in Salt Lake City called Master Muffler. I imagine they wouldn't have any in southern California. It's honestly difficult to find a reputable shop that you can trust to do automotive work. Some places will just throw solutions at the problem until one sticks.

Will a paper clip work to jump the terminals?
Thank you again. I will try your tips and see if that will get the car started.
Yes! A paperclip should work just fine. I hope you can get the car back in working order! It's worth noting that with 30 year old cars, it's going to be a constant stream of minor and major expenses that are a lot more expensive if you cannot fix them yourself.

Congrats on the new MR2! 😊

EDIT: I almost forgot, I rebuilt my 1987 MR2's engine recently and had a problem with cranking but not starting. The root cause of the issue was that the spark chord that goes from the igniter to the distributor has a longer connector on one end. I had it flipped around, so I didn't get any engagement from the igniter to the distributor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The company I went with for towing was just one I found nearby on google maps with okay reviews. The shop I use is a nearby one in Salt Lake City called Master Muffler. I imagine they wouldn't have any in southern California. It's honestly difficult to find a reputable shop that you can trust to do automotive work. Some places will just throw solutions at the problem until one sticks.


Yes! A paperclip should work just fine. I hope you can get the car back in working order! It's worth noting that with 30 year old cars, it's going to be a constant stream of minor and major expenses that are a lot more expensive if you cannot fix them yourself.

Congrats on the new MR2! 😊

EDIT: I almost forgot, I rebuilt my 1987 MR2's engine recently and had a problem with cranking but not starting. The root cause of the issue was that the spark chord that goes from the igniter to the distributor has a longer connector on one end. I had it flipped around, so I didn't get any engagement from the igniter to the distributor.

Thank you. My bad to assume you were in California so I thought the price wasn't too bad, but everything is probably >1.5X more expensive here than in Utah. You would be correct about finding a trusty mechanic, especially for these cars. There was one MR2 specialist that closed down his shop and a Toyota specialist 25 miles away is profiting more from maintaining Camrys and RAV4s, so they're not taking on projects like rebuilding MR2s anymore.

Ah yes, I totally understand. This is why I waited to finish my undergrad and master's degree before I even touch the car. I used to be driven around in this exact car when I was a kid so the sentimental value is strong and I am very ready to deal with the troubles ahead. Having already bought a new car two years ago, I am not in a rush and want to do everything correctly while still keeping the financial side of it reasonable.

Good find there, small mistakes like those happen all the time. From what I have been told, the distributor/ignition wires have been changed once very far back then. The car was running great before it sat and I have taken pictures before removing things so I can avoid small mistakes I may miss.
 

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When the car has been sitting for a long time, it is common for the fuel pump to seize. Go to the test connector and put a jumper between B+ and Fp. That will allow the fuel pump to run with the ignition on. Turn on the ignition and listen for the fuel pump. Be sure to check the EFI fuse.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
When the car has been sitting for a long time, it is common for the fuel pump to seize. Go to the test connector and put a jumper between B+ and Fp. That will allow the fuel pump to run with the ignition on. Turn on the ignition and listen for the fuel pump. Be sure to check the EFI fuse.
Gotcha, thank you. I will search for the diagrams that indicate where B+ and Fp is.

Can you tell me if the fuel pump is generally very loud when primed like that and what kind of noise I should be listening for (like a soft buzz)? I suspect the pump is under the center console somewhere since I don't see the tank anywhere else.
 

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Gotcha, thank you. I will search for the diagrams that indicate where B+ and Fp is.

Can you tell me if the fuel pump is generally very loud when primed like that and what kind of noise I should be listening for (like a soft buzz)? I suspect the pump is under the center console somewhere since I don't see the tank anywhere else.
It's a soft buzz. You'll definitely hear and feel it. The two pins are found on the OBD1 connector. It's on the driver's side right next to the air intake on the trunk wall. Don't forget to have the ignition in the on position for it to work!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
It's a soft buzz. You'll definitely hear and feel it. The two pins are found on the OBD1 connector. It's on the driver's side right next to the air intake on the trunk wall. Don't forget to have the ignition in the on position for it to work!
I see. Sounds simple enough. I'll give it a quick test. Looks like the OBD port cap has the diagram, so I'll follow that. Thanks again.
 

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yea your fuel pump is most likely shot. I mean mine was sitting since 01 and the state of my fuel tank was terrible but maybe your pump works. checking timing is fairly east, you'll have to remove the lower plastic undercarriage to get access to the crank pully.
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or you can pull the top timing cover which is 5 bolts. to check that the cam gears line up.


heres a link to the repair manual, will be useful while getting the 2 to start
 

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The fuel pump is inside the tank which sits in the middle of the car. You need to drop the tank to get to it. I recently had mine replaced because it sat for a while.
 

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I had the fun of replacing the fuel pump in my 88SC not long back. What a job! Follow the BGB and get car high enough to bring the tank down and forward. But that indeed solved the crank, no start issue for me. Definitely recommend a thorough stepwise diagnosis that eliminates other causes before dropping the tank. The BGB is your friend!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
When the car has been sitting for a long time, it is common for the fuel pump to seize. Go to the test connector and put a jumper between B+ and Fp. That will allow the fuel pump to run with the ignition on. Turn on the ignition and listen for the fuel pump. Be sure to check the EFI fuse.
Thanks. I'll check that out first.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
yea your fuel pump is most likely shot. I mean mine was sitting since 01 and the state of my fuel tank was terrible but maybe your pump works. checking timing is fairly east, you'll have to remove the lower plastic undercarriage to get access to the crank pully. View attachment 78685

or you can pull the top timing cover which is 5 bolts. to check that the cam gears line up.


heres a link to the repair manual, will be useful while getting the 2 to start
Great, thanks. Do you know the bolt size of the crankshaft pulley? Might need to find the correct tool if a wrench wouldn't do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The fuel pump is inside the tank which sits in the middle of the car. You need to drop the tank to get to it. I recently had mine replaced because it sat for a while.
Do you still remember which tools you need? Where'd you get a new tank? Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I had the fun of replacing the fuel pump in my 88SC not long back. What a job! Follow the BGB and get car high enough to bring the tank down and forward. But that indeed solved the crank, no start issue for me. Definitely recommend a thorough stepwise diagnosis that eliminates other causes before dropping the tank. The BGB is your friend!
Gotcha, I will first sort out what others have suggested above.
 

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Great, thanks. Do you know the bolt size of the crankshaft pulley? Might need to find the correct tool if a wrench wouldn't do.
17mm. Make sure to only turn it clockwise. If you turn it counterclockwise without locking the flywheel in place, you'll jump a tooth on your timing belt and have to redo timing.
 

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The timing belt shouldn't be skipping teeth by turning the engine backward with a socket, assuming the tensioner is tensioned. I've done it plenty to get to get timing marks lined up or set up cam gears.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Pliers, sockets, container to dump the gas into. Didn't get a new tank just a pump. Before you do all that check if the pump is or sending gas to the engine.
Hi, just some follow up questions after discovering my fuel pump is shot:
  1. Shall the local autoparts stores not have the fuel pump in stock, are there any good aftermarket ones that will last a good while (brand, pressure, etc.)?
  2. While I'm down there, I would like to replace the parking brake cable. If you have replaced the cable before, do you know if local auto parts stores carry them? If not, do you know which other Toyotas use the same cable?
Thank you very much. Just trying to gather some information, get the right parts, and borrow the right tools before I begin.
 
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