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Ask Ted Ritter Your Own Question
Ted Ritter
Ted Ritter, Toyota Master Tech
Category: Toyota
Satisfied Customers: 4180
Experience:  Toyota Master Tech, ASE Certified
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I have a 1991 camry with the 3SFE engine. The last

Customer Question

Hello. I have a 1991 camry with the 3SFE engine. The last one or two times I started the car before it quit it cranked longer than usual before starting. Then, the next time it just cranked and would not start. Initially I thought I had a fuel problem. I changed the fuel pump and then the fuel pressure regulator. None of that helped.
JA: Sometimes things that you think will be really complicated end up being easy to fix with a Toyota. The Toyota Mechanic I'm going to connect you with knows all the tricks and shortcuts. Are you hoping to fix this yourself?
Customer: Yes I am hoping to do so. I seem to have an very intermittent spark.
JA: Great! What have you tried so far?
Customer: At first I thought I had a fuel problem and I changed the fuel pump and then the fuel pressure regulator. None of that helped. Then I realized that my spark was somewhat intermittent. With a timing light on number one plug wire it sparks once in a while while cranking. When it does spark it appears to be on time. Often, it sparks right when one stops cranking and tries to slightly spin backward. I changed the rotor, distributor cap and plug wires, but that did not help.
JA: Is there anything else the Toyota Mechanic should be aware of about your Toyota?
Customer: I checked the coil with an ohmeter and the reading seemed to be close to spec. The timing belt has 110 thousand miles since it was changed, but when it does fire it seems to be on time so I don't really think the belt has slipped.
JA: OK. Got it. I'm sending you to a secure page on JustAnswer so you can place the $5 fully-refundable deposit now. While you're filling out that form, I'll tell the Toyota Mechanic about your situation and then connect you two.
Submitted: 7 months ago.
Category: Toyota
Expert:  Ted Ritter replied 7 months ago.
Hello, thanks for posting your questionHave you checked for any diagnostic codes in the check connector under the hood yet?On this engine is the coil inside the distributor with an external igniter?
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
I have not checked for trouble codes in the check connector. Do you know what one needs to check them? The coil is inside the distributor. I am not familiar with the igniter. What does it do, and what might it look like?
Expert:  Ted Ritter replied 7 months ago.
Thanks for the replythe diagnostic check connetor is under the hood near the firewall or one of the fenders, it's a small rectangular box with a cover that says diagnostic on it, open the cover and with the key on put a short jumper wire between the Terminals TE1 and E1, the check engine light will blink, if there is a code or more it will blink two digits, for example a code 12 would be one blink then two, then a short pause and either will repeat that one or add another one. You should also check the coil for cracks or a current arcing to ground, this will not show up on a resistance test, these coils can short to ground on the bottom side , you should see some signs of high current arcing to ground or some cracks on top of the coil(remove the coil cover to inspect).do this then let me know how it went, after that it would help if you have a 12 volt test light or a voltmeter.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
With the key on and no jumper wire installed, the check engine light was on steady. With the jumper wire installed between TE1 and E1 the light blinked a steady constant blink. Is this odd? I examined the coil carefully, and I could not see any cracks. The only thing I noticed was that one of the four screws that are installed from underneath and hold the coil on is missing. I clipped a wire to the negative battery terminal and held the other end to the high tension terminal on the coil. It sparked very nicely when the engine was cranked.
Expert:  Ted Ritter replied 7 months ago.
Thanks for the replyThe check engine light blinking steady with no pattern is normal if there are no trouble codes stored, what is kind of add is that there is this spark problem to the spark plugs and there are no codes. The coil seems to be ok according to the test you did. when starting the engine the spark is controlled by the igniter module based on the rpm input signal from the distributor. There are two very common problems with this engine when there is a spark problem to the spark plugs, a bad igniter and/or a signal generator pickup in the distributor. Do you have a diagram to check the pickup coil resistance in the distributor?
Expert:  Ted Ritter replied 7 months ago.
bgbonline.celicatech.com/89tech/ignition%20system.pdfcopy this link into your address bar, scroll down until you get to the test on how to check the signal generators, if this checks out ok try another igniter module, to locate it follow the wires from the distributor to it, it should be on the firewall on the passenger side.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Thank you, Mr. Ritter!
Expert:  Ted Ritter replied 7 months ago.
You're welcome , hope you get this sorted out. Good luck.