Scary Experience

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Scary experience today with my '99 Prizm (had it for only about 2 weeks). I was at Chinese fast food place, stopped by to pick up my order. When I got back into my car, it wouldn't turn over. Within the span of 20 seconds, I tried about 5 times. Lights on the instrument panels lit up but the engine didn't crank.

So I decided I was going to eat my food in my car and then deal with this situation. But before I began eating (about 2 minutes after the failed startup), I tried to start the car again. Luckily this time it worked.

What could have caused this? On Saturday I got codes P0441 and P0446, I cleared those codes on Tuesday (looked up the codes, they appear to be emissions related problems so decided to fix it at a later time when i have more money). Other than the codes, the car has been running fine.

Not sure if this makes any difference but it was raining today and this is the first time i drove the car in the rain (wasn't raining hard, about a drizzle) and it was the first time i used the wipers on the car. The wipers worked fine except for this strange thing that happens...a couple of times, i put the wipers on intermittent then 10-15 secounds later, the wipers would be on low (non-intermittent). And the wiper handle thing would be shifted one notch down (from intermittent to low, non-intermittent). This happen not once but a couple of times. I just figured this is a quirk with my car (ok with me). But not sure if this has anything to do with the failure of the engine to crank.

Anybody have any ideas what could be causing my car's failure to crank and how i can go about fixing it?

Sorry for freaking out. After doing a little research, I just probably need to get my starter replaced (according to the resources i dug up, diagnosing why a car won't crank is really easy).

What do you expect when you buy a GM product? You're lucky the car didn't blow up and burn you alive.

What do you expect when you buy a GM product? You're lucky the car didn't blow up and burn you alive.

You're kidding right?

What do you expect when you buy a GM product? You're lucky the car didn't blow up and burn you alive.

That "GM product" is made from at least 95% Toyota parts.

Another common problem on 8th gens. Starter contacts worn and can be replaced. If you're a DIY kinda person, you can do it yourself:

Hey, thanks a lot. Very helpful. Actually, from what I've been experiencing worn starter contacts is probably the problem (b/c when the starter actually cranks, it has always started the engine).

What do you expect when you buy a GM product? You're lucky the car didn't blow up and burn you alive.

That "GM product" is made from at least 95% Toyota parts.

That's true, sometimes I call my Prizm a corolla instead. My dad had a 2001 Corolla and my '99 Prizm is almost an exact replica (minus 2001 MMC for corolla changes b/c 2001 was the mid model update for the corolla).

Geez, I just brought my car to Toyota service shop/dealership to have the contacts (on the starter) replaced. Unfortunately, I found out my car has an refurbished, aftermarket starter on it (previous owner obviously had it installed). The mechanic said since it wasn't a Toyota OEM starter it was probably a cheap piece of crap from Carquest or Autozone or something like that (the starter had no namebrand on it, it just had a big read 'R'- probably standing for refurb- and the date 1/23/06). Since the starter had the date 1/23/06 on it, the refurb is probably only 1yr and 4 months old.

My question is how crappy are non-Toyota rebuilt starters, specifically from places like Autozone, Pepboys or Carquest (or anyplace like that)? And thus how long can I expect it to last?

i've had an autozone starter on my car for close to 3 years without issue.

F*****ck! It just happened again when I stopped by 7-11 to get something to eat (not being too careful with my diet at the moment).

Guess I just wasted $260 today ($30 parts, $235 labor). But at least I know the crappy starter I have now is only bad when my engine is hot. Because while I was at 7-11, it wouldn't turn over the first few tries but then I wanted about 2 minutes and the starter turned over just barely enough to start the engine (you can hear when the starter just barely is able to start the engine). I bet if I wanted 5-10 more minutes (to allow the engine to cool down), the start would have been stronger.

So until I get my starter replaced (probably next week), I will have to drive only if I plan to stay at a location for more than 10-15 minutes and I should probably keep my rpm's as low as possible (to keep the engine cooler; my usual driving style is to rev the hell out of the engine, obviously need to change that in the near future).

Guess I'll need to spend another $400-500 to get this issue resolved.

sounds more like a bad cable than a bad starter. heat raises resistance in wires.

sounds more like a bad cable than a bad starter. heat raises resistance in wires.

i doubt its the cables. besides, i'm not going to spend $75 to try to see if its the cables, don't have the time to do it. just replace the POS refurb starter (with a fairly high quality one) and be done with it. if the problem still happens, then look at other sources.

This article gives a good explanation why a starter might fail in hot conditions:

starter failing in hot conditions

The article says:

'....There is one main reason for a starter to fail when it is hot - worn bearings, especially in the tailshaft. The heat generated in the starter by the engine and the exhaust pipes (sometimes) causes the armature to expand. If the bearings are worn then the armature drags (actually contacts) on the stator causing a short circuit and a high friction drag. Sometimes just replacing the bearings can fix the problem.'

Oh damn, I'm beginning to understand why my previous owner had to get his/her starter replaced. It seems '98-'02 Prizms used two different OEM starters, Denso and Bosch, (see link below) aka Japanese part and American part. This is in contrast to the Corolla, which only has Denso OEM starters (if I'm not mistaken).

'98-'02 Prizms have 2 different OEM starters

And I'm assuming the previous owner had a Prizm with a Bosch starter that eventually went bad. I hate to put it in that terms (Japanese vs American) but that appears to be the case.

I'm kind of worried, what other parts for the Prizm did GM use that are different from the Corolla? Hopefully no other 'system critical' parts.

EDIT: actually, I just found out Bosch is a German company but I still wish the Prizm just used Denso starters b/c Denso is practically a subsidary of Toyota (it seperated from Toyota post-WW2).

Speaking of starters. I just replaced my starter about 2 weeks in my 96 Geo for the second time.

First one replaced at around 110k miles. Got 190k miles now on the car.

Lifetime warranty on the starter. Purchased the first one almost 4 years ago from Auto Zone. Runs about 100 bucks after the core charge and everything. Kinda a bugger to change out. A second person makes it much easier. Takes about 3-4 hours.

I was bit disappointment in the life of the starter from auto zone. AZ says I should have gotten more out of it.

But if I remember correctly both toyo and chevy wanted an arm and leg for a new starter. I kinda remember thinking it costing around 400+ dollars for it. Dont remember if that included labor. For that price, I would hope so.