Toyota Corolla Starting Problems – Troubleshooting Guide


Toyota Corollas have been around for a long time and have proven to be solid reliable cars. Yet, there are times that even these cars have problems and one of those issues could be starting. 

Most Toyota Corolla starting problems are resolved relatively easily and cheaply if you think through the possibilities of what is causing the issue. It could be a weak battery, corrosion on the terminals, a key fob battery problem, a bad starter, a failed alternator or a series of other problems.

Usually, the simplest explanation is the correct one so always start with the easiest thing first. One item, an OBD2 scanner, can be incredibly helpful since the Toyota has an onboard diagnostics system. 

The scanner is attached to the OBD2 connector located underneath the dashboard. Carefully connect the wires and turn the ignition to the auxiliary position without turning on the engine.

You will need to enter some information so be sure to have things like the type of engine, vehicle identification number handy. 

Starting Symptoms

Toyota put out a guide of possible problems depending on how your Corolla reacts when you try to start it. Here is a list of problems and solutions.

The engine doesn’t start but the starter acts normally.

Believe it or not, you may not have enough gas. Put some gas in and see if that helps. 

Another problem is the engine may be flooded, although a flooded engine tends to have a distinct sound. A flooded engine sounds like a choking sound. Wait about 10 minutes and then try to start the engine again. 

The engine immobilizer may be malfunctioning. 

The car has a slow crank but the lights are dim and the horn doesn’t sound. 

  • The battery is out of juice. 
  • The battery terminals are corroded or are a loss. 

Engine Won’t Turn Over With Smart Key

Those with a vehicle that uses a smart key system may find the starter doesn’t even try to turn the engine over. The problem could be the key battery is used up or there is a blown fuse. 

The Car Is Dead. Nothing works

  • The battery connections are disconnected. 
  • The battery is dead. 
  • The steering lock system may have a malfunction. 


Possible solutions:

Change the Battery

Either the battery is old, dead, and should be replaced or a new car battery may not have reached its full power capacity as it does that being used over time. 

Those using a multimeter on their battery should get a reading between 12 to 13 volts. Readings above or below those numbers will need a mechanic to further look at the battery. It is likely a battery that doesn’t fall into this voltage range will need to be replaced. 

Clean Corrosion

It isn’t hard to clean corrosion on the battery terminals. All you need is some baking soda, an old toothbrush, and water. 

The only part to be careful about is to remove the negative (black) cable first. You must use pliers but metal pliers will create a charge if you touch anything else in the car.

Unplug the red cable next. Now, you can easily clean the corrosion from the battery terminals and reconnect the cables.

Starting the Car With a Weak Key Fob Battery

Corollas that have a push start could be stalled by a weak battery in the key fob. Open the door manually. 

Those who don’t have an ignition to insert a key can still be started. Place the fob close to the start button and try to start the vehicle. You can also try starting the vehicle using a second key. That will tell you if it’s the fob or key.

Other Possible Problems

Other possibilities include:

Bad Starter

A bad starter is probably the issue if you have a newer battery. However, there is an option to get it started anyway but it requires two people. You have to turn the key while hitting the starter with a stick or metal tool. 

This may sound risky but it works because sometimes parts within the starter stick together and sometimes the gears aren’t in alignment. 

Failed Alternator

Alternators don’t fail often. In a Toyota Corolla, you should be able to run on the same alternator for up to 300,000 miles. It can break down faster if you run your car hard. 

The alternator could be the problem if you know the battery is good. The dilemma is that you can jump off your car to run it but it won’t run long without a good alternator even if you have a new battery. 

The alternator is what keeps the battery charged during travel. Without it, you are running solely on the battery and that won’t last long. 

Clogged Fuel Filter Issues

Fuel filters can become clogged with dirt, grime, and stuff in the air. That is normal for any car. A clogged fuel filter can result in dropped fuel pressure. The engine eventually won’t start. 

You can clean the fuel filter in some car models but replacement of the filter is the only option for the Toyota Corolla. 

Fuel Pump Failures

A failing fuel pump is typically noticeable overtime before the car finally breaks down. The car may have trouble starting or jerk some. It may have acceleration problems. Have a mechanic check it out if you start experiencing any of those problems. 

Blown Fuse Issues

This is not a common occurrence but a blown fuse can cause a Corolla to break down. You can check the fuses in the fuse box that are needed for engine turnover. Be careful in dealing with the fuses. Fuse repairs and tests are recommended to be done in a garage. 

Spark Plugs Need Replacing

It isn’t typical for the spark plugs to be bad but some could be loose. Tightening up even one could end your dilemma. 

Rodent Damage

Rodent damage can be an issue because the vermin can chew on wires and cables. This is easy enough to spot because you can see the damage by looking into the engine area. 

Engine Fails

This is extremely rare and should be the last thing to consider but a seized engine will make your car unable to start. The most common cause of engine failure is not adding or changing the oil. A broken timing belt, hydro lock, or an overheating engine can also cause failure. 

Toyota Corollas 2021 vs. 2022

The Corollas of 2021 have some cool features that keep you safe and driving including the Android Auto and a 139 horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Some versions offer a 169 horsepower 2.0-liter engine in a four-cylinder that works with both automatic or the optional six-speed manual transmission. 

There are no significant changes in the 2022 version as Toyota rolls out its 12th generation of cars. It is ranked high among car reviewers. 


Unexpected things can happen to cars that leave you stalled. That is true for any car and even for a dependable car like the Toyota Corolla. Learning about all the things that could present problems before they happen is a sure way to prevent them.

Keeping an updated battery, cleaning terminals, and making sure all lights and accessories are turned off are just a couple of things you can do. 

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