Why is My Toyota Corolla Cranking but Not Starting?

In every car owner’s life, there comes a time when the vehicle refuses to start despite a relentless cranking. It might be unsettling if you are a Toyota owner experiencing this, given the vehicle’s reputation for reliability. However, you might occasionally encounter the situation and be worried: why is my Toyota Corolla cranking but not starting? Not to worry, we’re here to delve into the potential reasons behind this issue and how to address them.

toyota corolla won't start but cranks

Understanding Toyota Corolla Won’t Start But Cranks

When your Corolla is cranking but not starting, it means that while the starter motor turns the engine over, it is not igniting. The ignition process in any vehicle, including the Corolla, involves a well-coordinated dance between fuel delivery, air intake, and spark generation, all guided by precise timing. Here’s how to identify and fix the culprits potentially disrupting this harmony.

Why is My Toyota Corolla Cranking but Not Starting?

There are several reasons for this engine turns over but won’t start issue, each stemming from the fundamental requirements for internal combustion: fuel, air, spark, and compression.

1. Fuel Issues:

  • Fuel Pump Failure: The pump may not deliver fuel to the engine.
  • Fuel Filter Blockage: A clogged filter can restrict fuel flow.
  • Faulty Fuel Injectors: Fuel can’t enter the combustion chamber without proper injector operation.

2. Spark Issues:

  • Faulty Spark Plugs: Worn or damaged spark plugs can’t ignite the air-fuel mixture.
  • Bad Ignition Coils: The spark plugs might not get the necessary electrical charge with the faulty ones.
  • Faulty Ignition Module: This can hinder electrical current flow to the spark plugs.

3. Air Issues:

  • Clogged Air Filter: Restricts the air required for combustion.
  • Faulty Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor: Misreads the amount of air entering the engine, affecting the fuel-to-air ratio.

4. Compression Issues:

  • Timing Belt Issues: A broken or skipped timing belt can disrupt the engine’s internal movements, preventing compression.
  • Damaged Cylinder Heads: Can compromise the cylinder’s ability to create an airtight space for combustion.

5. Electronic and Sensor Failures:

Modern vehicles rely on many sensors and electronic systems. A problem with sensors, like the crankshaft position sensor or camshaft position sensor, can interfere with engine start-up.

6. Security System Malfunction:

Some vehicles are equipped with an immobilizer that prevents the car from starting if it detects an unauthenticated key.

7. Dead or Draining Battery:

While a completely dead battery typically means the engine won’t crank, a dying battery might turn the engine over sluggishly without starting it.

How to Fix the Engine Cranks but Won’t Start Issue

Here is a step-by-step guide to help you identify and fix car cranks but won’t start:

Step 1: Check the Fuel System

1. Fuel Pump:

  • Verify the fuel pump is working by listening for a buzzing noise when the key is turned to the “ON” position.
  • If you suspect it’s not working, check the fuse and relay for the fuel pump and replace if necessary.

2. Fuel Filter:

  • Inspect the fuel filter for clogs and replace it if needed to ensure a smooth fuel flow to the engine.

3. Fuel Injectors:

  • Check the injectors for proper operation.
  • Clean them using a suitable injector cleaner if they are dirty or clogged.

Step 2: Inspect the Ignition System

1. Spark Plugs:

  • Remove the spark plugs and inspect them for wear or damage.
  • Replace them if they are worn out or covered in deposits.

2. Ignition Coils:

  • Test the ignition coils for proper functioning.
  • Replace faulty coils to ensure the spark plugs receive the necessary electric charge.

Step 3: Examine the Air Intake System

1. Air Filter:

  • Inspect the air filter for dirt and debris.
  • Replace it if it’s clogged to allow proper airflow into the engine.

2. Mass Air Flow Sensor (MAF):

  • Check the MAF sensor for dirt and clean it using a special cleaner.
  • If it’s faulty, consider replacing it to maintain the correct air-fuel mixture.

Step 4: Verify Compression and Timing

1. Timing Belt/Chain:

  • Inspect the timing belt or chain for wear or misalignment.
  • If it’s damaged, replace it to restore proper engine timing.

2. Cylinder Compression:

  • Perform a compression test to verify that each cylinder has sufficient compression.
  • If compression is lacking, you may need to repair or replace damaged internal engine components.

Step 5: Evaluate the Electrical System

1. Battery:

  • Check the battery’s charge level using a multimeter.
  • If the battery is weak, charge it or replace it if necessary.

2. Sensors:

  • Inspect critical sensors such as the crankshaft and camshaft position sensors.
  • Replace them if they are malfunctioning to restore proper engine management.

Step 6: Consult a Professional

If, after checking all the possible problems your Corolla still refuses to start, it might be time to consult a professional mechanic or a Toyota service center.

By following this systematic approach, you can identify and fix the issue causing your Corolla to crank but not start, getting back on the road in no time.

How Do You Manually Start a Toyota?

Manually starting a modern Toyota, equipped with advanced electronic systems, is generally not recommended due to potential damage and safety risks. However, older models with manual transmissions can be push-started in emergencies. To do this, first, ensure the vehicle is in a safe location. Insert the key into the ignition and turn it to the “ON” position.

Depress the clutch fully and select the second gear. With the help of others, push the car to gain some momentum, approximately 5 mph. Quickly release the clutch to initiate the engine turnover. If successful, the engine will start, and you should immediately press the clutch again to prevent stalling. This method should be used sparingly as a last resort due to the potential for causing damage to the vehicle or injury. Always prioritize safety and consult a professional for assistance with starting issues.

What Fuse Would Stop a Car from Starting?

A car not starting could be due to a blown fuse affecting critical starting and fuel delivery systems. Here are some key fuses to check:

1. Ignition Fuse: This fuse is pivotal as it protects the ignition switch and controls the power supply to various components necessary for the engine to start. If blown, it can prevent the vehicle from starting.

2. Fuel Pump Fuse: A blown fuel pump fuse will prevent fuel from reaching the engine, stopping the car from starting. Ensuring this fuse is intact for the engine to operate is crucial.

3. Engine Control Module (ECM) Fuse: This fuse safeguards the ECM, orchestrating many vital engine functions, including ignition timing and fuel mixture. A malfunctioning ECM fuse can prevent the engine from starting.

4. Starter Relay Fuse: This specific fuse safeguards the starter circuit. A blown fuse here will halt power to the starter motor, preventing the engine from turning.

In case of starting issues, like Toyota Vitz cranking but not starting, refer to your car’s manual to locate and inspect these specific fuses in the fuse box, replacing any blown with the correct rating to potentially resolve the problem.


If you’re faced with a Corolla that’s cranking but not starting, it’s crucial to diagnose the problem systematically. Starting with simpler solutions like checking fuses and battery connections can sometimes save time and money. However, due to the complexity of modern vehicles, if a clear solution isn’t evident, it might be best to consult an expert technician or a Toyota dealership for a precise diagnosis and repair.


Mr. Shafiqule Islam is a graduated Mechanical Engineer and has more than 15 years experience of repairing and maintenance of different brand vehicles like Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Mercedes, BMW etc. He is also giving training to Mechanics. He has started writing to share his practical knowledge to Vehicle Owners, Drivers and Mechanics to keep their cars at best fit.

Recent Posts