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Discussion Starter #1
So the wife had old reliable out and it stalled on her without warning while she was pulling into the parking lot. It then started right up and stalled again 50ft away. I showed up about 1 1\2 hours later, started it up, and drove it 30 miles home like nothing was wrong.
Here's the specifics: 2004 3.3l awd 274,000 miles. It was raining, nothing electrical shut off with the engine, no cel or pending codes, about 60k on the plugs, all sensors are original. It was running smoothly and just cut out, then started right up like normal and cut out again shortly thereafter. The battery does have some corrosion and the ground was a little loose, but once I got home I pulled the ground wire off and the car stayed running, so does that rule out a bad ground? Of course my first step will be to clean and tighten the terminals. Next I will be checking for a vacuum leak. Any other ideas?
Thanks Guys!
 

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With no codes I think fuel first. Perhaps fuel relay or pump ground.
I would probably use my OBDLINK to log injector timing and ignition voltage and put a current probe on the fuel pump line.
Did it only happen at idle and when turning?
Look at the immobilizer and ignition switch too, Especially if you used a different key to drive home. I am not sure if the immobilizer will kill them engine once it is running or not.
 

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I would also log RPM, and ST fuel trims. Trade-off between update rate and data. I find a delay of up to a second, so the data timing is not always sufficient to understand the sequence of events.
 

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First off NEVER pull a battery cable off while engine running. Unless you want to replace every piece of electronics in the car. The battery does more than power the car. It tames the surges and dirty voltage sent from the alternator like a giant capacitor. Second how old is the fuel pump? Original? If so it may be time to think about replacement. Vapor lock is basically unheard of with fuel injection
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks guys, I was wondering about the fuel pump in the back of my mind since it is original but I haven't heard of anyone having trouble with them. There's a first for everything though! I will check the wiring and relay for the fuel pump when I get a moment and report back. Will a failing fuel pump shut off and then restart right away?
The car wasn't totally at idle when it stalled, my wife said she was on the gas a little and not totally coasting, but she did mention it happened when turning both times. Also, I used the same key when I drove it. If it happens again I will have her try wiggling the key.
It rained pretty hard on her when she was driving, but the rain was over by the time I drove it home, so maybe the water got into a plug or connection somewhere...
CR, I haven't had to do any of the other diagnostics you mentioned before so I'll try and rule out the wiring and such first before I upgrade my scanner and educate myself on all of that.
Do all highlanders have an engine immobilizer? There's no alarm that I know of, but I do have that little blinking light to the bottom left of the steering wheel. I just figured that was a dummy light though.
 

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Fuel pumps generally are pretty strong on these. If I have any intermittents like this that are dependent on turning or braking I will usually start by removing, cleaning and reconnecting the small engine, transmission and chassis grounds in the engine compartment and for the ECM and BCM. In this case also clean the fuel pump ground. After that, it is on to the heavier diagnostics.
Do you have a sunroof? The drains can get plugged and water can run down onto the fuse block on one side and the ECM on the other side.
To find out if your car is equipped with the immobilizer, put your VIN into the Vehicle Specification page on the Toyota Owner’s website. Vehicle Specification | Toyota Owners
 

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It might also be in the power steering pressure switch not signaling higher load when turning but that seems less likely.
When they cut out suddenly without sputtering to a stop I think electrical/ electronics first.
 

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If the windshield defogger was on then the AC was another load on the engine.
I forgot to mention checking motor mounts too.
Another possibility but I think less likely is the throttle body.
Also, had it just been filled with gas?
Which scanner and app do you use?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Just checked the toyota owners website, no mention of an engine immobilizer, I still have the window sticker and it's not listed there either. Highlander was just filled up at the start of the trip, about 30 miles before it stalled, there is no sunroof. I'm leaning towards your first thought of some kind of bad ground or connection possibly with the fuel pump. The car always idles smooth and never hunts around for it's idle speed, so I don't think the ac or any other load coming on caused it to stall, or that the throttle body is sticking. How could the motor mounts cause this? They are starting to look a little beat up...
Hopefully I can get under the car Sunday or at least in the first part of the week and let you know what I come up with. I'm in the middle of a project on the house right now and the lawn hasn't been mowed yet either!
Normally I don't worry about this sort of thing until it gets worse and therefore easier to isolate and fix, but this is my wife's car and she's afraid it's going to cut out on her when she's pulling out in front of a tractor trailer or something (why do they all do that?!?).
I'm using a $40 hand held scanner from amazon that has fuel trims, spark advance and a bunch of other live info but not injector timing and ignition voltage, nor does it record data.
 

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My 2005 is my wife’s car too, so I know the issue. These intermittent problems are tough. It can only be ignition if it fails to idle due to a bad cylinder, but you should see it in the misfire counters and pending codes. It could be the ECM, but definitely not the first place to look. I don’t think it is the CKP, because you should get a code, but that is a fairly easy replacement. If you find nothing else, I would probably do that.
It is not that the motor mounts can cause it directly but if you get enough movement it could put stress on a wire or ground. The front active motor mount does have vacuum going to it, so could cause a vacuum leak. For the fuel pump, they almost never fail on these, but nothing is perfect. I like to use a DC current probe around the +12v wire because it tells me that the pump is actually running and how much load is on it as I watch the meter. But DC current probes are a bit expensive. You could also put a voltmeter across the positive and ground wires at the pump and at least know if you have voltage. You can also listen to the pump. They are very quiet on these, but I have used a plug-in microphone with a 10 ft cord on my phone and run it to where I need to listen. Or the old way and run a rubber tube back under the seat and listen that way.
I have tried several scanners and find that the OBDLINK MX+ is the best for these Toyotas because it has an extended diagnostics package that can access most of the engine and transmission real time data. and most modules. Good luck. If I think of anything else I will let you know.
 

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Don't know how hard a crank sensor is on these engines, but it definitely sounds like it could be a culprit. I've seen them randomly drop and cut a motor off and after spending much time searching and thinking something else because there were no codes, decide to change the $20 part and boom it works.

Random shut down issues are usually spark related, usually a fuel issue will give some hesitation/bucking as fuel pressure drops before it stalls.
 

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Don't know how hard a crank sensor is on these engines, but it definitely sounds like it could be a culprit. I've seen them randomly drop and cut a motor off and after spending much time searching and thinking something else because there were no codes, decide to change the $20 part and boom it works.

Random shut down issues are usually spark related, usually a fuel issue will give some hesitation/bucking as fuel pressure drops before it stalls.
I agree with your premise that sudden stop in general is often ignition but these engines have a lot of ignition redundancy unless the ECM cuts the spark. If injector power is lost it will stop immediately.
We don’t really have data to show how rapidly it stopped so I don’t think we can rule out fuel yet.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks CR and Nyhighlander, you guys have given me a good place to start, I hadn't thought of the crank sensor either. It doesn't look like I'm going to get to dig into this in the next few days so I'm going to switch cars with the wife until I get a chance to look into it.
I'm going to start by checking and cleaning all of the grounds, check for vacuum leaks, drop the gas tank and clean and grease the fuel pump plug (I haven't checked yet but I assume it's up on top of the tank. As always, I'll only drop the tank right after I fill it up :LOL:) . I'll check the efi relays too and maybe switch them around if any other ones are the same. If the problem becomes more persistent I'll look into the crank sensor and rig something up to listen for the fuel pump.
Of course, I'll update as soon as I get under the old girl or if anything else happens.
 

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Thanks CR and Nyhighlander, you guys have given me a good place to start, I hadn't thought of the crank sensor either. It doesn't look like I'm going to get to dig into this in the next few days so I'm going to switch cars with the wife until I get a chance to look into it.
I'm going to start by checking and cleaning all of the grounds, check for vacuum leaks, drop the gas tank and clean and grease the fuel pump plug (I haven't checked yet but I assume it's up on top of the tank. As always, I'll only drop the tank right after I fill it up :LOL:) . I'll check the efi relays too and maybe switch them around if any other ones are the same. If the problem becomes more persistent I'll look into the crank sensor and rig something up to listen for the fuel pump.
Of course, I'll update as soon as I get under the old girl or if anything else happens.
MGeorge, you get to the fuel pump through the access port under the rear seat. Should not need to drop the tank to check the connector. The fuel pump ground point is BC, left side of rear cross member. I have not tried to get to that, so hopefully it is not buried by the tank. EFI relay ground is EH under the left headlight through J2 connector. Circuit opening relay for the fuel pump grounds through the ECM
 

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Thinking more about it, since the CKP is exposed, it could be affected by rain. Surprising to me that it would start right up, but possible if it is very intermittent. It could also be that harness. I’ll check but I believe that harness has a grounded shield in addition to the sensor connections.
 

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Mgeorge, I had this same issue happen last week and again yesterday. Thanks for writing a new post about it. I've cleaned the throttle body and MAF sensor, but will now check out the TPS and the grounds.
 

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Mgeorge, I had this same issue happen last week and again yesterday. Thanks for writing a new post about it. I've cleaned the throttle body and MAF sensor, but will now check out the TPS and the grounds.
Do you have a scanner to check for pending codes and real time data?
Just checked the toyota owners website, no mention of an engine immobilizer, I still have the window sticker and it's not listed there either. Highlander was just filled up at the start of the trip, about 30 miles before it stalled, there is no sunroof. I'm leaning towards your first thought of some kind of bad ground or connection possibly with the fuel pump. The car always idles smooth and never hunts around for it's idle speed, so I don't think the ac or any other load coming on caused it to stall, or that the throttle body is sticking. How could the motor mounts cause this? They are starting to look a little beat up...
Hopefully I can get under the car Sunday or at least in the first part of the week and let you know what I come up with. I'm in the middle of a project on the house right now and the lawn hasn't been mowed yet either!
Normally I don't worry about this sort of thing until it gets worse and therefore easier to isolate and fix, but this is my wife's car and she's afraid it's going to cut out on her when she's pulling out in front of a tractor trailer or something (why do they all do that?!?).
I'm using a $40 hand held scanner from amazon that has fuel trims, spark advance and a bunch of other live info but not injector timing and ignition voltage, nor does it record data.
About that scanner- see if it will work with OBD Fusion app. It may allow better diagnostics with the same hardware.
 

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Do you have a scanner to check for pending codes and real time data?
I've got a super basic scan tool (only codes were P0430) with read only data. I disconnected the battery for a bit to reset the TPS and all the codes got erased. So far no more stalls, but it is an intermittent issue so maybe I got lucky today.
 

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SuperBat, Cat efficiency code. Not an indicator of the stall problem unless it is seriously blocked. Do you have the 4 cylinder? What are the fuel trims? Does the scanner read freeze frame data? Was the CEL on before the stalls?
 
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