Spark + Fuel = No Fire?? Help Please!!


Hello to all,

(SHORT VERSION!)- Can anyone please tell me why I have spark and fuel but car won't start, it doesn't seem to be getting any air suction on intake also??

(LONG VERSION)- I've been recently trying to freshen up my Starlet Turbo 4E-FTE but I've ran into problems. Just as I take a step forward I also take one backward so it's annoying me a bit. Anyhow at the moment I'm stuck trying to start it. It won't fire or even attempt to fire and I had it running only the other day and switched it off myself.

I think I should explain whats been happening with this car up until now so, basically its been lying for a couple of years, was running well when parked up, tried to start it one day and no start. After a few checks I realised the battery wasn't charging and that the fuel pump retired, so changed pump and fuel level sender as i needed a new sender anyway. After fitting used pump and sender which came shining clean from scrappy's my engine fired up after a few cranks. Happy days until, I continue on to fixing battery charging issue and fully servicing the engine, the car moved about 20ft to do so, then day by day I decided to do another bit in my spare time, some checks, buying parts, fitting them and so on. So alternator needed repairing and I left it on axle stands to replace fan and alternator belts, change oil and oil filter.

After all that the car was starting, running and charging so all good within reason (FROM FIRST DAY OF RESTARTING THE CAR THERE HAS BEEN A STRANGE WHINNY NOISE IN ENGINE WHEN REVVED ON AND OFF AND SLIGHTLY ROUGH IDLING). I think the noise may have slightly disappeared with the oil change as I was hoping but still not fully convinced. More days/weeks went by and I was considering my spark plug options and to finish with fuel filter. Got them and went to start the car before changing the plugs and filter just to see if there was any comparison in rough idling when changed BUT, NO START!

Done few more checks and what do you know replacement Fuel pump also packed up! Within about a whole total of 1-2 hours of running the replacement pump just quit? Unbelievable!! I learned a few new words at that time but just as I realised the issue I also realised I had a brand new pump bought from ebay ready to fit on, and so I did, lucky me! So after doing the slight wiring modifications needed on the new pump to fit with the Fuel level sender and refitting it, the car still won't start!! WTF??

The new pump is running and after doing some more checks its delivering fuel to the cylinders and all my spark plugs and leads are providing a spark. But I did notice the tips of all my plugs were a bit oily and wet looking. Cleaned them with wire brush and retried and still nothing. Put the new plugs in, and still no fire. Got a mate to check for suction on the air intake while I was cranking the engine over and it seems there is no suction. With all the plugs connected to their leads and left sitting loosely in their cylinders I got my mate to crank the engine and a ball of fire came up from the cylinders for 1-2 seconds, so that surely tells me that the air intake is not giving air to the spark and fuel mixture in order for ignition to take place and it obviously got just enough air from the plug lead caps being loose at the top of the cylinders. I've removed the breather box and top mount intercooler and from the bit I could see there was no blockage in the air duct but maybe there's some obstruction further in??

Maybe I'm wrong but I think this has to be the problem-no air, but can someone please tell me why or whats causing this? Sorry for the long post and thanks in advance for all or any help/suggestions!
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Sounds very random.

It's easy enough to work out if you are getting air and fuel into the cylinders and sparks to the plugs. Take all the plugs out and connect them to the leads then if you crank the engine you should see them fire. With the plugs out you can also feel air being pushed out of the empty holes. A look at the tops of the pistons (you will need a torch for this) should show fuel has been pumped in too. You could always use a compression tester to confirm the air is present and correct.

Other than that check the engine fuse box in case you have blown any fuses. It's possible removing the alternator could have tripped one.

Hope it's something simple!


Jay thanks for your reply mate,

I forgot to say I already had pulled out the plugs and tested them all while connected to there leads and all is good and I did feel air and see the tops of the pistons move up and down. But I didnt know that it signals that the cylinders are getting air or I didn't give it enough thought but it sounds like it makes sense. There just seems to be very little vacuum in the intake at throttle body when cranking over and none detected at the intake pipe air filter side. But maybe it should only be a small vacuum when cranking, I don't know.
The plugs seemed still wet with fuel when removed and I'm now wondering if its possibly flooding itself with too much fuel to be able to start. What do you think on this?

One of the first things I checked was the engine bay fuses and all are good. I don't have a compression tester but I would like to be able to test it for compression. I'm hoping its something simple too.


Have you been near the timing belt mate, possible you have a bad earth too. Mates GT-FOUR done something the same after sitting, his timing belt had slipped, fixed it but wouldn't run till we found a bad earth to the manifold


SKINY mate thank you also for your reply.

I haven't been near the timing belt but was wondering if it was causing the problem, the only thing is I switched the engine off the last day myself and didnt seem to be any issues then it has just been idling a bit rough I would say since lying up for so long but not serious enough for me to think the timing slipped a tooth but now I am wondering if this is what happened possibly while cranking the engine over while trying to start it. Is that possible?

I have also been thinking that maybe there's a bad earth or connection somewhere or that maybe its something to do with Cam or Crank shaft sensor or possibly Maf or Map sensor but I'm not sure how to check those out at the moment. Where is the earth wire on the manifold that you mentioned so I can check and I presume it's the intake manifold?


Yea the intake manifold mate, it should run to the bulkhead somewhere then there's a gearbox-battery, battery-chassis and some others, also earth points near the headlights, check my thread I recently cleaned a bad light earth
Timing belts can slip a tooth or a few symptoms would be not starting/lumpy idle, someone else could advise on checking it I've yet to do mine :)


I'll have a look for those for sure so i can rule that out. I looked but not sure where to find your thread on the bad light earth?.
I'm dreading the thoughts of having to check the timing belt
my car is stuck outside in the rain and I haven't done it on this car before :(


It should be in my mod thread, that said I've said that before and it hasn't lol. It's a big clump of wires with a connection to the chassis around the headlight area hard to miss them mate :)


Lol I hope to get another look later and I suppose earth points shouldn't be too hard to find! At the moment though I can't seem to find intake manifold earth point. Unless it's under the manifold but I'll have a look later if it doesn't piss rain on me in the middle of it :rolleyes:


Thanks for the reply Skalabala.

So I was going to clean up any earths I could find and I still will but because I couldn't see any that I had touched or damaged and considering the car was starting only recently and hasn't actually moved I decided instead to try a few other things first so while looking for more info online I unplugged one by one all sensor plugs I could find and tried cranking the engine to see if there was any difference but there was none.

While doing so I checked for any DTC,s after every time I cranked the engine over and it helped me to locate some of the sensors as I wasnt 100% sure of them. I got codes 31 and 34, no codes when throttle sensor plug was removed, code 14, code 24 some other plugs didn't set a code while unplugged. I was hoping unplugging one would have allowed the engine to start to indicate a problem but no.

I then checked fuel delivery was constant while cranking and not jst with after cranking jst to rule it out as I could only hear pump running after cranking.
So its delivering fuel to the rail constantly when cranking. Then I decided to do a compression test so I bought a gauge to do it yesterday.

So following info found on here and online I tested the cylinders for compression. My results with dry test were as follows. Starting from cylinder nearest drivers side or brake fluid reservoir and finishing with opposite side cylinder these are my results.

1st cylinder tested
Can't get higher than 8 bar/115psi on first tested cylinder after 30 cranks of engine. After 5 cranks the second cylinder tested read 10 bar then after 30 cranks 150psi maxed. After 5 cranks the 3rd cylinder tested read jst over 6 bar, then after 30 cranks it was maxed at 7 bar/100psi. After 5 cranks on 4th cylinder tested it read jst over 3 bar and under 50 psi, then after 30 cranks it maxed at 4bar.

WET TEST On the 4th cylinder tested after a small amount of engine oil added approx 15-20ml it reads jst under 9bar/124psi after 5 cranks. After 5 cranks the 3rd cylinder tested read 205psi/ over 14bar. After 5 cranks the 2nd cylinder tested read over 12bar at 180psi. Jst before wet testing the 1st cylinder I dry tested it again and after 30 cranks could only get 50 psi compared to the earlier 115psi (could this be due to lower battery output?). Then with the wet test it reads 6bar or 85psi after 5 cranks.

So D for DRY TEST and W for WET TEST:

D on 1st tested cylinder 115psi
W on 1st tested cylinder 85psi

D on 2nd tested cylinder 150psi
W on 2nd tested cylinder 180psi

D on 3rd tested cylinder 100psi
W on 3rd tested cylinder 205psi

D on 4th tested cylinder 58psi
W on 4th tested cylinder 124psi

I haven't done this before but from what I've been learning this is bad news. Can someone confirm this?
Even if I need to do an engine change or repair, could these results cause it to suddenly stop starting?
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I think the ground points are least of you worries mate looking at them results :( should be between 11-13 bar, I tested mine a while ago and it's down pretty equally across all 4 cylinders a bit (140ishpsi) but mine is 95% gummed up oil rings, I'm going to say your head gasket at least and no 1&4 piston rings or ringlands(the part of piston rings sit on) are kaput mate
Best thing for you to do now is start pulling the head off to see what the crack is, when the head is off you can check for cracked pistons/rings by pouring oil in the bores and see if it escapes into the engine


Yeah I was thinking this was bad result. You seem to have much better results even if its gummed up. But if the head gasket was gone shouldn't my water levels have dropped. The car hasn't moved since it last started. Over a few weeks how did it jst go from easy starting to this all of a sudden when sitting in the one spot on axle stands?

I tried starting car next morning after compression test. It actually half fired a few times so maybe the oil from test helped with compression to give it a kick. I don't think I had throttle all way to floor for previous test by mistake.

This is 2nd test. DRY TEST After 6 cranks 1st cylinder 145psi.
2nd cylinder 108psi.
3rd cylinder 180psi.
4th cylinder 150psi but dropping pressure maybe the compression tester release valve wasn't properly sealed for this one. Released it again and retested 4th cylinder at 156psi with pressure holding its reading this time.

WET TEST After 6 cranks
1st Cylinder 230psi.
2nd cylinder 180psi.
3rd cylinder 245psi.
4th cylinder 195psi.

I then quickly popped the spark plugs back in and reconnected everything so I could try starting the engine to see if the drops of oil I added to the cylinders made a difference. Once again it went to half fire a few times after some cranking but as my battery was weak getting weak it seemed a bit hopeless. I put the booster on it which then helped. It did half fire a few times and kind of kicked back so that's some kind of result at least. It then seemed to fade away like the oil in the cylinders had passed on down and was no longer sealing any gaps. But there is an awful difference between the readingr of first test to second test. I'm guessing it's due to not being exact in measuring the oil drops amount added to cylinders and possibly battery output??

I still think there's something else stopping it from starting though and I feel it will fire up if I find what it is even though my engine may not be performing as well as it should.


Member +
Double check the cam timing and ignition timing. Remove old fuel from the tank and put new fuel in.
If cam timing is 100% then you need to open the engine.


Its starting to look like I may have to jst dig in and check the timing. I'm not looking overly forward to it as I haven't done it on this engine before. I wanted to check all the easiest things first before the timing just in case something else can go wrong along the way. Parts seem to be extremely hard to find now.

There's just one thing that is bothering me at the moment, I have a remaining DTC(diagnostic trouble code) 31 for Map Sensor. It wasn't there before until I disconnected the plug for it and cranked the engine over but I've had the battery disconnected overnight for charging purposes so I expected the code to clear. But code 31 for Map Sensor still remains. I've bench tested it following a video found online but the problem is I don't have any specs chart to compare my results with so I'm guessing its working until I find another Map sensor to test from a running engine.

I will furter check its wiring if I can. But there has been a noticeable strange smell of the fuel it seems from the beginning and I have read online it's a symptom of bad map sensor.
I have recently added fresh fuel to tank to rule that out and also sampled some of it straight from the inlet hose by using a spark cigarette lighter and the fuel fired up every time in the catch can I used for the test.


Lol yes but I have opened the fuel inlet, stuck it in a small temporary catch can and let it fill the small catch can, then removed it from the engine bay altogether and put a spark of a cig lighter to it a number of times to see if it was easily ignited and every time it fired up with no probs.
I just thought it was an easy way to check if the fuel going to the cylinders was good enough instead of draining the tank and possibly contaminating good fuel before reusing it elsewhere.
Don't worry I'm still here SKINY! :D:p:)


Lol yeah but that would be a flaming event to take place wouldn't it! Things are bad enough as they are without adding fuel to the fire! But I have had touchy times that could make this car hotter than it should be, its just being a headache now.
Have you ever heard of a MAP sensor causing a non start? Or does anyone know what the vacuum pressure input to voltage output specs are for it?