Electrical wiring or distributor failure?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1985 Toyota Corolla. Just recently, the odometer turned over to 201,000 miles. I've had very little trouble with it except for one frustrating condition. Shortly after the odometer hit 150,000 miles, I started to have trouble starting the car whenever it had rained during the night. It was also hard to start after a heavy overnight dew. My garage has replaced the distributor cap and rotor, spark plug wires, spark plugs, etc. This did not seem to help. When this condition occurs, I have to let it sit for a day or two until it dries out. Then it kicks right over. Any help or suggestions that you can give me would be appreciated.

RAY: Well, George, they're certainly on the right track in suspecting bad electrical components. In fact, your garage tried all the stuff WE would have tried.

TOM: But at this point, our vast (or at least half-vast) experience tells us that it's probably the distributor itself. We've seen other Corollas develop a hair-line crack in the distributor housing. That lets water in and short circuits the electronic ignition, which prevents the car from starting.

RAY: We figured this out when our sister's Corolla was having the same problem. We completely submerged her car in a neighbor's pool. And after pulling it out, we noticed that the distributor had filled up with water. So we replaced it, and now the car runs fine.

TOM: You think she'd be grateful. But noooo. She's still bent out of shape about those 250 rolls of toilet paper in the car she had just bought on sale at the shopping club.

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