Now it won't start...

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Apr 11, 2003
So what I originally thought was a battery problem turns out to be something else.

Here's the deal:

Intermittent (at best). No rhyme nor reason as to when it happens. Starts normally about 1/2 the time.

Turn the key, plenty of juice, turn to start, solenoid clicks and entire electrical goes off. No lights, clock resets, radio anti-theft engages, NO JUICE TO ANYTHING for about 5-30 seconds then everything comes back on.

There's then a 50/50 chance it will or won't start the next time you try. I put a voltmeter on the battery and had the better half crank and whether it starts or not the battery never drops below 11.5v or so.

Relays anyone? What's going on here?

Thanks again,
Perhaps a loose battery cable. Check both ends of both cables for tightness and corosion........My 1st guess.. :dunno:

Sounds very similar to what's now happened to me twice - starter is going bad. Get it taken care of ASAP. I didn't the second time :stupid: and it ended up frying my alternator as well.
Checked the battery cables, this was my first guess as well...

About the starter, ifin it was bad wouldn't the rest of the kit still work? How can the starter shut down the rest of the electrical system?

(Not saying I don't believe you BTW, just wondering how it would shut the rest of the elec. down)
I'd have to agree with Brent--starter would be my first suspect.

But the 5-30 second resurrection part (hey, it's Easter...) makes me wonder about a relay too.

In any case, start with the starter.

Have you checked the main fusible link off of the positive battery terminal? It's the three wire job, black and blue fusible leads and a pink wire with a Grey plug. Make sure that it is tight on the terminal and also inside the black plastic junction box that it goes into on the opposite end. It may be corroded or loose in there. My guess #2...........Dan :beer:

It did. Everything in the beast died, then a minute later electricals were all back. Not a mechanic, so I really can't explain. Just know that even after engine was running, the starter kept grinding and killed the alternator as well. First starter that went had all the symptoms you describe regarding the clicking.

Have it checked out!
I wouldn't be surprised if the starter contacts are going as well. On 94 up they can get edgy after as little as 60,000 miles or so. For some reason the 93 models are not as prone to that. They have a 2.2 KW starter as opposed to the 2.0KW unit used in 94 up. the 2.2 KW was only used on 93's. If any of you have 93's I would recommend that you hang on to the cores if you choose to replace the starter as the 2.2KW starter is not available in reman. You get a 2.0KW to replace it with. I would overhaul the 2.2KW and save it for a rainy day.

Dan :beer:
You don't give us the mileage on your 97. If it is over 90k miles then it will be needing starter contacts soon. If you are on the original Panasonic battery then you are past due for a new one.

(Assuming your battery is good)

Even if the mileage is less, my vote is the starter contacts. There have been a number of bizarre behaviors that resulted from the starter contacts failing.  I'll try to give you a best guess that would explain what you are seeing. The starter contacts are copper, +12v on one side, -12v on the other side. A copper spring loaded plunger get's pulled down when you engage the starter. This plunger (over time) gouges the contacts.  Many different things can happen. In your case, I'm guessing the plunger is sticking closed sucking (5-30 seconds!) all the juice causing other electrical items to get nothing from your battery.

I can assure you that nothing *good* is happening to your starter or the electrical system during those 30 seconds. You need to pull the starter and replace those contacts quickly. Clean or replace the plunger at the same time. It's a 2 banana job. We can post instructions if needed.

Thanks gents, picked up re-man starter today. Will install and post results as well as post-mortem on old starter which, if not totally fried, will be rebuilt and if totally fried will be returned for core charge refund.

More soon-
Here's the follow-up:

Old starter, not original but factory remanufactured. Therefore same as replacement starter and will be going back to get my $30.

It's a real PITA to get the bolts holding the starter free due to the limited clearance. Thank God for 12pt sockets. Right as I was to begin throwing tools the top bolt broke free.

So far, so good. Seems to start every time, but as a frequent traveler to Vegas, I wouldn't put money on it without watching the trend for awhile. Don't forget your OEM anti-theft stereo codes!

At this point, we'll say "Thanks for all the advice/help, runs great!" until it all falls apart!


<edit> Oh yeah, for reference it's got 115000 on it, more than half mine! <edit>
In the future, replacing the starter contacts is a 1/2 banana job after you have the starter out. No need to buy a reman just for the contacts; they're less than $25 at the Toy store.
Copy that, B. After a few beers last night I realized that I might just put the old starter and the toolbox a little closer together before I went and turned it in for the core charge. FSM is pretty damn detailed as far as the starter goes and a spare for $30 lost ain't to bad!

Thanks for the tip!
I have not seen it mentioned but as part of a starter rebuild, the armature bushing/bearings should be checked and/or replaced. Same with the brushes. I have seen starters short out intermittently with bad bushings because the armature will bind causing a dead short. $ .02 worth.
Excellent point Bill. I checked the brushes when I replaced the contacts at 97k; mine were OK. I believe the Toyota starter has a bushing... can't remember but I didn't see a problem on the brush end of the shaft.
i have a stupid question

should the starter show a dead short when vehicles not running and its not being used?
on my 40 it does, it works fine, just wondering if it should be that way. had some problems with the maxi fuse blowing and thats how found that, think it was the regulator blowing it, but wondering if the starter could be the culprit on an intermittant basis?

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