How to Check for a Bad Starter on a Toyota 4Runner

by Cassandra Tribe
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Adam Electric

Toyota 4 Runners are known for their reliability under all sorts of conditions. This doesn't mean that you won't encounter problems with them on occasion, but knowing how to check for what is wrong can help you determine if the problem needs the attention of a professional mechanic, or if it is a small job you can do in your driveway. When your 4Runner fails to start, most people will panic and just call for a tow. The starter system on vehicles is made of several parts, each of which can fail. By learning how to check for a bad starter on a Toyota 4Runner you will know whether you need a tow to a shop, or a cab to go pick up a quick replacement part at the auto store.

Step 1

Sit in the driver's seat, put your key in the ignition and turn the key to the first stop, but don't completely start the car. Your gauges and dash lights should power on. If they do not come on at all, you have no charge in your battery, and it should be charged before continuing. If your gauges and lights come on, but then dim down if you try to turn the engine over, your battery is also too low to start the car and needs to be recharged.

Step 2

Turn on your headlights and try to start the car. If the headlights flicker or go out while the engine is turning over, turn the ignition off. Open the hood of the 4Runner and check all the connections on your battery to make sure they are tight. Also look for a buildup of corrosion. If there is a white/green powder or "mold" on the terminals, disconnect the battery cables, clean the terminals (preferably with a wire terminal brush) and reconnect the cables.

Step 3

Try to start the car again and listen to the noise the engine is making. If you hear a clicking noise and nothing else, check the wires connecting to the solenoid and starter to make sure they are solid, unbroken and firmly connected. The solenoid is a black or blue cylinder located on the side wall of the engine, near the battery, usually on the passenger side. You can trace the wire from the solenoid to the starter, which looks like a squat can with a small tube on top. Once the connections are tightened, try to start the car again.

Step 4

Bypass the solenoid if all you are hearing is a dry clicking, even though you have verified that all connections are good and tight. Do this by removing the nut holding the wire from the starter to the solenoid with a small socket wrench. Have someone turn the ignition while you touch the end of the wire to the positive terminal of the battery. If you do not hear anything, your actual starter is bad and needs to be replaced. If you hear the starter spinning, replace your solenoid.

Step 5

Take the vehicle to a mechanic to have the switches and computer checked if none of the above steps have helped to resolve the issue with starting.

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