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How to Diagnose Starter Problems in a Toyota

by Zyon Silket

If you have ever looked at your starter, you might have wondered why Toyota decided to place it in an area prone to being hit by water, salt and road debris. Over time, the constant barraging of dirt and road grease can cause the starter in your Toyota to fail. Inspect the battery, ignition and starter solenoid, before determining if road grime is to blame.

Step 1

Disconnect the negative and positive battery connectors, using a socket and ratchet. Clean the connectors and the battery terminals with a wire brush. This removes corrosion and old battery acid from the connectors. Reconnect the battery connectors, using the socket.

Step 2

Place the leads of a multimeter onto the battery terminals. The red lead goes to the positive terminal, and the black lead goes to the negative terminal. Inspect the reading on the multimeter. If the voltage is less than 12 volts, charge the battery. If the reading is 12 volts or higher, the battery is fine. After you charge the battery, measure the reading again. If it still puts out less than 12 volts, replace the battery. If the car fails to start after the battery replacement, move on to Step 3.

Step 3

Turn on the headlights, and attempt to start the Toyota. If the headlights dim, the ignition works because it is sending current to the starter solenoid. If the headlights do not dim, the ignition switch is defective.

Step 4

Locate the starter and starter solenoid on the bottom of the engine. It is mounted to the transmission housing on the driver's side of the Toyota. The solenoid bolts to the top of the starter.

Step 5

Locate the two metal contacts on the back of the solenoid. One wire goes to the ignition, and the other wire goes to the starter. Place the blade of a screwdriver across both contacts. This keeps the solenoid from working, and creates a direct connection between the starter and the ignition.

Have your assistant attempt to start the Toyota. The solenoid does not work because you shorted it out with the screwdriver, so the engine will not turn over. However, the motor inside the starter should turn on and make a loud humming sound. If it does, the solenoid is defective. If the motor inside the starter does not turn on, or it sounds like it is running rough, the starter is defective.

Items you will need

  • Socket set
  • Wire brush
  • Multimeter
  • Screwdriver
  • Assistant

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