1998 4Runner Starter

I’ve been trying to figure out a problem I’ve been having with my 98 4Runner not starting. Sometimes it just clicks; try again and it starts fine. I stared by cleaning the battery posts, then replacing the positive connection (minor corrosion), then replacing the battery. No help. On one failed start, I then tried moving the shifter from Park to Neutral while holding the key in the start position. It immediately started. At that point I though it was the Park/Neutral switch. I found the switch, removed it, disassembled it, cleaned and burnished the contacts, reinstalled it and for about a week things were fine. Then it began again. Yesterday, after many failed starts and many sifts from Park to Neutral, I heard a mechanical chattering sound after starting. Shortly afterwards, I smelled an acrid burning smell. I shut the car off and it would not restart (sounded like the starter was trying, but seized). This morning I tried to start it and it turned over very slowly, I turned off the key and it continued to turn over slowly. I pulled the key out and it continued to turn over. I looked under the hood and saw both battery posts smoking and insulation melting. It finally stopped, but I thought I was in for a fire. It appears that for some reason the starter has become shorted to the battery (failed starter relay or starter solenoid/plunger?). Any thoughts on how to proceed?


This is a common problem with Toyotas. It sounds like your starter solenoid contacts need replacing. Are you handy enough to remove the starter? If so, you then remove the solenoid, replace the contacts (both side contacts and the center round disc) and put it back it, all fixed for about $30. Google ‘Toyota starter contacts’, you’ll find out all you need to know.

Hmm…just read your last sentence - you may have a failed solenoid now. Time to pull the starter and take it to a parts place to check it.

One thing to consider is a burr on the flywheel gears. If it stops in the right spot the starter gears may not be able to engage. Next time it happens try moving the vehicle a little while in gear…Just enough to move the flywheel a few inches…Then try starting it again.

Your starter solenoid is definitely cooked. Like texases said, you need to take the starter out and either replace it (the solenoid is enclosed in it) or take the solenoid part apart and rebuild it. It is a lot of work taking it out and putting it back, so you might consider just replacing the whole thing. At least on 4 cylinder Toyotas you get to the starter by going in through the left front wheel well -after you remove the wheel you remove the rubber piece that covers the opening between the suspension and the inner liner of the wheelwell.

OK, thanks for all the input. I plan on pulling the starter and replacing it. From looking at the simplified schematic in my “Chilton’s,” it appears that the only other component that might be suspect is the starter relay (its failure could lock in the starter after the key is turned off and removed). I intend to replace the starter relay as well before trying out the new starter. My only other concern is that the vehicle is equipped with a remote start feature (a frivolous add-on I’ve never used), and I have NO idea how that might figure into the equation!

OK, it’s all done. I only had to remove the transmission fluid dip stick tube (upper part) to get enough access. Not easy, but doable. As a precaution, I checked voltage on the control circuit to make sure 12 volts was applied on start and dropped out when the key was released. After making sure all was well, I connected the starter and it cranked right up.