1999 Toyota Corolla; New Battery but having trouble starting


I recently replaced the battery in my corolla in June and all has been well until recently. When I try to start my car, it takes a few turns of the ignition for it to start. When clicking, the dash lights and radio come on but the engine doesn’t start.

What needs to be fixed?

First make sure the battery terminals are clean and tight. Check both ends of the cables. Sounds like a bad connection to me. You can have the battery and charging system tested at most parts stores for free. It’s a good idea, even though the battery is new. If the battery is not being properly charged it will still give you trouble.

The starter would be next on the list of potential problems, but your Corolla really isn’t old enough for a new starter. I hope.

A common problem with Toyotas. It’s often the contacts inside the starter solenoid. The easy/expensive way to fix it is a new starter ($100-$200, + labor, don’t need a dealer to do it). If you/someone you know is handy, it’s not hard to remove the starter, take off the solenoid, and replace the two side contacts and the round disc contact/rod assembly (maybe $30-$40 parts). Here’s a site with lots of info/pictures: http://www.4crawler.com/4x4/CheapTricks/Starter.shtml#Update-II

How many miles on this Corolla? If it is over 130k, it may be time to repair or replace the starter. If you want to know what has failed and how to repair the starter, reply back.

there is roughly 97K miles…

My ES needed it at about 90k. I made the mistake of replacing only the side contacts, worked fine for another 30k, then I had to do it again, so make sure you either replace the side contacts and the disk, or go the new/rebuilt starter route.

excuse my complete ignorance on this matter but, what are the side contacts/disk?

No excuse needed, there’s no reason you would know: these are the contacts inside the starter solenoid housing. It’s a moderately involved procedure to remove a starter on a Corolla, so if you don’t have a friend that can help you with it (I believe it requires using ramps), you’ll need a mechanic to remove the starter. Do you have a good mechanic? If not, use the Mechanics file feature on Car Talk to find one:http://www.cartalk.com/content/mechx/

any way to distinguish on my own whether it’s an ignition swith problem and/or starter problem?

I would check the voltage at the starter power supply wire to see if it’s getting the 12V when the key’s turned to start. Of course, with an intermittant problem, that can be hard to duplicate the ‘no start’. There may be other ways, I just went with the solenoid contact diagnosis, turned out to be correct.

after calling a number of shops one guy suggested it may be a loose battery cable?

Could be, but you said all the other electrical stuff works fine when it’s refusing to start. Same problem I had. It would be good to double check the battery, though.

right, it works for a second, then turns off. the electrical stuff doesn’t stay on. given that presumption, the mechanic assumed it’s a loose cable. i’m crossing my fingers. AAA installed the battery (upon telling him this, he scoffed a little) and they’re required to maintain it for free if anything happens, so i’m going to see what they have to say.

all i know is, financially, it would put me in a hole to have a starter replaced. i hope what this guy presumes is actually true…

I know it’s not cheap, but this problem will get worse, and will eventually leave you stranded (jump won’t work) if you don’t fix it.

so, starter replacements are the norm after so many miles? thankfully, i have a credit card for these kind of emergencies…

Unfortunately, it seems reletively common on Toyotas. If you can find a mechanic who will work with you, he could just replace the contacts and save you $100-$150 or so.

i’m going to go to this guy who suggested the loose cable problem since he seemed honest and if it’s a starter problem, i’ll see if he can work with me on replacing the contacts. thanks for all you’re help. it is deeply appreciated…