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2002 toyota highlander won't start

Everything electric works fine, windows, radio and all. The car will not start. New battery, still no start, not even trying. Put a new starter on and still nothing, but when you arc it you can hear it free spinning next to the fly wheel… any ideas what to do next? some people have said it needs to be shimmed, how would I go about trying that?

Did the old starter act just like the new one? Is the new one OEM?

Try starting it in neutral. If it works it’s the interlock switch. It also could be the ignition switch.

If the motor is spinning and not engaging with the flywheel, I can only assume that the bendix assembly is operating (the contacts that enable the motor circuit won’t engage unless the bendix assembly moves). That would leave either improper start motor shimming or missing teeth on the flywheel ring gear. Since you have to remove the motor assembly at this point anyway, see if you can examine the ring gear teeth. Post back with the results.

How are you arc’ing it? Are you jumping between the starter motor’s" battery" terminal (where the thick wire connects) and its “start” terminal (where the thin wire connects)? If so, that should cause the starter motor solenoid to push out the starter gear’s teeth and engage the flywheel. If it doesn’t engage the flywheel and just spins the motor, there’s something wrong and the starter motor has to come out. Inspect the flywheel teeth, starter teeth, and compare the new starter to the old, see if they both move the gear out exactly the same distance. Many parts stores have fixtures than will test the starter motor for you if you bring it in to their store.

Back to the arc’ing-the-starter question … with a little extra effort it’s usually also possible on Toyota starters to jump directly across the solenoid contacts and if you do that I think it might not cause the starter gear to push out, so the motor would spin but no engagement with the flywheel would be expected.

Note that when jumping the starter there are large currents involved, and if you don’t provide a low enough resistance current path there’s no telling what the starter motor will do. If you measure the two terminals connected to the starter and they are both 10.5 volts or more during attempted cranking, that should be enough to make the starter do what it is supposed to do, spin the engine. If the voltages are there, but it doesn’t do its job, then the starter motor needs to come out. Best of luck.

Here’s the starting circuit for you vehicle.

From the battery there’s main fusible link , 12 GA/White.

From the the fusible link it goes to the 30 amp fuse in the fusible link box under the hood.

This then goes to the ignition switch.

When the ignition switch is turned to the start position, this energizes the coil for the starter relay.

This closes the contacts in the relay which causes the starter to operate, and at the same time sends voltage to a 7.5 amp fuse to Engine Control Module so module can determine if the transmission range switch is in either park or neutral.

So I’d be looking at the fusible link, the 30 amp fuse, the starter relay, or the 7.5 amp fuse for the ECM.


I really appreciate all the advice. I will post if anything works. thanks again for your time

It sounds like no voltage is getting to the starter solenoid when you try to start. Is that correct? If it is, this isn’t a starter problem, it’s something in the starting circuit. Check the various switches involved, as I noted above.

Ok I’ve got a 2002 highlander just changed both knock sensors in which I had to remove the plenum and intake to get to them. After putting everything together now the trucks started is making a loud jerk and not turning over the engine. I didn’t have to touch the starter so I’m baffled. Any help will do, thanks.

Clarify what happens exactly when you turn the key to “start”. Good idea to re-post this problem as a new topic btw. Click “maintenance/repairs” above left, then “new topic” above right.