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2008 Solara Strange Starting Problem

I have a starting problem that is a new one to me. After leaving my car at the airport for two days, when I returned the instrument lights lit up but engine would not turn over. I had it washed too, so I figured the guys left a light on…nope. So I turned the ignition switch off a waited a bit, and the engine made 1/2 a turn. I waited a bit more, then a full turn. Long story short, after enough of these cycles, the engine started and I drove home, no problem. The next morning, I figure the battery is well charged, but I get the same behavior. I’ve had many experiences with batteries getting progressively weaker as I try to start, but this is the first time I seen a battery (or at least starter) get stronger with start attempts. The battery is well within its warrantee period, but this is Texas, so maybe it’s dying already. But I don’t want to go drop $120 if there’s something else to look at first.

Any ideas out there?

Most auto parts stores will check the battery for free and if you need one they might even install it while you wait.

Original starter?
How many miles on the car?

Original Battery? time for a new one.period.end

Battery posts clean?

Tom and Ray have espoused a theory about this. As I recall, they called it the lazy-electron theory. Anyway, the way they figure it, the current flow through the battery the first crank attempt won’t crank the engine, but the current flow heats the battery up a little. So the next time the extra heat inside the battery is enough to make the battery’s chemical reaction work better. Electro-chemical reactions are temperature sensitive, so it sort of makes sense. Theres other explanations too, like the battery posts heat up the first time and expand, making a better connection the next time.

At any rate, fails to crank is probably the most common problem we get here. The starter’s current demands are huge, so any extra resistance anywhere in the starting circuit can cause this to happen. A shop can do a charging and battery test. Beyond that, the quickest route to a solution is a couple of voltage measurements at the starter motor during attempted cranking. If both the B+ and S terminal measure 10.5 volts and over, then the problem is the starter motor. If either is below 10.5 volts, work backwards and find out why. Best of luck.

Thanks to all for the feedback.

To complete the record, in case someone wants to rebut the lazy-electron theory, the battery is a Toyota 84 month installed in 2013. I live in North Texas, so the summers can be brutal (though this summer was fairly mild). I bought the car used in 2014, so I can’t say if the starter is original, though it has never given me a reason to doubt its health. I bought the car with ~70k miles, up to about 90k now. The battery posts seem clean, and the cable clamps are tight, but I have not removed the cables yet to look for hidden corrosion. I’ve never had a hiccup starting it until now. Interestingly, the terminal voltage was low enough when I returned to the airport, and again this morning, that the clock reset.

Yes it seems I’m destined for a new battery, though I’m still scratching my head about the failure mode. This weekend I’ll put the voltmeter on the terminals while my much better half turns the starter to confirm the lazy-electron theory. Then it’s off to Costco.

Thanks again,

If the starter is original I wouldn’t be surprised if the starter solenoid contacts are worn, it’s a common problem with Toyota starters at around 100k miles. If the cable connections are clean and tight, and the battery is good (or new), that would be guess.

In high temperature areas like Texas and southern Louisiana auto batteries rarely are reliable much over 3 years. If you aren’t sure, a shop can do a “load test” and then you’ll know for sure, one way or the other.

On Toyota starters in particular Ray usually suggests to the caller the “bang it with a stick” technique. Tommy even came up with a refinement, where the stick would be inside the passenger compartment, sticking through a hole in the firewall into the engine compartment. Then you just push on the stick and it bangs into the starter motor. Ray says this tends to work with gear reduction starter motors, which is apparently what Toyota uses in a lot of their cars.

I should add that I own a Corolla, and the starter motor no-crank problem has been by far the most problematic part of the Corolla owning experiment for me. So at least you are not alone … lol …