CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

2009 Tacoma Intermittent Starting problems

I have a new '09 Tacoma 4x2 SR5 V6 manual. Just 400 miles or so on the odometer. About every day or two, if I park for a few minutes (or once I stalled just after a cold start) when I turn the key I hear a click, electrics come on but it won’t crank. I tried arming/disarming the alarm, opening closing the door, shift out of and back into neutral, clutch alone, clutch + brake, clutch + accel, nothing. Dealer can’t reproduce it, says there’s no error codes… I don’t trust the truck… anyone seen anything like this? Thanks!!

Look up the details of the Lemon Law in your state at www.carlemon.com, and learn the exact details for your state.

A few months ago, a friend of mine began experiencing intermittent bizarre electrical problems with his 2008 RAV-4 after the dealership installed a genuine Toyota OEM remote starter. After two unsuccessful attempts at repair at the dealership (“no codes, cannot duplicate symptoms”), I used my legal training, took the bull by the horns, and sent a certified letter to Toyota Motor Sales, USA informing them that my friend was seeking relief under the terms of the NJ Lemon Law (N.J.S.A. 56:12-29 to 56:12-49), and that he would permit the dealership one more repair attempt before requesting a new vehicle. By quoting the relevant text of the statute, it was clear that my friend would soon be exercisng his rights and would be requesting his “brandy new” 2009 RAV-4.

Well, guess what? Shortly thereafter, he received a phone call from Toyota’s Regional Technical Representative who “requested” that the vehicle be brought to the dealership for his inspection. We arrived and spoke with the exceedingly polite gentleman, and I gave him my impressions and my diagnosis–namely that the remote start system was defective and needed to be replaced, and I reminded him that if this did not resolve the problem, a new vehicle was the next step under the terms of the statute in New Jersey.

He stated that he believed that I was correct about the unit being defective, and he then proceeded to introduce a Japanese engineer from the firm that supplies the remote starters to Toyota ! Several hours later, he called and reported that the engineer had determined that the technician who had originally installed the unit had left it in “diagnostic mode”, and he was confident that reprogramming of the unit had resolved the problems. He also acknowledged that because this had been the third repair attempt, a new vehicle was in the offing if his “fix” was not successful.

One month later, the RAV is continuing to function normally, and it does appear that the “fix” was successful. By using the legal means that exist, I was able to bring in “the big guns”, and get the problem resolved for my friend.

So, as long as your state has a reasonably protective Lemon Law statute on the books, all you have to do is to keep all documentation, compose an appropriate letter (non-emotional, but filled with firm language referencing the statute by number and quoting relevant language) to Toyota Motor Sales, USA, send it via certified mail, and await the assistance of someone who knows more than the guys at the dealership.

No matter how polite the people at the local service department may be, the bottom line is that their expertise is frequently limited and only by bringing in someone with more expertise and/or the authority to do more extensive diagnostic and repair work are you likely to have an intermittent problem resolved.

The old saying, “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got” is appropriate here. You need to change the routine and do something else, and that is to kick it up to the national level with Toyota.

Thanks – I appreciate the information! The truck is at the dealership as they continue to try to reproduce the problem. Meanwhile I’ve documented each instance of the failure, and all phone conversations with the dealership, so we’ll see how it develops.