96 Tacoma Starting Issue

My 96 Tacoma has recently developed an issue where the starter doesn’t engage when I turn the key. If I let out the clutch/break and start over, it typically works.

The weird part is that I never had this issue until I had the clutch replaced. The day after I got it back was the first time I had any issues. It is intermittent and doesn’t happen anywhere close to all the time. I took it back to the shop that did my clutch and they told me I needed to replace my starter but I’m wondering if there is any other explanation for what’s happening that would make sense given the timing of the whole thing. Could work they did replacing the clutch be causing this?

Think your on the right track. Has to be a clutch start safety switch.

I am thinking you have 60 to 80K miles on this truck. The solenoid contacts in the starter begin to wear out enough at this mileage that contact is intermittent leading to missed cranks. If you “search” for “Toyota starter”, you should find more information. If you are adept at servicing starter solenoids, replacing the contacts and disc is a cost effective solution.

I have considerably more miles than that on the truck but it also isn’t on the original starter.

Just to clarify, when I turn the key the starter turns but it sounds/acts like it isn’t actuating and engaging the flywheel so it sounds like it just freely spins as long as I have the key turned (sorry for any incorrect terminology, my knowledge here is pretty limited). My limited understanding makes this sound like a solenoid issue but I was going to just replace the while starter since it isn’t that much more expensive and the one in there now is old. Could the behavior described above be caused by the clutch switch or would that cause no reaction at all from turning the key?

Thanks for all the help so far everyone.

hmm … I have a Corolla of that vintage, so have some experience with starter motor problems. If the starter motor is definitely turning, the problem isn’t the clutch safety switch. If it is turning and not engaging the flywheel, that’s a serious issue. I wouldn’t try to crank the motor any more until is resolved. Otherwise you may damage the flywheel.

I suspect as part of the clutch job the starter motor was removed, and it wasn’t put back on correctly. It might be installed a little cockeyed or just not tightened down so it is held forcefully against the corresponding mating surface on the engine block.

And it’s possible your mechanic is 100% correct, the clutch is a red herring, and you simply need a new starter motor.

If I had this problem I’d remove the starter motor, and if the teeth on the gear looked ok, I’d take it to a place that has a fixture to test it. If it tested out ok, I’d reinstall it, taking time to make sure it made it to home base.

The only time I had this problem, it was the failure of the starter’s one-way (sprag) clutch (which allows overrun after the car starts). It could not be detected off the car. A new starter fixed it.

The starter drive probably became polluted with fine dust from the failed clutch, now causing the starter drive to slip.

UPDATE: Put a new starter in this afternoon. The very first “start” had the exact same issue. Any other ideas?

You are certain the starter motor is turning like it should, and just not engaging the flywheel ? This is truly puzzling … hmmm … … Ok, the first thing I’d do is inspect the two mating services to make sure something isn’t stuck on one of them that shouldn’t be, which would shim the starter motor out too far, preventing the starter gear from engaging the flywheel teeth. Make sure the number of teeth on the replacement starter motor gear is the same number as on the original while you are at it. Second, I’d inspect all 360 degrees of the flywheel teeth. There may be a section of missing or badly worn flywheel teeth. Unfortunately both tasks require the newly replaced starter motor to be removed.

BTW, did you have your original starter or the replacement fixture tested?

The starter is definitely turning, it just doesn’t actually start the truck or even try to turn over. Don’t know if I used the right terminology with “flywheel” but I hope the description at least is making sense. I didn’t have either tested. It works probably 90%+ of the time so I have no clue. What really confuses me is that when it doesn’t work, all I have to do is let off the clutch and break, take the key out, and start over. That makes it work every single time without fail. I’ll check those other things you mentioned but it seems like if there was a section if damaged teeth, the “fix” would actually fix anything and it just wouldn’t start.

Don’t know how to edit, just wanted to say I should have had the old one tested before putting in the new one but I was in a hurry and moving so I just bought the new one and did it all in one go.

Can you inspect the teeth on the ring gear where the starter is? Often engines tend to stop in the same place, and if those few teeth get damaged this kind of problem can result. One way to test for this is to get a wrench that can turn your crankshaft. The next time it happens, turn off and remove the key, rotate the crank a quarter turn, remove the wrench, and try to start. If it starts it could be the ring gear.

That would definitely make start because removing the key and trying again always makes it start.

Well, if it always starts then, I’d think it was a switch problem, either the ignition switch or the clutch switch. But it is odd that it would spin the starter without engaging the first try.

Don't know how to edit...

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