Crazy Starting Problem

During the cold snap over the last few months, my 1997 Toyota 4Runner has been having starting problems with the following symptoms in this order:

  1. I turn the key and nothing happens.
  2. I keep turning the key from off to start, and the starter eventually engages and cranks 2 or 3 times, but the engine does not turn over.
  3. I keep trying and the starter engages and keeps cranking even after I turn the key off.
  4. I panic, and turn the key on and off until the starter stops cranking.
  5. I try a few more times and the starter cranks and the engine catches, but lugs until I pump a little gas.
  6. Really weird thing. Occasionally, after the above sequence, the emergency brake light stays on even though the brake handle has been disengaged, and it feels like I have no power, then the light goes out and the car runs just fine.

The problem in intermittent. Cold seems to cause it although it doesn’t cause it every time. Rain may be a factor as well. Sometimes, I only have to turn the key a few times, and then the starter will engage. I changed the battery after the trouble began, and it cranks well if and when the starter engages.

Up until this I have not had a day’s trouble with this vehicle other than a little belt squeaking.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Original battery, huh?
Hoka, you have a dead battery or a bad cable connection and possibly also a problem with the ignition key cylinder.
Have the battery and charging system tested, get that problem resolved, and post back if the other problems don;t disappear.

Thanks Mountainbike.

Sorry if I was not clear. I replaced the previous battery ( the original died long ago) with a brand new one, and it did not make any difference. In the process, I scraped the leads to the battery to be sure that the cable connection at the battery was good. The battery appears to be fine. It cranks like a champ when it eventually engages and all the instrument lights, radio and warning bells work fine.

I did notice that the radio settings sometimes get deleted as if the battery had been disconnected. However, it does not happen every time I have starting the problem.

Does this change your recommendation?

When the starter keeps cranking the engine even when the key is in the OFF posiiton are there any other lights in the dash working. The trouble could be with the ignition switch or it could be the starter solenoid is sticking and not disengaging like it should be. This is a bad problem of course. I if other lights are staying on also then the ignition switch is suspect and should be checked out. A bad ignition swich could also explain why the starter is turning on when it should be also but it could also be due to bad fusible link connections if you have them under the hood.

I had something similar happen to a 1993 Accord once. The car was starting fine, one day I started the car and the e-brake light stayed on way longer than usual. At my next stop after I had turned the car off and removed the key the starter then tried to start the vehicle again, and then it hung. We replaced the starter to fix the problem. I am going to say you have a solenoid on the starter acting goofy.