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Delayed start on turning key - '91 Toyota Corolla

For the past month, my Corolla (1991, 204,000 mi) has been exhibiting an annoying behavior. When the key is turned to start the car, there is often a pause or delay before the engine starts. During this pause, all of the dashboard lights come on as usual. There is no sound when the key is first turned or during the pause. At the end of the pause the engine starts normally. If the key is kept turned during the pause the car has never failed to eventually start.

The duration of the pause varies from a fraction of a second up to a few seconds and often does not occur at all. The pause almost always occurs on the first start of the day. After that it is difficult to discern if any pattern is present.

Can you think of any reasons this may be occurring? Thank you!

Typical failure mode of the starter solenoid. But, because the solenoid is built into the starter case, a complete starter replacement is required.

Check the battery terminals to make sure they’re clean and tight. If there’s a bad connection at the battery, and you turn the key to the start position, the current required to turn the starter can’t pass thru the bad connection. But if you hold the key in start position, this bad connection will begin to build up heat from the current trying to pass thru it. This heat can then cause the battery post to expand slightly to where a good connection is made and the engine starts.