My girlfriend has a 1997 Toyota Camry with a 6 cyl engine. Low mileage - only 66k miles. She has a very sporadic problem for about the past year. Yesterday it happened for the first time in two months. She tries to start the car and gets a click. She turns the key back and it starts the next time she turns the key. Yesterday, it failed to start twice before it turned over. She talked to her mechanic who said the best thing to do is to wait for it to fail completely because it would be so hard to track down such a sporadic problem - could be the switch, a flat spot on the starter, or a host of other issues.
Any ideas or experience with this?
Most likely the starter is slowly failing. I’d take the leap and replace the starter if it were mine. But if your girlfriend doesn’t want to shell out for it now, have her carry a hammer in the car. When it won’t start, whack the starter with the hammer. If that helps, she’ll have tracked the problem down herself and will have the means to get the car started until she replaces the starter.
The click you hear is from the starter relay.
When the ignition switch is turned to start, it energizes the coil in the starter relay. This then pulls in the contacts in the relay to send voltage to the starter solenoid which allows the starter to operate.
The starter relay is located in the relay/fuse box under the hood. And for less than $20.00, I’d replace the relay to see if it fixes the starting problem.
The click you hear is the starter solenoid which is on the starter. Classic Toyota problem. It will slowly get worse. A new starter is the fix.
I agree 100% with @insightful I and my various family members have owned many Toyotas over the years, and starters only last so many years
I think it has more to do with the Denso starters themselves, versus that the car is a Toyota
This is a very common problem with aging Toyota starters. The contacts that enable the starter motor circuitry when the starter solenoid in the bendix assembly moves the starter gear to the flywheel and engages the contacts for the starter are becoming fried from use. The circuit is “hot” (has voltage applied) when the contacts operate, and every time the contacts engage and disengage a slight arc is incurred. That slowly vaporizes contact material and builds up a carbon layer over time, and that creates resistance in the contacts until their ability to pass sufficient voltage becomes intermittent. Resistance in a circuit reduces the voltage available downstream. Seeing as how the car is a '97, I’d consider this simply a case of the starter assembly getting old.
The solution is a new starter assembly.
I’ve attached a link to diagrams of how the starter assembly works. If you’re interested, you might find them interesting . If not, well, that’s okay too. But if you study the diagrams and learn how it works, well, just think how smart your GF will think you are!
“She talked to her mechanic who said the best thing to do is to wait for it to fail completely because it would be so hard to track down such a sporadic problem - could be the switch, a flat spot on the starter, or a host of other issues.”
This sounds like a lazy “mechanic” with little or no troubleshooting skills.
Solenoid contacts, as others have said. These are available separately from the dealer for about $20, but the starter still needs to come out.
Missileman, I agree. Or a young kid with limited experience., used to only reading fault codes and lacking in some basics.
I had this problem with my 99. Replaced the starter with a Napa and been great for many years.