Malfunctioning starter?

I have a 1999 Lexus SC400 that intermittently will not start but gives a loud click instead. Often I have to turn the key at least 5 times before the motor starts. We thought it might be the starter, but when we looked under the hood we couldn’t find it! We called the dealership and they said it sounds like a starter problem and the stater is IN THE ENGINE. So they have to take the engine apart to get to it therefore resulting in a cost of approximately $1000.00. Does this sound reasonable? A starter in the engine? This was never the case in any other car I’ve owned. Does this strike anybody as an odd place for a starter or is it just me?

It’s actually at the top-center of the motor, if I remember right, where the lifter valley would be on an overhead valve engine. It’s probably not THAT complicated to change, but you have to figure parts are probably $200 at least, and add a few hours of labor to that, $1000 doesn’t sound out of the ordinary.

Might want to take it to a reputable Toyota shop and see what they tell you for a price.

It could be …this. It could be … that. There is a list of “could be’s”. Take it to an independent shop for some REAL troubleshooting. FULL power (amperage) has to get to the starter (once the starter solenoid energizes) to make the starter run. This can EASILY be checked with an ammeter. Also, full power (150 plus amps) has to be able to RETURN to the battery, through ground straps. Anyone can, more easily, change parts, and many do; but, such a practice is rather expensive, isn’t it?

Some starters on other cars are also in oddball places. Sole older Renaults involved removing the engine and transmission to change the starter.
The dealership is only theorizing on the phone since they do not have the car in hand.

You should try removing the battery cable ends and cleaning them first. With luck this may be the problem. Often the ends may look fine externally but the problem will lie in the contact area of the ends which cannot be seen.