Starters been replaced TWICE and Toyota still wont start!

In Jan my 94 Toyota Camry started having issues with starting- for instance, I would run an errand for 10 minutes get back in the car and it wouldn’t start. However, this tended to be random. When this problem happened more often I took it in and they said I needed a new starter so I got one (Feb) and didn’t have any issues for a month, but then began to have the same issue on and off again. I took my car back in for the second time and they said it must have been a bad starter. They gave me ANOTHER new starter (Apr) and my issues continued soon after. I took it back in and they didn’t have an answer for me other than the starter was good. Took it to another mechanic and he had the car for two days and could not find ANY ISSUE with the car. I let it brush over during the summer months because I never had this issue (June-Aug) and now that it’s gotten cold again I’m having this problem.

Few things to note:
-Anytime I have this issue I’ll hit the starter with a hammer and it will ALWAYS start. This has been the case since January.
-It ALWAYS starts in the morning and when I get back in my car after working all day. However, if I were to run errands in the morning or at night it would not start with the stop and go.
-This only happens in the cold months
-They tested the newest starter and they say there’s nothing wrong with it.
-Within the past two years I’ve had MANY things replaced on this car and any shops I’ve taken it to say it’s a great car with no issues they can find.


I took out starter to swap trans. Car would not start. Cleaned starter cable connections and it worked. You removed cables, battery connections? Did you really clean them? Wire brush?

I have had problems with AutoZone and Advance starters and I gave up using them. IF it moves or spins I only buy NAPA or Toyota parts.


What starters have you been using?

FWIW . . . I would stick to genuine Toyota brand starters, or Denso, because they make them

Sorry you are having all this trouble @rachtho . It’s frustrating when you car won’t start reliably. I had a similar problem with my early 90’s Corolla and finally got to the bottom of it. Before I finally fixed the problem, I had to park facing downhill all the time! lol …

When you say it won’t “start”, I’m assuming when this happens you mean it won’t “crank”. You know, that "rrrrr rrrrr rrrr " sound the engine makes just before it starts running. You may hears some clicks, but no “rrr rrr rrr”.

The first thing to do is the mechanic should measure the voltage at both terminals of the starter (between the terminal and starter case) during attempted cranking. If both are above 10.5 volts (during attempted cranking), and it doesn’t start, the problem is most likely a bad starter motor. On the other hand, if either or both are below 9.5 volts, there’s something wrong with the electrical system prior to the starter. A good starter still won’t crank at 9.5 volts and below. That’s the minimum voltage needed. There’s no point in replacing a starter motor if it isn’t being fed the proper voltage.

If your readings are in between 9.5 volts and 10.5 volts, the quickest way to a solution is to find out why. In theory it should start at 9.6 volts, but that is if everything is ideal. So don’t do battle with ideal. Diagnose why it is below 10.5 volts, then do what it takes to get the reading 10.5 volts or above in other words is the first priority.

If the problem is indeed a bad starter, either have it replaced with another, or take the existing one to your local auto electric shop and have it repaired. If the existing one is a Toyota branded starter purchased at a dealership, I think the better option is to have it repaired, rather than purchasing another. It will be less expensive and more likely to work. There’s been numerous complaints here in the past about poor quality rebuilt parts from offshore suppliers. I got a bad starter myself and had to take it back a couple years ago.

If the problem is the electrical system, well, for a car to crank several things have to be working correctly

  1. The battery must be in good shape and fully charged.
  2. The electrical connections at the battery must be clean and tight.
  3. Both connections at the starter motor must be clean and tight.
  4. The ground between the starter case and the engine, and then to the battery ground terminal must, for the whole path, be below 0.005 ohms.
  5. If your car uses a starter relay (a small box shaped electrical gadget inside the passenger compartment), it must be working correctly.
  6. If an automatic, the neutral start switch must be working and have a “on” resistance that meets specs. If a manual xmission, the clutch safety switch must be working and have a “on” resistance that meets specs.
  7. The ignition switch, in the “start” position, the “on” resistance must meet specs.

There are other less likely problems that will cause this too. The starter alignment may not be correct, and may not be properly engaging with the flywheel in “start”. Or the flywheel teeth might be damaged. Or the engine is locked up for some reason. But all those problems usually result in weird noises or will be evident once the starter is removed. Since you don’t mention these problems, I assume your mechanic has already checked on these.

Edit: One other caveate, a starter motor coil can get shorted out. When this happens is will cause the voltage to be low during attempted cranking, even though the electrical system is ok. To prove/disprove, the mechanic can measure the coil resistance and compare to the specs.

Best of luck.

I don]t know where you are getting your starters from but I had a friend that bought a starter with a “lifetime” guarantee from Pep Boys that they replaced 6 times in a 3 year period before the car went to the junkyard with a transmission failure. I also buy Napa starters.

Maybe the problem is with a neutral safety switch which is a device that prevents the engine from starting in gear; assuming an automatic transmission.

You mention hitting the starter motor with a hammer and the engine will then start. This may be a sheer coincidence and the hammer blow vibrations are actually affecting the safety switch instead of the starter motor.

You could also have a starter that works fine during a bench test, but not once it heats up or gets “heat soaked” from the engine. It’s certainly possible to get 3 bad ones in a row.

You described EXACTLY my problem with my 94 camry. One of the bloggers suggested the safety switch. Next time it happens, put it in neutral, step on the brake and try to start. If it starts with no problem it is the switch which is up near the radiator. You can go on line and find out exactly where it is. This is the switch that makes the connections to change gears and can get dirty and gunky therefore doesnt make a good connection. Im not sure why short trips affected it, maybe heat from the engine?, but it did. I would sit in my car for a while and it would start right up with no problem. Also after I tried to start it, there was no turn over of the engine or clicking, but the dash lights would come on. Notice if this is also happening. The internet recommended cleaning it first before you get a new one since that usually solves the problem. A new switch for our Camry was about $2oo to $250 just for the part. I hope this helps you as much as it helped me. Jan

Because the problem happened at random, let me throw one more possibility; bad flywheel teeth. If the car has been cranked or the starter engaged while the car is running, or if a stater motor was misaligned perhaps by years of use, you can damage the teeth in an area and the teeth may bind up. Yes, beating t could release it enough to make it turn. When the motor teeth are aligned with teeth on the fly wheel that are OK, it starts. Further, in colder weather, the physical contact may not be as completely established by the starter selenoid further exacerbating the problem. It’s a lot easier throwing in the new starter then examining the real fix which neither a small shop has the equipment to repair or an owner may not want to pay for in an older car.
Let’s hope @janishighstrung or other is the real problem. It’s much cheaper to fix !

@Cavell @knfenimore @db4690 @GeorgeSanJose @oldtimer11 @ok4450 @oblivion @janishighstrung @dagosa THANK YOU so much for your comments! I really appreciate the time you took to help me out. I will be taking my car in to get looked at today and hopefully one of these answers will be my golden ticket! Thank you, thank you.