Tacoma cold starting problem


In cool and damp conditions I turn the key and hear the solenoid clicking. It often takes many tries to get it to “catch” and start the truck. Originally I thought this was a bad clutch switch and bypassed it; that seemed to work for a while, but eventually reverted to the original mode. I plugged the clutch switch back in. I removed the starter and solenoid (one unit) and had the parts store put it on their tester – naturally it worked perfectly and they lost a big sale by insisting I needed no replacement. The last link in the circuit I have not tested is the ignition switch itself, but since it makes the solenoid click I’m thinking that’s not it. I’m back to thinking the solenoid is the culprit, but that it is failing in a gradual way, which I have never heard of before. Don’t they usually just die once and for all? Any other ideas? Thanks!


The fault may be as simple as having dirty battery cable connections. Remove/clean and replace wrench tight (BOTH ends) and apply a light coating of dielectric grease on the connections.


I had a Chevy do the same thing, I replaced the starter, no change. Thought for sure that because the solenoid clicked, it must have been the park interlock or starter because you could hear the big “click” under the hood. Finally gave up, opened the column, saw the ignition switch cracked. Replaced it, two years ago, haven’t looked back.


Is the solenoid clicking one click each time you turn the ignition switch to START, or is it a rapid clicking? If it’s a rapid clicking, that means that the voltage to the solenoid is low. A section of bare wire, or cracked insulation can let the “juice” leak away. Examine the wire for breaks and deterioration. You might towel dry the wire the next time it’s hard to start. If drying it helps, you could replace the wire or wrap it with tape.


The problem you describe can very well be due to worn contacts in the solenoid. If the battery voltage is good on the main lead to the solenoid when this trouble occurs then you can replace the contacts inside the solenoid and that should fix you up.


First of all, thanks to all of you for posting. To answer hellokit, it clicks once with each key turn, then eventually begins to partially catch. On three unusual occasions it actually seemed to catch partially and remain so after the engine fired up. Then a grinding sound ensued – probably a partial meshing of starter teeth and flywheel teeth; not the horrible grinding when someone tries to start a running engine. In those cases I had to turn the engine off. Two of those three times the truck kept cranking even though I removed the key! On one occasion only removing the negative battery terminal would finally kill it. Anyway, I’ll double check all the terminal wires and contacts. FYI, below I’ve posted the opinion of a buddy of mine, retired machinist, who is so much better at this stuff than I’ll ever be:
“It is definitely the starter solenoid. When you hear the clicking sound while you turn the key, the solenoid armature is pushing a copper ring on to two copper contacts to bridge the electrical circuit to the starter. The ring and two contacts eventually erode away due to the arcing every you start the motor. So, the failure is a gradual one. Eventually it will not make any contact at all. At the stage you are at now, the arcing has increased considerably which means the total failure will come very soon.”


Replace the solenoid if they sell it separately…