The starter mystery

Returned home from the office, pulled the car into the garage and shut off the engine. After dinner, one hour later, needed the car to go shopping. Turned the key to start the engine and nothing happened. Tried turning the key several times but no engine start. Lights OK, Radio OK, so battery OK, but no sound coming from the starter. The next morning tried starting the engine again, turned the key and the engine started immediately. Some say my problem can be ignition switch, some say something about a solenoid on the starter or failing starter. I’m afraid to take the car on a trip in case the problem happens again. What to do?

you’ll need to have it tested. it does sound lilely that you’ll need a starter.

Thanks, I was afraid of this. Is there a way of testing if a starter is failing?

What year is your car and how old is the battery?

it is a 2003 Lexus es300. I bought it used with 30,000 miles on it March 2006. I believe it is the original battery, it has never been replaced.

Have the battery tested. If the battery is original it’s likely to be the problem. Starters usually last a long time.

If the battery fails the “load test,” it’s shot.

Working lights and radio are NOT an indication that the battery is OK. The lights and radio require very little battery strength to work. The starter, on the other hand, needs a very strong battery.

The next time this happens, shift to neutral and try and start the car. I had this problem with my 95 Dodge Dakota. The Shift Interlock switch was out of adjustment and occasionally it would not start in park.

As for the battery, it’s 7 years old and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to replace it.

Ed B.

Thanks for the advise. I will proceed accordingly.

Ed B,

The mystery is that the car has started each time I tried since the no start episode. If you have any more thoughts, let me hear them.


The fix isn’t a simple one-punch knockout. Start with the battery. Corrosion on the battery cable terminals can cause intermittent starts. So, when you have the battery replaced, be sure that the mechanic uses a wire brush to clean the battery terminals, and puts a protective coat of Vaseline (or, silicon grease) on the terminals.
With the new battery installed, go to an auto parts store and let them do battery and alternator checks (FREE). An alternator which is over-charging, or under-charging, isn’t good.
Is this a guaranteed fix? Nope. If you still get an intermittent start, try to start the engine with the transmission shift lever in N. If that doesn’t work, a mechanic with have to check all the switches, relays, and solenoids, and starter motor involved in starting.

A 2003 battery is old, I would replace it regardless. But the symptoms you describe are common on Toyotas of that age, and result from worn contacts in the starter solenoid. Google ‘Toyota starter solenoid’ to find out more. Replacing the contacts (once the starter is out) is easy, or you could replace the starter.

Wow, your last two messages are full of recommendations and I’m sure that some where there lies the answer. I really appreciate your input. Your guys are A+ in my book.