Toyota Corolla 2003 80,000 miles no crank no start, battery and starter both test ok

Car was fine, then wouldn’t start one day, after driving fine a couple of minutes before. Did this a few times previously, just tried a few times then it started again. There is no cranking when I turn the key, just a click. Lights work fine, stereo etc, no dip in power when turn key. I assumed it was starter motor so took it out and tested it - fine. Also tested battery - fine. Looked at a spark plug, fine, oil level fine. Don’t see a reason the engine should have seized, as it was driving just fine, then wouldn’t start suddenly, but I haven’t tried manually turning the crank. I then looked at the switch on the clutch pedal that gets pressed when you push the clutch in, and allows it to start. Looked ok, but pulled the wires and bypassed it with a cable. Still nothing. Any ideas would be great. Can the starter test ok but still be bad? Any advice would be helpful, not sure where to go next with it.

I should say it is a manual, and I can get it started fine if I roll it down a hill. So more things point to engine being fine

Replace the starter main solenoid contacts.

Even though it tested ok? Can you just buy those parts, or do you have to buy the whole starter?

One example:

Considering the work you’ve already done, replacing the contacts is probably within your scope of abilities. I haven’t looked, but you might look on youtube for a video on how to do this on your Corolla. Check with your local dealer or parts place that supplies the local garages. Parts places that cater to the general public, like AutoZone, are unlikely to have anything lower level on the Bill Of Materials than the starter assembly… if even that. If you should get into it and find you’re not comfortable with proceeding, you can always just change the whole assembly. Fortunately on these cars they’re pretty readily accessible.

Have you considered using a test light of VOM and making sure the problem is not a popped fuse or faulty ignition switch?
I’m not real keen on taking things apart without at least a mildly educated guess.

Don’t go by me but seems to me if you hear a click when you turn the key, that means the switch is OK, the clutch switch is OK and power at least is getting to the solenoid. So I guess that would mean a faulty solenoid, bendix, contacts, or the cable or connections to the motor itself. I mean if there is a click when you turn the key, doesn’t that rule other stuff out?

I’d check the battery and starter cables, including the grounds. Check for corroded connections or the cables themselves being corroded inside the insulation. A check with a voltmeter while a helper attempts to start would quickly narrow down the problem.

Sounds like the starter motor fails when hot, bench test was probably done when the motor is cool, starter motor gets my vote.

@insightful stole the words from my mouth. If they still use the Denso Starter that has the ability to be rebuilt… Replace the main contacts in the Starter Solenoid.

Do this experiment. When you turn the key to start the car and you hear the click…quickly cycle the key from the On to Start position… Dont turn the key all the way back to Off position… Just quickly keep turning the key to reproduce the Click sound. If its the solenoid contacts…after you cycle the key many times…it should “catch” and start. This will be concrete proof that the solenoid contacts are worn down and or out. Very very very common.

You wouldn’t hear the click unless all other systems told the starter to be able to function …the click proves out the shifter position switch…the starter relay is also proven to be working…it all ends at the Starter Solenoid contacts


OK thanks all, I’ll see try a couple of things today - key on and off, voltmeter etc. Sounds like the main contacts in the starter solenoid need replacing though. Will update soon. Thanks again

Unless the click in question is some relay clicking and is not the starter solenoid. Oftentimes a relay click is not heard or overlooked during a normal start. With a non-operative starter motor the relay click now becomes very apparent.

Point being that it’s easier to test a few things along the way rather than jump connectors and remove a starter for a test that may not be accurate.

Dont turn the key on and off…just cycle the spring loaded Starter portion of the switch…cycle that rapidly many times… it should all of a sudden start working. What is happening is that you are forcing the solenoid contacts to hit each other…and sometimes this breaks through any of the burned contacts and sort of cleans them…or at least it forces them to let the current flow through them. If this works…you found the problem


The shop gave me a new starter motor to put in and try - which I did and the same problem occurs. I had a helper this morning, and the click I hear is not from the starter, but seems to be originating around the glovebox. I do have a voltmeter - not sure exactly where or what to test? Starter relay? Ignition swich? Both of these have come up in my searching, but not 100% where they are located, or how exactly to test them.

Also, I see two parts that are affected by the clutch - one is pushed in (which is the one I bypassed), the other is released. Both small white plastic pieces. Do both of these affect the car only being able to start when the clutch is pressed?

The trouble you are having is most likely with the safety switch on the clutch pedal. I’m not sure why there are two switches on the pedal unless one is used for cruise control. Power from the ignition switch START position has to pass through the safety switch when the clutch pedal is pressed down. Since you have a voltmeter you can verify that power is getting past the switch when the switch contacts close. If power is getting past the switch but the starter solenoid still doesn’t work then you need to check for a bad connection in the wiring between the switch and the solenoid. Your voltmeter is your best friend to make checks with. Use a good chassis ground point for your meter reference (black- common) lead when make the voltage tests.

HI Cougar,
I bypassed the safety switch with a wire, and checked current was flowing (it was). When I try and start the car, either with the switch bypassed, or with the clutch pressed down, I get the click (which seems to come from the circuitry in the glove box), and a constant low grade hum. Almost sounds like a motor trying to kick in? Cannot tell where this is coming from unfortunately. If I try starting the car without the clutch pressed, the humming noise is not there, which leads me to believe that the switch is working correctly, and the problem lies elsewhere. I also tried jumping the car from my wifes, in case the battery was borderline, did not work.

Again, use the voltmeter. With one good ground point for all the measurements, measure (while someone attempts to start the car) the voltage as you progress from the ignition switch to the starter relay to the solenoid to the starter. It should be above 10 volts at each point. The point where it drops drastically will tell you where the problem lies.

Also check the ground connection at each point, again, using the above good ground point for the negative terminal. If you see any voltage more than 1 volt at any other grounds, that means that ground connection is bad.

To me, it seems like a cable or cable connection. The above should narrow it down.

Yes, the hum indicates that possibility that the starter is getting too low a voltage to turn. Or the solenoid is getting too low a voltage to move.

OK thanks, Excuse my ignorance, this is where I struggle. How do I go about testing those? I have a voltmeter and a probe thing with a light. I’m not sure where to find and test the ignition switch, starter relay, or where the ground connection are. Apologies…