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Toyota Puzzler

My 2008 Corolla, after running for a while

periodically (albeit more often lately) after shutting it off and cannot restart it, the electronics on the dashboard show that there is ample juice, but the starter acts if it was not there, no click nothing…after I let it sit for a while the car starts again.

I take it to Davis to the dealer and they cannot replicate the problem and they have no clue. I mainly writing this to formulate a strategy to deal with the dealer, not someone remotely fix my problem.

First off the dealer (I deal with them a lot) is nice but now their attitude is, well we don’t know so there is nothing wrong.

Should I write to Toyota? I mean there must be a repository of know problems with all their model and they could test stuff without actually replicating this problem? …or I am asking too much?

You aren’t asking too much. While the dealer (from which I assume you bought this car new) may not be able to duplicate your problem, it has a special obligation to service their brand. If they are unwilling to meet that obligation, what does it say about the brand? I would certainly e-mail Toyota and ask them if there is something they might be able to tell you about your problem. Complaining about the dealership itself is secondary, and I honestly have to recommend against it. You have a complex vehicle that frankly is best maintained and repaired by a dealer. It may be that your dealer’s service department is still dealing with the fallout of Toyota’s recall and is just too busy to spend a lot of time puzzling out your problem.
I assume the check engine light has not come on, that there is nothing happening for the car’s various self-diagnostics to report. That also is a problem, that the dealer’s mech’s have become reliant on the cars’ self-diagnoses and have forgotten basic knowledge of ANY car’s basic systems.
In your case, a few things do come to mind. First, I would check your positive connection to your starter from your battery. On the starter end, check for a loose connection, and on the battery side, look for corrosion (by way of a build-up of white powder on and around the positive (red) battery terminal. A loose positive connection to the starter fits your problem almost exactly. It could happen occasionally, and most often if not always when the car is hot, because heat increases resistance in electrical systems, especially in D/C systems.
If not, look for commonalities. What if anything is going on when your car won’t crank? Is it raining, is it hot that day, cold, humid, etc. Does the car not crank when you turn it off to get a coffee after a twenty-minute drive, or does it refuse to start if it is turned off while still pretty cool. Your observations in this respect help a good mechanic diagnose your problem.

This is happening when the car is hot and it is hot outside…I live in sacto/davis/woodland area where 100+ F dry heat is common nowadays…After a while when things cool off it cranks fine…usually it happens after driving for a while but the last time I only drove it a little albeit it was very hot outside.

In that case I suspect you DO just have a bad positive connection from the battery to your starter. It might also be a bad starter, but start with cheap fixes first. If your battery looks pristine and the terminals connections are clean and tight, then just check for loose positive cable connections between the battery to your starter. It might very well be simple as this: tighten your positive battery terminal first, gently. Again,this connection must be pristine first. If it is tight and won’t move by hand, try the starter end if the connection. It also must be tight.

You want it tight enough that you can’t move it by hand.

“Your observations in this respect help a good mechanic diagnose your problem.” You recommended that he go to the dealer for repairs, yet apparently the dealer did not ask questions along these lines.

Things to check: yes, corrosion and poor connections between the battery and the starter. The starter itself. The solenoid. The ignition switch. All wiring involved. This is neither rocket surgery nor brain science.

Don’t forget about the starter relay. I’m sure this car has one.

And the neutral safety switch or clutch switch, depending on automatic or manual. A simple test for the NSS is to try shifting to neutral instead of park and see if it will start. The clutch switch may be triggered by pumping the clutch pedal as you hold the key in ‘start’.

“positive connection from the battery to your starter.”

And equally the ground connection(s)

That’s because dealer mechanics are almost never good mechanics. They’re trained to ask the car’s computer what’s wrong. And if the car’s computer can’t tell them, they’re stuck. They don’t understand that a lot of mechanic work involves solving mysteries. If the computer doesn’t tell them to replace this or that part, then there’s nothing more to be done.

I’ve been dealing with a similar problem with the Acura dealership. Unfortunately I have to take the car to them because it’s under warranty and I don’t want to pay for something I should get for free, but they’ve been trying to diagnose a minor problem with my car for a year now and never have. I’ve even told them where to look, but they say, I kid you not, “The computer doesn’t say anything about something being wrong there.” I’ll probably end up just fixing the stupid thing myself.

The problem, after serious research on the internet, I concluded that it is, most likely a neutral override switch error. When that switch is broker or work out the car cannot be started, in my case there was some relationship of heat (outside and inside) to that switch’s working condition and the position my shift was. The last time I could start the car in neutral while holding the shifter and pulling it towards me. I had the dealer replace the switch and now I am “testing” the car if this worked or not. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wow! Andrasnm, you deserve a golden star for determination. Good for sticking to it! And, thanks millions for giving us a follow up, let us know if that fixed it.

I agree with your testing process. Since moving the shift lever made things work replacing the safety switch was the proper choice to make. I doubt you will see the problem return. Good job.