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Trouble Starting

I am trying to help my neighbor with this problem. When he tries to start his minivan the first 3-4 times he turns the key he gets just the click like the battery is dead. Then 1-2 times of slowly turning over a few times, and finally it starts. If the car was running and you turn it off and immediately try to start it again… same problem. Leaving the key in the on position for a while before trying to start did not seem to change anything.

He said the problem started on a rainy day a few weeks ago if that helps at all. All the wires to the starter look fine, and he cleaned the battery terminals which also look fine.

Any thoughts on what to look at next would be great. Thanks

He/she should start by having the battery and charging system tested.

Sounds like a battery/charging system/connections problem.

How old is the car and how old is the battery?

The car is probably about 10 years old, but the battery is not original and he only purchased the car a few months ago so I have no idea on its age, but he had it tested about a month ago at AutoZone and it came out fine.
I don’t think it is the battery/charging system because first it acts like the battery is dead, and seems to gain power until the car starts, and if it was a connection I would expect it to be intermitent, which he says it is not. But I will have the battery tested again, and look at all the connections I can.

If the connections at the battery terminals look good, you need to check the connection at the starter. It could also be a bad starter. I had a similar problem with my Toyota, until it refused to start at all. Bench-tested the starter, and it worked fine unloaded, but didn’t have enough power to turn the engine. Replaced it, and all is fine.

The starter connections felt tight, but I didn’t check too thoroughly.
Did you have any indication that the starter was bad, or just replaced it hoping it would solve the problem?

It was all that was left. Everything else, power to the starter, power from the key switch, clean contacts, even cleaned the contacts in the solenoid. The battery was fully charged, as I checked it with my charger, multimeter, and a load tester. I pulled the cables out, both the starter lead and the engine ground, and both were solid with good insulation.

The starter bench-tested fine, but that was in an unloaded state. I pulled that thing out 3 times thinking I overlooked something. And it is not an easy job on a Toyota Supra. The top mounting bolt has to be done completely by ‘feel’. You cannot see it from top or bottom. And a vacuum tank under the intake manifold prevents you from using a long extension to get to that bolt along the engine block.