Yaris won't start [weird sound included]

I have a year 2001 Toyota Yaris that won’t start. The car has been working very well (only 45000 km travelled with it), but I went away for a five week vacation and when I came back it sounded like this…

I have attached an MP3 file that contains the sound that the car makes when turning the ignition key. The car was connected to another car with jump start cables when the sound was recorded. So I guess it is not the battery that is dead. My father suggested a cog in the starter, but he’s not an expert.

There is a little gear in the starter that slides over to engage the flywheel to spin the engine to start it when the key is turned (or button pressed). It sounds like that little gear is not moving over far enough to engage the flywheel. That is the tat-tat-tat sound early in the recording (I wish more posters posted MP3’s, it helps a lot) It is all part of the starter itself. Sounds like you need a new starter. In the old days this could be caused by the big electromagnet that moves the gear. We called that a solenoid and could replace just that part of the starter. I don’t see many solenoids for sale these days, only new or rebuilt starters. Good luck.

For the most part I agree with Mustangman but I would add this. The starter solenoid serves 2 functions. It pulls the Bendix drive (the part with the little gear) to engage the flywheel and when fully activated it also makes contact to activate the starter motor. The solenoid itself doesn’t draw much current but when contact is made the starter motor draws a lot more causing a system voltage drop if your battery is mostly discharged. Now the solenoid doesn’t have enough voltage to stay activated so it retracts repeatedly as the contact for the starter motor is switched on and off. I would first try recharging the battery. Sometimes jumper cables don’t work that well. Do you know how old your battery is?

First, clean the battery terminals and try another jump-start.

Do you know how old your battery is?
I think very old, probably as old as the car itself. I've had some problems starting in the winter (at around -20 celcius). But it didn't make the tat-tat-tat sound then.

Thanks for all the help! Before I start hunting for a starter I will try a battery recharge or jump start. Would it be difficult to DIY replace the starter? I’m not experienced with repairing cars.

I’m thinking a new battery will fix your problem

I'm thinking a new battery will fix your problem
I should probably get a new battery anyway, so perhaps I should just buy one and try that.

@Eightfold; there is no way that any battery would last 13 years.
It must have been replaced before, but because you are not sure when…I think a new one is in order.

But as my 2 cents mentioned, I think that it is mainly the cables and connections that are coroded. When you have the positive cable off the battery…I would follow that down to the starter and if you can get this end off the starter and clean it too…would make a big difference.
Then reconnect the terminals at the battery.


Yikes! 13 years old? Even if it were half that old I would replace it and I would bet it will start right up. Incidently, just to clarify my explanation of what the starter is doing, this is normal behavior for a starter trying to operate with a mostly discharged battery. I’ve seen it often. The starter is most likely OK.

Yeah battery. Maybe its still under warranty at 13 years.

Hi there again! I want to report back so that others that experience the same problem (and sound) will know what worked for me. It was the the battery. I jump started the car again and the it started without any problem whatsoever. We went away and bought a new battery so that we wont get into the same trouble again.
Thanks for all your input!

Happy motoring!