Author Topic: Clicks but does not start - Help me fix the truck I don't need so I can sell it  (Read 4809 times)

homestead neohio

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History: 2000 Toyota Tacoma with 100k miles, lived through 15 NE Ohio winters so far.  Newer battery, was slowly over several weeks getting harder to start, now does not start.

Symptoms:  turn key and both the starter relay and starter solenoid "click", but engine does not turn

Things I tried:
1) Checked voltage on battery, fine at 12.75 V, not a battery problem
2) Removed starter and bench tested - works great, pops and spins strong, gear not worn
3) Tested voltage to signal post on starter - this was what the auto parts guy thought might be wrong, something upstream of the starter preventing the singal through the relay when the ignition is turned.  Measured 12 V at the singal wire plug by the starter when turning the ignition to start, so relay and signal wire should be fine
4) Checked main power to the starter - fine as wire between battery pos terminal and starter solenoid pos post has continuity
5) Reinstalled starter to see if that magically fixed it.  No dice.
6) Checked for bad ground -  cleaned and reinstalled the neg battery clamp, the ground to the engine, and the ground to the frame.  No change in starting behavior.
7) Pulled spark plugs and tried to turn over - getting desperate here, but no change.  Hypothesis was some kind of vapor lock making engine tough to turn over
8) Rocked truck back and forth in gear - no change in starting.  Hypothesis was some sort of misalignment between starter motor gear and flywheel, and that moving the flywheel slightly would allow it to engage.

What now am I missing?  Is my engine locked up such that it is too hard for the starter to turn it over?

I just want to sell this truck and buy some more index funds.

Uturn

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I would suspect the bendix/plunger inside the starter.  There should be a rebuild kit hiding somewhere on the internet. 

To test engine lockup, remove spark plugs, use a socket wrench on the main pulley and see if the engine moves.  I seriously doubt that a 100k mile Toyota is locked, unless you just abused it.

ender

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Have you tried with a different battery as a sanity check? Or cleaning the terminals on the battery to ensure you actually have a good connection?



BlueMR2

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Those grounds you checked, were they on the starter or elsewhere?

I had a similar issue due to the starter ground coming off and vanishing.  I missed it for a long time because I didn't even see anywhere to connect one and figured the mounting bolts would ground it.  Nope.  Electrical shop had the diagram and found where I was missing a starter ground.  Installed that and good to go again!

StartingEarly

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Have someone on the battery seeing if the voltage drops and how much when you turn the key. If it drops a lot it could be the battery having enough static voltage but not enough cranking voltage. If it doesn't drop it could be the starter not engaging at all.

Jim2001

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I had a mid sixties Malibu that would do that when the battery terminals needed to be cleaned or the battery was weak. 

Exflyboy

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You need to check that you don't have high resistance anywhere in the starting circult.. Namely, clean battery posts and inside battery connections.. Even if they look clean they can have a thin coating of corrosion which is invisible.. clean off with fine emery cloth. lube batt posts with petrolium jelly and assemble.

remove every connection in the leads going from battery to starter and back again to negative batt terminal. This also means the ground connections.. you could even have a bad ground cable.

High resistance in any of these connections will prevent the engine turning over.

If it is none of these then it could be dirty terminals inside the starter solenoid..

If it is clicking it means the starter solenoid is being activated, but dirty terminals as the same high resistance problem.

zolotiyeruki

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You need to check that you don't have high resistance anywhere in the starting circult.. Namely, clean battery posts and inside battery connections.. Even if they look clean they can have a thin coating of corrosion which is invisible.. clean off with fine emery cloth. lube batt posts with petrolium jelly and assemble.
^^^ This.  You should watch the battery voltage *as* you turn the key.  If the starter is drawing lots of current (as it should), you should see the voltage sag a couple volts at least.

Cadman

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Have you tried smacking the starter with a hammer? Seriously. You might have a worn brush or dead spot on the armature.

As others above have pointed out, if there's any resistance in the circuit, enough voltage will pass to pull in the solenoid but not spin the starter. Besides checking/cleaning connections, I have actually had a brand new battery cable fail internally after several weeks use. It would ohm-out OK and pass enough current for the lights, accessories, etc, but the starter was a no-go.

Rural

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Have you tried smacking the starter with a hammer? Seriously. You might have a worn brush or dead spot on the armature.


This, but try a slow, rhythmic tapping first and see if that does the trick before you resort to smacking. Perhaps my husband's "smacking" differs from yours, but his isn't good for starters. :-)

GuitarBrian

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Try replacing the starter contacts. The several times this has happened to me, it was the starter contacts.

You can also "jump" the starter, apply 12v to the solenoid. I generally use jumper cable, attached to the positive, then hit the solenoid. Or the other way around, attach to the starter and tap the positive post on the battery. You can hit it a few times, rapidly, it might get it going.

If it worked on the bench... It might be because it had higher voltage/amperage.

Tapping with a hammer might work, try both at rest, and with the key engaged.

If you aren't getting a large voltage drop at the battery when you engage the solenoid you should look at the wire, continuity alone isn't enough to supply 800+ amps.

Or the contacts are bad.

Or the battery is bad. Again good voltage alone isn't enough to indicate enough amps.

If the starter works, your only goal become supplying the starter motor with enough amps, and the solenoid with enough amps.

If it was getting hard to start over time, it might be a bad battery. If it was clicking once in a while, but when you tried again, it worked, it is a contact or corrosion issue.

v8rx7guy

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I agree... bench testing as described does not prove the starter is good and voltage does not always mean the battery is good. Bring both to your local autozone / o'riellys / whatever chain car part store you have for free testing.  That will help with not throwing money unnecessarily into the fix. 

homestead neohio

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Thanks, all, for your replies so far.

I would suspect the bendix/plunger inside the starter.  There should be a rebuild kit hiding somewhere on the internet. 

To test engine lockup, remove spark plugs, use a socket wrench on the main pulley and see if the engine moves.  I seriously doubt that a 100k mile Toyota is locked, unless you just abused it.

Why suspect the bendix/plunger if it pops and spins strong when bench tested?  I'll try the main pulley if other options don't work, just to rule it out.  I agree it is unlikely to be locked up.  The truck has not been abused, except maybe the bed and springs.  =)

Have you tried with a different battery as a sanity check? Or cleaning the terminals on the battery to ensure you actually have a good connection?

I have cleaned both battery terminals and posts, back when I checked the ground to the engine.  I have not tried another battery, but will, since it is simple, though I don't have high hopes for just changing the battery as it is <1 year old.

Those grounds you checked, were they on the starter or elsewhere?

I had a similar issue due to the starter ground coming off and vanishing.  I missed it for a long time because I didn't even see anywhere to connect one and figured the mounting bolts would ground it.  Nope.  Electrical shop had the diagram and found where I was missing a starter ground.  Installed that and good to go again!

I did not see a separate ground to the starter, I just cleaned the ground to the engine block and figured the mounting bolts grounded to the block.  This sounds like a likely culprit, but where could it have gone?  I could test by jumping the neg. terminal of the battery to the starter while trying to turn it over.

You need to check that you don't have high resistance anywhere in the starting circult.. Namely, clean battery posts and inside battery connections.. Even if they look clean they can have a thin coating of corrosion which is invisible.. clean off with fine emery cloth. lube batt posts with petrolium jelly and assemble.

remove every connection in the leads going from battery to starter and back again to negative batt terminal. This also means the ground connections.. you could even have a bad ground cable.

High resistance in any of these connections will prevent the engine turning over.

If it is none of these then it could be dirty terminals inside the starter solenoid..

If it is clicking it means the starter solenoid is being activated, but dirty terminals as the same high resistance problem.

None of the electrical connections appear clean, many are corroded.  I haven't systematically gone through the whole starter circuit yet. Thanks for the tip.  Question: wouldn't dirty terminals inside the starter solenoid cause a failing bench test?


If it worked on the bench... It might be because it had higher voltage/amperage.

Tapping with a hammer might work, try both at rest, and with the key engaged.


When I bench tested it, I used the same battery that is in the truck.  Any higher voltage/amperage would be due to no load.  I don't know how to simulate a load on it without damaging the starter motor gear, so I just re-installed. 

The starter has been tapped extensively, from gently to stiffly, both when in the truck with ignition on and after removal when I could whack it from 360 degrees.  Did not help.

I agree... bench testing as described does not prove the starter is good and voltage does not always mean the battery is good. Bring both to your local autozone / o'riellys / whatever chain car part store you have for free testing.  That will help with not throwing money unnecessarily into the fix. 

I took it to autozone the evening I had it out of the truck and it passed, then passed a retest.  I don't think they test it under load, though.  I'm not sure what more their test does than just hooking to a battery an jumping the signal wire, but I tried it.

Plan of action, proceeding down the line until something works:

1) Look for voltage drop on existing battery when starting.  Replace battery with known good and try starting. 
2) Look for loose/missing/broken ground wire to starter.  Jump neg terminal to starter and try starting.
3) Disassemble and clean all electrical connections from pos. post to starter and back to negative post.  Reassemble and try starting.
4) Remove plugs and try to crank main pulley to ensure it isn't locked up.
5) If none of that works, I'll have to look at replacing stuff until I find the problem.  Wires... starter... I helped a buddy whose starter wouldn't turn the engine over, but then passed a bench test at a local auto parts store.  A new starter (including new contacts, etc) fixed it for him.  Maybe these starter tests just aren't that useful?

Exflyboy

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I too have had starters that passed Autozones benche test but would not start the car.

You have a bad connection somewhere.

As you say with a GOOD pair of jump leads (like the pair I made from welding cable) you can jumper from the neg batt post to the to the engine block.

Heck of your careful you can also by pass all the hot side wires as well.

Joggernot

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Just had this problem on an Accord.  Turned out to be the starter itself.  Replaced the starter and all was good.  Cost of starter and a little time and effort.

GuitarBrian

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Replacing the starter contacts is easy, and cheap ($10 or less)

That is what I would do. It has solved this problem 3 times for me, (twice on toyotas)

Forcus

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I skimmed the responses but the battery needs to be load tested. That means fully charged and then load tested, either by Autozone / O'Reilly / etc. I have enough stuff that I bought one fairly reasonably from Harbor Freight. I think with coupons around $30.

I've driven myself crazy before not checking out the basics so I would be 100% sure on this before going further. A battery can show 12V but not have enough amperage to trigger the starter.

Gibbelstein

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For what it is worth, I would reconsider the battery.  While it is nominally a 12v system, less than 14v is a red (yellow, maybe?) flag for me.  If you take it somewhere, as suggested by Forcus above, their bench tester can check it for voltage and load.  You might also try jump starting it from a running car as well, before breaking out the tools to remove the battery.  If it starts easier when jumped, that is some compelling evidence as well to double check the battery. 

Edited to add: Also, if I'm going to hit a starter or alternator, I try to do it with a piece of wood.  It seems a bit more self-limiting in terms of how much damage it can do.  Especially if it has been particularly difficult and I might be inclined to take out frustration on it... =)
« Last Edit: June 13, 2016, 02:30:23 PM by Gibbelstein »

v8rx7guy

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For what it is worth, I would reconsider the battery.  While it is nominally a 12v system, less than 14v is a red (yellow, maybe?) flag for me.  If you take it somewhere, as suggested by Forcus above, their bench tester can check it for voltage and load.  You might also try jump starting it from a running car as well, before breaking out the tools to remove the battery.  If it starts easier when jumped, that is some compelling evidence as well to double check the battery. 

Edited to add: Also, if I'm going to hit a starter or alternator, I try to do it with a piece of wood.  It seems a bit more self-limiting in terms of how much damage it can do.  Especially if it has been particularly difficult and I might be inclined to take out frustration on it... =)

A battery is only going to read over 14V when running

HipGnosis

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For what it is worth, I would reconsider the battery.  While it is nominally a 12v system, less than 14v is a red (yellow, maybe?) flag for me.  If you take it somewhere, as suggested by Forcus above, their bench tester can check it for voltage and load.  You might also try jump starting it from a running car as well, before breaking out the tools to remove the battery.  If it starts easier when jumped, that is some compelling evidence as well to double check the battery. 
Also, since the battery is < 1 yr old, once you do get it started, you need to troubleshoot the charging system.

Exflyboy

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For what it is worth, I would reconsider the battery.  While it is nominally a 12v system, less than 14v is a red (yellow, maybe?) flag for me.  If you take it somewhere, as suggested by Forcus above, their bench tester can check it for voltage and load.  You might also try jump starting it from a running car as well, before breaking out the tools to remove the battery.  If it starts easier when jumped, that is some compelling evidence as well to double check the battery. 
Also, since the battery is < 1 yr old, once you do get it started, you need to troubleshoot the charging system.

Just put a meter across the battery terminals when running.. it should read at least 13.5V ..(nearer 14.5V on a properly functioning system).

If its not reading about 12.5V then its not charging.

homestead neohio

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I have the battery in my car now and will stop at the parts store on the way home for a load test.  If the battery is fine I plan to pick up a set of starter contacts then as well.  I hope to run through my plan tonight.  Of all the options listed, I have a hunch it is the contacts based on the a couple weeks of hard starting before complete failure to start. Worn contacts might explain passing a no-load test, as well.  But we shall see. 

If I can get it running I will check the charging system.  Just charging the battery overnight and trying to start did not work (tried this before pulling the starter last week).  Have not tried jumping it from a running car, but was planning to swap in a known good battery.  Either should work.

Edited to add: Also, if I'm going to hit a starter or alternator, I try to do it with a piece of wood.  It seems a bit more self-limiting in terms of how much damage it can do.  Especially if it has been particularly difficult and I might be inclined to take out frustration on it... =)

I used a plastic mallet.  Also, I try to never hold any kind of hammer or mallet while frustrated.

Exflyboy

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If you have a digital voltmeter ($3 from Harbor Freight).. just measure the voltage at the battery when the engine is running to see if is jacking the battery voltage up to over 14V.. Right there will tell you if the thing is charging.

You might have to increase the engine RPM a little (like no more than 1500RPM should be needed) to see the battery voltage increase.

It might not be starting due to the solenoid contacts.. 99% of the time though its a dirty connecton on the big fat cables (or even a bad cable).

homestead neohio

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.. just measure the voltage at the battery when the engine is running to see if is jacking the battery voltage up to over 14V.. Right there will tell you if the thing is charging.

Right, but the trick is the getting it running part...

I'll keep on eye on the fat cables and clean them as I go.  I'm ok with cleaning those and replacing contacts both and not knowing which one was truly the issue.  If one failed the other may not be far behind.  If I open up the old starter, I'll let you all know how bad the original contacts were.

JLee

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If it has a manual transmission, push start it and you can then check running voltage.  That could be the cause of a low battery causing a no-start condition, but you can have a dead alternator and still start and then drive for miles on a properly functioning battery.

homestead neohio

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Well, it was not the battery or any connections.  I had the battery load tested on 2 different testers and was fine both times.  900+ CCA.  After cleaning and reattaching electrical connections from battery post to starter and back, still not working.  I could see no broken or unattached separate ground on the starter - it is grounded to the block via the mount.  Just to check I jumped the negative battery post to the starter case and same click but no start.

It was the starter.  The contacts and spindle were very dirty and slightly worn.  Cleaning and reassembly without replacing contacts did not help.  None of the auto parts places around me (called 3 of them) had contacts for rebuild, so I bought a re-manufactured unit for $100.  I guess those bench tests don't always help.  I'll never know if I could have just replaced contacts, but I wanted it done.  Somethings will just remain a mystery.

New starter is in and truck starts and runs well! 

Anyone interested in a 2000 Tacoma with just under 100k miles?  For sale near Cleveland, PM me.

Seriously, thanks for all the helpful suggestions.  Never did this before and it was not bad at all.

Exflyboy

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Great.. logical fault finding to narrow down the cause.

Now wasn't that easy?..:)

BDWW

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Well, it was not the battery or any connections.  I had the battery load tested on 2 different testers and was fine both times.  900+ CCA.  After cleaning and reattaching electrical connections from battery post to starter and back, still not working.  I could see no broken or unattached separate ground on the starter - it is grounded to the block via the mount.  Just to check I jumped the negative battery post to the starter case and same click but no start.

It was the starter.  The contacts and spindle were very dirty and slightly worn.  Cleaning and reassembly without replacing contacts did not help.  None of the auto parts places around me (called 3 of them) had contacts for rebuild, so I bought a re-manufactured unit for $100.  I guess those bench tests don't always help.  I'll never know if I could have just replaced contacts, but I wanted it done.  Somethings will just remain a mystery.

New starter is in and truck starts and runs well! 

Anyone interested in a 2000 Tacoma with just under 100k miles?  For sale near Cleveland, PM me.

Seriously, thanks for all the helpful suggestions.  Never did this before and it was not bad at all.

When running a starter on the bench, there's absolutely no resistance to the solenoid. When in the vehicle, you have longer lines with a not insignificant amount of resistance in the line itself.  Then there's the fact that the teeth are almost never perfectly aligned, so the solenoid has to have enough power to force the gears to mesh.

So, just an FYI for future reference, starters will often pass a bench test, and fail in the vehicle.

homestead neohio

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So, just an FYI for future reference, starters will often pass a bench test, and fail in the vehicle.

This was my take home message.  You would think the starter testers in the auto parts stores (designed and build specifically to test starter performance) could account for this somehow, incorporating some kind of load for the bendix to work against or sending slightly less current.  But I guess not.

I really didn't want to replace the starter if that was not the issue.  Just had to rule out quite a few other things first.  But I certainly didn't mind doing it fix the problem.  This truck was my dad's before mine, and all his trips were short.  So the 97k miles it has probably represents many more starting events than most vehicles with that mileage.  And it is 16 years old and had the original starter.  I can't complain about that performance.

Now on to selling it and more index funds.

BDWW

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So, just an FYI for future reference, starters will often pass a bench test, and fail in the vehicle.

This was my take home message.  You would think the starter testers in the auto parts stores (designed and build specifically to test starter performance) could account for this somehow, incorporating some kind of load for the bendix to work against or sending slightly less current.  But I guess not.

I really didn't want to replace the starter if that was not the issue.  Just had to rule out quite a few other things first.  But I certainly didn't mind doing it fix the problem.  This truck was my dad's before mine, and all his trips were short.  So the 97k miles it has probably represents many more starting events than most vehicles with that mileage.  And it is 16 years old and had the original starter.  I can't complain about that performance.

Now on to selling it and more index funds.

I managed an auto parts store while in college. While you appear to have worked through the problem logically, I can tell you most (self-repair) people don't. I would say 95% of the time people complain about a starter problem, it's actually something else.
Especially common were people buying a starter because their car wouldn't start. And then show back up in several hours claiming the new/rebuilt starter they just purchased was defective. The bench test can obviously demonstrate if something is seriously wrong with the starter, and gives an indication of whether it is working or not. The same tester usually tests alternators too(and that is pretty definitive).

You might be surprised at the shear number of people that just have massively corroded terminals, but think the problem is a starter or alternator.

homestead neohio

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I managed an auto parts store while in college. While you appear to have worked through the problem logically, I can tell you most (self-repair) people don't. I would say 95% of the time people complain about a starter problem, it's actually something else.
Especially common were people buying a starter because their car wouldn't start. And then show back up in several hours claiming the new/rebuilt starter they just purchased was defective. The bench test can obviously demonstrate if something is seriously wrong with the starter, and gives an indication of whether it is working or not. The same tester usually tests alternators too(and that is pretty definitive).

You might be surprised at the shear number of people that just have massively corroded terminals, but think the problem is a starter or alternator.

Funny story.  While returning the old starter to get my core charge refunded a guy comes in complaining about being sold a bum alternator, that his charging system is not working.  The associate calmly replied that if he brought the alternator in for a test, they could confirm his claim and if it fails the test they'll gladly refund or replace it.  The guy stormed out without replying.  I'm not sure what he was hoping for...  Then the store employee turns to me and says, "That was the fourth alternator he's purchased this year.  He has some other problem he doesn't want to believe is there."

Working at an auto parts store would probably be funny for a short time, but it would get quite old dealing with that ad nauseam.