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Bad starter?

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Old 07-10-18, 06:19 AM
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bloomwcjkl
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Default Bad starter?

2001 LS 430 with 135k miles

I have a very random problem that I think I finally have to deal with.

Every 3 or 6 weeks or 3 months (it varies) I come out to start my car and the key turns. All dash lights come on but nothing happens. Complete silence. I hear 3 faint clicks (not starter, not battery) if I keep the key turned for 3-4 seconds.

After 10, 20, 30 tries, the car starts. It hasn't happened for ~4 weeks. Go out to start it this morning and nothing. Took about 30 tries for it to catch and start. Moving the gear shift or steering wheel has no impact. It just eventually starts.

Is this a bad spot on the starter? Solenoid going? In previous cars, when a starter had a bad spot, I would hit it often. Same with a bad solenoid. It should happen more frequently.

Where would you start? I can't bring it to my small mechanic because it is certain to not happen. What do you test if it won't happen for 2 or 3 weeks?

Thanks for any ideas. I know the starter is a major job on these cars. I don't want to replace it and then the issue continues. But, I may have to start replacing things to see if I can find the issue.
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Old 07-10-18, 06:22 AM
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I would start by making sure that all connections between starter, solenoid, battery, and ground are secure.
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Old 07-10-18, 06:27 AM
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Could be a crank sensor, but if it is the starter, be prepared for one heck of a job.
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Old 07-10-18, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by TriC View Post
I would start by making sure that all connections between starter, solenoid, battery, and ground are secure.
With the location of the starter can I check the direct connections to the start/solenoid without doing most of the steps to get to the starter?

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Old 07-10-18, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by aufenscuht View Post
Could be a crank sensor, but if it is the starter, be prepared for one heck of a job.
Oh, I know. I do not think I would tackle the job myself. It will be costly if I can determine what is happening.
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Old 07-10-18, 07:04 AM
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Have a good shop do a proper charging system test; it will save you time and only runs a half hour of labor time, generally.
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Old 07-10-18, 07:18 AM
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Agree with the test....the starter should draw more amps than normal when it has a problem. My experience at least with the Maxima is that for about 5 or 6 years I put up with every so many cranks the starter clashed. It got worse and worse, and one day completely failed. Granted that car is easy to DIY, so can't explain in retrospect why I waited for complete failure. I then got lifetime warranted "new" ACDelco starters, and 3 were bad, with one bad right out of the box. So I was thinking that if the LS430 ever needed this job done, I would let the indie mark up the part, so that way the whole job is his warranty (if customer provides part, no warranty)....good luck.
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Old 07-10-18, 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by bloomwcjkl View Post
With the location of the starter can I check the direct connections to the start/solenoid without doing most of the steps to get to the starter?
Sorry, I have no idea. Perhaps, I should have said, "check all of the connections that you can (easily) get to." Seriously, an intermittent issue such as yours does suggest a connection (or even a corrosion/contact) issue IMHO. Heck, it might even be a loose fuse issue.
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Old 07-10-18, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Johnhav430 View Post
Agree with the test....the starter should draw more amps than normal when it has a problem. My experience at least with the Maxima is that for about 5 or 6 years I put up with every so many cranks the starter clashed. It got worse and worse, and one day completely failed. Granted that car is easy to DIY, so can't explain in retrospect why I waited for complete failure. I then got lifetime warranted "new" ACDelco starters, and 3 were bad, with one bad right out of the box. So I was thinking that if the LS430 ever needed this job done, I would let the indie mark up the part, so that way the whole job is his warranty (if customer provides part, no warranty)....good luck.
Let me guess....Autozone for the bad starters? Had the same thing happen with an alternator. They don't get my money anymore.
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Old 07-10-18, 01:32 PM
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I talked to my local mechanic for about 20 minutes on the issue. Scheduled a battery/starter/alternator test to start.

He said it is going to be very hard to diagnose unless we can get it to occur while at the shop. I continue to hope it starts happening more frequently because if it keeps up every 3 weeks or so it is something I probably will have to live with.

As long as it starts (eventually) I won't be left stranded somewhere. First appt was Thursday morning. Will update if any progress is made.
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Old 07-12-18, 06:31 AM
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I got up this morning to drive and drop off my car at the mechanic. Of course, it would not start. It probably took 30 cranks before I got it going.

Last night I cleaned the battery terminals, topped off the water in the battery, put it on the charger for 4 hours. I checked fuses and a few other items.

I'm sure the car will start every time while at the mechanic. Hopefully they can determine what the most likely culprit is before I just have to start replacing items.

I've read quite a few posts of people who changed the battery, alternator and starter and still had an issue. That would be a lot of money down the tube if it is something else.

I will keep you posted. Hopefully something easy/obvious.
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Old 07-12-18, 06:36 AM
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When you say topped off the water in the battery, is this an old battery? I didn't know they still had filler caps....my 1998 Maxima came with such a battery...
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Old 07-12-18, 07:03 AM
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I have had the car for 2 years. I do not know how old the battery is. It is a Toyota brand. There is no date code that I can see and the month/year labels were not removed.

The shop called and said the battery tested bad. I guess that is the lowest cost item to replace. Have to start there. I am a bit skeptical if it will fix my starting problems.

If the battery is bad, how can it be bad for 29 attempts to start and then be good enough for the 30th start and start the car? And be fine for 3 months or 3-4 week periods? Maybe I'm not thinking correctly about how a battery starts a car.

More to come.

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Old 07-12-18, 07:07 AM
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I would be cautiously optimistic, but do see your point, usually it gets worse to the point of nothing at all after repeated attempts. I guess a new battery will reveal a lot. With my wife's GM car, a hint that the battery is going bad is that the trip odometer and all the mpg and avg speed numbers are gone and back to 0. But even after this happens, the car starts fine....
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Old 07-12-18, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by bloomwcjkl View Post
I've read quite a few posts of people who changed the battery, alternator and starter and still had an issue. That would be a lot of money down the tube if it is something else.
Replacing the alternator when trying to fix a no-start condition is a *facepalm* moment. Yes, a bad alternator would cause the battery to not charge properly, causing a no-start, but that's why you methodically test individual components, like making sure the battery is properly charged when attempting to crank. Someone who replaced an alternator for a no-start condition sounds like someone who just started throwing parts at a car without any (or appropriate) diagnosis of individual components.
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