Have you ever seen a very small component bring out a very large amount of power? In Toyota vehicles, there is this small electrical component called the Toyota starter. It is the major component of the Toyota starting system yet it is so small that you won't think of it as anything of importance. But while the starter is little, it gives off an amazing amount of power. Sadly, not many Toyota owners appreciate this power, simply because the starter is well concealed inside the engine compartment and out of the driver's sight as he starts the vehicle.
The Toyota starter is a small electrical motor which is used to turn the crankshaft a few revolutions so that the engine may begin with its combustion process, thus allowing the vehicle to start running. The starter is made up of two major parts. The first of these major parts is the starter motor. It is a DC motor directly responsible for turning the crankshaft a few revolutions as you start your Toyota. The other major part of the starter is the starter solenoid, which is basically a large switch that connects the starter motor to the battery as you turn the ignition switch to its "start" position.
Now, if the function of the Toyota starter sounds quite simple to you, it may be because you are not aware of the forces that the starter has to overcome to start a cold engine. In particular, the starter motor has to overcome all of the internal friction caused by the piston rings, the compression pressure on the cylinders, the energy needed to open and close valves, and the energy to move all other components directly attached to the engine (i.e. alternator, oil pump, water pump, etc.). Now, does it still sound simple?
For the starter to overcome all of these forces, it must be fed with a large amount of electrical energy. This is just what the starter solenoid is designed for. The starter solenoid is a large switch that can handle a very large amount of continuous flowing current. So if the starter solenoid and the starter motor of your Toyota are in good working condition, the power-consuming task of starting your Toyota won't be much of a problem.
Toyota Starter: Signs of Trouble and Some Troubleshooting Tips
You put in the key and tried firing up the engine, but nothing happened. You may instantly blame it on a dead battery, and it could probably be the culprit. But in some instances, the problem could be something else. You may have a busted Toyota starter. There are clues that can tell you if this is indeed the case. Here are some symptoms that could warn you that it's already on the fritz and probably need to be replaced:
No-start situation/starting difficulties
If all you hear is a click after you turned the key to start the vehicle, chances are, the starter is causing you trouble. This can be a similar effect of a dead battery. So to be sure, you can turn on the headlights and interior lights first. If they still work, the troublemaker isn't the car battery but a bad starter. Take a look at it and have this fixed, so you can get back on the road in no time. Another way to tell if you have a bad starter is when it takes a while for the car to crank. Again, you have to check the battery and see if it's charged or working to figure out the problem.
A worn-out starter drive gear or a gear that's not engaging will create that grinding noise as your fire up the engine. If you constantly ignore this grinding when starting, this can lead to a damaged engine flywheel. Freewheeling is another sign of starter trouble. As you switch on the vehicle and crank the engine, the starter may whine. You hear a whining sound even if the engine isn't cranking. The starter gear fails to engage with the flywheel. You need to check the starter to see what the problem is. Have this replaced to fix the vehicle problem right away.
The solenoid is the one sending electrical current to the starter motor from the battery. This pushes the starter drive into the flywheel for cranking. If the solenoid is malfunctioning, the starter won't work. As you turn the key and turn on the engine, the engine won't come to life. A more thorough inspection will reveal the real starter problem.
The starter may get soaked in engine oil or drivetrain fluid. When this happens, you can't count on the starter to work properly or last longer. It'll only be a matter of time before this will fail. What you should do here is trace the source of the oil or fluid leak. Fix it and have the starter replaced as well, so it won't create bigger troubles for the vehicle anymore.
Smoke is bad news even for the starter or starting circuit. Smoke could mean that that too much power is drawn to the starter. This could indicate a shorted starter or a connection problem. Along with the smoke, it may smell like something's burning, and it's never a good thing. The vehicle should be serviced right away.