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Auto shop oil change and recommended repairs for starter issue
Old 10-14-2010, 11:36 PM   #1
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Auto shop oil change and recommended repairs for starter issue

DW took out 98 Camry for an oil change at Midas. I normally do this, but she's getting paid, so I went along for the ride. We had them check the starter issues I've had over the past 2 weeks, single click when trying to start the car (this went aways after cleaning and lubing battery posts) and then this past weekend, the starter kept starting after the engine started and even after turning off the ignition and removing the key. This last issue I had to remove the negative cable from the battery and then I found on the internet, by hitting the starter with a hammer or wrench a few times would stop this. The common belief is a solenoid that's "stuck" in the on position. This is the one and only time this has happened. The mechanic recommended I replace the battery, ignition switch and the starter. This is even after I mentioned I had the starter bench tested at Advance Auto last night and it passed. To my surprise, they even gave me a battery analysis stating my 1.5 yr old battery from Sears was bad. I was given a printout for 12.8 volts and only 74 cold cranking amps (supposed to be 525 CCA). I was told to bring it back since it's under warranty, and this is what I did. Sears told me these places lie about the results and he hooked up a battery meter in front of me. The readings came out to 12.8v and 568 CCA! Turns out the Sears guy was right on the money.

I was also told by Midas that my car needs the front wheeling bearing replaced since it was a little loose, my power steering fluid needed to be power flushed since it was a little low (I never heard of this before) and my air filter needed replacing. I'm not sure if any of the work they recommended is to be believed. Of course, since my DW was doing a job, I couldn't ask for any more repairs and certainly wouldn't after the snow job I just got today!

I just can't believe they recommended replacing the entire charging system (shotgun approach?) just because my starter solenoid locked up in the on position! Since this problem hasn't reoccurred yet, I drive around with my socket wrench and a rubber mallet available in case I need to whack the starter back into place. I can get a remanufactured starter off ebay for around $50 if I really needed to, instead of the $250 ($350 incl labor) unit Midas was offering and they don't even know the brand of the remanufactured unit.

I used to work in an auto dealer in my teens, so I know to stay out of repair shops as much as possible.

Anyone out there have any ideas, similiar experiences about the starter problem I'm having?
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Old 10-15-2010, 12:05 AM   #2
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These quickie shops are not much better than annuity salesmen, used car dealers, politicians & the like. Have them do the oil and check out what ever they recommend with a reputable place.
I have had a problem once that my Honda Civic would not shut off even with the key removed. Ultimately I changed the ignition key switch and that solved that problem. This type of problem would not be a battery problem although electronic systems sometimes do erratic things with low power situations. But you checked the battery so thats covered. Change the air filter on schedule or after heavy dusty use, you can clean it out a bit with a blower. Don't worry about the power steering fluid, just top it off. Have a dealer or reliable shop check the wheel bearings.
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Old 10-15-2010, 07:50 AM   #3
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You need to find a reliable repair shop. As I've mentioned before, I've found the recommendations on this site to be good.

Car Talk. Car tips, advice, and troubleshooting. | Mechanics Files
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Old 10-15-2010, 08:08 AM   #4
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I normally do the maintenance items myself, brakes, fluids, sway bar links. etc. Timing belts, struts and bearings are outside of my capabilities and I use a trusted mechanic that I've used/known for over 20 years. I actually brought this starter issue to him first, but he must've had a bad day or an attitude the day I stopped by. He wanted to wait until the problem occurred again and didn't want to see it until it was still broken,e.g., I'd have to tow it to him. This makes it frustrating since I can usually isolate and correct the problem that's happening. The biggest issue is it's not happening on any regular basis. I'd feel better if my starter failed the bench test, I still believe it's the solenoid based on the internet searches that I've read. So far, there's no testing that I know of that will isolate a bad solenoid unless I'm lucky enough to have it lock up on me and then remove the starter. I've also noticed auto stores don't even stock the solenoid, it's a special order, they only have the complete starter available.
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Old 10-15-2010, 09:01 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dimsumkid View Post
I normally do the maintenance items myself, brakes, fluids, sway bar links. etc. Timing belts, struts and bearings are outside of my capabilities and I use a trusted mechanic that I've used/known for over 20 years. I actually brought this starter issue to him first, but he must've had a bad day or an attitude the day I stopped by. He wanted to wait until the problem occurred again and didn't want to see it until it was still broken,e.g., I'd have to tow it to him. This makes it frustrating since I can usually isolate and correct the problem that's happening. The biggest issue is it's not happening on any regular basis. I'd feel better if my starter failed the bench test, I still believe it's the solenoid based on the internet searches that I've read. So far, there's no testing that I know of that will isolate a bad solenoid unless I'm lucky enough to have it lock up on me and then remove the starter. I've also noticed auto stores don't even stock the solenoid, it's a special order, they only have the complete starter available.

Just buy the solenoid and replace... On the very old cars it was easy... I have not done any car work for over 20 years, so don't know now...

I don't see your battery as the problem... if it is holding a charge and cranking the car... good to go..

NOW... it can be a wire problem... these are hard to find... I had one that would fry the alternator, the voltage regulator and the battery and different time and intervals... it was only luck that I found it... I had been taking the car to mechanics to get all the fried parts replaced... but decided to replace an alternator myself... when I removed the wires, one seemed to be hanging down more than the others... wiggled it a bit and could tell that it was broken inside the insulation... you could not see any problems with the insulation... fixed it and never had a problem with any of these items again...
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Old 10-15-2010, 09:12 AM   #6
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The problem I have with buying just the solenoid at retail/internet is cost of about $100. I can do ebay of a remanufactured one for about $50. This is basically all they sell at the auto stores anyway, all remanufactured units. If I decide to replace it, for $50, it's worth a shot off ebay, it's not going to kill me. Just need to make sure the solenoid really is the problem, maybe the best thing to do is wait and see if the problem reappears.
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Old 10-15-2010, 10:16 AM   #7
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For $50, I'd go with the rebuilt starter, especially if tapping the old one helps.
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Old 10-15-2010, 11:39 AM   #8
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I had the same problem on my 1999 Camry Solara . It would need a couple of ignition turns before it started . It finally would not shut off while I was at a gas station . I had the starter & solenoid replaced by Toyota and it was fine after that . They also checked my battery but that was fine .
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Old 10-15-2010, 11:46 AM   #9
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Well, I am just shocked ! Shocked I tell you that an auto repair place was dishonest. Maybe he needed to make his boat payment.

Buyer beware.

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Old 10-15-2010, 11:57 AM   #10
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Quote:
Just buy the solenoid and replace... On the very old cars it was easy
On many cars, the solenoid is integrated into the starter unit. replacing the whole unit is appropriate.

Quote:
by hitting the starter with a hammer or wrench a few times would stop this. The common belief is a solenoid that's "stuck" in the on position.
Ah yes - The ducktape and hammer mechanic.

That can work for awhile in an emergency. However the "right" way to fix this is to replace the unit. It will continue on a more frequent basis as time goes on.

Do you really want to be crawling under your car during winter months ?
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Old 10-15-2010, 12:13 PM   #11
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MasterBlaster,
The starter on this car is very near the battery and it easily seen and removable from the top of the car, takes less than 5 minutes to remove it from the engine. The solenoid is available, but a special order at most brick & mortar stores and internet retailers. I just don't want to bother changing out a starter that passed testing. I just took the car out and made about 20 more starts, everything is working fine so far. Just told DW to use the CRV instead of this car, since she's less able to know where/what a starter is.
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Old 10-15-2010, 01:10 PM   #12
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Mine would work intermittently fine and then it would stop again. I actually had flames coming from my engine when it finally went . Really exciting because I was at a gas station at the time so I would not wait to long for the repair.
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Old 10-15-2010, 01:15 PM   #13
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Flames? Sounds like you had a gas leak from the fuel line. There's still other issues that could be the ultimate problem. There's the ignition switch, some fuse relays and the wiring that also could be some of the cause too. So far, the starter and the battery both passed bench testing. I still think I need to see if any more issues pop up, maybe it's still too early to tell, just happened last Saturday.
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Old 10-15-2010, 01:40 PM   #14
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If you want to play detective, pull off the wire from the ignition switch to the solenoid and temporarily replace it with a momentary contact switch connected to the battery. Then when you start it, use the temporary switch to crank the car. If it still sticks, it is the solenoid. If it never sticks, then suspect the ignition switch. Or just buy the rebuilt starter on eBay.
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Old 10-15-2010, 04:00 PM   #15
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Buying parts like that from ebay is scary unless you are buying from a well known parts house that has an ebay store. Depending on where you live, I much prefer buying these parts over the counter. I trust parts from Napa or Advance Auto, but I don't trust Autozone. Even if you buy over the counter, shop online for pricing and availability. Advance auto regularly has 15-20% online discounts (shop online and pickup at store). This is facilitated if you remove the entire starter (preferably) or solenoid and take the bad part with you to compare with the new part. I highly recommend www.rockauto.com or www.partsgeek.com if you prefer an online retailer. Rock Auto sells a variety of parts from well known (and not so well known) rebuilders.

One more thing.....the bench test machines would typically not be capable of detecting an issue like a stuck solenoid anyway. I've had a car with a sticking starter solenoid and the problem is so inconsistent that it would be nearly impossible to have it fail just when your mechanic is looking at it....or it could work properly after being towed.
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Old 10-15-2010, 04:27 PM   #16
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Jazz4cash,
Sounds like we shop at the same places, Advanced Auto and RockAuto, I mainly buy from RockAuto when I'm not in a hurry, even Amazon for brake pads. Advanced Auto doesn't carry the solenoid in house, has to be special ordered. Never bought from ebay before, but the seller has tons of high ratings at 99%. Not like you get a brand new starter at the retail stores anyway, it's all rebuilt stuff. The solenoid is around $100 or a little more, on ebay, you get the starter and solenoid together for $48+10 shipping. I figure for that price, it's worth a shot to try it out. I was just talking to my old neighbor, he's a engineer and told me you can't really test the solenoid too, it's just a high capacity switch. So, over time it may go bad. I was told by Toyota about my power window controller back in 2000, it sounds like it about to die, they recommended I replace it. I never changed it and it still works fine. I mentioned earlier, I took this to my mechanic that I've used for 20 years and he didn't want to do anything until it was broken. It's still not in a broken status, so there's no point in pissing him off when nothing is currently wrong. I'm sure he doesn't want to waste his time on this if nothing is faulty. We're just going to make this our secondary car, with me the main driver in case there's a problem again.
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Old 10-15-2010, 05:59 PM   #17
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Can't say I blame you for taking a shot for $48 if you are comfortable. With a car that age, it makes sense to replace both solenoid and starter. I think Rockauto has one for about $90, but as you know shipping can be pricey. Advance has free shipping on orders over $75 and I've always gotten name brand stuff. Rebuilt stuff has fairly high failure rate and the labor usually is not covered. I think it's worth it to pay a bit more and at least get 1 yr warranty. Are you confident that your ebay seller will be around in 1yr? I agree with your statement about your mechanic...save him for something more difficult

Have you found any DIY forums for the Camry? This would give you a really good idea on level of difficulty, but starters are generally pretty straightforward if you can get the car on ramps.


Coversation at the Corner Auto Parts House:
Me: "Need a starter for a 76 Chevy half ton...How much?
Counter Guy: "We have the standard model for 29.99 or The GOLD SERIES with
Lifetime Warranty for 34.99".
Me:"What's the difference?"
Counter Guy: "Five bucks."
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Old 10-15-2010, 06:08 PM   #18
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The quality on some of those aftermarket starters and other items can be poor. They may last a year or two but don't expect them to last like the original equipment.

I had a very bad experience with power steering pumps for one of my old cars. I'd spend a Saturday putting in the aftermarket power steering pump only to have it go out a week later. The auto parts store (Pep Boys) would cheerfully order me a new one each time. And each time I had the exact same experience.

After three new "rebuilt" after-market power steering pumps and 3 Saturdays wasted I got really tired of their after-market junk. So I went on down to the salvage yard and bought a used one (Original Equipment) out of a crashed car for half the price. I put that one in and it lasted as long as I owned the car.

I worked with someone else that had a similar experience with starters. So sometimes what you save on parts you pay back with interest in labor.
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Old 10-15-2010, 06:33 PM   #19
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Jazz,
I've already had the starter removed and reinstalled for the bench testing I did at Adv. Auto. Mine is really easy to do, just from the top of the car, maybe 5-10 minutes tops. They want $175 - $30 online coupon they'll honor if I want it, this is a new store and looks like they need some business. This was some no name brand too. Rock auto has a OEM Denso for around $150+ship. I've already been reading some Toyota forums, that's how I found the one discussing hitting the starter with a hammer to release the solenoid. Re:ebayer seller, this one seems to have thousands of feedback. No guarantee anyone will be around next year, I think his warranty was 30 days. I know that going in so I won't be surprised if I buy one, I'll cross that bridge when I get there, probably end up getting one from RockAuto if I have to. I just trained DW on how to hammer the starter and to disengage the negative terminal post on the battery in case she had to. She felt confident enough today and took it out on an errand without a hitch!
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Old 10-15-2010, 06:36 PM   #20
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Sometimes rebuilding consists of spray painting with black paint. Depends on the "rebuilder".
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