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I was having a problem with my starter in that it would take up to 10 seconds with the key on before the starter would spin. Once it started, it was powerful and the car started right up, so it wasn't a battery or starter motor problem, it was the starter solenoid, specifically the contacts.

From turning the key, you energize the starter relay, which energizes the starter solenoid, which connects the starter directly to the battery with a large gauge wire. This is done with two copper contacts and a copper disk that is pulled to bridge them together. As the starter wears, these contacts become thin and eventually lose contact with the disk, more so on the battery side.

DISCONNECT BATTERY



Here is the starter, right up front an easy to get to, no need to remove anything else except for the airbox snorkel perhaps.

There are two bolts holding it on, one you can see here and one around the back, 14mm head IIRC

The hardest part of this job is separating the motor housing from the block, might have to hit it with penetrating fluid and the dead blow hammer because it is a tapered fit.





Once its free, turn it over and disconnect the signal wire with the plastic clip and the heavy battery cable with the 12mm nut




Then bring it to the bench or table or whatever and remove the three 8mm bolts holding the solenoid cover on, no need to open the motor housing for this job.

Remove the cover and gasket, and pull out the plunger (pictured later)

This is what you will see (this is after replacing the contacts, notice how bright and shiny they are)

Remove the nut on the outside of the solenoid and slowly take it apart, noting the order of all the washers, orings, and insulators as they are critical. Replace contact and put it back together, making sure the contact is perfectly flat and not twisted from tightening down the nut.

Do the same for the other side





This is the plunger that makes the connection. Give this a light sanding to make it shiny, but don't go crazy because its thickness is important to making a good connection.





And thats it, put it back together in reverse, connect the battery and be rewarded with strong instant cranking.

Takes maybe an hour or two if its your first time. I got the parts at the local alternator and starter repair shop, cost 4 dollars total. Most all cars use the same, you need one square contact and one left offset contact as you see in the picture. You could pay 150+ for a remanufactured starter so this is definitely worth the time!

Its a lot better than always parking on a hill to bump start as I did for about a week before finally just doing the repair.
 

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Nicely done! You saved a lot of money by doing it yourself. Thanks for the excellent pics. My brother-in-law did the same thing with the starter solenoid in his Toyota pickup a few years ago. I've never done that, but I did rebuild an alternator once and it wasn't that hard. Starters and alternators for Japanese cars are ridiculously overpriced, even aftermarket.
 

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Excellent write up, sure beats paying for a rebuilt starter if you don't mind getting your hands a little dirty. Thanks for the tip, it might come in handy one day.
 

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My RAV4 is 2009, month ago i pushed the starter button, the starter was not spinning but i heared the noise BERRRRRRRRRR , i think this noise was made by solenoid, then again i tried, finally after 4-5 times on and of the button starter was spinning and motor was cranking. The days after it was ok, but today after almost one month i was facing to such a problem again.
Pushing starter button, BERRRRRRRRR and BERRRRRRR ! then after few times the starter was spinning and engine cranked. ( No sign of a bad battry or dim lights so on). I am sure it is something wrong with starter itself, i think it is a problem with the solenoid, but dose anybody know why it happens to solenoid to fail like this??? are the inside contactors dirty? What can i do then?
Appreciate any comments, thank you.
 

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Can't believe I missed this write-up! Excellent details!

I too have rebuilt alternators for less than $10 in parts and it's not that hard, just a matter of taking your time and not rushing it. You've inspired me to do the same come time to replace my starter!
 

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Just curious, but since you had the starter out, did you look at the brushes? If I was to go this far, I would certainly replace the starter brushes as well.
 
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