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Hey all. I'm here because I've exhausted all other options. Months ago I tried to start my 2015 RAV4, the lights came on and I heard a click but it wouldn't start. It kept doing this repeatedly and it wouldn't start. So I replaced the starter and it didn't help. I then replaced the battery, it didn't help. We got it towed to Toyota and they said it was the battery. They replaced the battery and we got the car back. It worked fine for a couple days and the same thing happened. Repeat story to Toyota, they replaced the battery again and it worked fine again and it started happening a couple days later. Towed to Toyota for a third time and repeat. Got it towed to Toyota for a fourth time. This time I talked to the lead tech and told him they need to electronically troubleshoot the entire car before I pick it up. Tech said they did and didn't find anything wrong with the car. I picked up the car and it worked fine for a couple days. Same problem started happening, light come on, audible click and it doesn't start. The weird thing is that if the problem starts happening again, we just try to start it again in a couple minutes and usually it works. Sometimes it lasts longer than usual and we can't start the car for a couple hours. I even had the battery changed on the fob to be sure it wasn't an issue but it didn't solve it. Someone please help. This is my wife's car and we have a baby. Toyota and Carmax both can't find anything wrong with the car.
 

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Sounds like an electrical system drain to me but apparently no one you've taken it to has any clue or practical electrical knowledge. They've got fancy electronic equipment but don't know a voltmeter from an ammeter. I'd suggest an independent car repair shop who understands at least basic electricity.
 
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Agree with Dr.Dyno, and he is an electrical engineer. Is there an aftermarket alarm/theft prevention system installed, or any other aftermarket electrical item? There are some simple tests which one can do such as using a voltmeter to measure battery voltage over several days with everything switched off, probably best in the morning before switching anything on or using any electronic device. Would help determine whether there is a parasitic electrical drain. Or as Dr. Dyno suggests, take the vehicle to a good independent shop which does electrical work right away and let them do all of the detective work. But if you know beforehand that there is a parasitic electrical drain that will give you heads-up knowledge to inform the shop detective, may save several days of not having the vehicle.
 
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The weird thing is that if the problem starts happening again, we just try to start it again in a couple minutes and usually it works. Sometimes it lasts longer than usual and we can't start the car for a couple hours.
Sorry guys, I'm going to argue against a parasitic drain on this one. Unless it turns over very, very slowly when it does start without being charged an hour later. If it the starter operates at a normal speed, I'm going to side with the tech that an electrical diagnosis and troubleshooting effort needs to be pursued.

The best thing that an owner can do is try to identify a pattern in the no-start condition behavior. That can help to narrow down the possible root causes saving the tech's time and the owner's money. For example, "Is the problem more likely to occur when:"

1. First start of the day or after the engine is warmed up?
2. It's cold, hot, or raining outside?
3. If the seat or steering wheel are adjusted?
4. Does the problem persist if all other keys and key fobs are removed from the key ring?
5. Have you noticed any evidence of mice or mice droppings in the garage, or in the vehicle?

I also have a question for the owner. When you said that you replaced the starter and the battery did you do those yourself? If so, then you probably have the aptitude to complete some of the diagnosis yourself. If you have a multi-meter attach it to the battery and closely monitor the voltage of the battery with the key engaged, but while it doesn't crank. (monitoring while the problem is happening)

1. Note the voltage at rest (not trying to start)
2. Note the voltage while the problem is happening. (while trying to start)
a. If you see no change in battery voltage while you are actively trying to start the vehicle (and it the starter motor is not turning) then there is an interruption in the start circuit and power from the battery is not making it to the starter. Start thinking about things like the starter solenoid, ignition switch, electrical interlocks with shifter and brake pedal, anti-theft systems and similar.
b. If you do see a dip in battery voltage while you are actively trying to start the vehicle (and it the starter motor is not turning) that would indicate that power is flowing to the starter motor. (typically several hundred amps) Things will start to get hot quick so don't hold the key like this for too long (maybe 10-seconds max). This could indicate a misalignment between the starter pinion gear and the flywheel ring gear,cracked ring gear, or other mechanical issue preventing the starter from turning the engine. Typically the starter pinion retracts after each start attempt so it may re-engage in a different position on the next attempt and allow the engine to turn over.

I don't have a gut feel one way or another without looking at it, but it you're able to identify a pattern in the no-start condition that could be really helpful.

Good Luck,
Saturday
 

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The most basic of tests is trying to start the engine with the headlights on. Easy, instructive and takes no instruments. From there you know which direction to pursue and many of us could probably pinpoint the cause in a few minutes. But apparently the dealer has taken the throw-parts-at-it-and-collect-$$$ approach.
 
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Any aftermarket equipment on the vehicle? IE remote start / sound system / fog lights.
 
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