Car has difficulty starting — Trying something new

Here is a story how using a little bit of knowledge and trying something new probably saved me hundreds of dollars in car repairs.

We are a frugal family and drive cars that are over 15 years old. I work from home and besides the trips to see Grandpa and Grandma, and going to Disneyland occasionaly we don’t put very many miles on our vehicles. This is somewhat related but not what I was posting about today.

Our “white bunny,” what we call our Toyota Camery, started being sluggish when starting the car. My first thought was that it was the battery I probably needed a new one. It was time for an oil change and tire rotation anyway so I took it to Les Schwab and had them do the maintenance and check the battery that I bought from them two years ago. The result of the battery test was that the battery was fine. They said they could tell it had a difficulty starting so something else must be drawing the power. I have a trickle charger so I put that on the battery hoping it just needed a good charge. Many hours later, after the battery was fully charged, I tried starting the car and it was as bad as every. In fact I tried starting it again later and it wouldn’t start at all!

There wasn’t anything drawing the power that I could think of so I thought it must be the starter that was having problems. I was hoping the starter would be something easy to replace but feared that belts were involved, the starter would not be easily accessible, or otherwise it would be over my head. I decided to google it and found that there are no belts involved, it is relatively easily accessible, and I could do it! The next day I headed off to AutoZone and bought a rebuilt starter they had a life time warrenty on and went back to home to get my hands dirty. Getting to the bolts of the starter required that I remove the air filter unit. I probaby removed more than I needed but it definetly made it easier to get to the old starter. I loosened a couple of the wrong bolts at one point, which would have allowed me to remove the starter housing instead of removing the whole unit from engine. I quickly tightened them and removed the correct bolts and had the old starter removed from the engine. I had to get back to my day job at that point. A few hours later I had time to put the new starter in and put the air filter unit back into place. My daughter did the honors of trying to see if my hunch that the starter was the issue, and it turns out I was!

The new starter unit was $125, and with a little bit of time to go pick up the new starter and getting my hands a bit dirty I probably saved myself $100. As a side bonus I saw my air filter was filthy so I bought a new on and replaced it as well.

I have changed my oil and tires before but have never thought I could do something like this before. I am glad I did a little bit of research and tried to fix it myself. It is very gratifiying!