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Toyota Maintenance: Starter Contact Repair

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Author: Joe Micciche - October, 2000

By: Adam Fertig. February, 2003.

A few months ago I began having starter problems with my 1988 Toyota 4Runner and occasionally I would only hear a "click" coming from the engine bay when the ignition key was turned. Usually it would do this once or twice and then start. The problem began to get worse, sometimes taking 15-20 clicks before it would start, but it always started. One day it would not start at all, and I was fairly confident the problem was with the starter contacts. A "starter repair kit" from the dealer provided the replacement parts needed. So now all that was left to do is pull the starter and replace the worn out starter contacts."

Tools needed for repair:
  • Ratchet
  • 12mm, 14mm, 17mm, and 8mm sockets.
  • Flat head and Phillips head screwdrivers.
  • Long ratchet extension. The one that's about a foot and a half long.

The process

Before getting started, for safety reasons you should disconnect the positive battery terminal.

Place the vehicle on jack stands and remove the wheel. The starter on the 1988 4Runner with 3VZE engine is located on the passenger side.

Heat Shield not removed

You need to remove the plastic fender lining by pulling out the plastic clips and remove the 2 bolts holding on the heat shield with a 8mm socket. Here's what it will look like (I didn't yet remove the heat shield in this picture)

Here's what we are working with.

Now you need to push back the rubber boot that covers the 12+ line to the starter. This reveals a 12mm nut. There is very little room to work with here, but I managed to get a socket on this nut without much work.

The bolt.

Now you have to locate the first bolt that holds the starter on. There are a total of 2 bolts. This one is on top, and points toward the rear of the vehicle. It's pretty easy to get to, at least with my body lift. It's a 14mm bolt. It helps to use some sort of breaker bar to get it loose due to the limited room to move the ratchet. Loosen this bolt until it can be taken out by hand, but don't take it all the way out.

Red arrows indicate 2nd bolt

Now we need to get to the 2nd bolt. It's on the bottom of the starter assembly, and takes some time to locate. In fact, I sat staring at the starter trying to find this bolt. Everything was covered in grease so it made it difficult to see what's what. It's probably a good idea to get a rag and wipe stuff down first. You will need a fairly thin walled 17mm socket. There's not enough room on top of the bolt to fit a wrench. The easiest way to access this bolt is to reach on top of the lower a-arm and up through the wheel well. I tried to get a good photograph of this bolt, but it didn't turn out to well. It's to the left of the nut you just took off, facing the front of the truck.

Here is how it looks on my truck. Notice I have a custom skid plate. You may need to remove your stock skid plate to access this area.

The easiest way to get this bolt off is to use a long extension bar, about a foot and a half long. You need to fish it through the steering from the front of the truck. Take the ratchet off to do so, and then connect it when you get the socket on the bolt. Take the bolt out and set it aside.


Now you can go back and take out the upper 14mm bolt. The starter should be loose now. Turn it sideways and fish it out between the motor mount and some wires to the left. Once you get it to where you can see the 2nd wire and connector on the bottom of the starter, remove it. I found it easiest to get a short flat head screwdriver and put it in the slot on the side of the connector. Sorry, forgot to take a pic of this. Pull the starter out of the truck and sit it on a table.

Notice all the shavings and dirt on the contact on the right, and how clean the contact on the left is.

The only thing you need to take apart of the starter is the 3 bolt/screws that hold the cover that holds the plunger inside. You can either use a Phillips head screwdriver, or a 8mm socket. I chose to use the socket. After the bolts are off you may need to tap the edge of the cover with a hammer to get the cover to come off. The plunger will come out, along with a long spring. Clean all those off, and set them aside. Here's what the inside looked like on my truck. Notice all the shavings and dirt on the contact on the right, and how clean the contact on the left is. That's not good.

You will need a "starter repair" kit from Toyota. I chose to buy the Toyota part. The part number is 28226-72010. It was only $10 or $15.

Using a 14mm wrench, remove the nut on the outside of the starter where you first took off the 12mm nut holding the 12+ cable on. There's not much to grip though. Remove the whole contact and inspect for wear. Mine was badly worn and lots of shavings and dirt were covering it, which doesn't allow much electricity to pass through.

Toyota parts Here is what the old contact and new contacts look like, side by side.

Make sure everything is good and clean. Take note of how the parts are assembled on the old contact. Assemble them the same way and reinstall the new parts. If you look at the above image, you will see that the new bolt is shorter than the old. I could have re-used the old bolt, but I chose not too. The old bolt had some splines on the top portion of the bolt, and the new bolt was smooth. If I re-used the old bolt, I would have to pound it in the contact and fudge up the splines.

Put the plunger and spring back in the starter, and reinstall the cap.

You can put the starter back on the engine the same way you fished it out. I found it easier to plug the small wire with the plastic connector after the starter was bolted to the engine. Re-install the 12mm nut and put the rubber boot back in place.

That's it! It should only take an hour or 2 at the most.

Once I hooked everything back up, I turned the key, and the starter spun faster than it ever did before, and even sounded better. I'm quite confident this fixed the problem.

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