Recently (since the beginning of the winter), my car has been taking several attempts to start every time I use it.

Several factors about the car have changed, so it's hard for me to tell what's really the problem.

The car's specs are: 1996 Toyota Avalon XLS, 110k mi, V6.

Here is a link to a video of me trying to start the car: https://vid.me/CXnZ

The clacking sound in the beginning is the tape deck, I shut that off after my second attempt to start the car. After that, each click is me turning the key.

You can see the "BRAKE" light turn off/on each time I turn the key. It's hard to hear the sounds from outside the car, but after each key turn there is a quiet electrical sounding "click" sound.

Eventually, when every light in the dash turns off except for the seat-belt and a yellow sensor light, that's when the car finally turned on.

  • I only use the car about once a week, and only for about 30 minutes at a time. I used to use it every day and this wasn't an issue.
  • The battery is newly (within the last 2 months) replaced with a Kirkland brand battery which matches the car (775 CCA).
  • This problem was an issue before I replaced the battery, but it's been progressively getting worse (takes more attempts to start each time).
  • I cleaned the cable terminals which attach to the battery with a mixture of baking soda and water when I replaced it.
  • The oil hasn't been changed in a bit of time (since 100k mi), but it is at a good level (I've topped it off while the engine was warm).
  • Coolant levels are good as well.
  • The car is stored in a heated underground garage (the temperature only gets about as low as 50 F/10 C in there).
  • Once I'm out and about, after a bit of the driving, the car starts with no problems after I shut it off.
  • When I turn the key, all dash lights work and I can hear the fuel pump starting.

I start my car by immediately turning the key to start, should I be letting the fuel pump work first, or waiting a bit on standby (just having the key half-turned)?

I think the issue here is that the battery just isn't getting enough use for it to remain charged. Once I am driving, there aren't any issues starting and the battery seems to charge.

Given that I only use the car once a week, it seems that each time I get back to it any charge that it had after it's last use has dissipated.

Are there any ways to mitigate this? Should I get a different battery which may hold charge longer?

  • When you say "it doesn't start", what exactly do you mean? The car will turn over but won't fire? The car will not turn over to even try and start? What is exactly going on? What I'm reading may/may not be exactly what you're saying. Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 22:54
  • @Paulster2: the car engine doesn't turn over. It takes several tried, but when it does turn over, it does start. I'll go and try now to make sure I got it right. I'll come back and edit my answer to reflect what happens, so it's more detailed. I can also post a video, if that helps.
    – Ron
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 22:58
  • 1
    I'm taking it you actually mean "BRAKE" and not "BREAK"? Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 0:56
  • 1
    @Paulster2: You are quite right, although if the latter was true, it would explain the problems...
    – Ron
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 0:59
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    Did you find out the problem..I have the same car and same problem
    – user15942
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 2:37

1 Answer 1


There are two things I'd look at as the problem.

First and most likely is the solenoid on the starter is almost shot. The solenoid has a large copper washer which is pressed into the two posts (one from the battery connection and the other going to the starter motor). When this wears out, you'll get a clicking sound (almost a dead thud) as the Bendix is pushed into the flywheel, yet no power is supplied through to the starter motor itself. Once in a while after several tries, it can hit a "good" spot in that washer and allow it to have continuity so the starter has power. You can have this checked by taking your starter to a local parts store and have them bench test it for you.

Secondly, and I'm not sure on your vehicle how it works, is if the relay to the starter has gone bad. Some vehicles have it located in the steering column and is actuated by turning the key (via a rod). You car could also be utilizing an electric relay, which is energized when the key is turned in the ignition to the start position. Either one of these situations would be a little bit more problematic to figure out. If it's done by a relay, you'd have to find the relay and change it out with a known good one (usually located under the hood of the car in the under hood fuse box portion). If the relay is a direct power version actuated by rod and a key turn, you'd need to find the wiring which is associated with this, pull the plug, then jump the correct two wires together to see if it would cause the starter to turn.

By no means would I consider the battery to be the issue.

  • Also, another point I'm confused about: if this is the starter, why would the car start more easily once it's been running for a bit?
    – Ron
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 1:23
  • The starter depends on a solenoid which pulls the starter shaft with a gear to engage a larger gear on the engine. This rotates the engine until it starts running on its own. The starter won't actually turn until that shaft is engaged. If the solenoid is going bad and is cold, it might not work (variety of reasons). A borderline solenoid may or may not work, but has a better chance when warmer, usually. I like the answer from @Paulster2.
    – Bill N
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 3:16

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