Dear Tom and Ray:
I have a 1993 Toyota Corolla. I bought it used three years ago. I have had to replace the starter twice. As you know, a starter is a brutishly heavy collection of magnets mounted on a rotating axis inside a cylinder of thick, braided wire. My question: Since my starter only really has to work for about two seconds to actually start the car, and since I only start my car on average twice a day, my own calculations tell me that the starter only does about 24 minutes of work per year. Considering this extremely lax work schedule, why would a starter ever fail in the first place? I realize that the brushes, which transfer the electric current, are probably the key, but come on! I mean, really. -- Jack
RAY: That's an excellent question, Jack. I don't know why starter components ultimately fail. But I suspect it has to do with the tremendous amount of current that flows through the starter every time you use it.
TOM: It'd be like if you only crossed the street twice a year. No big deal, right? But what if each time you did, you got run over by a garbage truck? It would take its toll. And so does high current.
RAY: In any case, two starters inside of three years is a lot, Jack. But we've seen this problem before with non-factory rebuilt starters in Toyotas.
TOM: While Toyotas are very well-m
ade cars, we find that we replace aftermarket, rebuilt starters in Toyotas at three to four times the rate at which we replace the same types of starters in other cars.
RAY: This is not the case with the original-equipment starters that come with the car from the Toyota factory, or the rebuilt starters provided by Toyota dealers. The problems we have are with aftermarket rebuilt starters, which most people buy to replace their originals.
TOM: Since this car was already getting elderly when you bought it, my guess is that it had a non-factory rebuilt starter in it. And when you had to fix it, you threw in another one just like it.
RAY: So, if you haven't had to put in yet another starter before we could answer your letter, I'd suggest that you buy a brand-new or rebuilt starter from Toyota next time. Your mechanic can order one from a local Toyota dealer. My guess is, that one will last a whole lot longer, Jack.