1996 Lexus ES 300: Back In Action
October 16, 2012
The ES 300 is fixed, and the no-start mystery has been solved: the problem turned out to be the starter solenoid contacts, which were worn and corroded. (If that's what you guessed from my prior posts, pat yourself on your back.)
According to the mechanic at the independent repair shop I took the car to, this is a fairly common Toyota problem for cars of this vintage. Back in the day, he said Toyota used to force you to purchase a whole new starter motor, but now you can just get the contacts separately. The mechanic even had a bag of the little copper contact pieces on his bench, so I'm guessing ours isn't an isolated case.
The mechanic also cleaned up the ES' throttle body, which he said had heavy carbon build up on the throttle plate and bore. This was likely a cause for the subsequent die-at-idle issue. The idle control valve could still be the root of the problem, but he said it seemed OK at this time.
The new starter contacts were $14.65. With labor and tax, our final bill came to $136.72.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 150,072 miles