Update On No-Start Problem - 1996 Lexus ES 300 Long-Term Road Test

1996 Lexus ES 300 Long Term Road Test

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Update On No-Start Problem

October 11, 2012

1996 Lexus ES 300

Thy Olden Lexus -- it lives! Sort of. Maybe "it's in critical condition" would be more apt. After writing yesterday's post about how the ES wouldn't start in a school parking lot, I got a lift from my house back over to the school to see if I could get the ES to start. Or get it towed.

I had first done some very brief web searches to see if I could come up with possible causes. Nothing definitive turned up. Battery? Starter? The only thing that caught my eye for a possible temporary fix was that there was a "bound starter" and hitting the starter with a hammer might help. Percussive maintenance? I'm in!

Well, I tried that. The starter was hard to get to. And hitting it made no difference. The ES was still not turning over, with just one click in terms of sound yet with the accessories still working. So at that point it was quite late in the afternoon, so I called for a tow truck.

I had to wait about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, I listened to NPR on the ES' radio. Joe the driver pulled up and asked me a few questions. He asked if he could try starting it. Sure dude. At first it's the same thing for him. But then he quickly cycled the ignition key on and off about 10 times. About the 10th time the engine coughed and turned over a little. A couple more tries and it started. I was both dumbfounded and impressed.

Joe said he thought it was the battery and that maybe there was just barely enough power left to get it to start. The best part was that he didn't even charge for the service call.

So I drove the ES back to my house without any issues. I tried starting it once more, and it fired up. Thinking all might be OK, or at least temporarily, I hooked up my battery tender to the battery. It ended up charging the battery for a couple hours. Hmm. If the battery were really dead, it'd likely take more than a couple hours worth of charge, even though it did get some charge time when driving. So I was still perplexed.

This was all yesterday afternoon/evening. Finally this morning I tried it again. The ES started. But ... now it dies immediately at idle after starting. Keeping my foot on the throttle is the only way to keep the ES from stalling. This is the starting problem that we encountered before, when we eventually replaced the mass airflow sensor.

The good news at least is that the ES is safe at my house. I've scheduled a service appointment at an independent repair shop for Monday morning. My plan at this point is to drive it/nurse it over there.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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