What Causes Toyota Highlander Won’t Start & Make Clicking Noise

Not many things can spoil your day so thoroughly before it even starts for real like a car that refuses to start. There are many reasons why your Toyota Highlander suddenly starts making clicking noises and does not start. 

They are mostly associated with some sort of powering issue, be it a bad connection, a failing battery or another faulty crucial part of the system that powers your vehicle's engine.

In this article, we will list the most typical causes of the Toyota Highlander issues of not starting and clicking. Some of them are relatively easy to fix with common tools or a quick jump-start, but others require more work.

Drained battery of Toyota Highlander

The most frequently occurring issue that makes Toyota Highlander not start and make a clicking noise is a drained battery. A functioning battery is essential to create a substantial power supply to the engine. Without it, the car won't start. A loud clicking noise from the engine while starting shows that there is still some charge left to fire up the solenoid, but not nearly enough to start the car properly.

How to diagnose:

A rapid clicking sound is a telltale sign that your battery is weak. It still produces enough power to charge dashboard lights and cause them to flicker on and off. The clicking sound is likely produced by a starter solenoid or a fuse box relay.

To make sure the battery causes starting issues in Toyota Highlander test its voltage with a multimeter. Normally, it should show 12V, but sometimes even a normal voltage can be disregarded after a voltage drop test. Start the engine and watch for the signs of draining. If the battery voltage drops to about 10V this indicates that the battery is unable to supply enough power to the engine.

How to fix:

If the reason is a drained battery, you can carefully jump-start the car. This is not going to fix the root of your problem, though. To save yourself from trouble, you should get a full examination to find out what causes your battery to drain. Maybe there is an issue with charging or the battery itself. Once you fix this problem, you can forget about the starting and clicking issues.

Toyota Highlander has damaged and oxidized battery connections

The poor condition of the battery terminals can lead to a clicking noise in Toyota Highlander while starting. Battery terminals and wires can deteriorate and break over time, causing a disruption in the power supply to and from the car battery.

How to diagnose:

To rule out other problems associated with a Toyota Highlander not starting but making clicking noises, look closely at the battery terminals. They can be eaten away by corrosion from exposure to the acid inside the battery. If you notice traces of white, blue or green powder-like substance on the terminals, they are corroded. Look for the signs of damage (cracks, bumps).

How to fix:

If it looks undamaged, careful cleaning will suffice. To clean your Toyota Highlander's battery, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the black cable from the negative terminal using a wrench or plier.
  2. Unplug the red positive terminal cable. Be careful not to touch both terminals with your metal tool. It will be one expensive mistake.
  3. Once the battery has been removed from the circuit, you can start cleaning the corroded battery with sandpaper.
  4. After cleaning, reconnect the cables in reverse order, positive first, then negative.

If there is any physical damage, you will have to replace the battery. Unfortunately, leaving it as is would be too risky.

Possible issues with Toyota Highlander starter connection

The next troubleshooting step if the battery looks sound is to check the starter connection. If the starter does not receive enough power through its connection to the car battery, your engine is unable to start.

How to diagnose:

To troubleshoot a clicking noise in your Toyota Highlander, examine the power cable for the starter motor and its connections from the battery. You can check the voltage with a multimeter at the battery and near the starter to find any issues.

Corrosion or a loose connection can interrupt the power supply to the starter motor, resulting in the clicking sound coming from the starter solenoid, which has a separate circuit. Even rodents can damage the wires while your Toyota stays in the garage.

How to fix:

Resealing or replacing damaged wires usually takes little effort. If the problem is linked to corrosion, use sandpaper to clean the buildup that stops the power flow.

Poor ground connection

Multiple ground connections in your Toyota Highlander can cause clicking noise and no start issues. One connects the battery to the chassis and the other connects the engine to the chassis. The starter solenoid receives power from the ground connection, and once the supply becomes disrupted, you can hear the starter clicking and failing to start the engine.

How to diagnose:

To check the quality of the ground connection in your Highlander, use a multimeter set to ohms and touch one probe to the negative terminal of the battery and the other probe to any exposed metal part of the engine (or nonpainted part of the chassis). The reading should be nearly 0 ohms.

How to fix:

If you notice rust or corrosion signs on the connections, they must be cleaned. Take sandpaper and carefully scrape the buildup off the connections to restore their conductivity.

Failing starter motor

Once you have eliminated the possibility of bad connections and battery issues, look closely at the starter motor itself. A faulty starter motor can cause a rapid clicking noise when starting in Toyota Highlander.

How to diagnose:

By elimination. If the battery is charged and the connections show a proper electrical current, then the starter is causing issues. This part is not immune to deterioration and wear, so there is a possibility that your starter is simply dying of old age and frequent use.

How to fix:

There is not much you can do about it without causing more harm than good. There is an old method that involves two people. One is trying to start the engine while the other hammers at the starter motor. Obviously, things can go wrong, and we recommend consulting an expert.

Toyota Highlander has engine problems

The most unpleasant and potentially most expensive thing to fix is when Toyota Highlander is not starting due to engine failure. On the bring side, it is easy to diagnose.

How to diagnose:

Instead of rapid clicking, when the engine fails to start, you will only hear one click. This single click indicated that the starter received enough power, the connections were fine, but the engine was seized. There are multiple reasons why the engine can fail to start besides electrical issues.

How to fix:

Poor maintenance can lead to this exact problem. Check if your engine has enough oil, the fuel lines are not clogged, and the filters are clean. Maybe, if you take care of it, the engine starts. But the chances are slim.

The best way to deal with engine issues is to visit your local shop or call a trusted mechanic.

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