How To Test The Starter Motor (1993-1998 1.5L Toyota Tercel)

How To Test The Starter Motor (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 1.5L Toyota Tercel)

Testing the starter motor, on the 1993-1998 1.5L Toyota Tercel, is not difficult and in this tutorial I'll explain how to do it in a step-by-step manner.

With your test results, you'll easily and quickly find out if the starter motor is good or bad.

NOTE: This is an on-car test of the starter motor (no need to remove it). The photos I'm using show the starter motor off of the vehicle only to explain the test connections better.

APPLIES TO: This tutorial applies to the following vehicles:

  • 1.5L Toyota Tercel: 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997.

WIRING DIAGRAMS: The following wiring diagram may be of help:

Important Testing Tips

TIP 1: The battery must have a full charge before starting any of the tests in this tutorial.

TIP 2: The battery cable terminals and the battery posts should be clean and corrosion-free before starting the tests.

TIP 3: If you have already removed the starter motor, you can bench test it.

TIP 4: Use jack stands for safety. Don't trust the jack alone to keep your vehicle up in the air while you're underneath it!

TIP 5: Take all necessary safety precautions. Use safety glasses while working underneath the vehicle. Be alert and think safety all of the time.

Symptoms Of A Bad Starter Motor

When your Toyota Tercel's starter motor fails, you'll usually see one of the following problems:

  • An engine no crank problem. To be a bit more specific, you turn the key to crank and start the engine, but nothing happens.
  • An intermittent engine no crank problem. In this case, the starter motor works fine most of the time but now and then it won't.

It's important to note that if the starter motor is failing (to crank the engine) intermittently, you need to test it when it's not cranking the engine. Why? Because testing the starter motor when it is cranking the engine will only confirm that it is functioning.

Tools Needed To Test The Starter Motor

The cool thing about testing the starter motor is that you don't need any expensive diagnostic equipment. Here is a basic list of the tools you'll need to test the starter motor on your 1.5L Toyota Tercel:

  • Jack.
    • You'll need to raise your vehicle to gain access to the starter motor.
  • Jack stands.
  • A remote starter switch.
  • A multimeter or a 12 Volt automotive test light.
  • A wire piercing probe.
    • This tool is not an 'absolute must-have tool' but I can tell you from experience that it makes it a whole lot easier to probe the 'S' terminal wire for the Start Signal.
    • If you'd like to see what this tool looks like, you find out more about it here: Wire Piercing Probe Tool Review (Power Probe PWPPPPP01).
  • A helper.

The Two Types Toyota Tercel Starter Motors

The 1993-1998 1.5L Toyota Tercels use two different types of starter motors. We can classify these two types as:

  • Closed-nose starter motor (photo 1 of 2 in the image viewer above).
  • Open-nose starter motor (photo 2 of 2 in the image viewer above).

Both (closed-nose and open-nose starter motors) have the same circuits (although in different locations) and are tested in the same manner.

These two circuits are:

  • 'S' circuit:
    • This is the circuit that feeds an activation (start) signal to the starter motor (when you turn the key to crank and start the engine).
    • The 'S' terminal is a male spade terminal on the starter motor. The wire that connects to the 'S' terminal has a female terminal.
  • 'B+' circuit.
    • This is the circuit that feeds battery power (voltage/amperage) to the starter motor.
    • The 'B+' terminal is a threaded stud on the starter motor. The wire that connects to the 'S' terminal has a round female terminal and is attached to the 'B+' terminal with a nut.

NOTE: The photos I'm using in this tutorial are photos of the 1995-1998 1.5L Toyota Tercel starter motor. The starter motors for the 1993-1994 1.5L Toyota Tercel are very similar and the testing instructions will apply!

TEST 1: Applying 12 Volts To The 'S' Terminal

The first thing that we'll do, to get this show on the road, is apply 12 Volts directly to the starter motor solenoid's 'S' terminal.

The purpose of this test is to see if the starter motor will activate when the 'S' terminal receives these 12 Volts.

The easiest and safest way to apply these 12 Volts to the solenoid's 'S' terminal is with a remote starter switch.

If you don't have a remote starter switch, you can buy one here: Actron CP7853 Remote Starter Switch For 6V And 12V Automotive Starting Systems.

IMPORTANT: Remove the key from the ignition switch for this test.

OK, let's get started:

  1. 1

    Raise the front of your vehicle and place on it jack stands (to gain access to the starter motor).

  2. 2

    Disconnect the battery negative (-) terminal.

    You'll reconnect it back in one of the following steps, for now, it's a safety precaution as you set up the test.

  3. 3

    Disconnect the wire that connects to the starter motor's 'S' terminal.

    NOTE: This wire will have a female terminal.

  4. 4

    Attach one end of the remote starter switch to the battery positive (+) post.

  5. 5

    Attach the other end of the remote starter switch to the male spade 'S' terminal of the starter motor (and not the female terminal of the wire).

    This is easier said than done, so take your time and make sure the connection is on the male spade 'S' terminal of the starter motor.

  6. 6

    Reconnect the battery negative (-) cable to the battery negative (-) post.

  7. 7

    Apply 12 Volts to the male spade 'S' terminal wire of the starter motor starter solenoid with your remote starter switch.

  8. 8

    You'll get one of two results:

    1.) The starter will activate and will turn over the engine.

    2.) The starter motor won't do a thing.

Let's take a look at what your test results mean:

CASE 1: The starter motor cranked the engine. This is the correct and expected test result and it confirms that the starter motor itself is good (not defective).

The next step is to see if 'S' terminal wire delivers an activation signal to the starter motor. Go to: TEST 2: Verifying The 12 Volt Start Signal.

CASE 2: The starter motor DID NOT crank the engine. This usually means that your starter motor is bad and needs to be rebuilt or replaced.

I suggest you perform two more tests. First, make sure the starter motor is getting its 12 Volt Start signal. Second, voltage drop test the battery cable (that attaches to the starter motor solenoid).

Toyota Vehicles:

  • Tercel 1.5L
    • 1993,