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Discussion Starter #1
Help! Nothing worse than a great van that randomly refuses to start...

Seemingly, this started about a month ago. Went in the my garage to start the 2005 AWD Sienna with 173K miles on it on cold winter morning and the battery (4 years+) was dead. In addition, I had parked it with the steering wheel cranked off center and could not get the van out of park (would have been a major problem if it needed a tow out). Installed new battery and it started up and everything seemed to be OK. Last week, in town shopping, it again would not start (and the steering wheel was cranked off-center). After "giggling" [tech. term] every thing (brakes, drive-positions and steering wheel) it finally started. While it should not matter, I made sure I parked with the steering wheel straight from then on.

Now today, I was in town, and again - but this time with steering wheel straight - the car would not start. The battery is fine/full (I just happened to put it on a charger last night), all the dash lights came on, I could move the shift-stick through all positions, but zero effect at actually turning over the engine. Again, trying things multiple times, just about the time I figured I would need a tow for repair, I cranked on the steering wheel hard back-forth and then it started?!

So, my question is, is there some sort of steering wheel sensor [?] that could be going bad and would prevent the Sienna from starting?

If not, what should I (or a mechanic) be looking for that would keep an otherwise OK Sienna from starting?
 

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Quick distinction:
Is the key turning all the way but not engaging the starter? Or is the key refusing to turn like it does when the steering wheel is locked?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
While I can't definitely say for sure in the past instances, today, I definitely could turn the key all the way forward - starter never engaged. In fact, if I didn't know that the battery was fully charged and all the dash lights came on, I would have guessed the battery completely dead...
 

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Update: still no resolution...

I did a baking soda bath on the connectors. I also have had a "battery saver" device on the batteries since 2006 but took that off "just in case." Again, new battery and fully charged. Over the weekend, on both days, started the car and drove it around to heat it up, parked it, waited 20 minutes, and then restarted it. It started every time. This morning I was to take it in to a good independent mechanic to generally check the starting system. He had not opened up yet, so went into town to get groceries. Came back out, car started fine. On the way back, stopped at a drive-through coffee kios. Turned off engine. Got coffee 😄 Engine would not start. Got pushed out of the way. Played around for 5 minutes (pressing brakes, going thru the Park-Neutral Stick, moving the steering wheel, etc.) No go. Gave up and called AAA. On the phone for 5 minutes scheduling a tow. Hang up. Car starts! o_O Go back and leave at mechanics. Now waiting to see if he can find any thing.

Again, there is no click or starter sound when this happens and the key is turned to the start position.. All dash lights come on. The lights work fine, etc.

In another old post, someone had "similar" random starting issues that were "finally" resolved after finding an undocumented fuse blown "upstream of the CPU" box behind the glove-box. I checked and found two 7.5 bayonet fuses in that area and both checked out OK. My only comment would be: why would a blown fuse (either it works or does not) cause a random problem?

The "weird" aspect is that in all cases so far, it mainly appears after the van has been driven to heat up, parked for a while, then fails to start but restarts after 5 to 10 minutes?! Thermal expansion?

Finger crossed the mechanic find something... I did order a OBD2 reader w/ABS hoping it may have thrown a code but have not received it yet. The mechanic said he would check it.
 

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I don't have the documentation with me, but IIRC from a prior discussion the two fuses behind the glove box are 2 of the 7 fuses for various components of the HVAC system.

Oh, and I think you meant jiggling? Unless you really sat there and laughed at your steering wheel? ;-)

Sounds like the wheel position is no longer a consideration? That didn't made sense to me anyhow, but one can never tell.

I'm leaning towards a bad starter solenoid or the block relay in the engine bay fuse box next to the battery.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Yah! Laughing on the outside, crying on the inside...o_O

Thanks for in input.

I will keep it just in case: luckily (for him) the van would not start this morning, leading him ultimately to diagnose it as a bad starter, which has been replaced (and I will be picking it up shortly). I am still gun-shy, but only time will tell [although this mechanic has an excellent track record]. If its not the starter, I know where is will be towed back to :D

If it is the starter, I may or may not post back. If it was not, I will update as needed...
 

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If it is the starter, I may or may not post back.
Oh no, you don't want to be "that kind of new member". I'll be sending bad karma your way if you just leave us cold. ;-) We played along, and now you OWE us closure. Everyone learns and grows when we learn if our assumptions were correct or not.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
1. New? Been a member since 2012...
2. Yes, searching the forums I did notice a lot of "hanging threads... which is why I hoped to post a definitive ending.
3. Yes, it started at the mechanics. It started when I had to get gas on the way home. but considering my problem had been about a 1 in 6 chance of not starting, I will feel better after a couple of weeks of 100% starting success.
 
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