'04 Highlander: battery or alternator?

I drive a 2004 toyota highlander. The past month or so it has randomly been sluggish to start. It would just take me cranking the key for a little longer than usually and it would be slow to start. No clicking noise or bad cranking sounds, the best I can describe it as is just a soft whine a couple as it failed to start and than it would start right up. It also did this very randomly and not very often, just out of the blue a couple of times than not for a long time than again and so on. Now after having the first snow of the season, my car won't start at all. It does one or two soft whines and goes completely silent, or will actually click as I turn the key. All if my interior and dash lights will be on until I'm actually turning the key than they flash it whines.

I just want to know if it's actually the battery or could it be the alternator and how do I know for sure, because I don't have a battery tester thing. I don't want to spend a bunch of money fixing one to find out it was the other cuz I really don't have the money for it right now.

5 Answers

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  • 1 month ago

    If you don't want to learn how to check the battery and alternator with a voltmeter then go to a parts chain for them to check it. Another possible from what you are describing is the starter contacts are wearing out. I just replaced mine in my 02 Highlander because it was making the same noises and I know how to check the battery and alternator and they are good. Some techs are willing to do this while others will only swap out the starter. Contacts were 15 bucks. Good luck. 

  • 1 month ago

    Go to Advance Auto or Auto Zone and have the battery and charging system tested for free.

  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    just buy a multimeter and a float charger. it will cost like 20 bucks. you need to put a float charger on the car whenever it sits for more than 3 days, that will extend battery life. car batteries are always slowly draining when they just sit. check the voltage of the battery. it's supposed to be at 12.7-12.9 volts when you shut the car off, and then it should stay above 12.6 volts overnight. if it drops to 12.3 or 12.2 volts overnight then that's a sign that the battery isn't holding a charge and might need to be replaced. (or you have a parasitic draw of some kind which is discharging the battery quickly) at about 12.0 volts the battery starts getting weak and has trouble starting the car. 

    IF you check the battery with a multimeter, and it shows 12.5 volts or above, and you STILL have issues with slow cranking, that could be an issue with the starter.

    This seems like a really simple issue but you're too cheap to get a 10 dollar multimeter and find out what the issue is. Don't guess. Do proper diagnostics and stop wasting money on things you don't need. 

  • Barry
    Lv 6
    1 month ago

    Invest in a really cheap digital multimeter. That's the only certain way of testing both the battery and the alternator and will save you from shelling out for a working item. They really are cheap online and a kid of 10 could use one. See link for guidance.

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  • y
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    I'd bet battery and start by replacing that.  If the alternator died, the battery would end up needing replacement a lot sooner then normal anyways.

    Bad alternators can and often will, make your car die while it is running, while the battery just won't allow you to start in the first place.

    Don;t even screw with the tester, get a jump, if it starts and continues to run, it ain't the alternator.

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