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1988 Toyota Camry Engine trouble (starting issues)

I have a 1988 camry (which I love), it only has 118,000 miles on it and usually runs great. The problem I have is that once every 4 or 5 months the engine will refuse to start. It’s not the battery because the radio/lights/etc. will work when the key is in the ignition. Also, the battery has been tested numersous times and shown to be in good working condition. The engine simply refuses to turn over. It won’t make any noise for a while (except a gurgle which makes me think the engine has flooded). After a period of time (usually a half hour or so) the engine will start to make an effort to turn over. After turning the key and giving it some gas for a while it will roar back to life spitting out a ton of smoke from the tail pipe. The car will run great from that point on, until the next time it refuses to start. My biggest concern is that this problem comes about without warning. The car will be running great one second, then when I go to start her up it refuses to budge (this happened to me today halfway between Cincinnati and Columbus). Has anyone out there had any similar experiences? Advice? Keep in mind I’m a broke student and would love to keep costs down. Thanks.

Well, we’re all broke and we all want to keep costs down.

I suggest you look long and hard at the battery cable connections. Are they clean, dry, and tight? What about the other end of the cables, the ground connections, which are just as important as the positive connections.

If the battery is good the problem is with the connections, or the cables themselves. You might want to check the continuity of the cables.

Maybe you should describe “turn over.” Some people think no turnover means no noise whatsoever when the key is turned to START. Other people think an engine being turned by the starter, but not starting, is not “turning over.”

What’s your description of “turn over?”

It might be the contacts in the starter (although it’s not usually accompanied by the gurgling and smoking you describe). They’re cheap to repair if you know how to remove the starter. This happened to my '96. This web site has more info on that:

Sorry for the confusion. My definition of “turn over” is the engine making noise when the key is turned to START but not starting. My Camry actually does both of the things you described. At first it makes no noise whatsoever when the key is turned to start, then, after cooling off for a while and being connected to another car via jumper cables, the engine will make some noise but has great difficulty “turning over”. After a couple minutes and some pumping the gas pedal, the engine will finally start.