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1990 Toyota Camry Station Wagon

Hello Everyone,

I have a 1990 Toyota Camry station wagon (2.5 L V 6) with 100,044 miles. It has been in my family since it was new. 15 years with my mother and now 5 with me. I was driving home the other day and all of the lights on the dash came on and it just stopped running. I tried to restart it and it began to turn over–but then nothing. Same thing every time since then. All of the electrical devices are working fine–power windows etc… Up until this point I have had no real major mechanical issues with the vehicle. We have always kept up with oil changes etc… I was hoping someone might have some idea as to what may be going on? I am fairly handy and I have my trusty repair manual–but I have no idea where to begin.

I am really not interested in spending a lot of money on repair—my wife and I just had twins and it is not my primary vehicle. In addition (even with the low mileage) it is not worth very much.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions or advice anyone may be able to provide.


All your belts that are normally there are still there? Any chance the timing belt broke?

What happens when you turn the key now?

Thanks for your response. Yep, all the belts are still there.

When I turn the key all I get is the sound of the starter engaging and the standard “rrr, rrr, rrr” sound, but it doesn’t start.

I guess there is a chance that it’s the timing belt.

Is the “rr rr rr” the motor turning over and at normal speed?
If it is turning over starting fluid will tell you if it is a gas problem. Timing light or spark checker for spark.
If it is not turning over check battery and cable connections and look under coating of hot wire for crud.

Can you take off part of the plastic cover that shields the timing belt and look?

Has the timing belt ever been changed on this 20 year old vehicle? When?

It does sound like the motor turning over it just doesn’t engage. The speed seems normal.

I’ve checked the battery and actually had it fully charged a few hours ago ago just to be on the safe side. No crud etc… so I am fairly confident it’s not the battery.

I’ll try the starter fluid and the spark checker. Should I focus checking the spark on the ignition coil or elsewhere?

It’s not the battery.

If the timing belt has never been replace I’d look there first. When the timing belt breaks the engine shuts down, and NOTHING you do will start it. Until you replace the timing belt.

Luckily for you, this is not an interference engine, so there won’t be any internal damage.

I’d spend the money to fix it. This car can, with normal maintenance, be driven at least another 100 miles. Assuming, of course, that it’s not rusty.

Thanks everybody for all the advice.

I’ll check with my Mom about the timing belt. I know I haven’t replaced it–but she had it for way longer than I have and I’ve only put about 15K on it.

Nope, no rust so you’re right it may be worth fixing.

Hello Everyone,

I just went out and looked into the timing belt. The belt was replaced at 60k miles (however that was 14 years ago apparently). I could not remove the plastic timing belt cover entirely–but from what I could see and feel it appeared that the timing belt was intact and tight. Does this mean that the belt is probably OK?

Have you checked for spark when cranking?

Not yet–next on my list. : )

I had exactly the same thing happen on my 1991 V6 Camry. Car quit running one day and refused to start (about 2 blocks from the house. It cranked fine, all electric things were fine, it just wouldn’t fire up.

It was the mass air flow sensor. On the '91 V6 you have to replace the entire unit, even though it’s just the electronic part that’s sealed inside it. Toyota wanted something like $400 for the part but I found one on line for about $150 plus the core charge (you have to ship back the old part so they can rebuild it.) It was a very simple change, mostly just screwdriver and maybe a few box end wrenches. That was about summer of 2002 and haven’t had a problem since then.

rockauto has this for $167 if this is the problem.,carcode,1273058,parttype,5128

Maybe you can try cleaning the MAF with some spray MAF cleaner or try tapping on it to see if you can get the car to start. Look here for a picture of it:

You guys are the best. Thanks for the info and the link. We (my neighbor and I) tried a bunch of stuff and nothing worked.

We did have spark when cranking and we tried some starter fuel and still nothing. This info really helps–because we are definitely at a loss for ideas.

While the timing belt is way overdue for replacement, if yuor rotor is turning and giving you apark, the belt is not the source of the starting problem. The rotor is turned by the camshaft, which is turned by the timing belt.

The MAF sensor was a good suggestion. A Haynes manual should tell you how to check this.

Another good possibility in my mind is a dead fuel pump. While they don’t typically die suddenly, if it were me I’d test for fuel pressure. The pump is electric, so the engine does not need to be running to test the pump. Again, refer to the Haynes manual and instructions in the test kit.

Out or curiosity–is there any way I can tell for sure if this is the issue before I replace it. Thanks again for your advice/suggestion?

I followed the Haynes manual instructions and the fuel pump seems OK. I heard the fuel rushing back and there seemed to be pressure in the hose. I guess that’s a good thing–since I had no idea how I was going to remove the gas tank (without a lift) to replace the fuel filter.

I’m going to get a multimeter to check the MAF per the Haynes manual. Is there any way to check it without an ohmmeter or multimeter?

There really is not. You need to check for output, and the only way to do that other than a multimeter is with a scope.

Ok. Thanks again for all of your help and advice–we really appreciate it. I’ll pick one up tomorrow.

When my MAF went bad I had a suspicion it was my fault. My son and I were talking about his pickup and that his had gone bad, determined by the shop (under warranty) and they replaced just the electronic part, not the entire MAF body. I said I thought mine was a single unit so we went out and took a look. I unscrewed the part that holds the electronic piece in there, pulled it out and took a look. Didn’t seem like you could replace it by itself and so I pushed it back in and put the screws back on.

About a month later my wife was on her way to the store and the car just died about 2 blocks from the house. I walked over to it and loosened those screws again and it started right up. I tightened the screws when the motor was running and it died. Loosened and it started.

When I was looking at it that day with my son I must have pinched some wires somehow when I put it back together. The symptoms that you describe are exactly the same ones we experienced.

You can probably go to the dealership and have them test it, pay them for their time then buy the part yourself and replace if it turns out bad.