1996 Toyota Camry


I have a 1996 Toyota Camry with 200k miles on it. It has been giving me trouble starting for a while and I was advised to replace my battery during my last oil change. The problem is when I try to start it does not start for a while. It makes a noise and tiisssssss and stop. tissssss and stop. But then third or fourth try, it works. I installed a new battery and I am still having the same problem. One cold day, it never started no matter how many times I tried. My roommate who is an aerospace engineering PhD candidate came out of the apartment with a teapot full of how water and poured it onto the terminals. For record, terminals are clean. When he did that, it worked.

What is wrong with my car?


  • fatih

At that age and mileage you could have multiuple problems, all beyond the knowledge and skill of the PhD student.

You need a capable mechanic test the entire elctrical system, as well as the fuel system.

Normally at that mileage, you should be on your third set of spark plugs, and probably your second set of ignition wires.

It’s hard to figure out what “tiisssssss and stop. tissssss and stop.” means.

Have your friend turn the key on and off while you listen. Try and locate where that noise is coming from. I think the pouring of hot water may be a misnomer.

I think you’re hearing your fuel pump (it’ll sound like it’s near the gas tank, and not under the hood).

This could be a sticking starter relay.

What kind of driving, frequency and duration, does the car get? If you start it and only run it a few minutes before parking, the battery could not be getting a full charge. A battery with a low charge will make the starter relay “buzz” but not have enough power to run the starter. A low charged battery needs about 2 hours or more of time with the car running to get back up to a full charge. If you don’t run the car very much you might need hook up a charger to the battery to get it up to a full charge.

The hot water poured on the “contacts” warmed the battery up and that increased the battery power output to kick over the relay and run the starter. Same would happen after the 3 or 4 attempts with the buzzing. The use of the battery actually warms the battery and then it can have more power to start the car. Sounds like you have either dirty contacts at the battery, at the motor, or a weak charge state on your battery.