1999 toyota camry starting issue

1999 Toyota Camry, V6, automatic. Used for short trips, has about 60k miles on it

This is second hand knowledge from my mother-in-law (her car), so keep that in mind. When turning the key to start, dash lights stay on, and no crank. no click, no nothing. If the key is turned back and forth back and forth a couple of times, it will eventually start. If it matters, it’s been warm in St. Louis - 95+ degrees.

Am I right to assume that the problem will most probably be in the ignition switch, the neutral safety switch, the starter solenoid, or the starter itself? First thought was a starter solenoid - but then the dash lights would still turn off when the key is turned, wouldn’t they? Second thought was ignition switch.

I’m trying to figure out a good ‘remotely administered’ diagnostic routine to walk her through to find out what piece/part in the starting system could be bad - I’m in little rock, she’s in St. Louis, and I would like to know what I am getting into before I go tearing into her car on a weekend trip to St. Louis. Keep in mind that finding the fuse box may be too difficult… She doesn’t have the money to have a large repair bill right now, and looking at parts prices tells me we are not talking a cheap fix here.

I’ve worked on several vehicles in the past - from electrical systems to replacing half shafts, ball joints, clutches, etc. so I like to think I know how to turn a wrench or two.

Thank you for any information you can provide.

The first thing she should try is, with the ignition in the RUN position so that the dash lights are on, step on the brake pedal and shift the transmission into neutral, and then try starting the engine. If the engine starts, the park/neutral safety switch is the problem.

Next, have her check the starter relay located in the fuse/relay box on the left side of the engine compartment. When she removes the cover, on the backside it will identify which is the starter relay. Locate that relay, and see if there’s another relay with the same number. If there is, have her swap those two relays. If the engine starts, the relay is the problem.

Last, have her check/replace 5 amp start fuse lacated in the fuse panel lacated behind the cover on the left side of the dash.

If none of the above works, then most likey it’s a starter problem.


I put the highest probability on the starter solenoid contacts. Your symptoms are just like what I had. Google ‘Toyota starter solenoid’ for more info. Toyota’s starters are well-known for wearing out their contacts. They are not hard to replace, I did it on my '96 ES300, solved the problem. If you have a mechanic who’s willing to pull the starter and install the 3 contacts, it’ll save you getting a new starter, which would also solve the problem for more $$$.