2002 Camry Starter replaced - now the problem's worse


I have a 2002 Camry, 2.4 L engine. Over the course of about a day (5 or so starts) the starter turned over progressively slower then eventually quit. After a little google-fu, I pulled the starter out since it’s at 130k miles and 12 years old, it seemed to be about time. I attached the battery to the high side as well as signal, grounded it, and got nothing - it seemed like the starter was in fact dead. I got a refurbished starter at Advanced, installed it, put everything back together and now things are much worse. When I first switched the car to run all the gauges went high, then only some of them came down. I turned the key to start and the dash went black, car clock went black, power locks stopped working, it seemed the entire electrical system was hit. I pulled all the fuses in the engine compartment fusebox, but didn’t see anything suspicious. As I was walking away discouraged I hit the “lock” button on my FOB out of habit, and the doors locked. Got back into the car, turned it to run, and everything lit up again. Tried turning it on again (what can I say, I’m a scientist) and everything went dark. It’s back (without doing anything to the fuses), but I don’t think I want to try for #3 without an objective in mind.

Do I have a short? Is my refurb starter bad? Any thoughts/ideas?

Sounds like a bad battery to me.

I agree.

How old is the battery?


Battery is of unknown age. It was starting fine yesterday morning. After it stopped starting but before I replaced the starter, I tried starting it with the headlights on and they didn’t dim at all, so the battery seemed fine. A jump didn’t work either.

And to be clear the dashboard death thing didn’t start happening until I “fixed” it.

The symptom of the starter running slower and slower is NOT a starter problem, it is a battery, or a connection problem.

If a jump didn’t help, I’d suspect the cables between the battery and the starter.

The dashboard thing is something you did when you swapped the starter…

I’d replace the battery anyway, then start with a voltmeter checking voltages.

edit: unless the starter speed is intermittent. Then I’d go with GeorgeSanJose’s post below.

I’ll get the battery checked tomorrow, and take my Fluke to the wiring. Don’t have the cash to just replace batteries willy-nilly :wink:

Have you checked your battery voltage with your Fluke while someone turns the key?

Could be a battery or battery connection problem. You’ve already cleaned the batterty terminals and connectors, right? Good idea to get the battery load tested. If it isn’t the battery, it could still be the starter.

When you get slow cranking, and the battery is ok, that’s usually caused by a problem with the starter. Most likely the solenoid contacts in the starter are bad and their on-resistance has increased. Usually this manifests itself by working fine one start, but slow the next, etc. Or the motor’s electrical commutator ring is bad. That symptom is usually it won’t start at all, then you wait awhile, or you hit the starter with a stick, and it works ok.

Both problems can be repaired btw, if you take the old starter motor to a local auto -electrical repair shop. That’s usually the cheapest fix. That’s what I usually do when my Corolla starter motor misbehaves.

My guess is the battery is ok and your replacement starter motor is no good. I’ve had a replacement starter motor not work right out of the box. What I did was take it back, and the store where I bought it had a test-jig to test it. It tested bad, so they refunded my money. No help to me for the time it took me to install and uninstall it though. If all else fails, take the new starter motor back and have them test it for you.

I have had too many problems with Autozone/Advance starters. I only buy Napa now.

So… I didn’t get back to it until this morning. This is pretty embarrassing - I was going to pull the battery out this morning to get it tested when I noticed that I forgot to tighten the connection to the negative battery terminal. So there was enough grounding to run the computer, but as soon as I tried to pull juice it got angry.

Tightened the terminal connector up and she started right away (albeit with a low idle, but a quick throttle body cleaning cleared that up). So, it seems the original problem was indeed the starter, I’m just an idiot. Pretty, embarrassing :blush:

Glad to hear you are back on the road. Thanks for the update.

Your experience is common and very worthwhile to report…basics…basics…

Nice, you fixed the car and learned to double check your own work. Thanks for the update.

@PBSteve Glad you have your car running again. I’ve made similar mistakes. I gave my first car, a 1947 Pontiac a tune up. I replaced the spark plugs, points and condenser. When I tried to start the car, the engine cranked but wouldn’t fire. I checked the point gap and it seemed right. I checked the wires to the plugs, I had them right by the firing order. I had gas at the,carburetor. As I stood staring at the engine, my dad came along and picked up something laying on the front fender. “Does this have anything to do with your problem?”". he asked. He waz, holding the distributor rotor I has forgotten to install. An even dumber mistake was when I overhauled a 2 stroke LawnBoy mowed engine. I put in new piston rings, new magneto points and condenser, and a new needle and seat in the carburetor. When I pulled the starter cord, nothing happened. I checked for spark and it was fine. I,squirted some carburetor cleaner in the air intake and if fired and ran for a second and died. I was about to take the carb apart again when it dawned on me what the problem was… There was no fuel in the gas tank. I filled the tank and it fixed right up.

Glad you got it sorted out without too much pain. Just a short story about how quickly a battery can go to pot.
The very heavy duty battery in my Lincoln is (or was…) 3.5 years old. It’s never been a problem or ever had a hiccup.

About every 6 months I do a load test on it and the last test a month ago showed fine. Two weeks ago I was in a line of several cars at Wal Greens to pick up some meds for the wife and shut the engine off while waiting. I did this a couple of times until the 2 cars in front moved on.
After getting the meds I hit the key and uh… that was it. Barely any dash lights even.

So after pushing it out of the way with some help from the pharmacist (kudos…) I removed the battery and lugged it to the O’Reillys a block away. The battery tested out as totally failed so I lugged a 155 dollar battery back to the WG’s parking lot and got on my way.

The assumption is that the combination of high heat we’ve had here lately and the miles of washboard roads combined to kill it; probably by shaking some plates loose.