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2003 Toyota Camry Problem


I am trying to help a friend whose 2003 Camry spontaneously died in the middle of an intersection on Christmas day, after about an hour of driving on the interstate.

All the electronics work, so the radio, lights, etc. all function when the key is turned. The problem is that there is no response when you try to crank it up.

We replaced the battery, which didn’t solve anything, so my dad suggested it might be the solenoid. We tried a new starter, which also had no effect. After that, we hooked the old starter up to the battery by itself – not engaged in the flywheel of the engine – to see if it was working in the first place. Not surprisingly, it had worked all along.

Since I don’t know anything about cars, I suggested we try replacing the flux capacitor or even the lateral reverberator next, which got no response. Tough crowd. In any case, my dad said that as far as he could tell the engine was “stuck” somehow.

He said that since the starter definitely works and the starter became extremely hot and began smoking when we tried to crank the car over “in earnest,” the only thing he could think of was that the flywheel is stuck in position for some reason. We tried rocking the car while my friend cranked it, and we tried cranking from neutral and drive, etc. We even tried asking nicely. No dice. The car refuses to start.

A passer-by suggested that it could be a problem with the chip in the engine, which is definitely above our shade-tree pay grade. Has anyone else encountered this? Any ideas of what this might be or suggestions on how to fix it?

Go back to locked up engine; then, call tow truck, and take it to Ham’s garage.

My WAG is the timing chain broke causing the valves to collide with pistons. Now the valves are wedged between the piston and cylinder head. I hope this is not the case however.

        Good luck.

Can a mechanic turn the engine manually?

Thank you everyone for the replies. The plan is definitely to get it towed to somewhere reputable for repairs – whatever wisdom we lack we at least know when we are in over our heads! I just wanted as much information as possible before doing so, on the off chance that there was a simple fix.

re: turning the engine manually – I am not sure if I am understanding you correctly, but we did try to manipulate the flywheel directly with a screwdriver, which was unsuccessful. We also tried to directly turn the bolt(?) on the other side of the engine with a wrench, but it too was “stuck” in place.

Again, thank you all for taking the time to respond. Any additional ideas are also appreciated!


Very probable that you have a major internal catastrophe, I hope not. If this turns out to be the case be prepared to put a used engine in it. I think major overhaul might cost you more with a result that would be very variable based on the quality of the work done.