Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

91 camry won't start!


I changed the alternator on my 91 4 cyl. a few days ago, and today the car won’t start! I changed the alternator because the battery was getting emptied, and I had the alternator/battery/starter tested at the auto parts store, and the only bad thing was the old alternator.

After changing the alternator, the car began having issues- the radio would go off for half a second while driving, and once while driving the car lost all electrical power and I had to pull over. I jiggled all the connections and restarted the car in that case. It hasn’t happened since.

Last night the car wouldn’t start after work. I had someone come out to jump it and they, on a hunch, decided to turn the key before jumping. Of course it turned over. Today the car is in my driveway refusing to turn over, but the doors make the open door sounds, the seat belt motor cranks but the radio won’t come on or anything (the cd changer likes to run after the car fails to start, actually).

What’s going on?

What were the exact symptoms the first time you had problems? How did they test the starter? How old is the starter? Toyotas often have starter solenoid problems.

Remove the battery cables and scrape the corrosion off the terminals; or, replace both battery cables.
Is a smaller cable attached to the larger battery cable by a bolt and nut, right at the terminal? If so, this could be a poor connection.

No ignition or even attempt at ignition. The door chime would run, but only for a while. There is a little neon green ring around the ignition, when it glows brightly I can start the car.

They tested the starter the same way they tested everything else- a little handheld computer, one alligator clip on the + terminal, the other side had a ring that went around the negative wire if the battery. My battery and starter tested ok, alternator had excessive ripple, so I replaced the alternator. The guy also tested for battery drain, and said there was none.

I have battery power… the door chime runs as well as that awful CD changer.

Also, the car didn’t take a jump today. It would try to crank but couldn’t turn over (during the jump, that is). As soon as I disconnected the cables, the thing was as dead as could be. Except for the chime and the cd changer.

How old is the starter?

No clue… but like I said, it tested okay last week. I only just bought the car 2 weeks ago.

OK. I don’t know about their test (the only way I know to test it is to remove it and apply 12v on the workbench). Your Camry is plenty old enough to have the common Toyota starter contact problem, which requires removing the starter and replacing the 3 contacts in the starter solenoid. Parts are cheap (~$30), and labor shouldn’t be too bad. Here’s one of many sites that describes the repair:
I would also replace the round contact/shaft, I didn’t on mine and had to redo the repair sooner than I should have.

The question isn’t whether or not you have battery power, but how much battery power that you have. A battery may have enough power to run the door chime or other accessories, but not have enough power to operate the starter motor. I would start by either having a load test on the battery or trying a substitute battery.

Thanks for that! Do you know where I’d get those parts? Would only a dealer carry them?

Yes, I had to go to the Toyota dealer to get mine. You can get them over the internet, too, but the $$ savings aren’t that much.

The dealer didn’t have or know about it. I will try some other dealers tomorrow.

You can’t jump-start with a completely dead battery. A battery which barely makes the engine groan is still putting out about 100 amps. A jump battery, and the jumper cable connections, can’t pass that much amperage. A jumper battery is a helper battery to your battery. Its amperage is added to its amperage.
You have to make sure that the battery terminals are clean, and the battery charged, to attempt to jump-start the engine, again. The solenoid contacts are still on the table.

Since your car appears to have several symptoms you might consider checking the fusible link ends. Age and high amperage can do them in.

All electrics in the car go through fusible links except for the high amperage positive battery cable that runs from the battery to the starter. However, the starter solenoid itself runs through a link.

A failing ignition switch (electrical part) could also be behind some of this.

I also agree that inspecting and cleaning the battery cable ends should be done. This should actually be about a once a year chore whether there’s an existing problem or not.

The battery cable ends are clean. I’m going to check the little fuse box that sits on my + wire, if I don’t see anything weird there, I think I might have to have it towed out to a mechanic :frowning:

I checked that little fuse box and then the big one- all are fine. The conductor in the ALT fuse isn’t bright and shiny, but it’s not burned through.

I changed the alternator and left the positive wire too loose- the AAA battery truck guy came, looked at my cables and saw one was too loose. Two turns of a wrench later, my car started. Leave it to me to overlook a minor detail like that! LOL

Thanks to everyone for their help! I love this site, I get better and faster advice than I do on other auto forums.

Congrats, thanks for the update. The basics trip up all of us now and then!