Automatically starting w/battery connection

We have a 1996 Camry that has been sitting outdoors and unused for 2 years. It ran fine before it was parked and ignored. Now I want my ex back. Upon trying to start it again, big surprise, totally dead battery, now unchargeable. Upon installing the new battery, positive, then upon connecting the negative cable, the engine starts cranking…with the ignition key in the off position,…turn the key now, and the engine starts, (despite 2 yr old gas) but the starter keeps cranking. What is defective? And can I do this fix myself? Difficulty scale?

Remove the cover for the fuse box under the hood and remove the starter relay. Now connect the negative battery cable. If the starter doesn’t operate replace the relay.


Thanks for a fast reply. The vehicle is actually a 25 mile drive from home. Will I be able to discern which relay is the correct one?

Look under the fuse box cover. It’ll identify fuses and relays.


You’re the best. Namaste

No luck on the starter relay. I removed the relay and connected the new battery and no automatic cranking. Bought and installed a new starter relay, same automatic cranking upon connecting battery cables. What’s next?

Then it has to be the ignition switch.

If you look on the relay, there’s a small diagram on how the relay functions. The two terminals with coil is the primary side. The two terminals with the contacts is the secondary side.

You want to see if the ignition switch is supplying voltage to the primary side of the relay.

To do this, look at the socket where the relay plugs in, and take a test light and probe the socket where primary voltage from the ignition switch is supplied.

If the test light lights up, the ignition switch is supplying constant voltage to the relay.


Soooo, you are saying that there should be no voltage anywhere in the relay base…unless, the ignition switch is shorted, closed? Is this a common Toyota problem? Does exercising the ignition switch with the key or rapping on the switch ever release it? More importantly, what’s involved in fixing a bad ignition switch?

There should only be voltage at one of the terminals on the relay socket. This is the secondary side of the relay which is always hot.

If there’s voltage at two terminals in the relay socket the ignition switch is supplying primary voltage all the time.

Check that first.


Can’t get back to the vehicle for 2 days but will post back. Thanks for the help.

Also, check the exposed wiring to see if rodents may have been chewing on your wiring, a common problem in cars stored outside…They may have created a short circuit in the starter/ignition circuit…Look at the wire bundles carefully…

From your previous comments about the problem it sounds to me that power is getting to the relay coil from another area other than the ignition switch. The safety switches would have to be shorted also if that was the case, unless this has an AT, and the engine doesn’t RUN unless the ignition switch is ON. There may be some corrosion under the relay socket that is connecting power from the relay switched power connections, to the coil. That is the closest connection to power point, and it comes from Main Fuse #1. One thing you could do if it would help to move the car and do the trouble shooting at a more convenient location is to remove the relay after the car is running. That will disable the starter. You won’t be able to start the car again until the relay is placed back in. My bet is you will find corrosion under the panel the relay and fuse are in. A small blk/red wire ties to the starter solenoid from the relay.

I’ll have to get the vehicle back to my property to accomplish that, but thanks for that advice. It is hard for me to imagine that a sitting vehicle can have an ignition switch just go bad. But I do get voltage across both pairs of contacts on the starter relay base. I also get the 12.5 volts from terminal 2 to the negative battery post and 12.5 volts on terminal 5 to the negative battery post.

Cougar, I don’t know what an AT is. Automatic transmission? It does have an automatic transmission and is a 4 cylinder. And it won’t start unless I turn the key on. But I like your idea of pulling the relay to get it home.

Cougars post reminded me of a guy with the same problem on a Ford pickup. Turned out the neutral switch also was used for the backup lamps. The switch was crossed with voltage for the backup lamps.

I’m not sure exactly how this Camry is wired, but try removing the fuse for the backup lamps. If that clears the problem replace the neutral switch.

Check for rodents chewing the wires…

You are correct, AT is short for automatic transmission. You should be able to pull the relay after the engine is started to disable the starter motor and drive it home. Check for trouble under that panel.

Hey Cougar, I’m finally back. I took your great advice. I dumped 5 gallons of fresh gas in and started the Camry, and pulled the starter relay, to get it home. I unbolted the tray holding fuses and starter relay and looked at the base of the relay underneath. Looks very clean. Saw the wires: black w/yellow stripe, black w/red stripe and a smaller gauge white wire. No sign of corrosion. Followed the harness back and saw no signs of animal chew. What’s next?

You’ll need a wiring diagram to back check where the voltage to activate the starter relay is coming from. With the relay removed, there should only be one voltage source. This should be from the battery to power the starter circuit. If you have two voltage sources on that socket, then something is stuck closed o the key circuit. If you can only find one, the relay could be cross-shorted.

The relay itself is a good place to start…