My son's 98 Camry will not start

My son’s car has now been disabled for almost 3 weeks. It is currently at a friend’s house that is supposedly trying to figure out what is wrong. It has sat there more than it has been worked on. The car turns over just fine and sounds normal to me. The problem is that the engine just never engages, like there is no combustion. I am pretty ignorant on car mechanics. So far, they have replaced the battery and installed a new EFI relay under the dash? My son is not the most forth coming with information. They also changed out one or more of the relays in the fuse box, which I knew were okay because we had those tested. Everyone is stumped and I just want to have in towed to our mechanic but my son insists on waiting to see if they can figure it out because he doesn’t want to shell out the bucks for the mechanic. I am tired of driving him to work and school starts next week. Does anyone have any suggestions? Or should I just give him a deadline, then have it towed?

I don’t mean to be too glib, but check the fuel gauge. There are cheap sensors to tell if spark is going through the plug wires, or a timing light. Step 1 is it fuel related or spark related. Checking timing belt is another consideration.

Sounds to me like they’re throwing parts at the problem. It also sounds like they’re wasting money by guessing.

Have they checked the timing belt? If the belt is broken the engine will not start no matter what they try.

The timing belt is under a cover, and is not one of the belts you see when you open the hood.

If they remove the oil fill cap and watch the camshafts as someone cranks the starter they can tell if the timing belt is broken. If the camshaft moves the belt is OK. If nothing moves inside the valve cover as the engine is cranked the belt is broken.

I guess I should have mentioned, yes there is gas. He had just filled it up the day prior. And we did buy a spark indicator and they were all good. Last winter the water pump was replaced and the timing belt was changed at that time. He just informed that they think it is the computer. Is this a common problem and will it cause the car to not start? My son said it will cost about $200 for a new one. I am just leery that this is an awful lot of money to spend if they are not completely sure this is the problem.

If the spark indicator works you can try a shot of starting fluid. If it starts for a bit then it is the fuel delivery system, not the ECM.

Since the ignition system appears to be working then the ECM should be ok. It decides when to fire the ignition. If spraying a small shot of starter fluid into the intake doesn’t get things fired up then the compression should be checked. As someone already stated the timing belt may be broken and a compression test will prove that.

Have the car towed and diagnosed professionally. I expect that your son is trying to do this himself and avoid passing the burden and cost onto you.
The problem isn’t anything obscure. It’s simple, if not inexpensive. Have it towed right away to a mechanic you trust.

The computer is the hardiest of the electronic parts. It’s not even called that. It is the least likely part to need replacement. It would also cost more than a thousand dollars new.

Could be a bad fuel pump, and a bunch of other things. Tell you son you aren’t driving him anywhere. He can take the school bus, walk, whatever. You don’t have to make his car problem your car problem.