Startup problems on a 99 Camry


I started having trouble last month starting up my 99 Camry. I went through all of the scheduled maintenance checkups, but it was taking two or three turns of the ignition to start it up every day. Recently it has gotten to the point that I need to step on the accelerator to get the engine going. Any ideas on what’s wrong and what it should cost to fix?


Karen K

What are the exact symptoms?

I try to turn on the ignition but nothing happens outside of the engine light flashing on my dashboard. I usually try it sveeral more times before stepping on the pedal and turning to start up the car. I had just replaced the battery and spark plugs and went through the 120,000 checkup.

I would have your mechanic first check that all battery cable connections are clean and tight. If they are, then I think you have a set of worn contacts in your starter solenoid. The ‘pushing on the gas pedal’ is coincidence, it’ll start after a few cranks with bad solenoid contacts, pedal or no pedal pushing. Has the starter ever been replaced? You can either have your mechanic change the contacts (all 3, including the round disc with attached rod) or the whole starter.

Let me agree with Texases. The accelerator pedal doesn’t have the same magic powers on modern fuel injected cars that it did with carburetors where it mechanically shot raw fuel into the intake manifold and, if you floored the accelerator, “unloaded” (disabled) the choke.

Try listening carefully when you try to start the car. You should hear a single fairly loud click – that’s a solenoid mounted on the starter closing to deliver battery current to the starter. If you don’t hear the click, there’s a problem with the starter solenoid (It’s surely built into the starter on a 1999 Camry, don’t bother looking for it), the ignition switch, or one of the interlocks that prevents you from – for example – starting the car in gear.

If you hear the starter solenoid, the next thing will be that the car either turns over or at least tries to turn over. If it doesn’t turn the engine over enthusiastically, there is probably a problem with the starte, your battery, battery cables, or the battery connections at the starter. (And yes, I saw that you have a new battery. Maybe it is defective or maybe the alternator isn’t charging it for some reason.)

If the engine turns over vigorously, but the car doesn’t start, you probably have a problem with the ignition wiring or the fuel delivery system.

Thanks so much for the responses. How much should replacing the solenoid contacts or the starter cost? We live in the DC metro area.

I don’t know (I did it myself). You can use the mechanic finder on this web site to find a mechanic or two, call them for quotes. It’s a simple repair, you don’t need to use a dealer. The starter would be $200-$300, labor $100-$200 (guess). The contacts would be more like $50, labor still $100-$200.