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Why sometimes no cranking at all?

My 90 Camry recently will give no cranking at all until I give it several tries, at which time it turns over fine. Could this be the safety switch malfunctioning that prevent starting the car in gear? I’m wondering if anything can be done before it fails entirely and leaves me 50 miles from home. Or could this be something else? Battery is fine.

Should I ask my mechanic to replace this safety switch as a precaution, since my guess is that he won’t be able to look at it and say it is becoming iffy.

If it has an automatic transmission, the next time it doesn’t start, with the ignition switch in the on position so that the dash lights are on, step on the brake pedal and shift the transmission into neutral. Now try starting the engine. If the engine starts, there’s a problem with the park/neutral safety switch.

If it has a manual transmission, then there may be a problem with the clutch pedal interlock switch.


Thanks Tester. It is a automatic transmission. I did try shifting the gear shift and restarting but I went back to Park. I’ll try it in Neutral next time.

Is the switch something easy and relatively cheap to swap out?

The switch is located on top of the transaxle below the shift linkage where it connects to the shift rod out of the transaxle. Remove the linkage, unplug the switch and remove the mounting hardware. This switch also turns on the reverse lights. So you might want to check if those are working also.


Toyotas commonly have a no-start problem caused by worn contacts in the starter solenoid. That what happened to me, I replace the 2 side contacts, solved the problem (I should have also replaced the center disc contact to have the fix last longer, though). Here’s one site describing the repair:
The parts are pretty cheap.

Step One. Remove and clean Both battery post connections…THEN do the solenoid repair.

If it’s a poor battery connection, why would the rest of the electrical apps be working fine? Wouldn’t I have a slow cranking rather than no cranking at all?

In any event, I will reclean them to be sure.