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90 Camry won't start - Toyota service center calls it quits

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The Toyota service center that I took my vehicle to just gave up on my car. They couldn't figure out what's wrong, and are refunding money that I spent to have the starter contacts replaced. It turns out the starter contacts were not the problem. Their master technician couldn't figure out the problem.

For the past month the car has been having trouble starting. The battery is not the problem, but whatever the problem is, it's shorting out the battery. You can hear a click when you turn the key, but it won't turn over. The only way to get the car going is to get a jump start. A few times after getting a jump, the car stalled out after going about 30 feet. The car also seems to stall out more often when in reverse, and when the steering wheel is turned sharply to the left.

At some point the door light on the dash was flickering and staying lit sporadically. That seems to have gone away. The "light" indicator on the dash stays lit when the car is still, regardless of whether or not it's in park, or if my foot is on the brake.

I'd like to add that the car has always had trouble starting after a heavy rain, which I believe is a problem with the distributor cap - could the other problems be related to this?

Does this sound like it could be a problem with the neutral safety switch? I brought this up to the service center, but they dismissed that as a cause of the problem.

Anyone here have a clue as to what the problem or problems are?
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Grenaded piston
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monkey said:
I'd like to add that the car has always had trouble starting after a heavy rain, which I believe is a problem with the distributor cap - could the other problems be related to this?
You have a bad coil.

Does this sound like it could be a problem with the neutral safety switch?
The neutral safety switch just prevents the car from starting, unless the tranny is in park or neutral.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
alternator?
The service guys said they checked it out and they said it's ok.

But then again, they said everything's ok.

I also forgot to mention in my original post that the key cylinder is messed up. The key can be removed from any position - even while the car's moving. They thought I was leaving the key in the accessory position, which of course, I wasn't.

You have a bad coil.
Ignition coil? That's what Im starting to think is at the root of this problem. Of course you know I asked the service techs about that, and they nixed that too.

How could they have missed this?

Would you say "incompetent" is too harsh a term to describe this service center?

Thanks to all of you for your help - if anyone else has any other ideas, your comments are welcome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
You have a bad coil.
I forgot to ask:

Would a bad coil drain the battery?

After the last time this happened, they charged the battery up, but it goes dead after around 48 hours, wheter it's being driven or not.

Would a bad coil cause the "Lights" indicator to light up on the dash?

Thanks again.
 

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Paseo
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the dealership here told me of a 'fix' for sticking camry starters a few years ago, you need to file the gear of the starter off at an angle to help make entry to the flywheel easier. The reason for this problem is the gear is much larger than normal toyota starters however it uses the same solenoid. Since it doesn't normally occur until after the warranty they've never corrected it. I need to build the MR2 starter for my Tercel soon, try to do that tomorrow and get before/after pics of the gear for you. Another 'quick fix' is to remove the 5 sided cover over the contacts and drill a small (1/4") hole in the center and cover the hole with tape. The starter is easy to get to on the I-4 so you can(with the car out of gear and ignition turned on) pull back the tape and push the contact in with a nail. Crude yes, but keeps you from being stuck.:thumbup:

The reason a jump start gets you going is the higher voltage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
the dealership here told me of a 'fix' for sticking camry starters a few years ago, you need to file the gear of the starter off at an angle to help make entry to the flywheel easier. The reason for this problem is the gear is much larger than normal toyota starters however it uses the same solenoid. Since it doesn't normally occur until after the warranty they've never corrected it. I need to build the MR2 starter for my Tercel soon, try to do that tomorrow and get before/after pics of the gear for you. Another 'quick fix' is to remove the 5 sided cover over the contacts and drill a small (1/4") hole in the center and cover the hole with tape. The starter is easy to get to on the I-4 so you can(with the car out of gear and ignition turned on) pull back the tape and push the contact in with a nail. Crude yes, but keeps you from being stuck.
Hey, if I could do any of that I wouldn't need to go to mechanics who don't know what they're doing, right? :)

I really appreciate the help, though.

I suppose a mechanic who knows what they're doing could do this.
 

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Grenaded piston
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monkey said:
Ignition coil? That's what Im starting to think is at the root of this problem. Of course you know I asked the service techs about that, and they nixed that too.
Yes, ignition coil.

Its a common problem on gen 2 (87 - 91) Camrys.

What happens is that the coil cracks and causes the problem that you described (hard starts after its been raining).

Would a bad coil drain the battery?
No.

Would a bad coil cause the "Lights" indicator to light up on the dash?
No.
 

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Grenaded piston
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monkey said:
So does that mean there could be a coil problem and another unrelated problem which is causing the battery to drain cause and causing the "Lights" indicator to light up on the dash??
Yes.

The coil is part of the ignition system.

Lights indicator on the dash is telling you that one or more of your bulbs is burned out or malfunctioning.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Lights indicator on the dash is telling you that one or more of your bulbs is burned out or malfunctioning.
The strange thing about it though, is that the Lights indicator only comes on when the car comes to a stop - my foot doesn't have to be on the brakes for the light to come on.

What are the possiblities that all these problems are being caused by a related wiring malfunction?

Thanks again - I'll have a different mechanic have a look at the coil first, and then go from there.
 

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Gen 4 XLE v6
02 Toy Solara V6 MT
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monkey said:
I also forgot to mention in my original post that the key cylinder is messed up. The key can be removed from any position - even while the car's moving. They thought I was leaving the key in the accessory position, which of course, I wasn't.
Early model toyota's ALL could do that. I know our Toyota Crown did that...and even our Cressida wagon did that.
 

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Mad Scientist
94 scepter coupe
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try this: get a test light, make sure the car is off and the doors are closed disconnect the positive side of the battery and connect the test light in between them if it turns on that means some thing is on when the car should be off start removing one fuse at a time to see ifthe light shuts off when you find the fuse that makes it go out there is your problem. i did this to a lebaron once and it ended up bieng the radio was shorted out and it was the original one from the factory
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
maybe a stupid question here, but usually when the battery wont hold a charge its because its a bad battery... have you tried replacing it? i mean they can SAY its a good battery, but have you tried a new battery?
I just got back from a different service center (not Toyota) and they said the battery was dead. They put in a new battery and now the car seems to run ok - but we need to get past the 48 hour mark for me to begin to think this problem is solved (which I doubt). This is the 4th new battery installed in around 3 weeks. This service center also said they could find nothing wrong with anything else. They did express surprise when I told them that Toyota had given up on my problem. But they also insisted, as did Toyota, that they could find nothing else wrong but a dead battery.

Obviously, something is sapping the battery. I've left nothing on when leaving the car.

This latest mechanic said everything else looked ok, coil, starter, etc.

If it happens again, I'll be off to yet another mechanic.
 
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