Toyota Corolla Problems

RepairPal has identified the most common problems with the Toyota Corolla as reported by actual vehicle owners. We'll tell you what the problem is and what it'll take to fix it.

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Known Problems

If the engine will not crank over, the most common problem is the starter. These will tend to go out at about 100,00-125,000 miles. Sometimes it is only the starter solenoid, but often the complete starter (including solenoid) needs to be replaced.

The timing chain tensioner is designed to use oil pressure to keep tension on the timing chain. When it develops a leak, it can no longer provide tension, and the timing chain will begin to make a slapping or rattling sound at all times.

If left in this condition, the timing chain may fail, leading to costly internal engine repair.

To correct this issue the timing chain tensioner must be replaced with the revised part.

The anti-lock brake system (ABS) may function erratically or illuminate the warning light due a damaged wheel speed sensor. A wheel bearing and/or CV joint with excessive runout can cause the ABS trigger rings to rub against the ABS sensors and damage them.

At higher mileages, (125,000-150,000) the automatic transmission may not shift correctly. This can be caused by the throttle position sensor being out of adjustment or a shift solenoid needing to be replaced. Typically the transmission does not need to be completely overhauled.

There are occasional reports of daytime running light problems.

The Check Engine Light may illuminate due to an evaporative emission (EVAP) system fault. Our technicians tell us these EVAP system faults can be difficult to diagnose but it is not uncommon to find a failed charcoal canister or a loose or worn gas cap.

The 2005-2008 Toyota Corolla 1.8L I4 models have issues with the circuit board in the electronic control module (ECM) cracking. There is no advanced warning for the issue, and when it occurs drivers will experience:

  • Harsh shifting
  • Possible check engine light
  • Engine stalling while driving

Toyota issued a recall for this issue, and notes the need to replace the ECU if this problem occurs. 

The head gasket may fail due to a defect in manufacturing of the cylinder block.

On this vehicle, the head bolts are known to pull the threads out of the engine block, allowing the head to slightly lift, and causing head gasket failure. Symptoms may include:

  • Overheating
  • White smoke from exhaust
  • Rough running conditions and/or inability to start or idle
  • White or cream colored oil on dipstick
  • Check engine light 
  • OBD Trouble Codes P2181, P0300

When the head gasket fails, the bolt holes for the head bolts must be repaired before the cylinder head can be remounted. 

This issue is not always preventable, but to help avoid it, never run the engine if the engine temperature is ever above the normal range. 

Drivers of the Toyota Corolla may notice excessive oil consumption between oil changes, even to the extent of the engine oil warning light displayed on the multi-function display.

This issue is known to be caused by infrequent oil changes causing engine sludge, or worn piston rings. 

The engine should be cleaned of oil sludge, and if oil consumption remains excessive, the engine may need new piston rings, or other internal components replaced. 

To avoid this issue, change the engine oil and filter every 3,000 miles, and ensure the proper grade of oil is used. 

A transmission fault code of P0770 or P0773 may occur at higher mileages which indicates that the 3-way lock-up solenoid has failed and will need replacement.

The Toyota Corolla 1.8L produced between 1998 and 1999 has a known issue with the valves that if left unchecked, will cause burned valves and engine performance issues. 

The engine ‘breathes’ through valves that are pushed open by the camshaft, and closed by springs. When valves are closed, they seal against a valve seat. In this vehicle, the valve seat is too soft, so after the valve contacts it thousands of times, it becomes crushed. Once it is crushed, the valve can no longer make a proper seal, and the valves erode due to extreme temperature (burnt valve).

Symptoms related to this issue:

To repair the burnt valves, the cylinder head must be removed and rebuilt, which is a costly internal engine repair, however, this issue can be prevented through inspection and adjustment of valve clearances every 40,000 miles.

The window regulator in the 2003 and 2004 Toyota Corolla were assembled using defective bolts that allow the window to fall off track during normal operation. The bolts stretch, loosen, and break, allowing the window glass to move freely inside the door, independent of the regulator. 

The solution is to either replace the electric window regulator, or just the bolts, depending on the amount of damage done to the regulator. 

The ignition coil inside the distributor may fail. Our technicians tell us this may result in a hesitation on acceleration, especially when the vehicle is warming up on cold, rainy days. The pickup coils inside the distributor can also fail and cause a no-start condition. There have also been some failures of the radio noise suppressors inside the distributors, which can short out. Our technicians recommend replacing the whole distributor with a complete, genuine Toyota distributor if any of its components fail.

A loss of power on the freeway may due to an internally leaking fuel pulsation dampener. This commonly occurs on higher mileage vehicles.