Toyota Corolla FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

See the general Toyota FAQ

More details: 2008 Corollas (2007 Japanese Corollas) | Stereo upgrades | Dealer relations | Repairs | Performance | Corolla Specs

New cars

Buying or leasing - if you change your cars religiously every few years, leasing may be a good deal. However, financially, the best bet is to keep your car for ten years or more, and buy it outright. Most modern cars can easily last ten years without major repairs - and, when you consider that after it's paid off you're saving at least $200 per month, that's $2,400 per year in repairs you can afford!

Ask yourself if you really need a new car - maybe an off-lease is a better deal. Let someone else take the depreciation.

If you do buy a new car, of course, Toyotas are a good bet because of their low depreciation - they tend to hold their value. Minivans also hold their value well - Toyotas, Chryslers, Dodges, and Hondas. Now, with zero percent financing, may be a good time to buy as dealers are desparate.

Once you buy a new car, make sure you observe the break-in period religiously. See the owner's manual for details.

Also, remember to only buy the amount of car you need. If you're commuting, you don't need an SUV; you need a Corolla or a Prius. Even most families don't need to get SUVs or minivans. Whole generations were raised with sedans that were smaller inside than a Camry. By buying relatively small cars, instead of SUVs, trucks, or even minivans, you can double your gas mileage, and save the environment a lot of grief. (Lots of people buy SUVs "for their kids." I doubt their kids will appreciate their parents using up all their oil and polluting their air.)


Where to go?

According to Federal law, you do not have to go to your dealer for maintenance. You can even change oil yourself. However, you must keep the receipts in case Toyota challenges your maintenance in a warranty claim. (Does this ever happen?)

Dealer maintenance vs. others

Dealer maintenance, aside from oil changes, is often much more expensive than independent shops, and there may be no real advantage to it. This is especially true for tune-ups, since most modern cars have very little in the way of tune-up parts. There is no distributor, no timing to adjust, no rotor to replace, no points, etc. So a modern tune-up may simply be checking the belts, replacing the spark plugs, and, if your dealer is energetic and honest, checking for computer codes - all for the low price of only $300. So do yourself a favor - read the owner's manual, and pay individually for what you need at a good local shop.


The best oil to use is synthetic - it provides more protection during cold starts, when most engine wear occurs, and is more durable than standard oils. However, it is rather expensive. On the lighter side, it should prevent the sludging problems which plague Toyota four- and six-cylinder engines (as used in the Camry, Avalon, and Sienna). Click here for Toyota's response to the problem.

Toyota recommends 5W30 for its four cylinder engines in most temperatures - see your owner's manual for details on when to use different oils. We found that 5W30 reduces engine noise during the winter.

Toyota dealers usually recommend oil changes every 3,000 miles, but Toyota itself has a much more lenient schedule. Given the quality of modern oils and filters, we'd say to go with Toyota's schedule - not your dealer, not your neighbor. Change your oil every 6,000 miles or so (more frequently if the owner's manual indicates it - ours says every 7,500 miles.) General Motors research shows that many people only need to change their oil every 10,000 miles!

Don't forget the differential fluid! (Usually standard motor oil, but it should be checked with each oil change).

Other fluids

Check your owner's manual for the correct transmission fluid. Manual-shift cars usually take standard engine oil.

There are a number of different brake fluids, classified as DOT 3, DOT 4, etc. Use the correct one for your car - the one specified in your owner's manual. Mixing and matching is sometimes appropriate, but sometimes can cause severe damage. If you have antilock brakes, we recommend changing your brake fluid every three or four years (more often if recommended by Toyota).

Many recommend using distilled water with antifreeze. Check to make sure you are adding the right kind of antifreeze - there are currently two major types (standard and long-life), and they do not mix.


Today's car batteries can last a good five to seven years. Replacing a battery ahead of time wastes money and harms the environment. However, having your battery checked once a year to make sure it still holds a full charge is prudent. Most car manuals have instructions for testing batteries with a simple volt meter, but mechanics often do this for free or at minimal cost. If you can, check the water level once a year and add distilled water as indicated.


The serpentine (fan) belt can last many years; have it checked once a year or more for cracks and signs of wear. The timing belt is another story; while it can last a long, long time, many engines will suffer severe damage if it breaks. So change the timing belt at the recommended times. (As a side note, on Chrysler vehicles - most of which have engines that do not get damaged by timing belt breakage - the replacement interval is 110,000 miles, nearly twice that of some Toyotas!)

Economy and acceleration

The Corolla five-speed generally achieves from 32 to 38 mpg, depending on how much city traffic you have and how you drive. The automatic will almost always get lower mileage - in the high 20s to the low 30s. Acceleration with the five speed is about 9 seconds to sixty; add a second or two for the automatics (three and four speed).

Performance: engine and suspension upgrades

See our performance section.

Wet weather performance: tires are the single best safety upgrade you can make to your car. A good performance all-season radial will greatly cut down your stopping distance. We've had good luck with Goodyear Eagle RS-As but they can be very expensive; for about half the price, Yokohama Avid MD-H4s will easily outhandle the stock tires on wet or dry roads. Rain-oriented tires such as the Aquatred have done very well in performance tests. (Try Tire Rack for good tire and wheel prices). Worn out tires are a wonderful opportunity to upgrade to something better and safer.

Premium gasoline usually does not increase performance (unless noted in the owner's manual). For most cars, premium gas may actually hurt performance since the formulation is not what the manufacturer intended. Today, premium is usually only used in some high-performance engines and turbocharged vehicles to avoid knocking.

Repairs and problems

See our repairs page for more.

Dealer versus corner mechanic?

In The Loyalty Effect, which discusses the impact of employee retention on customer loyalty, car dealerships are used as a sample case. The writers cited evidence that car dealerships had both the highest turnover rates and the worst records for good repairs. The next worst was the discount chains, e.g. Firestone. The best were the independent mechanics. We can bear that out.

Of course, there are good corner mechanics and horrible ones. However, the webmaster's personal experience suggests that the "indies" have charge half as much as the dealers, do better work, stand behind it, use the same parts (especially if you supply them), and finish in less time.

In short, if your car is warranty, we would recommend a good local mechanic. Make sure your mechanic has a computer setup which includes the latest manufacturer service bulletins and computer diagnostics (so they can get fault codes from your computers). Get recommendations from people you trust. (If they always seem to have problems with their cars, find other friends.)

Keep in mind that if your car breaks down shortly after the warranty period, or with a problem many other people have encountered, Toyota may pay for the repair if you go to your dealer. (See our dealers page).

Common issues

A "water leak" may in reality be simple air conditioning condensation. If the leak seems to be pure water, most likely it is runoff from the air conditioner. This can occur when you've been using the defroster, which activates the a/c compressor to dry the air and defog more effectively.

Beware the child lock! Those with children are used to the idea that the back doors may not open from the inside, but those without children may think their door is broken!

If you get a check engine light, first check to make sure the gas cap is on correctly.

You can't lock the driver's door if it is open and the engine is running!

On the current generation, the automatic headlights have a hair trigger - so the lights will normally go on and off seemingly at random (since there is a fairly long delay before go on). Yes, this makes automatic headlights more of a nuisance than a help, but keep in mind the system was designed by General Motors.

Click here for oil sludge/gelling information.

For more, click here.

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