Search Corolland!

Should I Repair My 1999 Corolla?

by notapennymore, November 23, 2015

Hello all,

I have a decision to make and I was hoping you all would be able to help me get there.

I have a 1999 corolla that has been running like a champ and has been our primary and only car. However, some issues have accumulated over the years and need fixing. The current issues that need fixing are:

1. Tires need to be replaced. Mechanic needed. Estimate- $500.

2. Brakes need to be replaced front and back. Mechanic needed. Estimate- $250

3. Exhaust front pipe between the exhaust and catalytic converter and exhaust manifold is leaking. Car is making some noise and throwing the 0440 code. Mechanic needed. Estimate- $220.

I am assuming that the rust and corrosion is an issue and the other parts are not far behind. The question here is should I replace only the front pipe or go for replacing the entire assembly? The entire assembly is ~ $600.

4. Passenger door lock assembly needs to be replaced. DIY. Estimate ~$100.

The following work has been done on the car since 2009 which is when I woke up to realize that the car needs proper maintenance:

1. Brake pads/rotor/drums were previously replaced in 2009. Bought parts and Mechanic replaced it.

2. Suspension was replaced in 2010. Bought parts and Mechanic replaced it.

3. Battery was replaced in 2010. DIY

4. Spark plugs and wires were replaced in 2010. Pre-emptive strike. DIY

5. Ignition coils were replaced in 2013. DIY

6. Starter motor was replaced in 2013. Bought parts and Mechanic replaced it.

7. Coolant flush was done in 2010. DIY

7. Transmission fluid and powersteering flush done in 2010. DIY

8. Window motor/window glass/inside handles replaced. DIY

9. Replaced the roof liner 2015. DIY

10. Engine oil regularly changed.

11. Valve cover gasket replaced. 2015. DIY

In all the question is:

Should I go for a used newer model car or keep working this one to death. I can easily buy a new /used car. But it is more of a -what makes more sense question?

My feeling is that Issues 1 and 2 are regular wear and tear and will occur in any car. I do not have the expertise and the experience to know what to do with issue 3. Issue 4 to me is a non-issue. It is annoying but has no bearing on the running of the car.

What do you all think and suggest. I will try to answer as many questions as possible to allow us to get a reasonable discussion going.


Forgot to mention- 127000 miles on the car.

No loss of compression. No oil burning. I will keep adding more as and when needed/remembered.

As you mentioned, items #1 and #2 are wear and tear - no matter what vehicle you have, likely have to replace those as some point. Item #4 is more of an annoyance than a driveability issue - since you've indicated a fair amount of DIY tasks already completed - this should be nothing.

As for item #3 - a little rust on the front pipe is nothing - that has a pretty thick wall thickness. Just have the mechanic replace the gaskets on both ends (tapered for the conical portion by the spring bolts, conventional spiral gasket for the rear position + new clamp). Those gaskets commonly blow out on this age and mileage on the 8th gen Corolla - usually the source of all that noise in the exhaust. Have them reset the P0440 code and drive the car, see if it comes back. Likely the exhaust leak is the cause of the DTC you saw pop up, as some exhaust gases leaked the downstream O2 sensor, causing P0440 to pop.

Since this car is still running well and you don't have oil consumption - I'd just drive the car into the ground. I actually prefer the non-ABS, no traction control, conventional power steering on my Corolla - makes the car simple to drive, IMO.

But for someone that isn't as experienced driving or feels safer in a larger/taller vehicle (ie, the wife) - that's why I bought my Rav4 - commanding view of the road, ABS, EBD, traction control, stability control, AWD, front, side, and curtain airbags, etc. - that vehicle is a tank compared to the Corolla.

Overall - as long as you stay ontop of the maintenance - there is no reason to believe that this car wouldn't keep running for years, easily. This generation may not have the "bulletproof" reputation of earlier Corolla generations - still puts to shame newer cars that are available new. Newer car have lots of bells and whistles - but from a NVH (Noise/Vibration/Harshness) point of view - you'd be surprised on how much rattling, creaking, tapping noise goes on in the cabin. My 1996 Camry with almost 1/2 million miles on it sounds like a tomb compared to a coworkers 2013 Acura MDX with less than 30K miles.

Thanks Fish. That makes for an easy decision. I have worked so much on the car that I do have a fair bit of idea on how to fix and am not afraid to attempt the fix. With a new car, who knows.

I will have my mechanic take out the front pipe, I do not know how cleanly he will be able to get it out, given that the car is 16 years old. I do not have a garage to attempt it.

But if I am going to have him take it out, should I have him replace the pipe? My understanding from what you said is that the pipe is thick enough to withstand many more years of rust.

I have another leak where the resonator pipe joins the muffler that has been there for several years. Maybe I can use the opportunity to have a look at replacing the gasket there too.

I have been thinking about my engine mounts though. Should I have them replaced?

Do you know what kind of door-lock actuator 1999 corolla has? Apparently there are two different kinds, one with a 6-pin connector and another with a 4-pin plug-in. I think I might have to remove the door once to figure this out and then again to fix it.

Unless there is obvious damage to the front pipe - I see no real reason to replace it. Most of the rust will be limited to the surface - if you don't like the look of it, then you could have it bead blasted. Also depends on how much you can get a replacement front pipe - if you can get a brand new one for cheap - might be easier to work with a new part (ie, less rust). Otherwise, I'd stick with it. The one on my 2002 Corolla actually fell off enough to touch the ground as I was driving when I ran over bumps - the pipe was heavy enough that it only suffered superficial damage.

Yup, now would be the time to address any issues with the exhaust - loose or damaged hangers, gaskets, clamps, etc. Can really inspect piping, especially the side closest to the heat shield - catch those pin holes that can form up there. Also be able to anchor down a loose shielding, if needed.

Engine mounts - replace only if they are damaged (ie. you notice an excessive amount of engine/powertrain movement, drivetrain is physically binding on you, visibly damaged mounts). This car is sort of fix as they break sort of thing. Nothing really gained with preventative fixes, other than peace of mind and scheduling repairs on your time. In the case of mounts - you could introduce more vibration in the cabin instead of less. New mounts take time to break-in, some of the newer aftermarket and even OEM could be a different durometer in the material - could be more or less compliant than what you are used to regardless of break-in time.

As for pinouts - you'll have to peel the door liner off and take a peek. I don't remember off the top of my head. You might find that there might be something simple with it in the process - like damage to the harness or similar. Never know.

Thanks Fish. I will update this as and when I get something done over the next month or so. I must say the car has served me well so far. I did not realize how good these cars are when I bought it. I did not do anything other than the oil change for the first decade of the car.

The new pipe is about $65. Lets see what is broken before fixing it. I like your idea of giving the exhaust a good look and fix it well.

The Yokohoma Avid touring tires worked well but the tread is gone with 30,000 miles of getting them. I do not know why they sell 65000 miles warranty if they last for half as long. I will probably go for Firestone tires unless I read something bad about them.

Would you recommend ceramic brake pads with regular rotors?

Tires are subjected to way too many variables to get any reasonable estimate of lifespan. I've had tires that ran as little as 8000 miles before they worn down to the wear bars (rotated them once) and ones that ran to 90K miles, evenly worn on all 4 tires (never rotated!).

Avid's are supposed to be a long wearing tire - I'd double check the country of origin on the tire (stamped on the sidewall, could be part of the DOT serial number) - I found that some countries of manufacturer greatly influence how the tires wear and perform. If the tires worked well - stick with the same model and country of origin. If they did poorly, then jump to a different brand but me mindful of the country of origin of the replacement tire.

As for brake pads - depends on what sort of braking feel you like. Most of the OEM pads are already a ceramic composite pad. Not all ceramics perform the same - some are tailored for longer life, less dusting, low noise - some are tailored for more bite and braking performance.

I like ones with a little more bite - so I tend to stick to Hawk, EBC, and Porterfield composite pads - but my wife cannot drive smoothly with that stronger initial bite. With her cars, I stick with OEM, Centric, and similar pads. As for brake system life - I found that, even running an aggressive pad, the rotor life was about the same regardless of what pad I ran. By the time the pads need to be replaced, the rotors are ready to be replaced. Still have plenty of meat on them to turn down - but I found that they wear excessively fast when you do that. New rotors aren't that thick anyways - with only a couple of mm of extra material, not a lot of mass left after 50K-100K miles to turn down and expect reasonable life from.

Forgot to mention- 127000 miles on the car.

No loss of compression. No oil burning. I will keep adding more as and when needed/remembered.

As someone who has a mildly oil-burning '99 (with a relatively similar repair history), that sounds pretty sweet to me.

Non-car, budget/need question: If multiple peolpe are using this car (and buying a new one is not a financial hardship), is the third option then to keep this car and get an additional one, or is one car sufficient for the needs of all people using it?

^^^ That is highly dependent on the people using it - if they will be grossly inconvenienced if they cannot drive somewhere right NOW. Distance traveled, how long they will need to use the car, etc.

Personal experience - if people borrowing the car, need it to commute to work or school - then sharing is generally not going to work in the long run. If something happens to the car (accident, damage, etc.) - the person that needs it will be up a creek.

That's what I've done - wife and I have our own cars (used to share one, but didn't really work), Corolla is a "spare" car. The 2002 Corolla is stored in my garage - eventually will become my son's first car. This generation makes a great starter car - easy to maintain, cheap to operate, not too many bells and whistles to distract a new driver. Plan is pick up a "weekend / play" car when he starts driving - always nice to have a spare car around just in case.

Topic List: Go to Toyota Corolla, Chevy Prizm (1998-2008)