Although the Toyota Corolla is a car known for its reliability and performance, owners may experience issues as the years and miles add up. Fortunately, you can often solve some common Toyota Corolla problems yourself. Let's explore how.

How Reliable Is the Toyota Corolla?

The Toyota Corolla has been one of the world's best-selling cars since its debut in 1966, and for good reason — it's a comfortable, fuel-efficient compact sedan with decent horsepower and a reputation for longevity. 

As one of the safest four-door sedans on the market, the Corolla is a good commuter vehicle for anyone who spends a lot of time on the highway. It usually requires fewer major repairs than similar compact cars, though owners report some minor issues more often.  

Common Problems With the Toyota Corolla

Despite the Toyota Corolla's reliability, there are a few issues owners experience more than those who drive other vehicles. If you're facing any of these difficulties, we can help you. 

Faulty Starter or Starter Solenoid

The starter solenoid is the electromagnetic device that connects the batter to the shift fork, which activates the starter motor and causes the engine to crank. When the solenoid or the starter itself stops working, you won't be able to start your car — you also won't hear that clicking noise when you turn the ignition.

Poor maintenance is one of the most common reasons for faulty starter systems, as it can lead to major wear and tear that stops the system from performing as it should. If this is the case, you might hear a grinding or whining noise when you go to turn your car on. 

Fortunately, a bad starter solenoid is a relatively inexpensive fix if you use high-quality aftermarket parts. If the entire starter fails, you'll need to replace the switch

Other car issues can resemble a bad starter. Here's how to make sure you're not dealing with something else:

  • Failing battery: Common signs of a dead or dying battery include flickering or dim electronics and an abnormally slow start. In some cases, you might also smell rotten eggs when you start your car. 
  • Seized engine: Internal damage can cause your engine to seize, or lock up, which can be dangerous. If you hear loud clunking sounds or see smoke when you try to start your car — or if nothing happens at all — you may need to replace the engine. 
  • Damaged battery connections: Loose or corroded cables and terminals can prevent the flow of electricity between the battery and the starter motor. This problem causes the same issues as a bad battery. 

Abnormal Oil Consumption

Since the 2000s, Corolla owners have reported that their engines burn oil much faster than normal, usually resulting from faulty oil pistons or piston rings, which can cause the following signs:

  • Smoke: A bad seal on the pistons can allow engine oil to leak into the combustion chamber, producing thick, dark exhaust.  
  • Slow acceleration: Damaged pistons reduce combustion in the engine, which loses power, causing it to work even harder to reach higher speeds. 
  • Poor engine performance: Your vehicle unexpectedly stops performing at the level it should, stalling or shuddering while driving. If you notice this issue, it's best to take care of it as soon as possible.

The easiest way to solve this problem is to replace the pistons or the piston rings. Additionally, keeping an eye on your oil levels is essential for keeping your car running well once you start racking up the miles. The check engine light often goes off only at the last minute, and waiting too long to add more oil causes internal friction to build up, eventually resulting in a seized engine.

Transmission Issues

If you're driving an older Corolla, you may experience transmission issues:

  • Shuddering or vibrating: The car vibrates while driving at low speeds, usually around 35 to 45 miles per hour.
  • Uncontrolled automatic shifting: In some cases, the automatic transmission shifts gears without the driver's input, causing the car to sharply accelerate or decelerate while driving.
  • Incomplete shifting: The transmission system in Corollas with more than 125,000 miles may not properly shift between gears, which can cause the car to lurch forward or shake.
  • Stalling out: Transmission failure can cause your car to suddenly stall out while driving.

You have several repair options depending on the severity of your transmission's damage: 

  • Replacing the torque converter
  • Replacing the shift solenoid
  • Recalibrating the throttle position sensor
  • Replacing your entire transmission system
  • Rebuilding your transmission with replacement parts

Choosing high-quality replacement OEM and aftermarket parts can help you keep your repair costs to a minimum.

Blown Head Gasket

The head gasket is the piece that closes the gap between the engine block and the cylinder head, which keeps the oil and coolant separate. This seal also maintains the appropriate pressure for the combustion chamber. A damaged head gasket can allow fluids to mix, which can be dangerous for you and your car. Additionally, it can depressurize the combustion chamber and prevent your engine from starting. 

If you catch it early, you can usually get away with replacing the head gasket. Over time, though, the blown gasket will cause the cylinder head to become warped, damaging the engine block. At this point, you'll need to completely replace both components.

Common signs of a blown gasket include:

  • Engine misfires
  • Engine overheating
  • Reduced fuel economy
  • Rough idling
  • Loss of compression
  • Engine knock

Typically, this issue only affects Corollas around the 100,000-mile mark. If you think you're dealing with a blown head gasket, you can usually determine the severity of the damage with a compression or leak-down test.

Radio Failure

This issue is most common in 11th-generation Corollas, which includes model years 2014 through 2019. Typically, the radio will get stuck on either the boot screen or an update screen and stop working. Later models seem to have fewer radio problems, though owners have reported that:

  • The infotainment system continuously reboots or slows down
  • The touchscreen stops working
  • The system loses Bluetooth functionality

You can try to resolve this issue by resetting the radio system — hold the power button down until the system reboots or disconnect the battery. If problems persist, you may need to repair or even replace the radio system, which can be costly if you go for OEM components. Fortunately, StockWise Auto carries high-quality aftermarket radio parts at more affordable prices.

Front Suspension Creaking

Creaking front suspensions are another common issue in 11th-generation Corollas, usually caused by a worn-out bushing in the lower control arm. The solution is generally straightforward, but the creaking can worsen over time due to cold weather and debris building up in the bushing.

Since it's typically a minor problem, there are several solutions you can try:

  • Replace the bushing with aftermarket components
  • Apply silicone spray to the bushing 
  • Lubricate the bushing with grease

Just a quick note — replacing the part creates less mess than using lubricants, so it may be a better solution if you're working out of a home garage.

Shop Toyota Corolla Parts at StockWise Auto

If you're looking for high-quality aftermarket auto parts at a great price, StockWise Auto has everything you need. Search for your Toyota Corolla model year to browse our available inventory, and feel free to contact our knowledgeable team with any questions.