Ownership Verified: Hardcore Sellin’ Out – gaasc’s 2013 Corolla

gaasc

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It began sometime last Easter.

My Mitsubishi killed its distributor. Ordinarily this would be a simple, if unexpectedly expensive job. However, the ill-advised carb conversion meant that that distrib was not available…not locally, not in the US, not on Amazon, not on rockauto. Between that and the 10 MPG tanks, I began feeling something that I didn’t expect to feel about my cars. And it didn’t get better when it rewarded me for beginning to bring it back to EFI spec with a persistent oil Light.

Still, the Tercel was there. It still got appalling fuel economy (My average speed being literally 7 MPH, living 1000m above sea level, and literally having to go uphill both ways in gridlock on my commute guarantees that I will get that irrespective of the car I get) but at least it wasn’t giving me any trouble. Apart from losing alignment constantly and parts availability becoming a serious problem (Your control arms are worn…you can replace them with similarly worn used ones!). Also, those hill starts in gridlock? The engine with 63HP can barely do them. And I didn’t trust it to do them with the A/C on.

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And then it hit me like a very large trout. Every car I own is over 30 years old. I enjoy having a different car that I can drive about all the time and that can be confident enough will be unique-ish wherever I go. But the simple fact of the matter is that all of them were failing on the first part. The Impala, of course, is not financially viable to sustain as a daily even before we get to its 7MPG thirst on my driving conditions.

And so, I had to replace one of my cars. Originally the idea was to replace the Mitsubishi and it’s seppuku ways. Unfortunately, the suitable Frontier that I had lined up got sniped at about the same time we finished rebuilding the Mitsubishi to EFI spec. Naturally, the newfound smoothness, power, and reliability (turns out that cars work better when run at manufacturers spec, who knew?) meant that I was forced to let the sizable dent on my wallet to depreciate.

It also increased my standards of purchase by nature of now me having constant access to a vehicle with “modern” accoutrements. And then the Tercel lost alignment for the third time in as many month and began feeling like the axle was moving forwards and backwards on its mounts. The time has passed when I had the budget to buy the Frontier straight cash, but if I didn't get wheels soon I would be stuck with my cars for a longer while yet. I made a list of what I could afford, met my requirements, and was fundamentally extremely hard to kill. The results made me go "Oh shit. oh no. OH NO!"

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A bunch of money and not an insignificant amount of haggling and inspections later, this is what I ended up with. 68,700 miles and seven years of age makes it by far the freshest car on my roster. The car arrived to Honduras with rather a massive punt on the right side, but that's hardly a dealbreaker, almost every single car that is a US import has been crashed previous to import. The ones that haven't are usually fished from the Gulf off Houston. Everything else is pretty good. 2013 was the last year for the tenth-generation Corolla, so this one is a final revision model with an improved interior (a weak point in this gen) and several goodies at standard and this car was a special order for Southeast Toyota (SET).

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For those not in the know, SET is one of the last remaining distributorships in the US. Basically, large companies who independently buy directly from Toyota and then manage the sale of Toyotas in specific states. SET manages Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas (where my car is from). SET sells approximately 24% of all the Toyotas in the US. And when you move that volume, you have more than a little leeway on what you order and stock. For my car, that means this particular LE comes with the leather-effect wheel (but not interior), the spoiler, and the sunroof. LE's as well equipped as this usually come with climate control, but this one has the standard three-knob air conditioning.

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Of course, this wouldn't be a gaasc purchase without some buttfuckery. The tires were 10 years old (quite how this is possible on a 7-year old car is a question for the previous owners) and mismatched. The cooling system was filled with water and there was a broken washer bottle. Fortunately, as this is a modern car, my normal NAPA hooked me up with Michelin Primacy 3s and their 0W-20 as well as some Valvoline coolant...It still needs an ATF flush. It would also be a good idea to change the lower contol arm and joint on the punted side, as they were merely straightened instead of replaced. it keeps alignment however. Also, it was crashed, so it's missing the driverside airbag and the controls on the steering wheel (! :D) don't work ( :( )

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But overall...as it turns out, I really like this car. It does literally everything I want it to do without fuss. It doesn't thrill on the corners, but none of my cars really do. The Mitsubishi behaves a bit better when caning it, but you have to do a lot more of that to keep up with the Corolla. It's roughly as comfortable as the Impala (better seats on the Corolla but it has a firmer ride. Also, the electric rack somehow has more feel than the hydraulics on the Chevy) and it does 15MPG on the gridlock I call city. It also came with a surprisingly good stereo and...you get the point. I love my old cars, I don't want to get rid of them (The Tercel wants to be kept by my dad. I disagree, But I'm okay with it as long as I don't have to keep paying for its issues) but I would be remiss if I didn't say the Corolla is the best thing I have for daily use right now (It has cupholders...CUPHOLDERS :p )

Some more pictures of it and the first blood from the city of Tegucigalpa. It took longer than expected at about a week.



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LeVeL

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I borrowed one of those from a friend once when my car was in the shop. Perfectly acceptable and comfortable appliance, nothing wrong with it as a means to get from A to B. Very solid choice for a daily driver, I say.
 

gaasc

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So you got the Toyota Corolla Arthur Tussik Edition :D Hope it serves you well!
Those panel gaps... And I say this as a Tesla driver :oops:

But congrats!

We are all Arthur Tussik on this blessed country :D

It is true though. An unfortunate fact of having one dealer per brand, massive import tariffs and cheap labor (with varying effects in quality). Another example is the frontier I was looking at

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It came to the country looking like this.

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Compared to this the Corolla wasn't that bad. Front end damage was similar but on the passenger side and it has no damage at the back. Repairs were as good as it could be expected for the price we got it for after the haggling.

Sensible choice.

The spoiler is so NOT you.

Thank you. The spoiler I think actually compliments the shape rather well. (read: take it out and it's even duller :p)

I borrowed one of those from a friend once when my car was in the shop. Perfectly acceptable and comfortable appliance, nothing wrong with it as a means to get from A to B. Very solid choice for a daily driver, I say.

Thank you. I'm surprisingly pleased by it.

There is a bit of a question about things to do with it. It's supposed to be the daily unobtrusive commuter, so nothing massive or that will affect it greatly. I'm thinking just QoL improvements. It needs a new headlight and some protective film of course. My particular car came with fog lights as evidenced by the crash pics, but these were not replaced when it was fixed. I do still have the controls on the column stalk and all wiring for them so at some point I would like to install Morimoto LEDs in it. This isn't high priority as fog is rare but they can be useful in thunderstorms. LED projector headlights were not available on this model from stock and it seems the only way to get decent ones is to bake the housing and install them yourself, which is a nope from me. An LED trunk light that actually illuminates something more than six inches in front of it would, however be welcome. As would dimmable LED dome and map light bulbs.

I want some convex stick on mirrors to help me park. Rear visibility is quite useless on this car. I've been told this is the case on a lot of vehicles nowadays. I also wanted to install a backup cam, but I don't want to lose the original stereo and the ones built into mirrors seem of appalling quality.

The car only came with one key so I need to order two more of those (one with the transponder buttons as a spare and the slimmer wallet "oh shit" one). I would also like to have more info from the TPMS beyond a warning light. it seems a Scangauge is the only way to get these readouts.

The external temperature sensor is missing, so I would like that one, and also the controls on the steering wheel. The cheap way to go at this is to change the module. The good way of doing it is to buy an entire wheel with an intact clockspring and an airbag. Then take it to the Toyota dealer to check the airbag under the Takata recall.

And that's it. Apart from that it's just maintenance on six-month intervals and hope that nobody runs into it.
 

Der Stig

is Der Slut
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Congrats on your silver appliance!

Anyone with project cars eventually comes to the realization that a boring commuter box that just works ™️ is essential. May it serve you well for many years!
 

Conan

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Very nice! 1.8 with 4A/T?

I have basically the same car (2011) with 1.6 and it's the most resilient car I have ever had a fortune to own. I only uses it occasionally and leaving it stationary for weeks, and when I use it all of it is done flat out. Often the crusing speed is 112mph. Pretty much the only things I have not done with it are robbing a bank with it, jump it, and track day. (I have autocross it though). I am sure that it can take all of that just fine. I crashed the bloody thing into a curb once, there's not even a mark on the wheel and alignment is still not out despite never getting one.

Many examples around have done 600,000 plus km on its original engine and transmission. Often without the head ever having to come off. And many have done so running on LPG which is notorious for extra heat in the combustion chamber.

I am convince that if you left this generation of Corolla in a lava pit for 500 million years, you can just fish out the fossil, attach a new battery, and it'd still drive like nothing happened.

The older gen are now mostly beaten, flaky and rusty, the more modern ones are too complicated. If the value of Corolla is absolute dependability then this is the most Corolla out of all Corollas. Congrats!
 

gaasc

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Congrats on your silver appliance!

Anyone with project cars eventually comes to the realization that a boring commuter box that just works ™️ is essential. May it serve you well for many years!

Thank you. I look forward to watch this particular car age into an "old car", provided nobody screws up :p

Very nice! 1.8 with 4A/T?

I have basically the same car (2011) with 1.6 and it's the most resilient car I have ever had a fortune to own. I only uses it occasionally and leaving it stationary for weeks, and when I use it all of it is done flat out. Often the crusing speed is 112mph. Pretty much the only things I have not done with it are robbing a bank with it, jump it, and track day. (I have autocross it though). I am sure that it can take all of that just fine. I crashed the bloody thing into a curb once, there's not even a mark on the wheel and alignment is still not out despite never getting one.

Many examples around have done 600,000 plus km on its original engine and transmission. Often without the head ever having to come off. And many have done so running on LPG which is notorious for extra heat in the combustion chamber.

I am convince that if you left this generation of Corolla in a lava pit for 500 million years, you can just fish out the fossil, attach a new battery, and it'd still drive like nothing happened.

The older gen are now mostly beaten, flaky and rusty, the more modern ones are too complicated. If the value of Corolla is absolute dependability then this is the most Corolla out of all Corollas. Congrats!

Thanks! It's indeed the 1.8 with the 4-speed. Honduras did get the 1.6 and the 2.0D, but the US only got the 2ZR-FE.

I like it. First time I have fancy things like...dual overhead cams and...16 valves. I've lived in the 80s for a while :p. This mill seems to be doing great work even on newer corollas, where one of them made it to 507k (on the original CVT too). A worthy upgrade over the 1ZZ on earlier corollas. Which was indeed very reliable but there were more than a few of them with oil consumption issues. We average about 3800 miles (6100 km) a year, so age and road conditions will kill the car long before terminal mileage sets in.

I'm glad to know that they seem to be as resilient as their 80s brethren. I'll unfortunately be unable to test your lava pit theory, not because of the hardship or anything, but just because I don't have any volcanoes nearby. :p
 

Conan

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The beauty of it is that while the interior is crap, the driving dynamic is sketchy, the styling is boring, the efficiency is meh and the speed is slow. This thing was built with proven technology and has very little foibles. Change the fluids as you should and it should last as long as you need. The ZR engine might not be the most efficient engine in the world, nor is the transmission. But it really is like the old resilient A series engine but with useful addition of hydraulic lifters, timing chain, and less vacuum line as crucial to the engine operation, so they have even less points of failure.

Yes, the 80's model might have been better built, with even more engineering and money put towards them due to bubble economy. But they're 30 plus years old at this point. And even back when they were 10 years old like yours and mine currently is about, they didn't wear all that great if you compared to how these modern Corollas are doing. It is 20 years of progress after all. And they figured out rust proofing by the 2000's, so the body doesn't rust out before the engine give up anymore.
 

rickhamilton620

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Congrats on joining #ApplianceGang. You, however, picked the right brand of appliance, unlike myself lol. Looks good!
 

gaasc

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So...the trip to reliability is not going well

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This is a puddle. The Corolla made it. I was going out to jump start a friend on the day we both could go out (COVID restrictions allow you to circulate depending on the last number of your government ID. The only businesses open are supermarkets, drugstores, bank offices, and hardware stores). I parked the car and jumped out to see if he actually needed a jump or a tow truck. Walking back, I noticed an enormous puddle underneath the car and assumed it was just the water truck you can see on the picture above leaking. That lasted until I put the car in D, accelerated, and the only thing that happened was a smell of smoke and a transmission check light on the dash. fortunately it was downhill so I could just pull over in a nearby slip road.

A hose snapped clean between the transmission and the radiator, dumping all my ATF on the ground. The offending hose and its sister have been replaced. Unfortunately parts stores are not on the list of essential businesses, so I need to wait until the end of the plague or lax restrictions to get 7-quarts of Toyota ATF WS compatible fluid from my local NAPA and do that ATF replacement. Drive it for about 500 miles and then do a proper flush.

In the meantime, the Corollavirus looks like this:

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A very efficient, economical and rather well equipped Japanese sculpture.
 
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captain_70s

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I have a theory.

Cars known for reliability are only reliable for people who really don't care about cars on any level. Mr and Mrs Magnolia from the suburbs will never have any issues with their Corolla because they have 0 interest in it at all. As soon as somebody who likes cars acquires a car known for reliability in favour of something more interesting the car gods frown upon them and smite down various car ruining faults.
 

gaasc

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Well that's no good start to the ownership of something oh so reliable.. Can't you order ATF online?

Not really. All of the local parts stores are closed. Neither the Toyota dealer (which tried to charge me $100 for the ~$12 cabin air filter) nor NAPA do online ordering, let alone delivery.

And while I could order it through the US, not only would shipping be rather expensive (at 15lbs of fluid for my change), but it would also take until the plague + the queue of incoming packages from my mail forwarder to arrive. As a data point. I ordered a new air filter cover for the impala back in February and it still hasn't arrived because it's stuck at customs (probably. who knows where it actually is because shipping numbers are stupid >_>)...when it arrives I will be switching mail forwarders, an unpleasant experience every single time I have to do it. @Spectre can vouch for the suckiness of shipping to Honduras from the other side as well, since he got most of the bits I needed for bringing the Mitsu back to EFI and had the distinct pleasure of having to box and ship them.

As a corollary to that, maybe boring reliable cars are also considered as such because the drivers aren't paying enough attention to notice it isn't working properly.

There may be something to that, yes.
 
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rickhamilton620

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I have a theory.

Cars known for reliability are only reliable for people who really don't care about cars on any level. Mr and Mrs Magnolia from the suburbs will never have any issues with their Corolla because they have 0 interest in it at all. As soon as somebody who likes cars acquires a car known for reliability in favour of something more interesting the car gods frown upon them and smite down various car ruining faults.

I legitimately believe it, looking at my car history...the most interesting cars had the least debilitating problems.
 

gaasc

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Let’s talk about ATF.

I make no excuses about my being simple minded about a lot of things. I sometimes enjoy it as it means I get excited about very mundane things like air travel or the fact that these words are being read by someone who is literally thousands of miles away. As such, it should come as no surprise when I tell you that I thought ATF was like…brake fluid or fuel. Unless you fuck something up royal, you should be okay with whatever ATF you get.

Little did I know that since the 80s (when my last cars are from) even simple things, like coolant, have become so segmented that you need to buy it depending on your region or, on some insane cases, your specific brand. Pick the wrong one and your cooling system will begin leaking like a sieve. Or in the case of ATF, your gearbox just becomes a potato.

It’s a good thing that I remember the exact name of the OEM ATF, because when I showed up at the one store with ATF in it, this was what I was greeted with.

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All of the Pennzoil oil-like substances in the universe. Nothing not Pennzoil branded. All but one will turn my recently bought car into a permanent lawn ornament. I finally narrowed down to Pennzoil Platinum LV MultiVehicle…only there was an issue with that one.

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Yup. Two different bottles of identically named fluid manufactured at apparently similar dates. But they had different SKUs and different pricing. Not wanting to one-hit the car I researched a bit.

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I didn’t take a picture of the Yellow bottle. But here is the section listing all compatibility and standards it meets.

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And here’s the back of the silver bottle.

Subtle difference. It says it will work for cars that run Toyota WS, but it does not list JWS 3324 on the specifications and approvals. The yellow bottle did. While they may indeed be interchangeable, the different SKUs and lack of consistent branding makes me think that while the silver one will work on the Corolla’s gearbox. It does not completely meet the spec. So I bought a full change of the yellow one.

Apparently in the time from it dying to now the car became very displeased and threw a check engine light and a traction control light. They both went away after a bit of a drive though.

I also filled it up. I bought the car on early march. It has done 362 miles (577km) in my ownership.
 
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gaasc

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As I get more and more bored, and my cars are mostly lawn ornaments, I have taken onto doing small upgrades to them. For the Corolla, this meant swapping out the very very pathetic trunk light. I've never had a car with one of those before, so I am not entirely sure how much are they supposed to illuminate. The one it had was, however, quite useless. The only reason I noticed it had one was because I was loading it with groceries when I noticed the faintest tired yellow glow.

I ordered some LED bulbs from America. But I was bored and found some warm white LEDs on the Tercel. It's still here, more of a lawn ornament than the rest. The only difficult bit of the swap was that I couldn't get a grip on the small 168 bulb to pull it, so taking it out was exceedingly difficult. The new light also has rather a low output, but it is at least discernible as a light source at night, even if I park directly underneath a lamppost.
 
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