1989 Toyota Corolla- Original Owner, Original Parts- Needs Transmission help!

Being the original owner on this extremely well maintained and loved vehicle… i recently ran into my first ‘major’ breakdown- when the differential went bad on the car. On this particular model, the differential/tranny are together- and knew I would have a hard time finding someone to address the differential repairs, still needing to drop and reinstall the transmission- correctly- unless going with a complete rebuild- vs. replacing the whole unit with a used/refurbished part.

Point is, that after taking the car in for differential work… it seems i may be experiencing some of the after effects (or worst nightmare situations-) in not everything having been done meticulously- since now my automatic transmission, doesn’t seem to be working/shifting properly- the car itself is driving altogether differently than before… (i’ve driven her for 22 years, so everything about this car is pretty intuitive for me at this point.)

My questions are specifically the first two things i noticed were: speedometer not working properly at first- and after a few micky mouse adjustments when i took it back into the shop, it now kicks in, but with a major lag- i.e. hitting quite some drive time/speed- even if its still small increments-) before registering on the needle…

this obviously concerned me because of safety and accuracy issues… but having driven it now at higher speeds, my feeling is that it is still not reading accurately.

It now says 60mph when it definitely doesn’t feel like the 60mph that i’m used to…

This brings up the second major issue, as to whether or not it is possible for the whole car to be running higher than it used to before, due to any kind of transmission work being done, and or error being made in its replacement/rebuild?

It doesn’t seem to have the pick up it usually has (especially down in first when first accelerating…) and it seems to gradually increase in speeds, (at higher speeds)- feeling that i have less control of the car than before…

and at higher speeds, it doesn’t seem to be down shifting automatically like it used to-

for example, when taking the foot of the gas, there should be an immediate decrease of power/speed- let alone braking, but now I’ve noticed I’ve had to hard brake it a few times, just to dramatically reduce speed, which tells me something is way off!!!

is it also possible that things are running too hard/high than before due to incorrect transmission adjustments/installation?

honestly i don’t know if i was just nervous/paranoid- but yesterday when i took it out for the first long test drive (freeways, etc.)

my feeling and sense was that not only all of the above making it feel like something wasn’t right and she just wasn’t driving the same-

but i also almost sensed that overall the position/placement was sitting high- and the engine running/revving too high as well, as if at the end of that long drive, it was hotter, than usual…

fears of course that this could burn things out (not just the oil, but my engine!) let alone what it could be doing to the overall transmission again, running off this way-

i need answers, and help to get some of these questions addressed!


Someone please help me with some of this discussion and questions to try and trouble shoot what may be happening, as I am almost afraid to take it back to these guys, as I don’t want my car situation to get worse…

and at the same time, I’d rather trust someone else to get it right, if that’s what needs to be done, but at the same time, hoping it could be some minor adjustments or more detail work, without having to incur the huge expenditures of a tranny rebuild at someone else’s shop?

Unfortunate feeling suddenly like the cliche female getting nowhere with mechanics but screwed- and since i’m not dumb, (especially about my car-) it seems to be making honest, reliable and trusworthy- if not expert/experienced help that much more hard to come by! :frowning:

I have a few questions. Did you get your present transaxle rebuilt or did you have a used or rebuilt transaxle installed? When you had the “differential” problem, did the differential gears actually break; did the final drive gears strip; or was the transaxle making awful noise? Did you have the repair facility just fix the “differential” problem and not do a full transaxle rebuild with torque converter replacement and radiator transmission fluid cooler flush?

Hope to help with further information.

The approach that was taken and told to me (again, that doesn’t necessarily reflect actuality-) is that I took it in for a rebuild, not a used/rebuilt replacement installation.
That being said, when the differential went bad- I don’t know what hard parts exactly went bad or broke- but I was lead to believe that they changed out some clutches, drive gears were stripped, and yes, it was all making an awful noise-) all of which has been somewhat addressed.

What the rebuild actually consisted of, and whether or not it included the torque converter replacement or radiator flush- I don’t know exactly, but am assuming NOT.

(Seems they didn’t do a thorough job in the first place with the rebuild, let alone the reinstallation of my transmission.)

Again, since leaving the shop, I have noticed the two major problems being a) speedo not kicking in or registering correctly- which tells me its calibration is off.) The shop has maintained that its normal, for there to be a slight lag (meaning my gap between 0-10_ is almost non existent, therefore the needle/reading kicking in later, is typical… (which again, hitting 10-15- let alone 20-30) with the needle not moving is definitely NOT typical…
so I’m trying to figure out how this situation alone can be correctly addressed…

because of this first case, which definitely influences the second, but may not be the sole reason for it-
the gears are not shifting properly either.

I’ve noticed it on the uptake (acceleration)as I mentioned in the first post, with the kick not kicking in while in first to accelerate or rev into gear properly… and though after gradual acceleration the gear/power kicks in… from that point on- as I also mentioned- the speed increases, the needle floats, and it rides/drives completely different than before.
The most concerning aspect of this- is obviously once in higher gear (though still not feeling like in proper gears-) a) I’m hitting speeds I’m not sure of, that don’t feel right- i.e. feels faster than the actual speedo reading, or much slower-
and upon deceleration the auto downshifting is not happening quickly, which once again, simply removing my foot from the gas pedal normally disengages direct power and speeds automatically should decrease-) which in several instances it did not… kept coasting as if in neutral unable to go faster or slower-) and required braking to decelerate.

I’m hoping the speedo issues not being properly calibrated are what’s causing the other shifting/gear/rpm issues i’m feeling to be off as well (though that’s obviously not what i wish was happening-) as opposed to it being internal transmission issues that have to be taken apart and re-fiddled with in order to work right.)

Also, my major question/concern -other than the one that is implied with all this- is that myself or my car isn’t in any danger (even potential danger-) because of these inaccuracies in work.

To have my needle topping out at 60mph (as if it can’t go any faster-) when already feeling like a very different 60mph than I’m used to- suggesting either I’m going faster than 60 as it is- ) or that i’m pushing 60- in the wrong gear… makes me very scared that something is really wrong.
(Though again, in some perspective, the car is driving, and operating- and as long as I micro manage my driving to have control over now this truly foreign car, because it is not driving the way it should.)

All I know is that some clear things (which i’ve described,) are OFF.

The question is what to point out, or how to have it addressed, or how could it be addressed, whether I take it back to these guys- or not?

The last thing I want is to incur any other problems or expenses- as I was already charged for the rebuild-)
let alone not have some accurate information to provide, in the clear case that I’m working with people who have proven inept?

Thanks for your response and help!

On this specific model the differential is packed with the transmission but they are separate units. The differential oil is filled from on hole and the ATF for the transmission from the dipstick. Someone has to make sure that both fluids are at the right level. Your speedo is a cable ran one from the top of the transmission to the unit. It is not really do much for the shifting. Now the throttle cable to the transmission is something I would check. Also your symptoms might be related to an engine misfire. Do you have the nightmare carburetor version or the fuel injected model? Also how many miles on the car?

Did you try going back to the shop who did the transmission work? Why was repairs needed in the 1st place.

Yes, I’m aware of most of what you have said…
The throttle cable is something new that is being suggested to look at (thanks-) and could that have something to do with what i’ve described?

Re: carburetor or fuel injection, i want to way either or- which means I don’t think I know for sure… (i have been under the impression that its fuel injection.) (and would a fuel filter have anything to do with that, since i know i had to change that out recently.)

Miles: @180,000

And yes, I’ve been back several times already- when first leaving their lot with an imperfect alignment/reinstall on the transmission- causing loud konks when shifting and practically the whole engine block jumping…
which they addressed and the next day, seemed to be shifting smoothly on the hand control- no noise, etc. and no massive jump under the hood…

then when coming to test drive it after this initial ‘go back’-
is when i noticed the speedo needle remaining at 0- even when it was clear i was not going 0…
took it back again- and several drives later- finally the needle was moving again-
but like i said, that is the problem now- is that its not reading right, and this i can just tell.
(0-10) having virtually no gap on my car- still isn’t reason enough why the speedo is kicking in so late the way it does now- and like i said, by then, who knows what gears/speeds i’m actually in/at- since everything feels off.

Does go to those 55-60 marks now- and drives accordingly- but as i said, still feels/rides not quite right at those speeds especially - but the gap in inaccuracy as to whether i’m in the right gear- or 10-15 over or under actual speedo reading is questionable.

Original repair needed was work on the differential-
which this shop approached as a tranny rebuild/overhaul-
addressing bad parts, replacing what was necessary and putting the whole original transmission with original casing (not damaged) back in.

Its since then, (just a day or so again,) that I’m now having the speedometer and gear shifting and seeming power/torque issues.

Thanks for your input/feedback!

If your air filter housing is on the passenger side and looks like a big frying pan, then you have the carburetor version. The fuel injected would say EFI on the engine cover.

The speedo problems might only need to remove the cable from the transmission, put a drop of lubricant in the cable and tighten it back to make sure it is seated properly. If you put too much lubricant it would overflow on your foot inside while driving:)

When was the last time the spark plugs and wires were changed?

Get a second opinion from another shop.

Ok galant, thanks for the information. I’ve changed my air filter which is housed in the round frying pan :)- so I guess that’s that.

I’m praying this is a minor detail (though again, what about the gears/shifting and rmp levels I’m experiencing on top?)
that takes care of the speedo problem… (such as the cable/lubricant-) as opposed to anything internal/tranny.

Sparks and plugs changed recently enough-
Have had this car 20+ years… know every little thing/sound about it if you will- and definitely maintain her well…

(How else 180,000 miles with strong/solid engine i’m convinced- and life still?)
Let alone first major repair- differential/tranny work- after 20 years!

Really would like for this car’s integrity to be as best maintained as possible, to ensure at least a little more solid drive time, without worry :slight_smile:

Thanks for the advice, am in line for the second opinion from another shop.


how long ago did you get the car from the shop? It can take a week or so for the computer to learn the system. It is possible that some sensors did not get hooked up right. The speedo is required to be within 5% of your actual speed. If it is not then you tell the shop to fix it or you will go to the DA, (it is a certification requirement) Period. There is no question about the speedo. It must work or the shop can lose its certification and possibly its buisness license. A certified mechanic must put the car into factory performance spec.

i just got it out of the shop- so i just learned most of this hands on- yesterday for my full day of driving tests.
I agree with you, and was pretty much starting and standing on that same ground, when i first left the shop and discovered the speedo needle wasn’t moving at all and remained on zero- even while clearly driving nowhere near 0.

As stated in the above threads, i’ve already had several go backs to these guys, am beyond wary, nervous/scared- let alone my own trust, intelligence, common sense, business and experience with my car- breached—
so I’m a bit pissed that I’ve been allowed to take/drive the car- more than once now- with this same speedo problem in existence- (with all sorts of sound but still not right/true or accurate explanations given by them- as to why its doing what its doing…)

let alone now the more complex problems with the overall drive/power/performance, safety, control, shifting/gears and wear on myself and the car- as any result of things (this repair job on my differential)-
leading to this.

I don’t have much confidence that they can get things right even if I hold them to it…
now its a new can of worms. ;/

Gotta get dealt with though… so I’ve spent the day attempting to get feedback, opinions, and expert advice-
given the situation is all that it is.

I could not believe the speedo issue could even be attempted to be dismissed or mishandled the way it has been thus far… but as I said, now I have still that problem plus the rest, to contend with- while being any further engaged with this shop.

Thanks also for your feedback and support!

In addition to the second opinion, arrange the owner/foreman to take a test drive with you, so he/she can see the speedometer discrepancy as well as feel the shifting of the car and the upper limit of the speed. When the car misbehaves, let him know about it with a short comment. Discuss your symptoms, not solutions.

How long is your warranty?

my warranty is good for a year, but again, four times back within the first days- not a scenario anyone wants to be in…

unfortunately he did initially drive it with me, (when i was back say the 2nd/3rd time just from leaving the shop once the ‘differential’ issue was resolved and ready to go-
and he saw the discrepancy (which again he tried to explain as the minute gap between my 0-10 on my car- as if to explain the lag before needle reading- which for me, still wasn’t accurate, because i should not have to hit 10-15-20 before it engages while still reading 0- let alone- have it float once its doing at least 30…)
and i could swear that he felt the shifting- in the upper limits, and delayed kick into power/speed- as if the gear shift was being forced by accelerating harder (again not normal on my toyota—)
So the issue now stands as to whether or not he is still actually going to be able to address and fix the problems, whether he acknowledges them this time around…)

Pretty tough racket as an intelligent, dedicated, honest and now broke, consumer-
(what else to do when they look at you like your’e speaking another language?) and I KNOW I’m NOT???

Thankfully I do have another shop foreman willing to at least take a drive with me, to see if he can diagnos anything quickly from his assessment, so either I’m even more prepared to go back and deal with the original shop where the car was repaired before now having subsequent issues…

but how/who will actually help me in recalibrating and fixing whatever needs fixing so that i do in fact, have a newer/improved car- rather than the reverse, after 22 years of loyal care… is my biggest concern… and obviously with these type of issues, further incurred headache, stress and expenditures, isn’t necessarily a great shake for me either.

Thanks for your suggestions!

Okay, now you have a warranty. I hope this is not a chain transmission shop but my gut says it is, alas.

If the first shop is not willing to fix the car, go to another shop and get an estimate to fix it, bring it back to the 1st shop and see if they want to work on it. Otherwise you can take them to small claims court.

This engine with the carb, has a computer and around 21 solenoids running the carb, if you have any engine issues causing drive-ability problems, it is almost impossible to figure. By the way do you have a check engine light? Is it staying on?

Which transmission do you have in the Corolla?? Is it a 3 speed or a 4 speed ??