Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

2001 Toyota Corolla; Can it Be Fixed?

I recently had my 2001 Corolla break down on me. It only has 50k some odd miles and was running relativity good besides the fact that I was putting around 2 qrts of oil into it every 1 1/2 to 2 weeks. Mechanics hadn’t mentioned anything about a leak, and I never saw anything that would suggest leaking. It seemed to me it was just burning through it.

On the day it broke down, I assume it was definitely an oil issue, yet the check engine light had only just popped on 5 minutes before it broke down. I work at a school with an ex-Toyota mechanic who took it apart and gave me the back camshaft. The bolt and pin had snapped off. He also mentioned to me that I would need a valve cover gasket, new spark plugs, a fabricated pin from a machine shop and a new bolt (the latter 2 parts being for the camshaft). On top of this he did mention that although the oil seemed good (nothing metallic in the oil), the 1 & 4 pistons were an issue.

My question is A) is it worth me going through all the trouble to get a fabricated pin or should I buy a new camshaft? B) if I buy a new camshaft (or get one from a scrapyard) and he puts it in, what are the chances that there are more issues (in other words; how much is this going to cost me & is it worth it) ? C) if the car is completely shot, what can I expect to get if I scrap it for parts?

I really appreciate anyone who can help. Please know that this is all coming 2nd or 3rd hand and that I only have limited car knowledge. Layman terminology would be appreciated.


find out how much it will cost for fabricated parts first off (I am not sure myself).

A) I’m not sure why you’d need fabricated parts. It’s a 2001. The parts are probably still available from Toyota. Try and email a parts adviser - they’ll be able to tell you if they can get the part. If not, the part is probably still available from a junkyard. Parts fabrication usually only becomes necessary when you’re talking about vehicles from the 60’s and previous (and even then, you don’t always need a custom-fabbed part).

B) I don’t know. From your description, it sounds like you’re not properly maintaining the vehicle - if a vehicle is using more than 4 quarts a month, the cause needs to be investigated and it sounds like that didn’t happen. What that tells me is that there might be other stuff wrong with the car that we don’t know about, and which might break after you finish this repair.

C) Depends. If you take it apart yourself and sell the parts individually, you could potentially get more than the car would be worth if it were in good, running condition. Although it will take you awhile to make the money, since you’re unlikely to sell all of the parts in a short amount of time. I parted out a CRX about 12 years ago, and I still have some of the parts in storage bins.

If you sell it to someone as a complete parts car, expect a few hundred.

It’s good u were checking oil level and caught the fact oil was disappearing. U said check engine light came on and u kept driving. I hope it was not the oil light? Usually a CEL is for emission issues and not major bad things happening. I think ur car a single overhead cam and not dual cams? If ur cam is out than u need a fairly involved cam install and proper timing procedure to ensure long life. So basically ur motor is torn apart at this point. Toyota motors are pretty tough. U could fix top end but need to find out why oil is being burned? Rings? Bad Pcv tubing? Valve guide seals?

How many miles were on the car when you bought it?
If that’s more than about 10K miles than it possible the previous owner was lax on oil changes.
Shearing a pin and/or bolt on a cam implies that it seized up at some point.
When an engine is starved of oil often it’s the top that goes dry first.

“From your description, it sounds like you’re not properly maintaining the vehicle - if a vehicle is using more than 4 quarts a month, the cause needs to be investigated and it sounds like that didn’t happen. What that tells me is that there might be other stuff wrong with the car that we don’t know about, and which might break after you finish this repair.”

I could be off-base here, but this sounds to me like a possible case of oil sludging, based on the fact that this car is apparently driven less than 5k miles per year. Under those conditions, any engine can be subject to sludging unless the oil is changed every 6 months, and with Toyota engines of that vintage, the chances of this happening is higher than average.

If this engine is clogged with oil sludge, all types of catastrophic engine problems are possible, and that might make it more realistic to replace the engine with one from a junkyard, or to simply get rid of the car.

So that we are able to comment with as much validity as possible, the OP needs to give us specific information regarding how often he has changed the oil on this low-mileage car and to tell us about the maintenance of the transmission. If the trans fluid has been ignored as much as I suspect the oil has been, the trans could also be a candidate for failure in the near future, and that would mean repairing the engine is not a practical idea.

I had the pistons go on my 1999 Corolla. My mechanic said that the pistons are located inside the engine at the bottom so he would have to take apart the entire engine which costs hours in labor hence a large bill. I opted to buy a used engine from a guy he knows well. Still a large bill but better deal. Mine had 147,000 on it & I’m the 3rd owner so yes it can be repaired but it depends on how much effort, energy & time you want to invest. Also, something to consider is if this is your only vehicle

SuzyQ Has Given Good Advice And I’d Add That The Secret To Having That Approach Turn Out Successfully Is To Find An Engine That Is Not Sludged And Has Good Compression. It Appears That Her Mechanic Did Just That. That’s The Tricky Part.


Given the low miles for the age, oil consumption issues, and broken valve train components I agree wholeheartedly with VDCdriver that your engine may be sludged up. This can lead to severely lowered or zero oil pressure.

Oil pressure issues are quite likely the reason for the valve train failure and I would be very hesitant about going ahead with a repair like the one mentioned. That is repairing the symptom, not the cause, and any repair could very well end up failing immediately or very soon afterwards.

We had another thread recently about this engine, the 1ZZFE engine that is still in use today. It is dual over head cams and driven by a timing chain and has variable valve timing. justintime, I don’t think your mechanic friend handed you a cam, more likely he handed you the camshaft sprocket. The pin should be just a roll pin so that should not be a big deal. Getting a new bolt is not a problem either, but did your friend remove the broken part of the bolt from the camshaft.

If the broken end of the bolt is still in the end of the cam, it will need to be removed with a drill and an easyout. Once that is done, its easy to reassemble, unless the timing chain is broken. There are alignment marks to make sure that the cams and the crankshaft are all properly aligned with each other.

This engine is not prone to leaks nor is it prone to sludging as far as I know, but it does have some issues with the pistons used in the early years, like yours.

Getting the engine running should be pretty easy. If the oil loss is taken care of my the new gaskets, then good. If it is still losing oil at the rate you’ve been experiencing, then it will take a rebuild of this engine, or replacement with a good used engine or a reman engine to fix that. You will have to decide whether it is worth the cost or if it would be better for you to keep a diligent eye on the oil level.