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2001 Toyota Corolla - Misfire

2001 with almost 211,000 miles. Low compression on one cylinder, #3 (40+ psi). Cylinder #2 tested with 135+ psi). Cylinders #1 & #4 have not (yet) been tested.

More than least six months ago my motor seemed like it would occasionally misfire on a cylinder when motor was working under a load.
First problem found around 4 months ago, after frequent (virtually constant) misfirings. Spark plug on cylinder #4 had been fouling, an all black tip! Replaced all 4 plugs with new NGK’s.
3 months later, found spark plug on cylinder #3 has now been fouling, another all black tip! Cylinder #4 did not appear all too bad at this time. Replaced it with one of the good used plugs, removed earlier!
Saturday morning (09/14), while enroute to Keene, NH, continuous misfirings agian!
Upon arriving at Dad’s home in Sullivan, NH, found that plug in cylinder #3 was again fouling!
Chose to do a compression test on cylinder #3. found out the results, less than 50 PSI!

Have been doing some reading about "low compression in Toyota’s 1.8L engines. One suggestion was to do a compression on each cylinder, twice.
Second testing using some oil placed into spark plug holes.
Said that if there was virtually no difference in the readings between each cylinder’s test the problem is said to be a bad valve.
I want to do this last test with my Dad. Car body is in very good shape! We oil undercoat our own vehicles. Wishing to try and save it.

Good luck. I don’t see much hope here. But to do a compression test you need to start with a fully charged battery. Remove all the plugs. Disable fuel and spark. Open throttle. With compression tester installed on one cylinder, crank for about 5 seconds. Record findings and repeat with the rest. On cylinders with low compression put a little motor oil down the spark plug hole. Crank again. If compression is around 30 lbs or more higher than dry reading, the oil is making the seal that the rings are supposed to indicating bad rings. If the readings don’t go up the compression is being lost through the valves or head.


Thank you very much here. Shall do as you suggest.

Or thru a hole in the piston.



The most common problem with that generation Corolla is that the engine will eventually burn oil at some point.Not a lot at the beginning but it will get worst.There is a fix for this but you need to tear down the engine and replace the rings and pistons with revised version or drill a few more hole on the side of the pistons.

Would Bars Stop leak fix that?? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Dear car Talk:
I have an update for you. Dad and I did a compression test on all of the cylinders. All, except for Cylinder #3 come up as being around 170 PSI. Dad told me that is about as good as I am going to get. Cylinder #3 was some 15 PSI.

Now, we done that “wet test” on the troubling cylinder. Its compression came up to only some 30 PSI. Dad has determined that the piston in cylinder #3 was at TDC, too, always stopping there.

(At first, I put in too much oil, about one cup of it through the spark plug hole. Dad said it was too much oil! so, Dad “dip-sticked” it. It was over 1 inch high, so, we cranked the motor so to blow out the excess out before he performed that “wet test.” Dad happened to notice that the oil level in the cylinder NEVER lowered, not at all!)

Afterwards, I put more oil in the troubling cylinder and, let it sit for as long as 20 minutes. Not a bit of change in height of that oil, again, doing that “dip stick test.” So we believe it may be a “burnt valve” here. Therefore, this spring, we shall attempt to fix it,


You’ll continue to get serious misfiring with number 3 having that low of compression. Theproblem w/waiting to fix this issue is that as you drive the engine will be sending a lot of raw, unburnt fuel into the catalytic converter. This will almost certainly damage the cat, which is an expensive part to replace. You’ll probably be $$$ ahead by fixing the valve problem now. It might just be a broken valve spring, which may can be replaced without having to remove the cylinder head.


Dear George on Car Talk:

Thank you for your reply here about our further diagnostics pertaining to my 2001 Toyota Corolla by my Dad and I. A second opinion, or an answer, is always helpful!

  1. The Toyota will be shut down/ “side-lined”/ taking a break, in about a week. A 2004 Nissan Sentra will be taking over my transportation needs. Hated to simply scrap this car as it has been reasonably well taken care of. As well, we oil undercoat all of our own car bodies.
  2. The catalytic converter has been already been rendered as junk as August 29, 2019. Phil DuVerger of PASSautomotive, a custom exhaust service business in Keene, NH, already condemned my CAT before I noted the severity of the problem pertaining to Cylinder #3, around mid-September 2019. My exhaust broke and Phil was able to simply weld it up so to support it. But, he told me that it that it needed to be replaced!

Sounds like you have the situation under control. Good for you OP :slight_smile:

Please don’t take this the wrong way . . .

it’s time for your Corolla to get retired

donate it to your local npr-affiliated radio station

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Dad said the same thing, now that the transmission is no longer shiftable! It has such a good body, too!

Sadly, the Toyota now no longer is shiftable. I had no choice but to drive it as it was, some 1500 more miles as I had nothing to get to work with.

What about that 2004 Sentra you mentioned back in November . . . ?

Can you keep driving that, after you junk the Corolla . . . ?

Thanks. That 2004 Nissan Sentra is now operational.

My Dad fronted much time and some money for me to get it road worthy. While I do appreciate my Dad’s help here just trying to work with him (on any projects, for the matter) can be a very miserable experience!

I really want to find a way to reimburse hum for his efforts, financially, by any means necessary, even by including payments enclosed in cards MAILED to him (since he will resist accepting it).

Dad is in Florida right now. I want to TRY and send him around $100 per month as to show my appreciation, but now, I need get another job (once again!).

I shall probably donate the 2001 Toyota to the NRA’s Cars For Freedom foundation or some other organization. What saddens me most was that Dad and I could have likely saved it, using it for a backup for future emergency use. But, once its manual transmission became no longer shiftable I now see that my efforts would be hopeless.

Take care, William/ whj.

Replacing the Corolla’s manual transmission isn’t an option then? Toyota manual transmissions are tough as nails, and there should be plenty of used ones available at reasonable prices at auto recycler yards.

More later. running out of time. Library computers will be shutting down soon.
But, I believe it was the excessive shifting, due to the loss of power, my motor running on only 3 of its cylinders, must have killed this manual shift transmission. My belief only.