Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

2012 Corolla broke down last night

So last night my 2012 Corolla just shut off suddenly. I was driving and the wheel got stiff, the low engine oil light came on and a few seconds later car jammed up. The light stayed on, I tried to start the car - didn’t let me. I had a few seconds to pull over and Aaa towed car to my house. I don’t know much about cars but I opened the hood and sent pics to my mechanic- he said serpentine belt is not broken. I did my regular oil changes but I fear I might have been a bit late on a service - I drove the car 10,000 miles in the last 6 months or so. The car has 104000 miles on it. Won’t get it looked at till Tues. What are the possibilities? Thanks for any thoughts

Have you checked the engine oil level yet . . . ?!

Any oil and/or coolant puddles under the car . . . ?!

Does that mean you couldn’t crank the car over with the starter . . . ?!

That doesn’t mean you can’t check out a few things yourself in the meantime. I just suggested a few things, which you could easily check yourself


So you had the oil changed at least once during those 6 months? Did you ever check to see if the engine had used any oil during that time? All engines burn some oil, and some engines leak oil onto the ground as well, which is why you should check the oil level at least once a month, and add oil if it is low.

BTW, the “oil life monitors” and extremely long oil change intervals specified for modern cars are not based on some special technology used in today’s engines. They’re based on marketing, pure and simple. This is no different than the so-called “sealed for life” transmissions with “lifetime fluid”. The automaker wants to market their vehicle as needing as little maintenance as possible, while still making it through the warranty period without a costly breakdown. Once the warranty has expired, they really don’t care if the engine starts to knock, or the transmission starts to slip, etc.

My advice is to change your engine oil at least every 12 months or 5,000 miles, and to change your transmission fluid and filter at least every 10 years or 100,000 miles.

IIRC, Toyota’s recommendation for that model year was at least once every 6 months, or 5k miles, whichever comes first.

1 Like

I will go and try to check some things out. The oil was definitely changed at least every 5000 miles- just had it changed last week actually. It’s just the other aspects of a service I’m not sure about. I did a complete service at about 90000 miles. But for oil changes - as soon as the maintenance light comes on I always take it to pep boys. The car just made a jamming noise when I tried to start it and the red light was flickering. Then the alarm started going off and the aaa guy disconnected the battery which seemed like it was dying.

I always take it to pep boys
That is your problem I would not trust pep boy;s to clean my window’s let alone anything else.


What is the oil level right now? How often do you check the oil level?

Clearly the descriptions are so fuzzy it is hard for anyone to be helpful. Car made a jamming sound, AAA guy disconnected the battery, alarm went off? So anything from a dead battery (alternator) to no oil. Can’t see why AAA though would have messed with the battery if it wasn’t dead though. Sorry wait for Tuesday I think but go someplace besides Pep Boys.

Just to add though, when the engine quits for whatever reason, it is normal for the power steering to not function and the dash lights to come on. These are not symptoms of the problem.


What??? This is a 2012 car. It is not a $1200 “beater” that you bought on Craigslist. For the first 10 years, a car should be maintained by the dealer, so you benefit from any TSB’s, firmware updates, and customer goodwill programs which the manufacturer offers to keep customers of your model happy. After the car is 10 years old, I’d either do the maintenance myself, or take it to a reputable shop. And that would NOT include any of the big franchise chain shops.

Is that a personal opinion or the law?

1 Like

Personal opinion, of course. I am not an attorney, professional mechanic, dealership employee, or anything like that. I am just a person who owns several (older) cars and performs DIY maintenance on them.

Well after the statement, he did have a “so that” explaining why one should use a dealer. You know, do this so that this happens. Totally clear to me.

A dead alternator could explain what happened. I own a 2009 Corolla and the alternator has died twice in the last two years with results similar to yours. No alternator means no electric power steering. And if the engine dies the oil light will come on. There may not be a problem but you should still check the oil on principle. You wrote:

What service do you think you’ve neglected? 10K in 6 months is above average but it shouldn’t kill the car by itself. What maintenance have you had done and how long ago? And FWIW, I have my oil changed every 5K by a chain shop. I think I’ve had one oil change done by a dealer in the last 8 years. 115K and it uses about 1/2 quart in 4000 miles.

I wonder if it could be the alternator. The car really just stopped suddenly without much warning - the red light came on and I had a few seconds to pull over before the car clammed up and would not drive. I pulled over and an officer showed up after a bit and helped me put the car in neutral and move it to a safer place. I agree I shouldn’t do oil changes at pep boys bit that was also only for the past 7000 miles or so. I bought the car used in July 2018 with 82000 miles from a dealer, had it inspected multiple times by different mechanics and was told it was fine. But in the last 6 months I started doing a lot of doordash as well as driving long distances (mostly just in the last 3 months for the doordash). I put probably 8000 miles on it in the last 4 months and did a couple oil changes. I did the major 90,000 mile service at the Toyota dealership but have not brought it to the dealership in about 8 months. I obviously need to learn more about cars and I know that. I did not check oil and will have to look up how to but I’m just hoping I didn’t bust my engine.

The reason they disconnected the battery is because we could not get the alarm to turn off.

I have a 2012 Camry, bought new in 2011. The first two oil changes were free at the dealer. All other maintenance has been done by me except for an alignment and some of the tire rotations.

As you can see, my personal opinion differs from bcohen2010.


The alternator failed on my sons 09 Corolla last month. No warning, no battery light until after the electronic power steering started to get sluggish. The oil light, plus others will come on when the engine stalls.

Check your oil to make sure it is OK,

sis’s avalon alternator died. no dash lights. would not crank. jumped it. went to store. would not crank. tough call to make when a jump will start car and no warning lights. so you think battery is possibly the cause? run to nearby store and whoops.

It was the alternator! I appreciate everyone’s help here


Good for you. Yes, an electrical system problem could well cause those symptoms. When the steering went “dead” and the dash warning lights turned on (e.g. the oil warning light), that simply meant the engine had stopped running. In your case it was b/c the battery was almost dead. Those lights are supposed to turn on when the key in “on” but the engine isn’t running.

1 Like

Glad to hear you found the solution.