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Car rev's too high at 65 mph

I just bought an 87 Corolla 4 cyl. with 130,000 miles on it. I drove it up to MA from PA, and it ran and rode great on that trip. I then drove it the next day and got it registered and inspected, which worked out fine.

I plan to use this car to commute about 56 miles round trip every day for as long as it lasts, into Boston. The car is pretty much a godsend for us as it gives me a solid car that I don’t have to sweat leaving in public parking. Also it got better than 32 miles per gallon on the trip from PA.

My problem is, when I drove it for the first time to work I noticed the tachometer was at around 3,800 RPM at 65 mph. My question is, am I missing a gear all of a sudden? The transmission is an automatic. When I hit the gas, the car drops down a gear just fine at this speed, but that driving tach reading seems high.

Any thoughts or observations would be appreciated. thanks

Do you know if it’s supposed to be a 3-speed or a 4-speed? Does it have an overdrive position or button (an obvious answer if it does is have you tried pushing it?)? One way to check the gears is to start out in “1” and manually shift through the gears to check that there is an engine speed change associated with each gear.

Realistically though, 3.8k at 65 is a pretty normal cruising RPM for an automatic-equipped economy car of this vintage, especially if it’s a 3-speed.

Toyotas have a button on the shift knob that locks out the overdrive gear. If the button is pushed there is supposed to be a small light illuminated somewhere on the dash. Perhaps the light is burned out on an '87 car, but look for the button on the shift knob. Find it and push it when you are on the highway and the speed should drop from 3,800 to just about 3,000. I is easy to hit the button and not realize you have done so.

Thank you. I don’t know if the automatic tranny is supposed to be a four speed or not, but it only does shift twice. The car has an overdrive button on the shift that “manually” drops a gear if you hit the button. It also has a little green “power” button that seems to add something for long hills that doesn’t involve the transmission.
I did push the overdrive button and it pretty much does the same thing as flooring the gas: the car drops a gear and picks up speed. I did downshift into a lower gear and the tach rev’d into around 5,000 RPM at around 45 mph. I’ll try the gear by gear tomorrow.
Anyway, thanks so much for your answer and good night.

I actually have two, one little green button where on the console there is supposed to a coffee cup holder, and one one the shift. The shift button I haven’t tried. The thing on the console didn’t seem to do anything. I did push the little green button out of curiousity when I went to work but I turned it off.
I’ll try your suggestion, thanks.

Apparently there were both 3 speed automatic and 4 speed automatic transmissions offered for the Corolla in 1987. If yours is a 3 speed then 3800 RPM sound about right.

Thank you, hopefully that’s the case. I guess I’ll find out when I refill the gas tank. I got 32 miles to the gallon when I drove the car up. If it’s a lot less than that I guess something’s wrong with the tranny.

I havent owned a stick shift car for 50 years (and don’t intend to) But I think 3800 RPM at 65 mph is excessice.


The car in question has an automatic transmission.

For a car with a small engine and a 3-speed automatic transmission, 3,800 RPMs does sound like the correct engine speed at 65 mph.

Most of the four cylinder cars made in the 1980s revved at high RPMs at highway speeds, especially compared to today’s four cylinder cars with more gears. I think 3,800 RPMs at 65 MPH is normal if you have the three speed transmission.

Unless it is a simple button pushed locking out overdrive ignore it. This car is 23 years old and working. The cost to repair this if an automatic transmission issue is far far more than the car is worth.

Ignorance is bliss in this case.

Please don’t take umbrage if I reply to all using this last response. It is an automatic transmission, and unfortunately, ignorance only used to be bliss. After I drove the car for seven hours straight taking it home, the way it felt revving so high was wrong. I wasn’t wrong.

I took it to work today when it was warm and in fact, it ran at around 2,500 rpm’s at seventy mph. So it has four automatic gears normally. Going home at night it was maybe 20 degrees cooler out and it ran the same as it did the other night, it never shifted into a lower gear after around 25 mph. When I got on the highway I tried the overdrive button on the shift, and nothing happened.
Nothing improved when the car itself warmed up, but the failure to shift into fourth gear does seem to be temperature related. If it is daytime and warm the car shifts into fourth easily and normally. If it’s cool out it doesn’t.
In truth I can live with it, I can take slower roads to work. But if there is a cheap fix I would like to fix it. It is such a sweet old car, and my last Corolla (an 84) lasted almost 500,000 miles. Also I am restoring this car, which isn’t even going to be that much work.
THANKS TO EVERYONE for your input.

I would try changing the fluid and filter.

That’s what my brother told me to do too. I’ll try it, thank you.