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Timing Chain broke for 01 Corolla

I was going uphill and I turned on AC, I hear a sound and car engine stoped. Mechanic told me that the timing chain broke with some gear, rensioner, sensor. They are going to charge about 1.5K.

What options do I have ?

You did not state how many miles on this vehicle but it’s unusual for a chain to break.
Other than extremely high mileage, a chain can break because of not performing oil changes on a regular enough basis or possibly a worn engine. Most chain driven camshafts use an oil pressure operated tensioner or something to that affect and low oil pressure due to engine wear can cause a chain to snap.

As to options, that depends. I do not know off the top of my head if this is an interference engine or a free-wheeler. If the former, this means cylinder head valve damage can occur if a chain snaps so any mechanical problems should be verified first before wading into a lot of money on a repair.
I’m about 99% certain this engine is a free-wheeler so no head damage should occur. Maybe someone can weigh in and clarify that part.
Same goes for the engine. If it has high mileage and getting a little tired then I would be very hesitant about sinking this much into it.

Mileage on the car was 92K and it was very well maintained. Oil change was done at every 5K. I bought this car new and it is always driven by me, never got abused.

Valves are good so I am not trying to put a used engine into it. I was also told by the local shop and Toyota that it is very very rare. But since it has happened I am checking my available options now, also after repairs will it be trustworthy vehicle again.

Does this car have the 2.2 liter engine? If so, then the broken timing chain could be the result of lubrication problems stemming from the oil sludge for which these engines are notorious.

Supposedly, changing the oil every 5k is sufficient, but depending on the conditions under which this car was driven, every 5k may not have been sufficient to prevent sludge in that type of engine. Some people have resorted to using synthetic oil in these engines as a result of their known sludging problem.

The bad news is that Toyota will not cover repairs after 60k, so this will have to be on your dime. But, since the mechanic is going to have to do some disassembly of the engine anyway, ask him if he sees evidence of oil sludge under the valve cover. If there is evidence of oil sludge, have him drop the oil pan and clean it out, and also ask him about running some kind of cleaner/solvent through the first oil fill (and quickly draining it) in order to clean out the oil passages.

If there is oil sludge in this engine, other lubrication-related problems will result if the sludge is not taken care of.

Your other option besides fixing it are:

finding used motor/install (likely more than $1500 with unknown history)
selling the car for pennies on the dollar

Personally I would fix it.

People have a false perception that Toyota’s are infalliable beyond timing chains. They all have problems even serious ones but luckily a small subset of owners.

Corolla’s did not have sludger motors fortunately.

Any engine can sludge. It all depends on the type of driving being done.
An oil change every 5k miles is fine if you do a lot of highway driving.
If your driving consists of a lot of short hop, stop and go trips, etc. then 5k miles between changes may be too much.

In some severe cases, an oil change every 2k miles is warranted. One of my sisters in law has a vehicle that sees the highway about once a year; maybe.
This car is used almost daily and the engine seldom ever gets warm enough to even open the thermostat. Driving habits like this is the leading cause of sludging.

Sludging should not even be a guess. Once torn into it should be very apparent if this is the problem or not. Removal of the oil pan may also give some insight as to whether sludging is present and has affected oil pressure due to the oil pump pickup tube/screen being located there.

For what it’s worth, I’ve seen a number of low miles engines destroyed (and not even rebuildable due to the severity) from oil changes not being done often enough. Some of those engines had 25k miles or less on them and they were totally wiped.

Andrew–Are you sure about that? To the best of my recollection, some Corollas of that era were equipped with the 2.2 liter engine.

See below for some detail regarding that engine that I gleaned from the website known as Corollaland:

[i]Toyota Motor Sales, (TMS) U.S.A., Inc., announced in April 2002 a new customer satisfaction program for owners of 1997 through 2002 Toyota and Lexus vehicles equipped with 3.0 liter V6 or 2.2 liter 4-cylinder engines.

Toyota wrote that it “is taking this action because a very small number of customers have reported engine damage from motor oil breakdown, also known as oil gelling or ‘sludging,’ a result of oil change intervals delayed beyond the factory-recommended schedule. While any make vehicle can suffer from this condition if the oil is not changed often enough, Toyota has initiated this program to ensure owner peace of mind.” We note that this is a handy way to blame the owners for what is clearly a design flaw - since it doesn’t affect earlier vehicles or other engines, and is in fact quite rare on other automakers’ engines. We have also heard that this happens even if you follow Toyota’s recommendations on oil changes.

Toyota continues: "To make sure that customers have absolute confidence in their vehicles, this program will cover repair costs and incidental expenses for which a customer has paid or could incur as a result of damage due to oil gelling for a period of eight years from the date of first sale or lease without a mileage limitation. In addition to the costs of repairs, reasonable incidental expenses, such as car rental, and other out-of-pocket expenses will be covered.

“This program replaces a previous special policy adjustment regarding oil gel damage, and extends protection against this condition well beyond the new vehicle powertrain warranty period.”[/i]

Unless my recollections about the 2.2 liter engine being supplied in some Corollas is wrong, and unless Corollaland is wrong about this problem applying to Corollas, I tend to think that this situation does pertain to at least some Corollas.


FWIW, the '01 Corolla had no engine option. It came with a 125hp 1.8l 4cyl.


Now that you mention it, I now realize that I was thinking about the Celica, rather than the Corolla.
You are correct.

No big deal, I checked it out on CT’s car research link.