To rebuild or to replace

Hi everyone,
I am new to the forum & have a question if anyone has any input. I have a 2000 Corolla with 124,000 miles, no rust (I live in VT so that’s a big plus). It developed a problem with burning oil that my mechanic says is due to faulty pistons/rings. My mechanic at first recommended rebuilding the engine or purchasing a remanufactured engine, and then later seemed to say it wasn’t worth putting the money into it, when it isn’t worth that much. He was saying it would cost upwards of $3-4000 to do the job, especially if other things were found that needed replacing given the age of my car. He said some Toyotas of that age range have this oil burning problem due to faulty pistons/rings (I believe) and so I was thinking maybe if I purchased another vehicle, I’d go with a Honda instead. I looked at an equivalent age/miles Civic and the cost was about $6000, so then I was back to wondering if it is worth rebuilding my engine after all. I’m confused about what to do in this situation.
If anyone has any experience or thoughts about this dilemma, I’d love to hear them!
Gina in VT

Has anyone checked out the PCV system & replaced the PCV valve? Has the compression been checked? (You’d want a wet compression test).

How much oil are you burning? (In miles, not time). How is the car running?

As for the question of an engine if necessary, I always lean toward fixing what I’ve got. I have a 1997 Ford Escort. Escorts have a problem with dropping valve seats which pretty much immediately destroys an engine.

I had this happen at about 135K miles & I had a shop drop a used/salvage yard engine in it for $1500. The second engine did the same thing with about 220K on the car. I had another used engine put in it for another $1500 (this time I ended up with a whole parts car). I’m now up over 300K miles on the odometer.

In the meantime I have no car payment, miniscule insurance & property tax payments, and a simple little fuel efficient car that’s really cheap & easy to maintain.

However, “maintain” is the key word. I keep everything in good shape & always have things repaired as necessary & do all of the maintenance. So I’m generally confident that if I drop something like $1500 on a car then its not going to be followed by the next $500, $800, $1000 I have to put into it. So ask yourself about that.

Your issue isn’t that complex…what has complicated the problem is the repair estimate…lol THAT is the issue… Now an engine for your car is about 600-1000…and prob cheaper…to install it should be round 600… SO…If you were quoted HALF this estimate…Would you do it? That estimate sounds a bit on the HIGH side…try to find a mechanic that isn’t looking to pay off his 40Ft Cigarette with twin Chevy 502’s in it…

For $1600 I don’t know if you can find a better vehicle than what you have so… What you need to do is go on Ebay and find yourself a nice engine…BUY IT…then ask round for install estimates. That is what I would advise…aside from telling you that I’d drop the motor in for you…LOL

Everytime I hear stories like this I instinctively want to help the person…and give them the REAL price on things…I’m too nice a guy I think…or I’m an idiot…or sumpthin I guess I just like wrenching and being able to help…or the idiot theory sticks out again…


To quote Cig, how MUCH oil is ir using? If it’s under a quart every 2000 miles you need do nothing except monitor the level. If it’s a quart between 1000 and 2000 miles, it gets “gray” and we might not all agree on a recommendation.

When it gets to a quart every 600 miles, THEN you can post your question again…As others have said, investigate other causes…You can buy A LOT of oil for $3000…How often do you CHANGE your oil??

I really don’t think a 12 year old car is worth having the engine replaced or rebuilt. If the engine isn’t leaking oil and the PCV valve isn’t stuck, you can buy a lot of oil for the price of a remanufactured engine. You might try a different brand of oil of the viscosity recommended for your Toyota. I had a Ford Maverick that used about a quart of oil every 1000 miles. I was using Sunoco 10W-40 at the time. I got some Valvoline on sale at 25 cents a quart after a mail-in rebate. Interestingly, I would go 1300 miles per quart on the Valvoline. My first car, which cost me $75, used a quart of oil every 250 miles. I drove it conservatively and drove the car a year until I could afford something better.

Take the car to another shop for a second opinion, pistion rings rarely wear out but worn valve guide seals are a more common problem. Replacing valve guide seals is much less expensive. It also depends on how much oil is being consumed to decide whether or not to have it repaired.

I don’t think a 12 year old Corolla is worth the expense of a properly rebuilt (key words) or brand new engine.
A low miles used motor would be my recommendation.

It’s entirely possible the rings are gone; all depending on oil change regularity, any overheating episodes, and so on. This is not a rare thing in the world of extended oil changes.
Many engines see ring and bearing problems at way fewer miles than your car has on it.

You should see the 80k miles Ford engine I tore down last week. It was worn clean out from top to bottom because of extended oil changes and the only things useable on it as-is would be the flexplate, harmonic balancer, and intake manifold. Everything else is garbage.

thanks for all your suggestions, Full disclosure: the engine may have been damaged by going too long between oil changes, and I did almost burn out the engine once, and had to put in 2 quarts b/c it had almost run dry. My mechanic wasn’t sure it would make it after that, but it did, and has been running OK since then & now I’m trying to be really good about the oil level & checking it & making sure to change it every 3000 miles. It’s burning about 1-1/2 quarts in between oil changes at 3,000 miles.

These earlier 1ZZFE engines have a known piston design issue that will cause them to burn an incredible amount of oil, sometimes a quart every 100 miles or so. The solution is to replace the pistons with the improved design. At that point, you may as well rebuild the engine since you will have to have machine work done on the block anyway. Replacing the engine with a used one will probably give you the same results unless the used one has the improved pistons in it. If you have maintained this car well and are confident you can get another couple years of relatively trouble-free use out of it, it may be worth it to have the engine rebuilt. Just be sure you get the improved piston design with your rebuild.

Just saw your post. 1 1/2 quarts between oil changes is nothing, especially for these cars. Drive on, keep the crankcase full, and don’t worry about it until it develops a serious oil consumption issue, if it ever does. Some people get lucky with these things and never have a real serious problem with these cars.

If you are only using 1 1/2 quarts between changes, you don’t have an oil consumption issue. Make it a practice to check the oil once a week. I do this before I start the car in the morning. Just pull out the dipstick and note the oil level. You can purchase oil at the discount store if you want to save money. Just purchase the correct oil as specified in the owner’s manual.
I sometimes check the oil when buying gasoline. In this case I pull out the dipstick, wipe it off and then reinsert the dipstick and then pull it out for the actual reading of the oil level. This often impresses others buying gasoline that you are an auto expert.

“1-1/2 quarts in between oil changes at 3,000 miles”

That’s one quart every 2000 miles.
When it uses double that you’ll have a cause for concern.

My diesel was using a quart every 500 miles and as long as it still ran OK I just kept putting oil in it. I put the second engine in at 200K because I thought it was worth it but I never should have put the third one in. But I needed a car for 30K a year on the road and that was the cheapest I thought and it was a comfortable one owner full sized Olds.

The engine in my 1996 Dodge has consumed a quart of oil every 2,000 miles since I bought it. Its been that way for 11 years. Your engine may outlast your interest in owning this car.

thanks for all the suggestions, I’m thinking I’ll keep running it and adding oi as needed, but my question is, is there any danger of the engine "blowing"or something happening that would be like a sudden breakdown b/c of this issue with the pistons/rings? My mechanic said I could keep running it & adding oil, but the danger is it possibly “grenading” —what does that mean? what do you all think?

The latest Toyota owners manuals state that oil consumption of one quart per 750 miles should not be considered unusual. With 5W20 and 0W20 oils this is what to expect.

You shouldn’t worry about engine failure or “grenading”. Your amount of oil consumption may be an inconvenience but does not indicate an engine problem. There may be something wrong with your mechanic however.

Any engine could grenade at any time. There’s nothing special in your case. I’d be inclined to a) make sure the PCV system is working right and b) as most everyone has said, keep driving & checking the oil regularly.

…and try to resolve to never allow this car or any future cars to be subjected to the type of owner negligence to which you subjected this car. I am referring to, “the engine may have been damaged by going too long between oil changes, and I did almost burn out the engine once, and had to put in 2 quarts b/c it had almost run dry.”

If you want any car to run reliably for the long term, you need to change the oil AT LEAST as often as the car mfr specifies, and more often than that recommendation is frequently adviseable if you do a lot of local, short-trip driving. Bear in mind that elapsed time is just as important–if not more important–than odometer mileage. Personally, I try to make sure that my oil is changed every 4k miles/4 months.

And, of course, you need to get into the habit of checking the oil dipstick very frequently, so that you don’t repeat that “2 quarts low” incident. Much of what you are currently experiencing is as a result of the long oil change intervals and running the engine with a low oil level. Don’t compound the problem by repeating past mistakes!