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

Tune up/Maintenance for 2004 Toyota Corolla with 101,000 miles ? what should I do first?

I haven?t been keeping up with scheduled maintenance the past 2 ? years because of lack of funds. I?ve moved a couple of times and had temporary employment. I?m finally settling down and finances are getting stable. I?d like to start taking care of my car and get some maintenance done. I have some money to spend but I?d like to take care of the most urgent things first then move on to less vital items next.



Nothing is wrong with the car. I?ve noticed that the engine is a bit louder and shakes a bit more than usual when it idles (not a lot but I can tell the difference). Other than that, it runs fine. I have gotten oil changes regularly. I got new tires around 60,000 miles and tire rotations. I recently changed the engine air filter and the cabin air filter.



What should I get changed/checked out/maintained first?



Thanks for your help!

What does your owners manual say?

You need to do a 90K service per your owner’s manual. That takes care of most of the issues. To help correct your immediate symptoms, a DIY plug change & PCV change might help. You may also need spark plug wires.

Check on when timing belt (if so equipped) is due and get it done first. I suspect it is overdue.

If you have never had the transmission fluid changed, you need to do it now.

Even though it may not be listed in the Toyota maintenance schedule, this service needs to be done every 3 yrs or 30k miles, whichever comes first. When it is not done on that type of schedule, trans failure can occur any time after 90k miles, and is pretty much of a sure thing after 120k miles.

In case you are not aware of how much a new/rebuilt transmission would cost you, think in terms of…possibly $2k, so if money is tight you will save money in the long run by spending $90-$120 every 30k miles to have the fluid (and filter) changed.

Also, while I don’t think that your engine has a timing belt, this is something that you need to verify.
If your maintenance schedule lists a change of the timing belt at something like every 7 years or 100k miles (whichever comes first), you need to take that recommendation very seriously. This is another case of lax maintenance leading to BIG repair costs. If your maintenance schedule does not list changing the timing belt, then your engine has a timing chain which does not call for scheduled replacement.

As to the rough idle, you probably are overdue for new spark plugs.
Have them replaced if they have been in the engine for more than 60k miles, and you should see improved gas mileage as well as a smoother idle.

Oil and filter change, spark plugs, and whatever else the maintenance schedule calls for at or near 100K miles.

If the transmission is automatic, have the fluid changed, too, even if the schedule doesn’t mention it.

There’s no timing belt on this car. One less thing to worry about.

I would also change the coolant, thermostat, radiator cap and brake fluid.

You don’t have a timing belt, it has a chain. The spark plugs are due at 120 k miles, and don’t let anyone cause you concern about the plugs seizing if left in too long, they won’t. They have an anti seize plating on them.

If your coolant hasn’t been changed, that might be a good idea to do it. The new long life coolants are good for 5 years or more.

If you have an automatic transmission, get it drained and replaced. It is not in the maintenance schedule, but I think Toyota over estimated the life of this fluid.

You should probably start with a brake check. If you need brakes and you don’t have them, then you probably won’t need the rest of the maintenance items.

I didn’t even pull it out yet but will do that now. Thanks for the reply.

I’ve never changed spark plugs or pvc. How easy or difficult is it?

Thanks for the reply!

A couple of oil change folks have told me about the transmission fluid but at the time I put it in the back of my head since I couldn’t afford it. I’ll definitely get this done asap. Thanks!

Thanks for the input! Really appreciate it.

Thanks for the reminder on the brakes. They weren’t even on my radar.