Reader Question: Corolla Conundrum?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Elias asks: I asked you for recommendations over a year ago for a good car to drive Uber with. You recommended a 2014 Toyota Camry or Corolla. I ended up getting a 2013 Toyota Corolla. I love it — thanks for the recommendations. Anyway, it’s a 5-speed manual transmission. Just recently, I had the transmission serviced. Apparently, I should have done that at 60k miles, but the car’s got about 81.7k on it. No biggie. But now, every time I shift into 4th, there’s a noticeable grinding noise as it goes in. At first, I thought I didn’t have the clutch all the way in. But, even with the clutch fully deployed, I’m getting an audible grind every time I shift into 4th. Should I be worried? Should I do something about this? What do you think this is?

My reply: Oh no… .

If this issue with the transmission grinding when you reach for fourth wasn’t an issue before the “service,” I’d be very concerned about the “service.” Specifically, whether the transmission fluid/gear lube was replaced with the correct fluid/lube and with enough fluid/lube.

Immediately have someone check. If you find that the level is low, the next step is to fill it to where it should be and see whether that takes care of the problem. Hopefully so. And if it is low (god forbid, empty – this happens) and filling it fixes the problem, whoever did the “service” needs to be called out and the whole ugly business documented and admitted to so that if the transmission problem comes back, they pay to fix it.

You should not have any problems with your transmission at just 81lk. The clutch should be just barely broken in at this point (so to speak).

Speaking of that. Also pop the hood and check the fluid level in the clutch slave cylinder. If that’s low, it could also account for the problem, though you’d probably have noticed the pedal feels different and engaging any gear would have, too – not just fourth. But worth checking. And not just for level. The “service” should have included new clutch slave cylinder fluid. If it’s not clear/translucent, they probably didn’t change it.

Check your bill and see whether they charged you for it…. sigh.

. . .

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6 COMMENTS

  1. To be honest, it’s time for you to buy a floor jack and do stuff like this yourself. When it’s all drained out YOU’LL know it and when it’s up to the “fill” hole, YOU’LL know it. Lots of peace of mind there.

    • I agree, but would add a good set of jack stands to the shopping list – NEVER get under a car supported only by a jack!

  2. I wouldn’t drive that car anywhere except to check the fluid level. It could be much lower than you think. My parents returned from a day of screwing off and eating. They had the oil changed on their pickup. Never understood why they wouldn’t allow me to do it, no excuse to go “out to eat” out of town I guess. When they stopped at the gate the oil light came on.

    My dad mentioned it so I checked after about 5 minutes. Nothing on the stick. I usually had some oil that would work in it but was nearly out at the time. I added a quart, still no oil. Twice more and there’s oil less than a quart below “add”. I tried to get it across that’s what they were risking every time they did that. So they made it probably 80 miles on a quart of oil. Amazing when you consider it was a 2.8L GM, a true stinker.

    I’d hedge my bet too. I’d get rid of the lube in it and fill it with synthetic. I had it extend the life of a going-away 10 speed Eaton-Fuller in a Peterbilt to the point it never quit on me but it chined crazily with regular fluid in it.

    If you go to the Amsoil site they can take a description of your car and tell you exactly how much it should hold. If you need it right now and nobody has Amsoil, fairly much any synthetic beats hell out of anything other.

    • I had a 3.1 (bigger version of same engine) and it ran way longer than it should have with near bingo oil. Too much oil is actually what killed it (got lazy and checked on an incline. I still feel the crushing shame two years on.)

      • SC, did the oil light not come on? I ask because a guy my age and I worked for a farmer. We took a 409 off an irrigation well pump and installed it in a pickup. Through a series of he getting called off to do something and me having the same thing happen, we both knew it was low on oil and added what it lacked, twice what it lacked since we both did it alone and never checked it before since we’d already checked it. Out running around in the pickup the oil light came on. We didn’t know what to do and finally checked the oil. Drove it back to the shop and drained out about a gallon and it was fine, ran like a 409. You have more leeway on a larger engine though. I’d suspect you got yours to the point the crank was running in the oil reservoir.

        • Never came on. Topper ‘er up and went out for a rip, coming home I punched it to pass a PT Cruiser, heard an ungood noise, and backed off. Ran fine on the way home but the next morning when I started it up it was a bucking, shaking, vibrating mess with oil in the intake. Finally took it to a shade-tree mechanic who pulled the head off and found 3 sets of trashed piston rings and a bent rod. Most shops won’t even try to rebuild a 3.1, but when one will the cost is so close to that of a full-on reman engine that you might as well just swap a 3.4 into it, and I couldn’t afford either option. And that’s how I ended up driving a Ford Escort.

          It does definitely vary by engine, not necessarily with size. People have apparently run 1.9 Escorts like mine half a quart over with no apparent problems, but they probably weren’t driving as aggressively as I was on that night.

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