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Used Toyota Corolla

Avoid the Top 5 Most Expensive Repairs

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Published on 12/8/2016


  • Learn what the most expensive repairs for used Toyota Corollas are, so you can keep them at bay.
  • When Corolla shopping or selling you can check that these conditions are not imminent.
  • Tips and warning signs for investigating each of these repairs.


The amazing Toyota Corolla is celebrating its 50th year anniversary and has sold over 43 million units. That means lots and lots of used Corollas, which are economical and reliable workhorses.

For current Corolla owners, you can use this list to be proactive in preventing these repairs. For buyers and sellers, this list will help to focus your evaluation of the health of the prospective Corolla. For the non-mechanically savvy this can be an overwhelming task (read: 100 point evaluation checklists and countless instructional videos).

Our bare bones advice is the following – check into as many of those details as you can, but absolutely make sure the following 5 major repairs are NOT needed on your Corolla[1].

The Heavy Hitters

Using data from carinorder.com, we have compiled a list of the most expensive repair estimates for Toyota Corollas, based on the amount of labor necessary[2]:

Used Toyota Corolla: Graph #1
Figure 1: Top 5 Most Expensive Repairs for Toyota Corollas (Total Repair Cost Shown)

Now your task is to ensure that these five repairs are nowhere in your future. One can use the common warning signs below as a starting point. Or you can specifically ask your mechanic how he or she checked on these during a vehicle appointment or evaluation.

We will briefly take a look at each of these repairs below[3]:

Cylinder Head Gasket

Having a failure of the head gasket or the cylinder head itself is well known as an expensive repair.

Common warning signs can be:

  • White smoke coming from the exhaust pipe, after the car has fully warmed up (running for about 5 minutes)
  • White milky oil when you check the engine oil level via the dipstick
  • Engine coolant leaking from under the vehicle
  • An engine that overheats during operation


For those with or shopping for a manual transmission Corolla, the state of the clutch system should always be evaluated.

Common warning signs can be:

  • Burning smell
  • Soft or “spongy” clutch
  • Difficulty or grinding while shifting gears
  • Clutch pedal that seems to stick to the floor

Oil Pump

Failure of an oil pump is less common and sniffing out a potential failure can be difficult.

Common warning signs can be:

  • Engine oil warning light is on (indicating low oil pressure)
  • Unusual noise or clatter coming from the engine during operation
  • Elevated engine temperature (keep an eye on the temperature gauge)
  • Be wary of a car which has not had regular oil changes (always ask for those service records!)

Timing Chain

These generations of Corollas have timing chains, which can be very expensive to replace.

Common warning signs can be:

  • Noises (rattling, whirring, or whining) coming from the engine, especially when idling
  • Rough idling
  • Engine misfiring
  • Poor engine operation (sluggish or low power)
  • Again, fear the car which has not had regular oil changes

AC Condenser

One item that may escape a used car buyer’s testing is the air conditioning system. If you neglect testing out the AC system, you may be in for an expensive repair.

Common warning signs can be:

  • Poor cooling of the vehicle cabin
  • AC refrigerant leaks
  • Bent, corroded or otherwise damaged fins

If you have any doubts about the integrity of the AC system, have it looked at by a qualified mechanic.


We have shown you what the five most expensive repairs for Toyota Corollas are, as well as some warning signs for detecting them. Making certain that these areas are not in jeopardy should be a top priority for Corolla owners and prospective owners alike.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please see our contact page for numerous ways to get in touch with us.

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  1. Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that we are not recommending you only check on these five repairs. Taking a test drive is always a necessity when buying a used car. If you are not car savvy or mechanically inclined to evaluate the health of the car, bring it to an independent mechanic for a thorough check. The small cost of that checkup can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars if it prevents you from buying a used car with serious mechanical problems.
  2. All data used in this article comes from the carinorder.com repair estimate database. The total repair cost is shown in Figure 1– since that is a combination of labor and part cost, this value can fluctuate over time.
  3. The list of common signs for these repairs is not exhaustive. More detailed resources can be found on the Internet, for each of these repairs.