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02 Toyota Corolla

2002 Toyota Corolla Problems

02 Toyota Corolla
Lola the 02 Toyota Corolla

This is a short story about my ex-girlfriend’s 2002 Toyota Corolla. Specifically what happened when she went in to the dealership for a routine oil change. But first a little background on the car she has named Lola Corolla.

We purchased Lola new in 02 and she celebrated many birthdays. I helped on most of the maintenance and repairs that Lola the 2002 Corolla had performed over the years. The problems with this car have been few and far between. In fact, the only repairs this vehicle needed, not covered under warranty remain two very common problems with this model Toyota.

The first one was the inside door handle on the driver side broke. We got the replacement part at the dealership and this was in the $25 range. We later learned these parts are available aftermarket cheaper. In fact you can get a set of 4 aftermarket handles for about half of what we paid for 1 factory part. A year later the passenger side door handle broke as well. This time instead of purchasing it from the dealership we went onto Amazon and bought them online with overnight shipping. I will make the door handle kits available below.

The second problem is not isolated to Toyota Corolla’s. This would be the headlights becoming a milky white instead of a clear lens as intended. We purchased a head light restoration kit but this is only a temporary fix as they will turn milky white again. This stubborn haze really does reduce visibility at night. They do make a very cool upgrade where you can purchase projector beam style headlights and not only take care of the milky lenses but also upgrade the headlights at the same time. I will also make this Corolla headlight kit available for visitors.

Toyota Dealerships Recommended Repair List

16 Valve Corolla engine
16 Valve Corolla engine

As you can see from the pictures on this page Lola is in very good shape and also has very low miles. My ex does not drive much and after 10 years this car only has about 32,000 miles on it. To make a long story short she took the vehicle into a local dealership to have an oil change performed as I was not available to do the service for her.

As she waited in the designated area sipping coffee and munching on doughnuts she noticed that the service advisers were approaching everybody in the room with a list of recommended repairs. Soon enough it was her turn to be presented with a long list of things the dealership would like to do to the car today. To her surprise the recommendations totaled over $1000. She called me and read the list over the phone. I told her to decline the repairs so I could look at the vehicle and just get the oil change done.

She called me back and said when she declined the repairs the service adviser stated that she should at least do the serpentine drive belt replacement as it was in extremely bad condition and he didn’t want her to get stuck on the road with a broken belt. It just so happens the last auto repair I did to this reliable old Toyota Corolla was replacement of the engine belt. Although the repair was performed about two years ago this was only about 3000 miles of driving. I used the Toyota brand replacement part that was a little more expensive but you could see that it was of very high quality.

Corolla engine belt
Corolla Serpentine Belt

So I told her again to decline all of the recommended repairs and let me see these problems for myself. Within a few days she brought Lola over for me to look at. The first thing I did was inspect the drive belt that they considered to be in extremely bad condition. I’m supplying an actual picture of what I saw. The Belt is in excellent condition and certainly not anywhere near breaking. As I went down the list of the recommended repairs I became disappointed with not only the recommendations, but what I actually saw.

Second on the list and marked as important was replacement of the front crankshaft seal. When I shined my flashlight on this area not only was it not wet with oil but it looked clean and dry. The other services recommended where a throttle body service which is extremely common for all types of dealerships to recommend. I wrote a completely separate article about the throttle body service here. The Toyota dealer also recommended a fuel injection service and an air filter. I replaced the air filter on the same day I replaced the serpentine belt. Even though two years has passed when I pulled out the air filter it was sparkling clean.

Trusting the Toyota Experts

You take your vehicle into the dealership to have the highest quality work performed by mechanics that are factory trained by the same company that built the car. When the mechanic specializes on repairing only one brand of automobile he is able to become an expert on those models quicker than someone who tries to learn about every car ever made. So the fact that my ex-girlfriend expected good service from the dealership is understandable.

What she got was something completely different than good service. Here’s the thing that upsets me the most. We expect a few problems with an older Toyota Corolla. In fact Lola is due for several maintenance repairs. Unfortunately, due to a sticky financial situation the ex is saving up for these maintenance items. This list included the replacement of the original equipment iridium spark-plugsĀ  and replacement of the fuel filter. In addition, a few other basic things items recommended by the owner’s manual at the 10 year mark. None of these things were on the thousand dollar list that the dealership provided.

So why did the dealer recommend unimportant things and ignore the past due maintenance? I don’t know the answer to that, but I believe it has something to do with the greed. The repairs that they tried to sell the hardest were the ones with the highest profit margin. They wanted $180 parts and labor to replace the serpentine drive belt. With the replacement cost of the belt being about $20 this is a healthy profit margin. For more articles on the auto repair subject this next link will take you back to the CertifiedMasterTech.com blog homepage.