1981 Corolla, 3 TC 1800L engine. I've been having problems with the
wire connectors on the distributor cap that lead to the coil and to
plugs 1 & 2 corroding badly. There's blue-green crud (copper
corrosion?) on the end of the wire where it plugs into the cap, and
white powder in the (aluminium?) cap opening for those conectors. I
checked the spark plugs and plugs 1 & 2 were driping in oil both on the
sparking part of the plug and in the well where the spark plug wire boot
fits around the plug. Plugs 3 &d 4 are in great condition and the
connectors for wires 3 & 4 are perfect.
A few more details that may or may not have bearing on this. The car is
stored 6 months out of the year and only driven maybe 5,000 miles per
year. The cap and wires are about 3 years old, and the actual wires
look okay. Rotor looks okay. I have another car of the same year and
model and it doesn't get through caps and wires like this. I haven't
noticed particularly poor performance in this car, or any abnormal
decrease over time. It gets about 25 mpg city which is what one might
expect of a 26 year old 3 speed automatic car with 125,000 miles. This
car needs about a quart of oil every 1500 miles. That's more than my
other one but it doesn't seem to be an oil burner (exhaust looks OK).
This car has a rubber boot covering the distributor cap, I guess to keep
it dry, but I just removed it in case it was somehow holding in
corrosive gases (which should have affected all the connectors, not just
1 & 2).
So my first question is which is the chicken and which is the egg? Is
corrosion leading to poor sparking and reduced combustion that is
somehow changing the behavior of those cylinders so that oil is getting
out past the plugs instead of being burned off? Or is poor sparking due
to the oil somehow inducing corrosion in the connectors? I checked the
gaps on the plugs and the plugs seem okay other than being covered in
dripping oil. It's been maybe two years since I last checked these
plugs so the build up of oil could be gradual, and possibly
characteristic of all the cylinders, but for some reason it isn't being
burned off in these two the way it is in the others.
I change my own plugs. I am always careful not to crank down too hard
on them - maybe 1/4 turn past finger tight (I have strong hands too).
Should I tighten these two a bit more?
You did not mention whether you used OEM spark plugs and ignition wires or
aftermarket parts. If the parts are aftermarket parts, that is a possible
cause of the mis-firing plugs. I think the car has 2 problems - the oil on
the electrodes (the part of the spark plug that sparks) means that there is
oil in the combustion chamber, either from leaking valve guide seals, bad
oil control rings, or a head or head gasket problem.
My guess is that the wires are aftermarket parts, and the corrosion if due
to them being inferior parts or from mis-handling. If the high tension
wires were ever disconnected by pulling on the wire, then the wires are
probably ruined. Always, always, always, disconnect high tension wires only
by pulling on the boot, never the wire, or you will trash the wires. The
corrosion in the high tension wires means caused misfires so the oil did not
burn off of the affected plugs.
Replace the ignition parts with OEM parts, and you should have a car that
will be an oil-burner but still usable.
Ray mentioned Aftermarket parts. My first DIY Tune Up on my '80 Corolla 3TC
taught me my lesson; I never used aftermarket tune up parts again!
In an icy rain the car dies while going to see my Fiancee in Hartford in
1984, 4 years old and maintained by me. I called all the way to Northampton
(Mass) Toyota, since they had one of the BEST sewrvice managers I have ever
seen. He said, take to cap off and count how many brass balls the rotor
He was right. I called a Toy dealer in Hartford, and they gave the OEM parts
to a salesman, and my soon-to-be BIL picked them up and brought them to me.
After that, unless the car was a absolute BEATER, I have never used ANYTHING
but OEM Tune-up parts, and never had any trouble since.
<snip two comments about aftermarket parts>
I'll see if I can get OEM aftermarket parts for this. The set that just
got used up were from NAPA which is pretty reputable, I believe. I have
given up going to Toyota itself, quite apart from the price. I tried to
get other parts from them twice a few years ago. I called all the
dealers in the Twin Cities area and they all told me they no longer had
parts for a car as old as mine (1981); they didn't even have parts
numbers in their catalogs.
I am very careful not to pull on the wires, just the boot extenders.
On Tue, 05 Dec 2006 20:03:50 -0600, B Haskell wrote:
Ray makes a good point in the post.
I used to work at CarQuest; I can't remember who makes their wires, but
get the Premium set. I put them on an '85 Celica I had a couple years ago
and they worked quite well. They are not real cheap, but the seemed to be
I'm surprised Toyota couldn't dig up a set of wires for you.
By the way, which model do you have? The 4 door, the 2 door Coupe (no
little roll-down window behind the door) or the hatch (small, roll-down
windows behind the doors) or the wagon? I had the coupe, with fixed glass
behind the doors, and it was one of the BEST cars I have ever owned. I saw
one the other day, in very very good shape, esp for New England. I was
going to offer the girl $1000 for it! (If I had known my damn Van was
going to cause me problems, I would have!!)
It wasn't wires I was looking for. I think it was an antenna, or maybe
the clips that hold the bumper trim, or maybe a bumper itself. There's
probably certain common things they still carry, like oil filters, but
others like wiper transmissions which they don't.
I actually own two 1981 station wagons. I work hard at fixing rust so
they are in surprisingly good condition for Minnesota and both driveable
(one winter, one summer). Wagons are a bit harder to find parts for.
It'll probably be something small that I can't get a replacement for
that will finally take them off the road. Right now I'm having heater
blower issues (flaky but still mostly working) in one of them. Although
heat is generally considered optional (well, not according to my
girlfriend) you still need the blower to defrost the window and to stop
it from fogging up in winter, so this is still an essential safety
component. If it turns out to be something like the heater blower
relay, that might spell the end to the total driveability of the car.
On my other car it was a bad wiper transmission that almost "totalled"
the car about 3 years ago (and Toyota did not have one). Fortunately I
was on business in Utah and found an 81 in a junkyard during my free
time that I got parts out of. There is nothing in this area with
anything that old. Now I call junkyards around the country and they
tell me they have crushed their 81s.
I know I replied to this earlier but it didn't seem to take so I'll try again...
I have two 1981 wagons. Ostensibly one is a summer car, and the other a
winter car, though sometimes I'm a bit slow about swapping them. It
might be fun to have one as a collector car but I don't have parking
space for both where I live (there's various laws about how often a car
can be driven if it is a collector) so the easiest thing is for me to
simply drive each for 6 months at a time. The hardest thing here is
keeping them from rusting apart. I spend a few days each spring under
the edges of the car with my pal bondo...
Oh, it wasn't wires I was looking for, it was a wiper transmission, and
then some other part (maybe the clips for the trim). I called all the
dealers in this area and they told me not only did they not have parts,
they didn't even have the part numbers in their databases and couldn't
tell me who would. So I use non-Toyota suppliers for parts, but some
things (like wiper transmissions) have to come from a junkyard (I got my
second wagon cheap from some friends because they took it to a dealer
for repair who couln't find a wiper transmission for it, and I then
found one in a junkyard in Utah). Even those are getting hard to find.
No junk yards up here have anything that old, which would be rusted to
bits anyways. Even junkyards in other parts of the country are crushing
their '81s since the demand is so low. On top of all that, I am looking
for parts for a wagon.
On Wed, 13 Dec 2006 21:59:30 -0600, B Haskell wrote:
Well, good luck!
And if by wiper transmission, are you talking about the rod that connects
the wipers? I would think that Redi-Rod, some fittings and a few minutes
with a welder would take care of that.
One of the guys at Aubuchon (a hardware chain in New England) asked me why
I was in there so much, and I said I MAKE parts rather than buy them for
some of my cars, either because they are not available or just too damned
expensive for the car I'm working on!
Well, the rods and series of fittings and joints that connects both
wipers to the body of the car and the wiper motor.
I bought the replacement transmission from a junkyard years ago; I was
just illustrating the difficulty of getting parts for this car even 4
years ago. Anyway, it would be rather tricky to make as it has several
universal joints, needs to be of precise dimensions, and you'd also have
to include the bits where the wiper actually bolts onto the transmission
arm which is a sealed unit. That was the bit that actually needed
replacing because it had rusted solid. I think it would take a fair
amount of expertise to copy that part which needs to fit exactly into
the the hole for it. Maybe a machine tool shop with metal working
capabilities, but not me with a box of wrenches.
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