81 Corolla oily plugs and corroded cap

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?
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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 O
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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 disintegrated into!
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.
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<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.
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The first choice is Denso, the OEM supplier. If the wires that are corroding are NAPA and you can't find Denso, try something else besides NAPA.
--

Ray O
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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 pretty good.
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!!)
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"Hachiroku $B%O%A%m%/(B" wrote: [snip]

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.
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On Sat, 09 Dec 2006 14:01:12 -0600, B Haskell wrote:

What kind of blower problems are you having? These are usually attributed to a 'resistor farm' going bad. They should be able to be replaced.
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"Hachiroku $B%O%A%m%/(B" wrote:
[snip]

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.
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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!
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"Hachiroku $B%O%A%m%/(B" wrote:

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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