Took a break from the Saab this week to pull this old beater out of the trees and put together a parts list.

When my sister bought my Thunderbird from me, she stopped driving this 1990 Corolla. It’s still hers, but no one’s been driving it because it leaks so badly. If you look closely at the old pic I’ve attached above, you’ll see the milkshake on the pavement.

Fortunately, it’s not a milkshake on the inside. The coolant weeps from the radiator and water pump gasket, while the oil drips from the timing cover. They don’t mix until they’re outside of the engine.

So the car sat in the woods for a while, awaiting motivation (and $) to get it back on the road. I yanked it out of there with my truck, and as you can imagine, it needs more now than it did when it was parked there...


Was the battery dead? Of course it was! But it’s a good thing it didn’t start right away. While the hood was open to deal with the battery, I popped off the air cleaner to find this. A mouse had started building a home just upstream of the air filter. That mesh grid would have blocked some of the larger bits, but not the smaller particles.

After charging the battery overnight, I put it back in the car and it fired right up. Of course I left the air cleaner disconnected for this, so that it wouldn’t be forced to draw air through that nest. I also disconnected the fuel pump relay and cranked the engine a few times as a DIY load test. Using the min/max feature on my multimeter, I saw it drop down into the 10V range while cranking. Definitely weak, but still good for now.

Also, I noticed that the battery was significantly smaller than its tray. So I looked it up online, and sure enough the car’s supposed to have a group 35 battery, not this little group 26 one. So it’s missing out on a few CCAs. It might not make it through the winter after all...


The brakes were rusty yet operable, but the rotors are too close to their minimum thickness to resurface. Some time ago, another mechanic had diagnosed a bad CV axle, so might as well change all that while doing the brakes.

There was also a foul stench inside. There were no signs of rodent infestation int eh cabin, but there was some light mold growth. The worst of it was on easily-removable floor mats, while the rest of the interior received a much-needed detail.


That’s not mold you see on the floor here. It’s just baking soda. I forgot to take pics of the mold. Sorry!

Finally, there’s the leaking that needs to be addressed. Here’s another old pic from the last time it was running:


As mentioned earlier, the coolant is from the radiator and water pump gasket. Here’s why the timing cover was leaking oil:

This AC bracket was loose. Which allowed the the idler pulley (also mounted to the AC bracket) to wobble around and wear through the nearby timing cover. The 4A-FE actually has three timing cover panels, and this pulley had cut through the lower and middle ones. At some point, the AC belt fell off too.


The water pump gasket had been dripping for a long time, but replacement was pushed back when it was discovered that two of the timing cover panels would have to come off for access. And now, not only do they have to come off, they need to be replaced.

Between pulling the car out of the woods, cleaning up some mold, and anticipating the upcoming wrenching the car will need, I couldn’t help but be reminded of this Eagle Talon that Larry Kosilla recently did a video on.


Fortunately, this Corolla was nowhere near as bad as all that. But it does need some wrenching. Time to fire the parts cannon!