1986 Toyota Tercel 4WD 1.5L 4 Cylinder from North America


An outstanding piece of automotive technology


The rear axle bearing packs have gone bad; the transfer case seal was cracked; and the choke linkages tend to stick in cold whether.

General Comments:

I bought my Tercel due to advice from my brother who also owns a Tercel. He said it was a very reliable and well rounded vehicle, he was not kidding. The rack-and-pin steering makes handling the Tercel very easy. For a four cylinder, my Tercel can go surprisingly fast. The four wheel drive is essential for the mountain area I live in, and the extra low crawl gear is just frosting on top of the cake. The cargo room in it is extraordinary. I've packed up to 15 trash bags into my little Tercel and still had room to spare. Its fold down seats make it easy to use for camping. Though the seats aren't very comfortable, the room and overall layout of the cabin make up for it.

The only complaints I have about this vehicle is its harsh return from 4WD to 2WD. The locking differential is a nice option, but it requires a lot of harsh treatment on the transmission for me to get the vehicle back into 2WD mode (IE. shifting from reverse to first gear without the clutch.) Also, I may have to rebuild my carburetor if the linkages freeze on the choke. Lastly, the mechanical fuel pump on the Tercel tends to degrade performance during winter.

Overall though, this vehicle is an outstanding piece of automotive technology.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 20th August, 2002

29th Jan 2004, 05:27

About the 4WD to 2WD selection problem you have with the Tercel. I find when you have this problem, try reversing the car a little (say about a couple of feet) then go into neutral and then it should easily go into 2WD.

6th Oct 2005, 16:58

Re. changing 4-2WD: Switching works best, when no load is on the drive-train. Eventually let the car roll freely or try to change load by letting the car roll without accelerating for 2 seconds, steady pressure on the gear-shifting will easily let you change 4-2WD then.

14th Oct 2005, 14:58

I also have a 1986 Toyota Tercel 4X4 wagon. It shifts easily from 2 wheel to 4 wheel drive, but if any tires are mismatched at all, it is hard to shift back from 4 wheel to 2 wheel drive. I recommend always running matched tires and rotating often.

31st May 2016, 05:44

I have an 86 Tercel as well and I'm curious on how to get it into 4WD from 2WD? I don't wanna mess up my tranny, so I haven't tried anything yet.

1986 Toyota Tercel SR5 4WD Wagon-6 speed 3A-C from North America


It thinks it can, and then does it!


Was in a head to head collision with a Dodge One Ton 4x4 Pickup and his truck was damaged much worse than my car. My insurance agent thought it was totaled, but I drove it to an auto body shop and they said it wasn't.

Rear brake drums wore out. Probably after towing a fully loaded 5x8 U-Haul trailer from Vegas to North Idaho.

Basic front brake work.

Muffler burned out.

Solenoid wore out.

Thermostat broke.

Struts probably need replacing, as well a number of other things, but if you keep oil in it and gas it up, then it seems to want to keep on running.

I think I'll finally buy some new tires for it and also have it aligned, but it would probably go just as well with the current bald set of tires and hard pull to the left (shh, don't tell it because it might become spoiled).

General Comments:

I bought this as a temporary vehicle in 1997 due to the fact that my Volvo 245 GLT Wagon's air conditioning unit was shot and this car's wasn't. I'm still driving it today and I've gotten so used to the thing that even though I might be getting a new car soon, I may just keep this one around.

It actually is a "real" 4 wheel drive car, and will go virtually anywhere in any kind of weather.

It is boxy, not that great to look at, but beauty is only skin deep, and this thing has a "heart" of gold.

The car is underpowered, but that doesn't seem to hinder it from always getting you where you need to be.

It handles OK, its ride is average, but there is lots of storage room for its size, and I'm 6' 3" tall yet it has plenty of legroom too. Put anything on the luggage rack and it doesn't even notice.

I'm a fan of German Cars, but this rig was one of Japan's best values of all-time.

These things are adored by virtually anybody who has owned one, and I can see why.

Always gets about 30 MPG on the highway and around 25 MPG in the city.

Really windy open spaces tend to slow it down, but it will keep going.

Very reliable and people who have owned one say that at 110,000 miles it is just getting broken in.

Parts are easy to find at local salvage yards and they don't charge you much for them.

If you want reliable transportation and you don't give a damn about making some kind of fashion statement, then this is the car for you. At first you might not think that much of it, but you have to respect something that refuses to give up. It thinks it can, and then it does it! The extra low gear for use when it's in 4WD will pull you or anyone else out of almost any terrain. This is a very user friendly car.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 3rd April, 2002