1993 Toyota Tercel 1.3L 12 valve carburetor from Paraguay

Summary:

Engineered to be cheap

Faults:

Clutch slave cylinder.

Clutch disc at 53 000 km.

Hot-air hose from exhaust-manifold-to-carburetor broke off.

Rear crankshaft O-ring leaking oil.

Right outer constant-velocity joint.

Left outer constant-velocity joint.

Fuel consumption too high. Carburetor overhauled at a high price by the official dealer.

Fuel consumption continued to be too high. Carburetor overhauled a second time at a high price by the official dealer.

Fuel consumption remained too high. Carburetor overhauled for a third time at a high price by the official dealer.

Fuel consumption did not improve despite three carburetor overhauls in as many years by the official dealer.

Dashboard rheostat fell off.

Instrument cluster bulbs burned out a lot of times. I suspect that the voltage regulator was the culprit.

Bad wiring at the A/C button.

Air conditioning evaporator rusted through.

Air conditioning expansion valve leaking.

Air conditioning condenser leaking.

Air conditioning compressor wore out and developed insufficient pressure.

After a small crash, the radiator filling neck was deformed. Repaired at a cheap garage and later it developed a coolant vapor leak. The engine overheated. The official dealer fixed the problem.

Old, cracking coolant hose exploded due to age. Repaired at a cheap garage with lousy quality control, as it did not change all the hoses.

Another old, cracking coolant hose exploded due to age. Repaired at the official dealer.

Battery too small for hot Paraguay. Every summer the liquid level fell below specifications very quickly and the battery died.

Fuel pump.

Clutch disc a second time, at 100 000 km.

Headlamps internal mirrors rusted to the point that the light beams were so dim that the headlamps had to be replaced.

Left front suspension bush. There is no way to change just the bushes, so you have to buy the complete McPherson "A" arm.

Engine overhauled at 120 000 km by the official dealer. It was drinking 1 liter of oil per week and ruining 1 set of spark plugs per month, at times limping on 3 cylinders and leaving a trail of dense smoke. Surprisingly the official Toyota dealer did not change the carburetor for a new one despite its known problems (or 15 L / 100 km; 7 km/L; 16 MPG city driving is normal for such a tiny car?)

Trunk door sill plastic cover fell off and left carpeting without protection in a sensitive part of the car (loading and unloading of cargo). Therefore the trunk carpet got loose at several parts. Bad design, as one piece should be independent of the other. I saw other Tercels with the same problem.

A former owner lost the gas tank cap somewhere and the current cap was not original. The dealer could not provide an original one so the car sometimes smells like gasoline (but not inside).

Steering wheel wore badly, to the metal core. The manual shift lever soldier on superbly though.

Seat belts wore badly.

Clutch pedal rubber fell off several times until it got lost.

Sold at 22 years old as the low value of the car did not justify the maintenance expenses.

General Comments:

Here is the reason for the legendary Toyota reliability: very soft suspensions and poor equipment. This car has the cheapest suspension in the motor world: front McPherson and rear live beam axle with trailing arms and Panhard rod. No anti-roll bars neither at the front nor at the rear. This Paraguayan version's coil springs had one extra loop than the Japanese version, therefore had more ground clearance and obviously more travel. The tires were 155/70 R13 with steel rims and plastic hubcaps, later upgraded by the owner to 175/70 R13 BFGoodrichs.

The braking was awful. It needs about 50% more road space to stop than a contemporary Honda Accord. It is the worst stopping distance I ever experienced. At 70 km/h it gave the impression that you will fly off the road in the next highway corner. Even in a straight line it is very, very unstable. The advertised top speed of 173 km/h is surely a kamikaze trip. The ride is bumpy at any speed. It is jumping all the time despite shock absorbers in good condition. Obviously, the engineers know what I was taught by a professor in college: "vibration kills the machine". When you hit a pothole, the entire car suffers, from floorpan to the roof, not only the suspension, so Toyota makes it as soft as possible.

The power steering is somewhat heavy in parking maneuvers and somewhat too light in normal city traffic. The acceleration is acceptable given the little engine and the pretensions of the car. The torque curve is also acceptable.

This car was a four-door “sedan” (the rear badge reads “Corolla Tercel”), but it is cramped inside. What you pay is what you get. But even in these circumstances, the driving position is awful: the steering wheel is too low and the pedals are too close to the driver. If you want to reach the steering wheel you have to move your seat forward but then the pedals are too close and there is no room for your legs. If you want legroom you have to move your seat rearward, but then your arms are too far from the steering wheel. Besides, the pedal are too close together (despite minimal intrusion of the wheel well) so you have to be careful about what you are stepping on. The outer mirrors are very small. The car is so small and you sit so forward that the small interior mirror is too close to the driver, who never gets a continuous panoramic view of what is behind. In other words, there are several blind spots. I am 1,80 m and my shoes are size 42 (10,5 US), sort of an average male. The only people who will be comfortable with this setup are people with short legs and low torso, and small feet, i.e. a female teenager on her drive to school.

The seats are just seats, but the height is correct (but remember the paragraph above). The ride at the rear is not so cramped actually, but the ride could be nauseating as you sit directly over those long, over elastic springs and under firm shock absorbers.

There are no seat belts at the rear for the Paraguayan version, even if you can see that the upper anchors would be behind small slots closed with plastic covers, and there are holes in the bench. Many car makers do the same: an American is worth more than a Paraguayan, so Toyota (and many other manufacturers) use different criteria in different markets. Shame on you, Toyota.

Now the other Toyota secret: the only luxury item is the air conditioning, as you will never sell a brand new car in a country with 38-degree Celsius summers. There is no central door locking, which I dearly missed. There are no power windows, nor power mirrors. By the way, the mirrors do not fold even manually, so the driver's was ripped off by passing cars a couple of times. The radio is a Toyota-brand radio, simple but very sturdy, the buttons feel solid, there were no scratches, the LCD screen maintained its contrast as it aged. A pity that the loudspeakers do not match it in quality.

And now the best part: the dashboard is a one-piece unit, made of hard plastic, ugly to the touch but the idea is reliability, remember? The sun will never expand it and the nights will never contract it to the point of developing a bad fixture with other pieces, as the only other piece is the center console. It will never crack, like a Mercedes-Benz'. The buttons are large and solidly fixed. The turn signals / lights and windshield wipers stalks are so solidly mounted that they become uncomfortable to operate, as a single finger is not enough to move each as in a “normal” car; you have to use three or even four fingers of one hand to move them up and down (therefore letting go of the steering wheel). The ventilation levers are also hard to move, but there is no carbon potentiometer here to worry about.

What struck me the most is the design of the ventilation outlets: each is some kind of ball that rotates in a socket and you can move it into any position, up to a closed position. It is the only moving piece of any kind in the ventilation outlets. It will never break.

Good job Toyota. Your cars are designed to be cheap (at least cheaper to operate than other cars), and if the owner can live with minimal safety and comfort standards, you win the market of point-A-to-B transportation.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 13th October, 2020

14th Oct 2020, 12:25

Very detailed review, thanks!

1993 Toyota Tercel DX 1.5 from North America

Summary:

EXTREMELY Reliable

Faults:

When I bought it, it had 86,000 miles on it. I knew the engine would need some attention in the future, as it smoked a little on start up. Also it was leaking about a half a quart of oil on every fill up. Aside from those 2 problems, the car was in very good shape.

The engine finally crapped out at 145,000 and my mechanic said all it needed was a head job (about 400 bucks). He said the compression is still at factory settings & he fixed the leaky oil problem.

I just rolled through 161,000. The motor does not leak oil any more, however it does burn about a quarter quart of oil every fill up. I read online that this is a common problem with this vehicle (no one can tell where the oil is going).

I drive it almost daily, & fall of 2014 I drove it on a 3000 mile round trip vacation thru the Ozark Mountains. The engine performs well and I have no real issues to speak of. Keep up with your regular maintenance and it'll go forever.

General Comments:

My A/C works well, but I had to replace the compressor around 150,000 miles. My mechanic got a good used junkyard compressor for 35 bucks. He also recommended I change out the radiator, which cost me about 80 dollars for a new one.

I don't know if I will ever sell this car because it is SO cheap to repair and is VERY reliable. The best highway MPG I got was on a trip to Dallas with a slight tail wind - 32 MPG doing 75mph. I average 27-28 MPG city. Plug changes every 8-10k miles. You will know when it's about due for a plug change because the engine will idle rough. I think I might try some iridium or platinum plugs this time around, and see if they last longer than the cheap 3-4 dollar plugs.

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

Review Date: 17th March, 2015

16th Oct 2020, 11:31

I'm actually surprised that an early 90's Toyota engine wouldn't make it to at least 200,000 miles!