By on March 7, 2011

Raghav writes:

While searching Internet I saw your replies on Toyota Corolla. I too have few problems with Toyota Corolla 2007 model purchased in India, it has 37,000 Km on the odometer. The vehicle is serviced regularly every 10,000 km. The problems are:

1. Engine growling noise steadily increases with the RPM beyond 3,000 and this happens on all gears. What could be the reason?

2. One of the rear shock absorber was leaking and the dealer replaced just the faulty one (under warranty, car had done 27,000 km) and after that I feel the ride quality is poor. Do you think changing only one shock can cause this?

I have taken it to the dealer but their response is vague like (a) sound insulation from engine area must have become weak (b) change tires because side walls have a crack.

Sajeev answers:

I’m avoiding Raghav’s question for a moment to applaud our readers outside of North America.  It’s nice to see our International reach is present, accounted for. And occasionally pours over to Piston Slap!  Plus, the dynamic of discussing a mundane car (2007 Corolla) sold as a premium-ish vehicle in another country is…well, that just makes this letter even more delicious.

So to any and all philistine readers who don’t consider a Toyota Corolla an aspirational vehicle, this answer will not appease you. Because, as witnessed in my 2009 visit to India, the Corolla is a great “luxury” car.  And with that in mind:

  1. Provided the sound is smoother in tone, far pleasing to the ear than a Maruti 800, I suspect this is normal. Just in case, have the Corolla placed on a lift, with an eye on the exhaust system.  If you ran over a particularly bad khadda (bump) while avoiding TATA trucks, scooters or rickshaw drivers, there’s a slim chance the exhaust was damaged and a weld is broken. I find this scenario not likely, but then again, most urban Indian roads aren’t stellar.
  1. Well, that makes the khadda factor more believable!  Yes, shocks must be replaced in pairs for this precise reason.  Quite frankly, I am “shocked” that Toyota (even in India) would consider that a proper fix. Indians are (stereotypically) cutthroat penny-pinchers, but this is beyond stupid for a (Toyota authorized?) dealership.  Then again, this perpetuates the myth of how goshdarn cheap we Indians are with money, aside from gold jewelry and extravagant weddings. In that case, Corollas for all, bhai!

So you have a couple things to keep in mind.  First, its time for new shocks: after 3+ years on rough Indian roads, I’d replace all four.  Second, if any of your tires have cracks in the sidewall, they need to be replaced.  This will also help your ride on tough roads, considering they are probably original (at 37k on the clock) and significantly thinner/harder/noisier than when new.

Send your queries to [email protected]. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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13 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Corolla and the Khadda Factor...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I have taken it to the dealer but their response is vague like (a) sound insulation from engine area must have become weak (b) change tires because side walls have a crack.
    Change dealer and or brand because their excuses have become lame.

  • avatar

    It’s occurred to me from my South East Asia travels that the compact Corolla is the perfect size for most people who aren’t on Jenny Craig. It’s the same size as an A4/3/C, but it’s reliability and comfort is perfect on unpaved pothole ridden roads. Most cars don’t even go over 50km/h there (lest they hit a rickshaw or a scooter carrying 4 people), so having a powerful engine is less important than having a powerful air conditioner.
    Unfortunately, the Corolla is the antithesis of cool in Canada and the US, we’d rather go into debt and drive a Range Rover, M5, or S-Class than in something that’s affordable and a perfectly reliable transportation.

  • avatar

    Isn’t the Corolla a different car in India than in the US?
    Acceleration for third world conditions is worth something.  I suspect a corolla could get buy, but was far more impressed with a BMW on semi-country roads.  Getting around trucks in a jiffy is a huge safety innovation.

    • 0 avatar

      Nope.  The picture above is a Corolla you’d see in India.  The big difference is that some models came with snazzier taillights and grilles. Plus chrome door handles.
      All in all, its a helluva Lexus ES350 for India.  And your driver will never mess up that rock hard plastic dashboard.

  • avatar

    Hey buddy, get your own avatar!

  • avatar

    Judging by its perennial strong sales figures, plenty of Americans are unaware or unconcerned about driving an uncool Corolla.
    As for Indian-Americans driving a Corolla, what you can’t see is that their economical transportation choice is but the visible surface of wise personal money management.

  • avatar

    Back in 2001 the family had both a new Corolla and a recent Camry.  Between NVH and ride comfort the Corolla was primitive by comparison and my impression was that Toyota was just fine with that since they would like the Corolla owner to step up to the Camry with their next purchase.  Maybe this isn’t the case anymore or the differences are less for overseas versions but it sure seemed like a purposeful difference at the time.

    • 0 avatar

      You need a change of vantage point. Go for a ride in any one of the Hindustan Ambassadors, FIAT-padminis, Maruti 800s, etc that–even in like new condition–littered India for decades and you will understand why the Corolla is a nice little ride. Yes, the Camry is sold there too, and its rather luxurious and gigantic.

  • avatar

    Besides exhaust, perhaps the intake has a leak somewhere.  I’ll assume the filter is clean since it is serviced regularly.
    All four shocks should be changed if it’s seeing hard service.
    And yes, change dealers.  Yours will just take your money while guessing at the fixes.

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