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Corolla dead?

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2002 Corolla 1.6 vvt t-spirit. 135k mls.

Hello, Son was driving the corolla last week when it lost power, he pulled over to the slow lane but before he could stop there was a loud bang/thud from the engine area.....and everything stopped.

To cut a long story short, he and the car was recovered to home. The engine turns over and fires, but it makes some "unusual" noises, so much so you turn it off straight away!

A local garage mechanic has had a look and says it looks/sounds as if the timing chain has "jumped".....and may have done serious damage to all of or some of the valves/head/pistons ect.

He said just to have a look if there has been any damage he will have to take the head off and that in itself will be expensive.....added to that, if there is damage, it will certainly cost more than the car is worth to put right...... 

When all said and done its a 135.000 mile car, to spend a lot of money just to evaluate damage seems pointless.

When the timing chain "jumps", is it certain that there will be damage?

Any thoughts?


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Considering the mileage of the car, and age, even if the damage is light, you should think about scrapping. 

When the timing chain skips, valves and pistons are not in sync, so the piston could be hitting the valves, resulting in bent valves, bent rods, maybe some issues with piston etc.

Even if you open it, and damage is light, you should not forget that you would need to investigate what caused the chain to skip.

If you're lucky and it's just tensioner, maybe you can get it fixed. It can also be chain issue, sprockets, etc. 


To be able to access the damage, you only need to take the top part of the engine off, which should not be that hard or time consuming, so you can investigate the damage.

If you're lucky and chain did not skip that much and there is no obvious damage, then also the chain cover needs to be taken off, to investigate the chain, and tensioner.

It's up to you to decide if it's financially good decision to go forward, or scrap.


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As the owner of a high performance car, we quite commonly see failures that are caused by the biological bit between the driver seat the steering wheel.
So for us, the first line of "Causal investigation" is about how the car was being driven.

If you were also in the car when it  happened - then its just down to maintenance levels, mechanical wear and so on as the cause - your next step is to investigating the damage levels. You might just get away with it. But only your mechanic who can get in there will be able to tell you. Unfortunately most engines are interference engines these days, and your 1ZR looks to be just that type. So when the chain TOTALLY goes, it is all but certain that it will destroy the engine.


If you weren't in the car,  then id actually be a little suspicious. Id check the cars wheel wells for rubber, as well as the condition of the tires, down the undersides, etc, etc. Look for signs of "fun" driving.

It may have happened eventually anyway(broken down), but a very common way that a lot of cars come undone is:
"Dads Car + Aged and Worn Components + poor servicing + Testosterone = usually something breaks."

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Is the engine warning light on? If so, its a sure sign there is some engine damage which an engine sensor will pick up. Get someone to run the diagnostics check on it; a garage will usually do this for free and they'll then tell you if it's serious or not.

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Thank you for the replies, sadly it seems as if its going to be too costly to have the engine repaired, probably way more than the car is worth.

We're thinking of trying to sell it the "spares or repair" route as it has a few recent new parts fitted and could be attractive to someone who has the space and time to dismantle it and sell off the bits. Or someone that has a Corolla and would benefit from having a spare car to plunder.

Recent new Cat (4 months), new back box last year.

New Battery last year.

2 new tyres last year.

New discs all round, new front caliper. 2 years ago. approx 6-7 k miles.

MOT till August 31st.

Decent condition for year and mileage.

Thanks again for the replies.





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What you need to establish  if the engine is an Interference type or not.

If its Non - Interference then the pistons cannot hit the valves if the belt or chain break/slips.

Yours is a 2002 which is around the model change at that time so not sure if its the same 3A-FE chain engine as mine.

There are lots of web sites showing  Toyota engines and if they are interference or not, but cannot just see this model, perhaps your local Toyota dealer can advise ?

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