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99 Corolla 4afe Stalling - Low Idle

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Hi all,

I have a 1999 corolla GS 1600 4A-FE DOC engine, I have just recently bought this car 2 months ago and ran fine up until about a month ago.

First I noticed as it got colder in the UK she (the car) was getting harder to start in the mornings - rough idle for 2 mins or so. Then progressively got worse over a week or so to the point she would not start after I went away for a week - (flat battery as well) I cranked and cranked and even towed her down the road hoping to bump start - Nothing!!

After close examination there seemed to be too much fuel at start up, after blocking the fuel line in - she kicked - but my plugs were far gone... After replacing the very old and dirty distributor cap, leads and spark plugs (this being my problem here - they were black and filthy) she was away!

But I did notice the distributor was cranked very far one way (someone trying to fix a deeper problem>???) but she ran fine although idle was low now... and this got me out of trouble.

Now she is starting to run rough again at idle, first thing in the morning when cold is the worst! there is a miss-fire until warm - she is stalling at the lights now- more so when engine spins down from higher revs and does not recover and cold -

When warm she holds just above stalling - she needs a little bip on the pedal to bring the revs up before engaging any clutch/load before taking off...

My theories after reading some of the posts here:

Why is my distributor cranked one way - dies in any other position (I don't have timing light) - have I skipped a tooth on the belt? its due for a new one soon (100,000m)

Is my distributor locked in vacuum advance??? looks like there is corrosion around the distributor...

Oxygen sensor - there is talk about replacing these - and causing similar problems... after the state of my plugs I wouldn't be surprised! (I don't want to spend £100.00 needlessly though!

Throttle position sensor?

Air Flow sensor?

If anybody can help or give advise on what to take a look at I would be very grateful,

Thanks in advance.


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The timing will need to be re-set. The 4A-FE doesn't have a vacuum advance (or centrifugal) AFAIK. The ECU advances the spark. Get access to a HAYNES manual for the Carina E which has the same engine. It should be 10 deg BTDC. Set when the contacts TE1 and E1 in the diagnostic socket are bridged with a wire (or paperclip)

Is the air filter clogged?

The fuel filter on these engines can also get clogged. They need changine every 27K miles. It will have been neglected.

Once these are replaced I would consider the others you've mentioned.

The Oxygen sensor for these engine must be a Genuine Toyota Part. so is will be a lot more than £100! If the diagnostic light isn't on I would leave well alone.

You should be able to confirm that the Timing belt is OK by removing the upper belt cover. The markings are clearly visible and should line up on TDC No1. I would be surprised if this is your problem.

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After many hours of trying to get to the bottom of this problem, I still suspected a tooth out... at MOT time the car failed on the CO readings, I briefed the mechanic on the history and the conclusion was that the timing belt had slipped two teeth. Amazing to think that the car actually ran ok apart from low idle and cold mornings... a true testament to the resilient Toyota engine.


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