2001 Corolla S - extremely poor fuel economy

Discussion in 'Fuel Economy' started by readersthink, Aug 19, 2012.

  1. readersthink

    readersthink Member

    I have a 2001 Corolla S with 72K miles. Fuel economy is very poor averaging 240 miles per tank. It is mostly city driving. Even when on longer trips, it went to max of 30 mpg on Chevron premium gas. Used Chevron Techron on a tank of gas hoping to help fuel injectors when I used ordinary (87) fuel couple of months before. Cleaned Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor. These did not help yet after 2/3 tanks of gas.

    Changed spark plug (NGK Iridium - no gapping check done), transmission oil, thermostat, condenser and engine coolant around 4 months before. Condenser was changed because of bird hit. Rest were done as maintenance by an individual mechanic.

    On current gas tank, I may get 240 miles on Chevron premium gas (without extra Techron) for city driving.

    There is no Check Engine Light (CEL). What else could I check? Read on internet about O2 sensors, fuel filter, etc. Am not very handy with the car, so will need to locate another Craiglist mechanic. Going to shop or fixing it with dealer might be too expensive for this cars market value.

    Don't want to throw new parts hoping it will fix, while issue could be unrelated. Tires are at 36 to 38 PSI (recommended is 32).
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2012
  2. herm

    herm Well-Known Member

    seems to be what many people get with that car, see here:


    You need to do hypermiling if you want to improve on that.. why are you using premium?.. it rarely helps your mileage.
  3. worthywads

    worthywads Don't Feel Like Satan, I am to AAA

    How fast are you driving on the highway?

    How long is your average trip?
  4. ALS

    ALS Super Moderator Staff Member

    Welcome to the board Readersthink.

    This may be an issue with the car and I take it that the car has the automatic transmission in it. There were two auto boxes available at the time the three speed and the four speed.

    EPA ratings on the three speed are 25 city, 30 highway, 27 combined. No locking torque converter. :(

    EPA ratings on the four speed are 26, city, 36 highway, 30 combined.

    If your car is equipped with the three speed your fuel mileage is close to normal.

    You didn't tell use where you live, terrain such as lots of hills in your commute can really affect your fuel mileage? How far do you drive between home and work? Short trips will kill your fuel mileage. Traffic? How heavy? You said mostly city how much idling, how many lights and stop signs are you seeing during your drive?

    Highway you said you barely got thirty mpg's at what speed? If you screaming up the interstate at 70-75 mph, thirty mpgs would be a gift.

    Two things you may want to check if you have a dragging brake pad and is the alignment up to specs? Those two issues can pull down your fuel mileage.
  5. readersthink

    readersthink Member

    Currently am on experiment to check miles for 50 gallons. Currently it is at 1,325 miles and I think almost 46 gallons are consumed. Of these 600 miles are highway since I took a 4 hour trip, average highway speed would have been 67. There wasn't much traffic except for 10 mins in whole trip.

    My usual one way trip is 2.5 miles with 5 to 6 stop lights/signs. Traffic is not heavy. Take 4 trips per day for 4 days a week. I live on plains in Dallas (no mountains or steep grades, etc). This is automatic 4 speed transmission. I guess VE model came with 3 speed auto.

    Issues is: I used to get 330 miles per tank on longer highway a year back while driving at 70's. Due to whatever reason I think something is going wrong. Am not hyper miling, but I drive little sensibly.

    I did routine check up a month before. They inspected brake pads and reported OK. Maybe they didn't check closely if there was a drag. Am wondering if I have a bad fuel cap, slow leak in fuel tank or something else. Am I supposed to get some CEL codes for these situations.

    I used to use ordinary (low cost) gas. I thought that was causing issues. So wanted to try premium.

    Planning to buy Ultra Gauge to see some data. Looks like latest Corolla shows MPG in dash, mine is so old it does not.
  6. WriConsult

    WriConsult Super Moderator

    Sounds like you've had the car for a while and the fuel economy has dropped. All hypermiling advice aside, sounds like something with the vehicle itself has changed. Probably not the gas.

    In addition to brakes and alignment, I'd also check the wheel bearings.
  7. CRT1

    CRT1 Newbie McNewbster

    It is hard to get good gas mileage on short trips like this with all those stops. The engine is probably warming up for half the trip (very inefficient) and you are spending most of your time accelerating and braking for stop signs/lights (also very inefficient). Without hypermiling techniques you are lucky if you even approach the EPA City rating for your vehicle.

    You should take solace that your commute is so short and even though it is inefficient in terms of MPG, you are saving a lot of gas compared to most of us who have a 10+ mile commute each way. That said, learning some basic hypermiling techniques found here will help you boost those MPGs.
  8. readersthink

    readersthink Member

    I agree, my short stop n go trip kills fuel economy. However poor economy on highways, still remains a puzzle. I had these short trips for past many years. Loss in MPG over past few months is obvious.

    Not sure how much hyper miling I can do, with all these lights/stop signs.
  9. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Well-Known Member

    Our 2001 Prism-Corolla clone-with the 3 speed auto-got 22 mpg with my wife driving it in pure city short trips-maybe averaging 3-4 miles-frequently cold engine.
    It would show about 35-37 mpg at 60 mph-scangauge.
    Wife got 12-14 mpg with Honda Pilot-same trips
    Wife Gets 35-mpg with PRIUS shorter trips-
    I would get high 20's in city driving in pre hypermiling days-just gentle on accelerator

    They don't get great city mpg if you drive normally-25 mpg city is about it for normal drivers shortish trips
    But should get mid 30's at 60 mph hy
  10. EdwinTheMagnificent

    EdwinTheMagnificent Legend In His Mind

    I had a 99 Corolla rental I drove to New York and back. It had the 4-spd auto , and I recall 39 MPG at mostly 70-ish MPH. I was impressed and a few years later bought an 03 Corolla (manual, of course). Readersthink , I believe your Corolla needs some work. I'm not a mechanic, and some of the regulars here that ARE may snicker at this , but please check to make sure engine and trans are not OVER-filled. If you don't change the fluids yourself, you can let the dealer's youngest and dumbest dipstick do it . Which is exactly how cars get over-filled.
  11. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk 2010 Prius (CAN Touring) Staff Member

    Can you post how many gallons you get in at a typical fill? This will help clarify your mpg.
  12. readersthink

    readersthink Member

    each fill up at approx 10.5 gallons with 87 octane rating fuel.
  13. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Well-Known Member

    Like Edwin says- you should get decent -mid to high 30's hy wiht that car.
    Our 3 speed AT turned LOTS of RPMS- 2800 at 60 mph- but still showed 35-36 mpg at 60 mph.
    The 4 speed AT is a couple of MPG better.
    It turns fewer rpms-
  14. CRT1

    CRT1 Newbie McNewbster

    So you think you are getting about 23 mpg for city driving? For the summer months that sounds really low for this car, even given the short trips. Definitely get this thing checked out.
  15. Unleaded

    Unleaded Well-Known Member

  16. CRT1

    CRT1 Newbie McNewbster

    My Dad bought up a used mid-80s Mazda 323 for us kids to drive back when I was in college. 3-speed AT buzz bomb. You could have a yelling conversation OR listen to the radio at highway speeds, but not both! Passing at highway speeds was not an option. I will probably need hearing aides when I am older because of that car . . .

    The timing belt sprocket ended up shearing off the end of the crankshaft with only 120k miles on the car. The end of the crankshaft had a spline, a key-way and threaded hole down the middle! :eek::eek::eek: I suspect that one of the cheapo mechanics my dad uses overtightened the belt. If I had known that would kill the car I would have overtightened it long before. :D
  17. readersthink

    readersthink Member

    I definitely think something is wrong. But don't know what to look at. This car is not worth spending $$$ at dealership or a shop. maybe worth a independent mechanic. From what I hear, drop in mileage is not something easy to figure. Someone mentioned about brake dragging, but brake pads look OK. Only thing I can think of is O2 sensor but there is no CEL. There is more than O2 sensor.

    How much would independent mechanic charge to check or replace O2 sensor? Essentially fix this mileage issue. I buy the parts.
  18. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk 2010 Prius (CAN Touring) Staff Member

    Symptoms of dragging brakes would include brakes that need replacement often, say every 20,000 miles, or less. Wheels would feel hot to the touch after an extended drive. Discs wear down to min. spec'd. thickness too.
  19. herm

    herm Well-Known Member

    I think you can get a free scan at Autoparts, try that before you start replacing parts randomly
  20. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Well-Known Member


    Rather than throw money at it
    I would BUY a scangauge-$135 new-maybe $80 used.
    Then TEST your car
    Run it at 60 mph- top gear
    Does it get 35 or better mpg?? If it does then maybe it is ok
    If it get 30 mpg at 60 mph-yes something is WRONG.

    Any mechanic will charge at LEAST $100 to eyeball it-and they won't be able to tell you JACK without instruments-
    Switching out an O2 sensor-they are $40 to $130 varies a lot
    WASTE of time and $$$ if it isn't broken.
    A shade tree mechanic is in business to make $$-
    he definitely will imply he can fix IT-
    But as you say-not so easy to figure out what is wrong

    Spend $$ on gauge-it is also a code reader-it will work on all your cars-future cars.
    Do you own testing to see if it is ACTUALLY "broken"
    Start by testing it with a Scangauge at 60 mph-look for 35+mpg
    If it reads 35mpg at 60 mph-it might not be broken
    Perhaps it is leaking fuel-on and off sticky brakes-way out of alignment??
    You will use this gauge code reader "forever"
    You are just guessing without it
    PS-My wife got 22-23 mpg in pure city with the 3 speed AT version of your car-so 22mpg-might be "right"- it dd get 35mpg + at 60 mph
    PPS-a mechanic will waste your $$-parts switch-on this sort of problem-get the gauge
    YOU NEED GOOD NUMBERS to diagnose cars- you don't have them

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