2009 Toyota Corolla Conquest sedan
In June 2013 we said a sentimental farewell to the faithful 22-year-old Pintara and bought a 4-year-old ZRE-152R Corolla sedan. It's very shiny and modern compared to anything we've owned before, which is weird. After a lot of research and wrestling (I thought I wanted a diesel wagon), I zeroed in on it mainly for the sake of its unbeatable reputation for reliability, and the hope of owning a car that would still be relatively economical to own and easy on the planet.
Here in Australia it gets 4.5 stars out of a possible 5 star 'green rating', and an air pollution rating of 8.5/10. These figures are pretty amazing, and better than a lot of diesel cars. However, I quickly realised that the actual fuel consumption was much worse than the official figures or trip computer average suggested. I have improved this enormously with a bit of simple maintenance. See below.
I was expecting it to be dead-boring to drive, but in fact it's surprisingly enjoyable. The ride quality with the 16x6.5 wheels is sporty but not harsh and long trips are comfortable enough. It handles corners impressively. The 6-speed manual gearbox is a pleasure to use, bringing out the best in the peppy little 1.8 litre 2ZR-FE engine. Both camshafts have intelligent variable valve timing on them, which presumably make it feel like a torquier engine than it would otherwise be. It pulls a trailer with the GS
on it easily.
Another factor that drew me to the Corolla was safety. The Conquest variant gets 5 out of 5 stars for safety, with 7 airbags, electronic stability control, ABS, electronic brake force distribution, traction control, and brake assist, which apparently helps in an emergency stop. We do long trips at night along lonely country roads, always with the threat of wombats and kangaroos jumping out. A bit of help doesn't go astray.
This particular car has a few factory optional extras as well. It came with tinted windows, seat covers, polycarbonate shields to protect the bonnet and headlights, towbar, plastic boot liner, and a rear bumper anti-scratch mat that pulls out of the boot.
So, we'll see how it goes in the long run.
If you're looking for a service manual online, this is the only offering I've been able to find. It seems to have been converted to PDF from an electronic format with internal buttons that no longer function. There's still plenty of useful data in it.
As mentioned above, I was horrified at first when the fuel consumption that I calculated manually was far worse than that indicated by the average on the trip computer. Your car might be the same.
Perform a manual calculation of your fuel consumption thus: When you fill up your tank, take note of how many 'clicks' you go to on the bowser handle before you finish filling. Before driving off, reset the average fuel consumption (on the Corolla, with the average figure showing, you do this by pressing and holding in the left-hand stalk). Zero one of the trip-meters similarly. Drive until the tank is close to empty, then fill up to the same 'click', taking note of the number of litres or gallons required. Use this figure in combination with the total distance traveled on the tripmeter to calculate your actual fuel consumption, and compare it with the figure on the trip computer average. If they differ greatly, the following might help:
- Run some high-quality fuel injector cleaner through the fuel system. This is probably best to do first, so set aside a tank of fuel for this purpose before performing step 3 below.
- Clean the mass airflow, or MAF sensor, which is essentially an electrically heated wire that most newer cars employ to measure the air being drawn into the engine. The hot wire cools down in proportion to the amount of air being ingested. Even though these sensors are downstream of the air filter, the thin wires still become coated in muck over time, sending false data to the ECU. Don't be shy about this step. It's really easy. All you need is a can of the right solvent (CRC MAF cleaner, from an auto store) along with whatever spanner or screwdriver is needed to remove the sensor. The sensor is simple to identify because it sits between the air filter and the throttle body. Look for leads connecting to some sort of plug in your air snorkel. Remove the plug, being very careful not to damage the heated wire(s) on or in the probe, and douse the wire(s) with several long bursts of solvent. Allow the sensor to air-dry for a while before re-installing it.
- Once you've got the hardware clean with the above steps, the software in the car's ECU (computer) can be reset. Your ECU will have 'learned' various driving habits and adjusted its behaviour to suit what it thinks is most appropriate. A car that is driven hard will therefore be self-tuned towards performance at the expense of economy, but even cars that aren't driven hard can get the wrong idea because of mistaken interpretations over time, especially with dirty sensors and injectors in the picture. Re-setting the ECU will take it back to factory defaults and allow it to start learning afresh. The Corolla is typical of many cars: to re-set the ECU, simply disconnect the (main vehicle) battery for half an hour or so. With the battery disconnected, press the brake pedal in to activate the brake light circuit, which removes any residual charge in the system. Warning: you will not only need to re-program your radio presets, but might also need to enter your security code to get the radio working again. Make sure you have the code before disconnecting the battery! Refer to the documentation that came with your car, or see below.
- Teach your ECU that you are not a lead-footed driver by being gentle with the throttle and driving smoothly as much as possible and especially at first. Hopefully it will begin to reward you with much better economy over time, as calculated manually.
For anyone with a Corolla or other Toyota with a radio that has become unusable thanks to a disconnected battery, try the following steps:
If you don't have the three-digit PIN code, you have ten attempts at guessing it. Try asking the previous owner for the code (worked for me, phew!). Or, if you know the dealership that sold it originally, phone them and ask what they typically use for the radio PIN. Often it is the last three digits of the VIN or vehicle identification number. For a couple of other ideas, see this page.
- Set ignition key to ACC position.
- While holding upper SEEK button ^ push NUMBER button 1 (of six in a row) and '_ _ _' will appear.
- Adjust first digit using number button 1.
- Adjust second digit using number button 2.
- Adjust third digit using number button 3.
- Within ten seconds, press and hold the SCAN button for at least one second.
- If input is correct, 'SEC' will briefly appear in window, and all is well.
- If readout shows 'Err1' to 'Err9', this shows how many of ten allowed tries you've used. If you exceed ten attempts and see 'HELP', contact your Toyota dealer.