Toyota 4 speed auto trans

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Hey folks - We are looking at possibly getting an older Toyota for a local runaround. Corolla or Rav4 with the 4 speed automatic. From what I know (despite being very dated) it is a reliable unit. Would appreciate experience and commentary.
 
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I've read that the FWD RAV4 can be a bit not-so-good in snow. All the extra weight in the rear I guess. The 4WD version at least has the ability to hit the 4WD button on the dash and it'll proactively lock the rear axle in, giving 50/50 split, to prevent wheelspin on takeoff. It does kick the rear axle out once going; some fault it for that but it's not like you "need" 4WD once going (and this ain't no rally car). It is a slip and grip sort of system, so even if you don't hit that button, it will do its job (whether that is as good as Subaru et al is a different question). One of the users here had a negative experience with the electronic clutch used in the rear diff, but I don't think it's a common failure mode, to be honest--at least it does not seem to come up often on the forums. [Of course, AWD won't get you around the need for decent snow tires in winter.] Both have some bad years. I think 1998-2002 for Corolla was bad for oil burning? The early years of 1ZZ-FE had that problem, but then they fixed it. Prior to that the engine had a timing belt. The early RAV4's likewise had a timing belt, but then got the 2.4L 2AZ-FE, which can be an oil burner--I'd hold out for the 2.5L 2AR-FE, but if shopping on price you might not find in your range. And for just a runabout it might not matter at all. Since you said 4AT I'm going to assume the V6 RAV4 and the later model RAV4's (with 6AT's) are not in the running. The 4AT's seem reasonably rugged in these applications. I think both have dipsticks. If the fluid isn't burnt I think you are ok: yeah the owners should change the fluid on a regular basis, but this vintage seems to shrug off infrequent transmission oil changes. Just looking bad should not be a major concern like it is on other cars. Everything else seems conventional in terms of wear and tear and usual problems. RAV4 would be higher off the ground, have a bigger trunk; I presume higher price and maybe higher insurance. Corolla probably has higher NVH, lower to the ground, still has the Toyota tax (on purchase) but should eek out significantly better mpg. Not sure if tire costs, brake costs, strut costs, etc would be much different between the two; but as a guess, everything would be cheaper on the Corolla. Been a while since I drove the older Corolla, I want to say they tend to wander on the road. Typical dead Toyota steering. I think RAV4 was the same. The RAV4 2.5L I drove was ok. It didn't rate any better than that; it was "good enough" to get around and probably met all my usual needs. For a runabout I'd think it fine, although I'd be curious if the rear seats folded flat and whatnot for utmost in moving junk (which is what runabouts tend to get pressed into doing).
 
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For a local runaround car, I would recommend an Echo or a newer Yaris, hatchback for more cargo room. Those are quite unpopular due to size, but are just as reliable. The 1.5 is not known to burn oil, as the 1.8 does in some years, so that's a plus for a beater.
 
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Had a 2008 Scion xB 4-spd auto that was at 170K miles before I got hit from behind and totaled… Transmission was still shifting as soft as butter… All I did was drain/fills on the ATF fluid (Toyota WS Fluid) every 30-45K miles as easy preventative maintenance.
 
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Originally Posted by supton
....Both have some bad years. I think 1998-2002 for Corolla was bad for oil burning? The early years of 1ZZ-FE had that problem, but then they fixed it. Prior to that the engine had a timing belt. The early RAV4's likewise had a timing belt, but then got the 2.4L 2AZ-FE, which can be an oil burner--I'd hold out for the 2.5L 2AR-FE, but if shopping on price you might not find in your range. And for just a runabout it might not matter at all. Since you said 4AT I'm going to assume the V6 RAV4 and the later model RAV4's (with 6AT's) are not in the running. The 4AT's seem reasonably rugged in these applications. I think both have dipsticks. If the fluid isn't burnt I think you are ok: yeah the owners should change the fluid on a regular basis, but this vintage seems to shrug off infrequent transmission oil changes. Just looking bad should not be a major concern like it is on other cars. Everything else seems conventional in terms of wear and tear and usual problems. RAV4 would be higher off the ground, have a bigger trunk; I presume higher price and maybe higher insurance. Corolla probably has higher NVH, lower to the ground, still has the Toyota tax (on purchase) but should eek out significantly better mpg. Not sure if tire costs, brake costs, strut costs, etc would be much different between the two; but as a guess, everything would be cheaper on the Corolla. Been a while since I drove the older Corolla, I want to say they tend to wander on the road. Typical dead Toyota steering....
I have a 1999 Toyota Corolla VE... (value edition) It has about 230,000 km (about 143,000 miles). Essentially was gifted to my elderly mother at about 100,000 miles. Car was an ex-rental, for the beginning of its life. Has been good... but from the point of receipt the A245E 4 speed A/T has had a noisy final drive. I went to one of the better-reputation transmission shops,here, in the Metro Vancouver area - and they said that this transmission DOES have a tendency to take out final drives. Having said this, my daughter's 2005 Corolla LE has the same transmission, it has about 100,000 miles, and it does NOT have a bad final drive. In all of the time that we have had the '99 with its noisy final drive, I would say that the noise has NOT gotten worse. There are no economics in changing-out the transmission, 'cuz a baseline rebuild would be about $2500... more than the value of the car. So, run it to failure. Only other two problems with this car are: i) consumes a bit of oil.... just need to watch the level, and add when necessary. This is not problematic for me. It is my habit to check the oil every 2nd fill-up anyways. The cheapest fix is to add oil. Does NOT puff on start-up or burn blue on the "over-run". Other problem, not a big one, is that the plug lead for cylinder four went south. I McGiver'd a change-out with my '99 Camry's plug lead (for now) as the Camry is not being run. I would say that the car tracks fine on the road. I like the hydraulic power steering on this car, and on my 99 Camry - more than the EPS on my '17 Mazda6. I do NOT find fault with Toyota power steering (same... as on my daughter's '05 Corolla). I would really, really caution you to NOT buy anything near when Toyota started to use EPS. They came up with a totally sh*t system, in my opinion. The '09 through '13 Corolla was BEYOND undriveable. Idiot engineers, to have let that one out the door!!!
 
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Thanks everyone. Current focus vehicle: '14 Corolla, 36,000 miles, unknown mx history but it was first a lease followed by single owner. If it has the CVT it will be a no-go, but from the pictures it looks like the 4 speed. Plan to have a look tomorrow evening. Cdn17Sport6MT, you said that the electric steering through '13 was horrible....what do you know about the '14 MY?
 
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The 2014 was the first model year of that generation. You could still get a 4 speed auto but only in the base models. Many of the base models didn't come with cruise control in 2014. Check the link below for some of the issues with them. For instance, the previous generation came out in 2009 and look at the spike in issues during that period. https://www.carcomplaints.com/Toyota/Corolla/
 
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Immediately previous poster is correct re 4 speed AT on base model. You could easily add a stalk-based after market cruise. Steering is markedly better with the '14. Base model '14 Corolla IS one I personally would go after. I think the 4 spd AT persists on the base model from '14 thru '16 only...
 
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595
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Vancouver, BC Canada
I agree they are good... but per this respected builder in Maple Ridge, BC - a prolific outfit - a fairly significant number of A245E's lose final drives. So much so that getting useable cores has been an issue for them. YMMV. In any case, I find that the A245E is a really sweet transmission, in that it does not need any urging to downhift nicely 'round a city speed intersection turn... and the upshifts are butter smooth. Particularly in Daughter No. 2's 2005 Corolla. I should also add that the A245E is many times more reliable than the same model year range 5 speed manual Toyota transaxle, which has a known issue with a substandard quality rolling element bearing. Many of those transmissions end up being either scrapped, or pulled apart to change out said bearing.
 
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16,694
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I forget which 4AT is in my Camry but after 220,000 miles it seems to still be doing just fine. Prior owners never changed the fluid; it was rather dark when I changed it at 140k. I did change the diff fluid (a separate compartment just for that), but that fluid was bright and red, and made me wonder if it's critical--I wonder if these diffs die more due to fluid leaks than loss. The OD lockout button is nice, I use that all the time around town, and then on the highway at times.
 
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