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#4664400 - 02/12/18 10:25 PM Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed
91l98z28 Offline


Registered: 02/15/04
Posts: 17
Loc: california
I own a 2003 Matrix with the 1ZZ-FE engine and automatic transmission. I bought the vehicle with 182,000 miles and it now has 188,000 miles.

It has always had a bit of rattly noise. Specifically: it only starts to happen around 2000 RPM or higher, and it only happens with about 5% throttle. If the throttle is closed, no noise; and if the throttle is advanced past about 15%, no noise. During normal driving, you almost never notice it (except when it's a cold morning, in which case the noise is louder and more obvious the first 5 or so minutes) however you CAN reproduce the sound at will (even when the motor is fully at operating temp) by manually selecting a gear (i.e. putting shifter in 1st or 2nd) and driving around 2000-3000 RPM with a very light ~ 5% throttle application. You can control the loudness of the sound very well with the throttle position - silent at 0% throttle, progressively louder to about 5% throttle, and then gone again by 15% throttle. Vary the throttle position in that range, and the loudness of the sound varies in direct proportion. It sounds somewhat like a rod knock, although perhaps not quite as deep; and somewhat like a valve with too much lash - but not quite so "tappy".

When I bought the car, I did all the typical maintenance (thermostat, plugs, trans flush & new filter, PCV, air filter, replaced the PCV hose (it was cracked), and replace the intake manifold gasket (still had the old black one, not the second version orange one). None of that had any effect on the noise.

I have also done all of the following, all with NO effect:
  • swapped on a new intake manifold, thinking that perhaps the plastic baffle inside was loose. No effect.
  • checked the metal piece inside the oil filler hole, thinking it was bent into the cam, but it was fine.
  • replaced the cam position sensor (directly under the oil filler hole) because it looked slightly bent. No effect.
  • unplugged the OCV, but this had no effect on the noise whatsoever.
  • powered the OCV valve, and after 2-3 seconds the motor stalled (I believe this is a "OCV GOOD" passing result)
  • checked the OCV filter, it was clean and clear.
  • tried some 91 octane fuel, no effect.
  • replaced the belt tensioner and belt. No effect.
  • I became convinced that I had rod knock, so I inspected all the rod bearings. The crank journals are PRISTINE (they look like brand new from the machine shop) and the rod bearings looked excellent. I plastigauged one journal and it measured perfect.
  • While the pan was off, I turned the crank plane to horizontal (i.e. all pistons halfway up/down the bore) and then rocked the crank back and forth a few degrees. NO mechanical noise was heard.

I've stethoscoped numerous points on the engine. I THINK the sound is the loudest on the top half of the motor on the timing chain side, but it is very difficult (nearly impossible actually) with the car on ramps and not being driven. I may not be hearing the sound at all, or it's possible I'm hearing a very faint version of the sound (i.e. one that can only be heard with the stethoscope on).

I'm aware that the VVT-I controller/intake cam gear can cause issues, but my understanding is that unplugging the OCV (so the controller stays locked) should immediately eliminate the noise if in fact the controller is at fault?

I don't think it's timing chain noise (it doesn't sound like that to me), but I have not inspected the chain for slack/looseness.

From what I've read online, it doesn't have the characteristics of a piston (wrist) pin noise, and I don't think it's piston slap - I've driven piston slappers before, and the heat usually builds very quickly in the piston to dull the noise within 60-90 seconds; but this motor takes several minutes (on a cold morning) for the sound to diminish to the "normal" level. Even when it's stone cold, if you advance the throttle past 20-30%, the noise goes completely away (I hate doing that to a cold motor, but did it to test).

I'm kind of at my diagnostic end with this motor. If I was deaf, I would think I was driving a brand new motor (it runs excellent!); it's just the darn nagging noise. It seems like my only option at this point is to throw a timing chain and VVT-I controller at it, and if that doesn't fix it, drive it till it blows.

Any ideas???

Oh, background info: I have the maintenance history for the last 80,000 miles on this car. The oil was changed every 7000-8000 miles, and the car is NOT much of an oil burner (about one quart every 5000 miles). They (previous owners) certainly ran longer between oil changes than I would, but there is NO sludge inside the motor and with all the rod bearings in such excellent condition, I don't think it has ever suffered a "run low/out of oil" condition like some 1ZZ-FE's of this vintage.


Edited by 91l98z28 (02/12/18 10:37 PM)

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#4664413 - 02/12/18 10:52 PM Re: Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed [Re: 91l98z28]
Trav Offline


Registered: 11/20/06
Posts: 18885
Loc: MA, Mittelfranken.de
Let me throw a long shot at you. Cadillac N* had similar noise issue, it sounded like it was coming from the top of the engine and sounded similar to a rod knock but not quite. This was mostly on cold engines.
Combustion chamber carbon was the cause, doing a piston soak with GM top engine cleaner made them quiet as a church mouse.

Edit: I assume you went through the obvious, heat shields, loose brackets, etc.


Edited by Trav (02/12/18 10:53 PM)
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#4664414 - 02/12/18 10:53 PM Re: Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed [Re: 91l98z28]
Nick1994 Offline


Registered: 02/19/13
Posts: 10108
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Flexplate or CV joint is my guess
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#4664495 - 02/13/18 05:56 AM Re: Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed [Re: 91l98z28]
Rolla07 Offline


Registered: 11/05/11
Posts: 4737
Loc: MTL, CANADA
I wouldnt be too worried, these engines arent the quietest and exhibit a variety of sounds at different times. I wouldnt bother spending a ton of time or money analyzing it unless it impacts driveability. Sounds like you already maintain your vehicles well.
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#4664496 - 02/13/18 05:56 AM Re: Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed [Re: 91l98z28]
incognito_2u Offline


Registered: 12/15/16
Posts: 113
Loc: Long Island, N.Y.
Have you looked at the Timing chain Tensioner........these engines are prone to have the "o"-ring leak on it but I have heard from others that have said that the tensioner is also a common failure.
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1999 Toyota Corolla 1.8 -77k (PUP/XG4386)

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#4664509 - 02/13/18 06:17 AM Re: Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed [Re: 91l98z28]
Cujet Offline


Registered: 02/15/03
Posts: 7162
Loc: Jupiter, Florida
Two things come to mind. The first is combustion chamber noise. Some engines simply have audible combustion noise at certain throttle settings. May or may not be due to carbon. Honda produced a series of 250cc scooter engines that sounded like they were detonating at part throttle. Octane had no effect, nor does ignition timing. It's simply a high tumble combustion chamber that, for lack of a better term, "rings" under certain conditions.

The second thing that comes to mind really is the piston noise that you mention. It's not uncommon to experience piston slap noise only at specific power settings. This is a factor of clearance, ring tension, pin offset, rod length, skirt length and so on. Quite often, it's normal and is not something worth worrying about.

I did not notice if you tried a higher viscosity oil. You may want to try something like Mobil 1, 15W-50 and see if it changes things. No, it's not too "thick" for your engine and no, it won't cause excessive wear. Really, it's just a 15 viscosity oil, known to flow quite well when cold.
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#4664510 - 02/13/18 06:21 AM Re: Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed [Re: incognito_2u]
wag123 Offline


Registered: 06/14/11
Posts: 873
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: incognito_2u
Have you looked at the Timing chain Tensioner........these engines are prone to have the "o"-ring leak on it but I have heard from others that have said that the tensioner is also a common failure.

+1

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#4664523 - 02/13/18 06:53 AM Re: Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed [Re: incognito_2u]
Bottom_Feeder Offline


Registered: 12/07/08
Posts: 3010
Loc: Occupied Virginia
Originally Posted By: incognito_2u
Have you looked at the Timing chain Tensioner........these engines are prone to have the "o"-ring leak on it but I have heard from others that have said that the tensioner is also a common failure.

+2

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#4664552 - 02/13/18 07:49 AM Re: Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed [Re: Rolla07]
cjcride Offline


Registered: 11/06/09
Posts: 1814
Loc: Ontario Canada
Originally Posted By: Rolla07
I wouldnt be too worried, these engines arent the quietest and exhibit a variety of sounds at different times. I wouldnt bother spending a ton of time or money analyzing it unless it impacts driveability. Sounds like you already maintain your vehicles well.

^This^

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#4664572 - 02/13/18 08:16 AM Re: Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed [Re: 91l98z28]
Bottom_Feeder Offline


Registered: 12/07/08
Posts: 3010
Loc: Occupied Virginia
I'm actually surprised with all the research and work you've done to it that the timing chain tensioner wasn't at the top of your list.

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#4664598 - 02/13/18 08:45 AM Re: Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed [Re: Bottom_Feeder]
Trav Offline


Registered: 11/20/06
Posts: 18885
Loc: MA, Mittelfranken.de
He said he was going to throw one and a chain at it anyway. It certainly could be tensioner rattle but they tend to be loudest at idle on a cold engine not at a specific RPM. For me this is the most telling part of his post.

It sounds somewhat like a rod knock, although perhaps not quite as deep

Personally I hate tearing into an engine without knowing what I am going after, cleaning the combustion chambers is the easiest and least expensive procedure, if it doesn't have any effect then move on. It sounds like he a lot of time into this as it is.

2cents
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#4664611 - 02/13/18 08:58 AM Re: Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed [Re: 91l98z28]
pbm Offline


Registered: 04/19/04
Posts: 7605
Loc: New York
I had an unusual noise (rattling, droning sound) from my 1ZZFE powered 2008 Corolla that turned out to be the exhaust system touching the 'strap' that holds it up if it breaks (located in the center closer to the rear). It was occasional and more pronounced when cold and idling. I ended up wrapping the strap with asbestos and my sound problem was solved.....but only after replacing my belt tensioner and serpentine belt unnecessarily. it sounded like an engine noise when it was really an exhaust noise.......


To the OP: What is the OCV valve? Do you mean PCV valve?
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#4664790 - 02/13/18 12:59 PM Re: Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed [Re: pbm]
MarkM66 Offline


Registered: 10/19/10
Posts: 1544
Loc: stl
Originally Posted By: pbm
I had an unusual noise (rattling, droning sound) from my 1ZZFE powered 2008 Corolla that turned out to be the exhaust system touching the 'strap' that holds it up if it breaks (located in the center closer to the rear). It was occasional and more pronounced when cold and idling. I ended up wrapping the strap with asbestos and my sound problem was solved.....but only after replacing my belt tensioner and serpentine belt unnecessarily. it sounded like an engine noise when it was really an exhaust noise.......


To the OP: What is the OCV valve? Do you mean PCV valve?


I thought the same thing. Looked it up. Oil control valve.

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#4664800 - 02/13/18 01:13 PM Re: Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed [Re: 91l98z28]
nthach Offline


Registered: 01/02/04
Posts: 3898
Loc: California
Timing chain rattle is common on these. The Corolla guys suggest replacing the tensioner before the chain and guides. It's also a common Scion/Echo/Prius malady.

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#4664910 - 02/13/18 03:28 PM Re: Toyota 1ZZ-FE (corolla, matrix) rattle - detailed [Re: MarkM66]
pbm Offline


Registered: 04/19/04
Posts: 7605
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: MarkM66
Originally Posted By: pbm
I had an unusual noise (rattling, droning sound) from my 1ZZFE powered 2008 Corolla that turned out to be the exhaust system touching the 'strap' that holds it up if it breaks (located in the center closer to the rear). It was occasional and more pronounced when cold and idling. I ended up wrapping the strap with asbestos and my sound problem was solved.....but only after replacing my belt tensioner and serpentine belt unnecessarily. it sounded like an engine noise when it was really an exhaust noise.......


To the OP: What is the OCV valve? Do you mean PCV valve?


I thought the same thing. Looked it up. Oil control valve.


Where is this OCV located on the 1ZZFE?
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