Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo

Why I won't be going back to that mechanic!
Most people who own cars like this are enthusiasts and maintain their cars meticulously. I am no exception. I also feel that it's in mine and my passengers best interests to maintain the car at peak operating capacity. I have outlined below all maintenance that I can remember. I kept all my receipts, the problem is that I am somewhat disorganized and I didn't always file away the receipt before it got lost. Massachusetts recently (2000) implemented more stringent emmisions guidelines and the Celica recently passed way under the limits. More details on that below.

Changed on average every 2500 miles. Using Mobil 1 10W30 (synthetic) since 75k miles when I got the car. Synthetic oil stops virtually all wear to an engine (based on research) so at this point the engine is still in excellent condition like it was at 75k miles.

The tires I had on it, Dunlop SP Sport 4000, would've gone another 10k miles however one of the tires had developed a bubble and after about 6 months of that I decided I didn't want to take any more chances so I had them replaced in August 2000 with the new Dunlop SP Sport 5000 all weather. These are fantastic tires; I've never had any problems in rain or snow. The Z rating means ride is great and handling is precise and easy (unlike say H rated tires). The tires are brand new

The after market exhaust is made of better metal than your normal exhaust pipes. Most pipes last about 2 years. So far this one is on 3 years and shows no signs of rust or decay. Will proably last for years to come. 

Recent Maintenance
120k miles, Feb 2000 - Major Tune up, valve adjustment, new clutch.After the tune up and valve adjustment the car drove better than it ever had before. I was amazed. The engine sounded and felt stronger than it ever had. Not bad for a car with 120k miles. But it's also a Toyota which is one of the most reliable cars made!

Massachusetts Inspections
August 2001 - passed all safety and emmisions test with flying colors. Depsite having a turbo the emmisions are so low that the guy who did it says he hasn't seen emmisions that low since they started the new tests. Given this and proper care, it will pass inspections for years to come! 

The Great Clutch/Transmission Mystery

I recently (12/01) sold the car. I had hoped to keep it a few more years but it seemed like the syncros for first, 2nd and 3rd gear were going bad and I would need a new transmission. In November 2001 the clutch was having problems depressing and then getting the shifter into gear. I decided rather than spend a lot of money on the car, it would be better for me to sell the car and get a new one that my wife could drive. Since the car was having problems, I sold it for $1000 as whoever bought it would be spending more money to get it fixed. 

All details will be revealed below. In Feb. 2000 the clutch was replaced by my then mechanics, Little Foreign Car Garage in Waltham, MA. There was a problem with it after installation and they had to redo the job. I sold the car to a fellow car enthusiast from out of state halfway across the country, someone who did not know LFCG but had spoken to the owner about my car for maintenance history before buying. The following are excerpts from his email regarding the repairs to the car once it was in his posession:

"I got the car fixed, it had a couple of minor issues. The tranny was in excellent condition, but the reason it was not going into gear was because of a bad clutch and pressure plate install. The steering was making strange sounds, it turned out a vacuum control box was smashed under that unit. Impossible unless someone breaks it intentionally because of the position its in it cant be harmed by the elements of nature or even rough driving, you may want to think twice about going to lfcg, I think they were trying to take a lot of your money for minor problems, and creating problems as well, my honest opinion, I was there for the entire tranny work at my friends house, it is definitely a very hard car to work on, but it already has plans :) Hopefully this summer a repaint to BMW M5 Carbon black, and a fully built race motor along with a new HKS turbo and upgraded drive shafts. That should be good for 350-400 horsepower. It is a great car, I want to thank you for your patience, and great after sales help."

I sent a followup email asking for more details and explaining in more detail (see below) about the clutch replacement problems and chirping noise the clutch made that  LFCG could not find the solution to and he replied:

"Actually the sound came again and it turned out to be a bad pressure plate install. the bolts were "finger tight", and not tightened to 64 ft/lbs which is the specification for the all trac. Also have to be tightened in a specific order. Bad pressure plate installs are the reason for that sound in general. Synchros were fine as well. All inspected and were in great condition. The clutch was horrible, the pucks came off and were floating around in the tranny, luckily it didn't damage anything. Actually, the car in its current condition with a downpipe and boost controller can reach a good 290 horse, on stock internals. I will definitely send you the pictures after the repaint, and a few race videos ;)."

Perhaps LFCG does good work some of the time, maybe many times. However given the problems with the clutch install and the observations of a fellow car enthusiast who doesn't know these people from a hole in the wall and has no axe to grind with them, I will not be going back to them nor recommending them to anyone anymore. Even despite what is reported, if this is not completely accurate about LFCG, just that the suspicion of some problem, of unethical and dishonest behavior has been raised, I cannot continue to do business with them. I mean, I should've just never gone back there after the clutch problems to begin with. 

The Story
As I said in Feb of 2000 the car had a tune up, valve adjustment, and the clutch replaced. This all cost about $2000. I took the car out when it was done and the clutch did feel brand new. The car drove great, the engine sounded great and actually seemed better than it had since I owned it. However when I pressed the clutch down there was this high pitched chirping noise. It started out a little and got worse very quickly. I brought it back that day or the next day and they tightened up bolts and stuff where they though the noise might be coming from and said to see if that fixed it. It did not and I brought it back. I had trouble reproducing it. I went back and went on a test drive with one of their mechanics who could not make it happen. I switched places and tried myself. I finally figured out if I depressed the clutch halfway and held it, the noise occured quite loudly and consistently. The mechanic's reply was that well one is not supposed to hold the clutch in like that in the first place. When we got back he got out and said that if it got worse then I should come back. He didn't say, bring it in we'll check it out. 

At about this time I was listening to "Car Talk" on NPR and someone who replaced a clutch on his Toyota truck from the same era reported the exact same noise. I listened to what they said might be the problem and wrote it down. I then called their garage to speak to one of them about my problem and how it related to the guy who called in and what they thought. I then wrote all this in an email to the owner. His office manager called and said to bring the car back in. When I got there I asked him about the email and what the car guys said and if that was the case and he said no, that was not it. He said something about how the clutch had been really worn and something which had been in one position was now in another position. I didn't really know what he was talking about but I wasn't really sure if he really did either. After all they had not taken the car apart to find out. Given that this car is very labor intensive (hence the $2k) due to the engine layout and design and AWD, they were loath at first to spend the time to take it apart again. Rather they tried lubricating something. The sound went away for a day and I had to go back. This time they used some other lube but after a couple days the sound came back. I let him know and said I would see if it went away on its own. 

After about 3 months I couldn't take it anymore and called the owner telling him this and would they please fix it. I brought it in and it was done in about a day and a half. I thought it would've taken longer however the office manager said they had summer interns to help out. I was told that instead of trying to figure out where the problem was, they just replaced the whole clutch assembly etc. I drove it and so it seemed the noise had gone away. However when the car would be idling there was some strange but not very audible whistling noise coming from below the car. Also at this time another small but high pitched noise developed when the accelerator was pressed in at a certain spot going between 2000 and 3000 RPM's and more likely when the AC was on. At first it was random but then I was able to reproduce it at will. It seemed that something else got screwed up when they took my car apart and put it back together again. But since it was so small a thing in occurance I may have mentioned it in passing or in an email to them saying if it got worse I would bring it in but did not make a big deal about it. 

After a month the clutch noise slowly but surely came back in all its glory. I didn't say anything to them though because it seemed to me that they had done a lot of work on it already, that they had done all they could and what else could be done? If I took it somewhere else it would cost me another $1k or so to have it taken apart again. At that point I just should never have gone back there. However I did for minor things like oil changes and when I got my Mazda to have oil changes and a tune up. I think in August of that year (2000) an AC hose blew out causing the car to overheat. I was at work at that time and took the car to the nearby Toyota of Woburn. I figured I would have them do major work on it from now on. When I brought it in I mentioned about the mechanic checking the clutch noise and what he thought about it. When the car was done they said they couldn't hear any clutch noise. I figured, of course not because of the nature of making it happen. Anyway because the car is labor intensive, to replace an $8 hose in an out of the way place, it cost me $900. I think at that point I decided to sell the car. Sure it's an awesome car but maintenance was expensive!

I created this site and detailed everything about the car including the noise. I also did some research and emailed with other members of the Celica GT-4 webring. One of them owned a Supra which exhibited this same clutch noise after the clutch was changed. At that point I figured it was some kind of Toyota bug. In February of 2001, a guy made an offer which I accepted. He didn't care about the clutch noise and at that point a lot of the noise had gone away so in his extensive test drive he had not even heard it or been able to reproduce it. However he never ended up buying it because he was concerned about his job security and also about the 2nd gear syncro which made a clunking noise if you shifted into it above 25mph. This was what led me to think the syncro was going bad and the transmission might be having a problem. 

In March of 2001 we had really bad snow so I decided to take the car off the market and keep it until the summer. However at that point I wanted to sell my Mazda instead and keep the Celica for myself till it died. I had a buyer for the Mazda however the guy got laid off and couldn't then buy it. Meanwhile on the Celica it was getting increasingly hard to shift the car into first and third gear and a whiring noise started to occur during idle in the area below the turbo. It stopped when the clutch was depressed. I took the car to Watertown Toyota to ask them how much it would cost to replace the syncros. The guy I spoke to told me his truck made the same whirring noise and that it was the throwout bearing (part of the clucth assembly or something related to the clutch) that was the cause. Later they told me that because the labor would be the same to replace the syncros as to just put in a new transmission, might as well put in a new transmission. The transaxle was part of the transmission and to replace the entire assembly would cost $4000 or more. I decided not to do it. I would just keep the car till it died and then have it towed away. 

Later shortly thereafter I was at LFCG for an oil change and told the owner about all this and what Toyota had said. He said that they replaced the throwout bearing twice and that could not be the problem with that noise, the one under the turbo that went away when the clutch was depressed, that it had to be something in the tranny. He said they could rebuild the tranny and for a lot less like maybe $2000 but he would have to look into it. So I said ok look into it. When he did he told me that it was going to be more expensive than he realized because of replacing the entire assembly and the labor and parts cost, probably all between $3k and $4k. I said I was not going to have the work done in that case. 

In November 2001, I was at a Target parking lot and when I went back to the car, the clutch would not depress. I could not get it into gear. I let the car run for a bit and finally was able to depress the clutch and get the car into gear and drive it home. I parked it in the driveway figuring it was done for and I didn't want to risk driving it anywhere else and getting stuck. I put a note on this site about the problems with the car, that I was going to sell it and that the new owner would need to fix it. Given all that I put the price at $1000 firm. I was flooded with emails by people wanting the car. Amazing! Anyway this guy I talked about above, who also owns a MKIV Supra turbo, wanted a winter daily driver. And what better car than this one?! So now my baby has a new daddy, one who will take great care of it, and I'm happy about that. And that's the story. 

One other odd thing of note. The last time I was there for the tune up of my Mazda (11/01), I brought Redline synthetic gear oil for the transaxle. I had researched what gear oil was supposed to be used and talked to other MX6 owners on the website forum. This was important because apparently if the gear oil used contained the wrong compounds, they would eat away and corrode the brass and copper containing syncros. I was standing in the main area and the owner told the mechanic who had walked in that I had brought in this gear oil. The mechanic seemed taken aback and said something about but can't regular 10W-30 oil be used?! The owner told him again that I had brought in this synthetic oil to be used for it.  I found this very strange considering this was supposed to be a shop with car enthusiasts who knew a lot about cars. 

The Old BBN Auto Mechanics List
Back in 1995 or so I got a copy of the old BBN Auto Mechanics list off of ne.general where it was posted from time to time. Then later the owner of the list, John Bowe, posted it to his web site. When I was not happy anymore with my old shop, Streetwise in Somerville, I found LFCG through this list. They were given an "A" and the reports sounded good. After I went there I found out they were enthusiasts and raced cars and worked on little sports cars a lot. I figured this was a good sign considering my last shop told me when I brought my 1993 Supra in once that it was the nicest car they ever had in there. So much for them. Anyway, later Bowe gave the list to which is now defunct. No more list. I did a search on google and found an article from 1995 critiquing the list. You can read the whole article but here's a relevant quote: 

"The list is vulnerable to abuse.  There's nothing to prevent  a garage from contributing bogus raves about itself, slamming  competitors, or hiring an advertising agency to do this for them.  John hasn't noticed any bogus reviews coming in and the content  seems accurate so things seem to be working now -- probably  because of the list's obscurity.  But I'm skeptical that it  can continue.  In other net forums, such as those discussing  new musical groups, people are being paid to hype specific  artists.  Investment newsgroups have had shills promoting penny  stocks. Similar things could happen to the BBN list - though the  relative permanence of mechanics (compared to the musical scene or stock markets) makes manipulation a bit more difficult."