How much abuse can economy cars take?

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How much abuse can economy cars like Cavaliers, Sunfires, Civics, and Corollas truly take? Anyone have first hand experiences driving these types of cars very hard and never had a problem with them? It seems the 4 cylinder motor and transmissions in these cars are solid.
 
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I see/hear plenty of older ones around me wheezing, clattering, and spewing abundant amounts of smoke, yet somehow slowly crawling by me on the highway at 70 mph sounding like automotive death warmed over.
 
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AFAIK, it depends on what you mean by abuse. ;\) I wouldn't go WOT and redline them all day every day and expect them to last. However, they usually take lots of stop-and-go traffic and overextended OCIs pretty well.
 
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In my old Altima, I used to drive that car HARD. I'd redline it cold, rev it at idle to redline, lots of WOT, lots of short trips and lots of inactivity (it would sit for weeks at a time) and that car hardly ever gave me any trouble what-so-ever. Great car \:\!
 
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Civics and Corolla's can take a LOT more abuse than Cavaliers/Sunfires. No way I would do to my Cavalier what I've seen done to some Civics..... Come to think of it, Escorts/Focuses are pretty tough. They take a lot.
 

Bill in Utah

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 Originally Posted By: lancerplayer
How much abuse can economy cars like Cavaliers, Sunfires, Civics, and Corollas truly take? Anyone have first hand experiences driving these types of cars very hard and never had a problem with them? It seems the 4 cylinder motor and transmissions in these cars are solid.
There is a lab in SLC that used 2001-2004 Toyota corollas for driving around to get and deliver samples and they were trashed. All of them (over a dozen) went well over 300k before they retired them (mostly due to body and interior damage(you should have seen the drivers seats ) and they all were running just fine. They went to Cobalt, HHRs and Focuses... While the engine and drivetrain is holding up on all of them (the Fords are having issues with A/C I've heard), the bodys are having some serious problems. Everyone who I've talked to wished they went with Matrix or another set of Corollas. They doubt that this fleet will make 200k without serious $$ to keep them running. These days it is amazing how well 4 cyl cars do. I just got back from Montana/Canada and my Subaru 2.5l NA AWD Outback did great, went 80mph most places with 4 people and ALOT of garbage (some people call it luggage ) and returned 29.8 MPG overall (using miles traveled vs how many actual gallons pumped into the tank) for the 2,500 mile trip. Take care, Bill
 
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My friends had a 97-ish Civic in Vermont. They lived a few miles down a dirt road and drove the Civic all year with snow tires. When the moved back to PA, they asked me to freshen the car up for them. It was really beat, with minimal maintenance. Under the hood, it had 1/2" of dirt on everything. However, the car ran and drove fine, a little Junkie freshening and they sold it to a co-worker. No complaints. It sort of made me interested in Hondas, again.
 
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I know one diagnostic lab here in town that uses Toyota Echos for pickups. They seem in fine shape. Another uses HHRs. They also appear to be taking it fine. Anything is possible. My dad got 600k out of an 84 Chevette. Similarly, my brother had a 93 Sunfire as a daily driver for 10 years. It had all sorts of issues but it still ran. My dad kept the car to throw his push mower in for when he mows the family's rental lots. All the old plastic has shriveled and shrunk and bits of foam stick out everywhere...but it runs. Many cars are traded out of boredom. Even of the ones that are traded due to mechanical issues, the repairs might not be THAT expensive, just more than the PO was willing to invest.
 
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My 2001 Corolla was bullet proof. Car was like a tank. 180k miles, not one problem.
 
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the 1.3 ltr. in the '88-'93 FORD Festiva ( Mazda 121 ) can take a beating . Seen it with an acquaintance who didn't change the factory oil until it neared 25,000 miles ( checked oil and was extremely low ) . Used it for pizza delivery from day 1 . Then got into accident with it and then sold it to family member who then got into another accident with it and went well over 100,0000 miles . Now that's 1 tough cookie of a motor . Still see some FESTIVAs on the road .
 
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I bought my 94 Corolla about 5 years ago with 70,000 miles. I've driven to helll and back and it now is at 155,000 miles; from fairly bad rocky mountain dirt roads, to balls to the wall driving while storm chasing. Hasn't stranded me yet (knock on wood), regularly sees 5,000 + rpms, cruises at 75 mph at 3,500 rpms, and still gets 35 mpg with said driving. You have to rev the [censored] out of these cars to get any kind of performance out of them. I know some people think newer econo boxes aren't what they used to be, especially the very late model Corollas, but in my experience, they can take a licking and keep on ticking! I've had the valve cover off a few times on mine, and the cam shafts look perfect - just a slight discoloration (not even really a wear scar) where the lobes meet the lifters. No pitting or anything. Only 4 valves needed adjustment when I adjusted them at 120,000 miles. Still has the factory clutch, the brakes have 110,000 miles and STILL have a lot of pad life left (even with aggressive driving). IMO, these cars were meant to be DRIVEN!
 
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 Originally Posted By: smokey1
I believe the cast iron motors of yesterday were the better generation .
Baloney. Modern, light aluminum 4-cylinders like the ones in the Civic's and Corolla's are more reliable, and will rev harder, therefore take more 'abuse' than the old cast-iron engines.
 
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not from our experience . When it comes to delivery that involves lots of stop and go driving , especially in high heat and humidity .
 
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If you are going to abuse an engine, it's a [censored]-shoot, weather it be a I4, 6 or V8. Seems that with normal use, by and large, smaller engines seem to last just as long as their larger brethren.
 
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 Originally Posted By: sciphi
spewing abundant amounts of smoke
That's an immediate emissions test failure here. You can't register the car till it's fixed. There is no waiver.
 
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I have 90k of hard miles on my Focus (duratech), and there have been no major engine or transmission issues. This car is somewhat of a "boy racer" special, so when I say hard miles I mean it. Its funny to hear about AC issues on the foci, as mine is used all day every day and hasn't missed a beat. I wonder what problems they are having. A buddy of mine also has a focus, and he drives that thing like a bat out of [censored]. Rolling over 150K with no issues other than a couple brake lights. I remind him to change the oil on occasion, and he says he does. He is Romanian, and grew up there...so he has an interesting view on cars. Up until 80k, the only thing that went south was a motor mount ($50)...and this was because I used the car to teach a number people how to drive stick. Seems all those lugging engine stalls took out the passanger side fluid filled motor mount. At 80k the alternator pulley would spin freely, even though it was still attached to the alt, so I bought a whole new unit. Other than that, car hasn't missed a beat...and like I said, I spend more time at 6.5k rpm them I do at idle.
 
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I knew a girl in college who had an old (about 94) Escort 4dr. She carpooled all her friends every day to school and back. We added the weight up one day and she was hauling 1,170 pounds everyday. The two biggest girls always rode in the back with one skinny girl and that car's independent suspension always sagged and tilted inwards at the top when looking from behind. Bottomed out all the time she said - no wonder. Anyway - that car ran and ran and ran until she ran it out of oil...end of car.
 
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coworker has a sunfire he completely doesn't take care of... was leaking antifreeze and he'd top it off when it started steaming... OCIs every 18 months (not kidding), always overdue on his state inspection. Needed plugs and wires a year before he actually went for them, etc. Has the old OHV 2.2 chevy motor and it still runs and drives sweet. Saturn s-cars are "tough" as long as you don't ram curbs... then the subframe folds in knocking it out of alignment. They outlast most unibody cars in this salt-land, even the metal brake lines seem to be made of something better than most other makes. Its stainless exhaust is rare for a cheap car.
 
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 Originally Posted By: GMBoy
I knew a girl in college who had an old (about 94) Escort 4dr. She carpooled all her friends every day to school and back. We added the weight up one day and she was hauling 1,170 pounds everyday. The two biggest girls always rode in the back with one skinny girl and that car's independent suspension always sagged and tilted inwards at the top when looking from behind. Bottomed out all the time she said - no wonder. Anyway - that car ran and ran and ran until she ran it out of oil...end of car.
Sheesh, how big were her friends? Me and all my buddies are not even 1000 pounds and we are all BIG guys. Thats a lot of school books lol.
 
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