Toyota 0W-20 in a 1997 Corolla (4A-FE engine)?

Joined
Feb 28, 2022
Messages
2
Hi,

the title kinda speaks for itself, I own a 1997 Toyota Corolla with the 1.6L 4A-FE engine.
These are very solid engines but oil consumption is a known issue, most likely due to the piston rings gumming up and oil not being able to flow back down through the very small drain holes behind the piston control ring.

The previous owner has been running 15W-40 mineral oil with an OCI of 12-15k miles and of course the engine has developed quite a thirst for oil - consuming roughly 1qt every 1500-2000 miles. My first course of action was switching over to fully synthetic 5W-30 which made consumption drop to just 1qt in my whole 8000mile OCI. The engine also starts much easier, runs very smooth both at idle and under load.

I believe piston ring cleanliness is crucial for these engines - to achieve that I see two measures:
a) thinner oil with high quality base oils - flows better (faster) through oil control rings and small holes behind them
b) modern oils relying less on ZDDP, Calcium and other additives that form ash when combusted

My aim is to maximize mpg and keep the piston ring zone clean without sacrificing engine life.
I really like the Toyota 0W-20 oil and would love to give it a try. The question is, how thin can I go without harming the other components.
Does anyone have any experience with running a xW-20 in 1990s Toyota Engines, especially the 4A-FE or 7A-FE ones?


Here's some more data about the car / use case:

car: 1997 Toyota Corolla
engine: 1.6L N/A 4A-FE
mileage: 110.000
oil consumption:
oil-weight from owners manual:
5W-30 (recommended), 10W-30, 15W-40 or 20W-50
temperature range: minimum10-20F in winter, maximum 85-95F in summer
driving style: very relaxed, fuel efficient. Engine rarely sees above 3500rpm.
 
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Apr 18, 2015
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I once tried Pennzoil 5-20 synthetic in my 1994 corolla 1.8 7a-fe, nearly identical to your engine, during the Winter in NYC. It did fine when the temperature was 15f-35f. However, I was on the highway coming back from Long Island during 40f temperature and while merging or passing, the car engine felt rough, weak and unresponsive I would assume due to increased friction. I dumped it early for 5w-30 and all was great again. I'm extremely fussy about how replacement parts and fluids perform on my vehicles so your experience may be different.
 

Shel_B

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Aug 7, 2020
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Hi,

the title kinda speaks for itself, I own a 1997 Toyota Corolla with the 1.6L 4A-FE engine.
These are very solid engines but oil consumption is a known issue, most likely due to the piston rings gumming up and oil not being able to flow back down through the very small drain holes behind the piston control ring.

The previous owner has been running 15W-40 mineral oil with an OCI of 12-15k miles and of course the engine has developed quite a thirst for oil - consuming roughly 1qt every 1500-2000 miles. My first course of action was switching over to fully synthetic 5W-30 which made consumption drop to just 1qt in my whole 8000mile OCI. The engine also starts much easier, runs very smooth both at idle and under load.

I believe piston ring cleanliness is crucial for these engines - to achieve that I see two measures:
a) thinner oil with high quality base oils - flows better (faster) through oil control rings and small holes behind them
b) modern oils relying less on ZDDP, Calcium and other additives that form ash when combusted

My aim is to maximize mpg and keep the piston ring zone clean without sacrificing engine life.
I really like the Toyota 0W-20 oil and would love to give it a try. The question is, how thin can I go without harming the other components.
Does anyone have any experience with running a xW-20 in 1990s Toyota Engines, especially the 4A-FE or 7A-FE ones?
I'd try this:
 
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Personally I’d just use 5w30, as I’m not in love with thin oil. But I’m not sure that the “conversion“ to 0w20 actually involved actual changes to engines when it occurred. So my guess, under a gentile right foot, that nothing bad is going to occur.

Finally, unless if you driving huge miles per year, I would hazard that a quart every 1k (let alone less) is not that expensive to deal with. Annoying, but perhaps less cost that high end oil meant to fix the issue.
 
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Dec 19, 2019
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Location
Muncie, Indiana
Stick with 5W30, and don't obsess with a tiny bit of consumption, I wouldn't really be worried if my brand new car was consuming a quart every 8000 miles let alone a 25 year old corolla, I'd just stick with a quality synthetic and keep doing what you've been doing, maybe look into mobil 1 high mileage if you think there's any more cleaning to be done from the previous abuse, M1HM is believed to contain a significant quantity of alkylated naphthalene which has a rather high solvency and should help in cleaning things up.
 
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Seems Toyota only approved it for one model.
Toyota Oil Chart.JPG
 
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Location
Muncie, Indiana
Is the Valvoline Premium Blue Restore still available? That might be a good option except for the cost.
I think it may be going away, at this point I think most of the effected engines have been rebuilt and Cummins may have moved to the mind that the few remaining engines out there that need it should just be overhauled with the updated piston and rings set
 

KJH

Joined
Oct 15, 2011
Messages
121
I have a 2AZFE that burned 1 quart/1000 miles and made a topic similar to this. I am updating that soon but I have mostly solved the problem and learned alot about this subject through research and experience. My thoughts:

1quart at 8k miles is excellent for a previous oil burner and I am not sure you are going to get any better than that no matter what oil you choose. I would theorize that the remaining consumption is from normal, slight wear to the cylinder walls as a result from operating with gummed/stuck rings and low quality oils in its previous life, and maybe old valve seal stems seeping a bit.

If you want to ensure that the rings and oil holes are as truly un-gummed as you can get them without a teardown, adding some ester based oil concentrate like HPL engine cleaning oil or the Blue restore mentioned above for a 1-2k OCI or two and filter change will probably do it. HPL is easier to get your hands on these days. You can accomplish this through engine flush products or a piston soak, but these methods are more invasive and risky, were as ester oil products do a slow clean and is just overall less of a hassle for what essentially is the same result.

In most cases, I believe the single most important thing to prevent and reduce oil consumption from ring problems is shorter OCI(4-6k) with a high quality synthetic. However, this applies more to modern 4cyls that are very hard on oil. With your situation, 1 quart at 8k miles is so negligible that if saving a bit of time and money with less frequent OC is your priority, it doesnt matter as much.

Your gentle driving habits are not ideal for keeping the engine clean. Do the old italian tune up once in a while.

I do not think running a lower viscosity has a major effect on consumption in these cases, unless you go to either end of the extreme. If the piston ring is not making a proper seal due to gumming/sticking, your oil control ring/holes are gummed, it will consume oil no matter the thickness. Anecdotally my consumption went down 400 miles per quart by switching FROM 0w-20 FS to 0w-40 FS. If anything I beleive it is possible that the thicker oil is easier for the ring to scrape off of the cylinder wall as opposed to a thinner oil, but I did a very short engine flush previous to that OCI as well (1/4 of recommended dose and only 5-10 mins of runtime), so I cannot say for sure whether it was result of that flush instead of purely the oil.

When it comes to oil choices, high quality full synthetic with ester content is probably the best choice. I am not extremely knowledgeable on oils with ester in them(there dont seem to be too many), but I use M1 0w-40 which has a small amount, and I believe some varieties of the Valvoline maxlife/high mileage oils have some as well.

Honestly though, at 1 quart per 8k miles on a 97 Toyota, if it were me, just pick any high quality synthetic thats a good price and drive the wheels off of it. If you are really set on completely stopping the consumption, HPL engine cleaner procedure as mentioned above, check your valve stem seals, and if that doesnt work a piston soak. If all that fails, its cause its an old slightly worn engine and it drinks a negligible amount of oil, not a big deal.
 
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Is the Valvoline Premium Blue Restore still available? That might be a good option except for the cost.
Not worth it. Piston soaks and maybe HPL’s cleaner will yield dividends instead.

I’ve dumped 0W-20 into a gen 2 Prius. It flashed off almost instantly for top-off.
 
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The previous owner has been running 15W-40 mineral oil with an OCI of 12-15k miles and of course the engine has developed quite a thirst for oil - consuming roughly 1qt every 1500-2000 miles. My first course of action was switching over to fully synthetic 5W-30 which made consumption drop to just 1qt in my whole 8000mile OCI. The engine also starts much easier, runs very smooth both at idle and under load.
a) thinner oil with high quality base oils - flows better (faster) through oil control rings and small holes behind them
On that first comment, what do you mean? That the 40-grade oil is the cause of the observed consumption? No. That has nothing to do with the grade.

Same for the second one.
 
Joined
Mar 28, 2017
Messages
219
Hi,

the title kinda speaks for itself, I own a 1997 Toyota Corolla with the 1.6L 4A-FE engine.
These are very solid engines but oil consumption is a known issue, most likely due to the piston rings gumming up and oil not being able to flow back down through the very small drain holes behind the piston control ring.

The previous owner has been running 15W-40 mineral oil with an OCI of 12-15k miles and of course the engine has developed quite a thirst for oil - consuming roughly 1qt every 1500-2000 miles. My first course of action was switching over to fully synthetic 5W-30 which made consumption drop to just 1qt in my whole 8000mile OCI. The engine also starts much easier, runs very smooth both at idle and under load.

I believe piston ring cleanliness is crucial for these engines - to achieve that I see two measures:
a) thinner oil with high quality base oils - flows better (faster) through oil control rings and small holes behind them
b) modern oils relying less on ZDDP, Calcium and other additives that form ash when combusted

My aim is to maximize mpg and keep the piston ring zone clean without sacrificing engine life.
I really like the Toyota 0W-20 oil and would love to give it a try. The question is, how thin can I go without harming the other components.
Does anyone have any experience with running a xW-20 in 1990s Toyota Engines, especially the 4A-FE or 7A-FE ones?


Here's some more data about the car / use case:

car: 1997 Toyota Corolla
engine: 1.6L N/A 4A-FE
mileage: 110.000
oil consumption:
oil-weight from owners manual:
5W-30 (recommended), 10W-30, 15W-40 or 20W-50
temperature range: minimum10-20F in winter, maximum 85-95F in summer
driving style: very relaxed, fuel efficient. Engine rarely sees above 3500rpm.

Stick with 5w30. Do another change at 1k miles, than 3k miles, followed by 5k miles OCI's.
This should clean it as much as possible, with out using cleaners/solvents.
 

Jackson_Slugger

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I'd just stick with what you are doing, 1 qt. per 8K is just fine. The ultimate fix is to open the engine up and clean it while drilling more drain ports as these engines were prone to starvation once carbon and sludge began to seal off and inhibit proper circulation leading to more hotspots and cascading failure. But not sure it's worth it with a 97' and the already lowered consumption.

I definitely wouldn't use a flush but maybe an in-OCI, gradual cleaner like the HPL mentioned above, or Rislone towards the end of an OCI might be helpful...
 

Jackson_Slugger

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On that first comment, what do you mean? That the 40-grade oil is the cause of the observed consumption? No. That has nothing to do with the grade.

Same for the second one.

Someone wrote a long, great post on these engines a while back here but I cannot find it. I think he was a senior tech for a Toyota dealership, maybe even a regional supervisory type.

He said there was essentially a design flaw with these engines with drain ports that were too small and few in number. If the engine was abused, or even just not properly maintained, they frequently turned into burners and formed hotspots due to poor oil circulation. And of course the natural reaction is to put in thicker oil when one is burning and most of the time that helps, but the thicker oils tended to increase oil usage in this circumstance.

My nephew had one of these in the Celica and he observed it used more 10W-40 HM than it did 5W-30 synblend, and he was told not to use anything thicker than the 5W-30 and that the real fix is the above, physically cleaning the motors and increasing the circulation by drilling more pin holes as it was a major design flaw in the engines. His friend crashed the car making it all moot. It's one of the rare instances where using thicker oils may actually increase burning. But of course the oil isn't to blame, lackadaisical Toyota engineers are as oils are not here to mask design flaws whether thicker or thinner....
 
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My nephew had one of these in the Celica and he observed it used more 10W-40 HM than it did 5W-30 synblend, and he was told not to use anything thicker than the 5W-30 and that the real fix is the above, physically cleaning the motors and increasing the circulation by drilling more pin holes as it was a major design flaw in the engines. His friend crashed the car making it all moot. It's one of the rare instances where using thicker oils may actually increase burning. But of course the oil isn't to blame, lackadaisical Toyota engineers are as oils are not here to mask design flaws whether thicker or thinner....
This is a reason 0w20 might work. If you want to give a try, go ahead. I would at least make sure you watch the oil levels like a hawk at first. Otherwise, your engine won't grenade over it. But like others say, the safe way is stick to 5w30.
 
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I had a 1997 geo prizm hence my screen name. I ran Castrol Syntec 5w-30 and Mobil 1 and squeezed 246,000 miles out of it.
 
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Messages
21,504
Location
Upper Midwest
Someone wrote a long, great post on these engines a while back here but I cannot find it. I think he was a senior tech for a Toyota dealership, maybe even a regional supervisory type.

He said there was essentially a design flaw with these engines with drain ports that were too small and few in number. If the engine was abused, or even just not properly maintained, they frequently turned into burners and formed hotspots due to poor oil circulation. And of course the natural reaction is to put in thicker oil when one is burning and most of the time that helps, but the thicker oils tended to increase oil usage in this circumstance.

My nephew had one of these in the Celica and he observed it used more 10W-40 HM than it did 5W-30 synblend, and he was told not to use anything thicker than the 5W-30 and that the real fix is the above, physically cleaning the motors and increasing the circulation by drilling more pin holes as it was a major design flaw in the engines. His friend crashed the car making it all moot. It's one of the rare instances where using thicker oils may actually increase burning. But of course the oil isn't to blame, lackadaisical Toyota engineers are as oils are not here to mask design flaws whether thicker or thinner....
Yeah if anything you'd want an oil with high oxidation resistance and resistance to sludge and deposit formation. That's entirely independent of the grade. But I agree that on this engine there's definitely a design defect and an oil is not a great way to overcome that.
 
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