The first step is to replace the stock tires, which are often the car's main problem. For those on a budget, we would recommend Yokohama's AVID series. Tire Rack can sell them to you at bargain prices. We also tested the highly rated Bridgestone Potenza RE93, but found that these tires tend to chirp more on acceleration, which can bring trouble with the law. We recommend getting better tires immediately, as the stock Goodyears can be slippery in water; better tires also reduce stopping distances.
Tires are the single best safety upgrade you can make to your car. A good performance all-season radial will greatly cut down your stopping distance in dry and wet weather. A good, cheap tire is the B.F. Goodrich Traction T/A; but there are many choices in this size which will work just fine and provide better rain, dry, and snow performance without lowering comfort or tread life. (Try Tire Rack for good tire and wheel prices. Keep in mind that with installation, tire discounters may beat Tire Rack's price, though their recommendations are not likely to be as good.) Worn out tires are an opportunity to upgrade to something better and safer. Toyota and other automakers have to balance gas mileage, tire life, price, and other factors that affect hundreds of thousands of cars. You only have to look out for one. (Commonly recommended, inexpensive tires are the Dunlop D60A2, B.F. Goodrich Traction T/A, B.F. Goodrich Comp T/A, and Goodyear Aquatred. Try Tire Rack for good prices).
Another good safety upgrade is brakes. You can get a high quality performance brake pad for about the same price as a standard "OEM replacement." However, performance pads tend to wear through stock rotors, so you should probably get performance rotors at the same time. The reason Toyota doesn't install these on every car is because both wear more quickly than standard pads and rotors, and automakers must balance all sorts of things when they design cars - one of which is longevity. You may choose to go with original parts, which can last a long, long time, or with performance parts, which may need to be replaced more often.
"One cheap way to get extra power and fuel economy is to wrap your exhaust manifold/header with heat resistant exhaust wrap/tape.
"When exhaust gases are pushed out of your cylinders to your exhaust manifold, the air surrounding the manifold begin to cool the gases. This cooling process reduces the velocity of the escaping gases and the engine must 'work' to push the gases through your exhaust system.
"Wrapping the exhaust headers with exhaust wrap maintains hotter exhaust gases that exit the system faster through decreased density. Increased exhaust scavenging is produced, along with lower underhood and intake temperatures. I would also venture to guess that my catalytic converter operates more efficiently since hotter gases would elevate burning of pollutants.
"I purchased the exhaust wrap by a company called Thermo Tec from a JC Whitney catalog for around $30. I installed the wrap on the header and a portion of the exhaust pipe leading from the catalytic converter to the muffler.
"This mild enhancement resulted in a 5 - 7 HP gain ... the power surge starts at around 3,000 rpm. I haven't had the chance to monitor the fuel economy gains."
David Fain wrote that he had added a cold air intake to his Corolla; his method is similar to that used by many enthusiasts on cars from PT Cruisers to pickup trucks. In his words:
The car seems to rev up faster. I did it by cutting a portion of the air intake hose (2 inch diameter intake plastic hose), attached a 90 degree 2" PVC coupling, cut and attached a PVC pipe and routed to the grill of the car. Since the opening of the pipe is pointing down, I made a 45 degree angle cut at the bottom of the pipe and faced it towards the grill. In this way, as air speed picks up, the air hits the 45 degree opening and 'rams' the air up the pipe. Since air has to move up the pipe, rain water doesn't seem to work it way up into the filter box.
To do this, you will need (from a hardware store) 2" PVC piping and a rubber 2" 90 degree coupler, with a hose clamp on each end. Use a tape measure and utility knife saber saw with angle cut adjustments.
- Remove the Battery.
- At the point where the air intake hose bends upward/parallel with the battery, use your utility knife to cut the intake hose.
- Attach the 90 degree PVC coupler to the air intake hose. The coupler should be pointing down towards the ground.
- Measure distance from the end of the couple to the engine splash guard ... factor in another 1/2 inch for the PVC piping fitting into the coupler.
- Cut the PCV piping to desired length.
- Take your saber saw, adjust to highest possible angle, and make an angle cut on one end of the PVC piping. The cut should end as close to the end of the pipe.
- Remove the coupler, attached the PVC pipe with the angle cut opening facing towards the front of the car and reattach coupler to the air intake hose.
- Check and adjust. You may have to take more material off the PVC pipe so it doesn't touch the splash guard.
Note: Ed Salisbury wrote, "My understanding is that PVC should not be used in the engine compartment, since it can give off poisonous fumes when heated too much. I've heard that ABS is the plumbing material of choice."
Let's face it - few buy a four-door Corolla because it's a performance car. There are too many competitors with better stock suspensions. Still, chances are that you do want to make your Toyota live up to its performance potential.
The 1998+ engine is already fairly well optimized, so unless you are willing to spend good cash for a turbocharger, the only easy upgrades are an underdrive pulley, exhaust system upgrade (contact Dynomax for a local dealer), and K&N air filter, which is a controversial item. Some claim the K&N increases air flow without loss of protection; others say it is a waste of money, and at worst, that it lets more dirt into the engine. If the K&N does make a difference, it is at the highest rpms when airflow becomes critical.
Some manufacturers making upgrades are TRD (expensive but good), Eibach, H&R, GAB, and, for brakes, KVR.
David Fain wrote:
Just had TRD stock struts and springs installed and the improvement in handling is incredible ... at least 100% and worth the investment! The ride is stiffer than stock but the car absorbs road imperfections without giving bone jarring feedback. In addition, the car is about 1 inch lower than before and the lowered stance conveys a sports car attitude. With this new setup, you have to push the car pretty hard to make it oversteer but its easy to get it back under control.
Adam Trimble wrote: "A word of advice, the Corolla engine (1ZZ-FE) cannot have "G" series heads put on it. I have talked to both TRD and Toysport who say this is impossible."