1991 Toyota Corolla Runs and Idles Rough

Reader Question: I have a 1991 Toyota Corolla that has had no mechanical issues that I am aware of. Suddenly in the last two days, I feel a kind of “chugging” or a stuttering. Especially when idling and accelerating but only when the car is in drive it feels like the car does not want to accelerate as quickly.

It feels like it might die, but I really am clueless. If I put the car in neutral or park, it seems to idle normally.

Does this sound like a fuel problem?

Thank you for any information!



Hello Joani,

It sounds like you might have an engine “miss”. Worn out spark plug wires tend to break down and cause an engine miss or misfire when they get hot or are under stress or heavy load like hard acceleration.

You can sometimes force a spark plug wire to fail by “power braking” the engine with one foot firmly on the brake while the other foot slowly gives the engine some gas raising the RPM’s to about 2,000-3,000. Do not do this for more than about 5 seconds.

If the engine misses or sputters while you are doing this, I would have your mechanic inspect the spark plug wires for you. If the spark plug wires are old and warrant changing, I would also inspect and or replace the following:

1. Spark plugs
2. Distributor cap
3. Ignition rotor
4. Air and fuel filters

This is a complete tune up, and will hopefully cure the problem.

I encourage you to find a repair shop that will go for a test drive with you and actually feel the problem and give you their opinion before they start work.

I take free test drives in my shop everyday, and can usually give the customer some kind of idea as to what is happening. I would get their opinion on the spark plug wires before you just run out and have someone replace them.

Total cost for everything I mentioned above will probably be in the ballpark of $255 -300 parts and labor depending on your exact engine size.

Austin Davis

Posted in: Running Problems

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