Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
New Driver

Tips for An Inexperienced Enthusiast

Hello Hagerty Community,

I wanted to take the time to introduce myself and express how excited I am to be a part of this forum. My name is Tina, and I am from Southern California here to learn all that I can to maintain/pamper my newly acquired 1977 Toyota Corolla. I stumbled upon this gem on Craigslist last December; I'm sure like many others on here, scouring craigslist is a daily hobby of mine to window shop and opportunity hop.

Now since I was young, I've always had a curiosity for cars and anything automotive. I'm sure the inspiration came from my father, who was a former auto parts dealer. He would work on our family cars at home during his spare time, and I remember frequently watching him even to the point where I got so close that I was burned once by the hot coolant shooting out from the radiator. Regardless, I was able to ignite that curiosity for a short while in high school when I joined an auto shop program for two years. I was so enamored by the environment that I even managed to get on a competitive engine building team during my time there. That was in 2011. 

Fast forward nine years, and I am now a college graduate with a degree in marketing. Needless to say, I didn't pursue further in the automotive field (which will change), but I know I have a passion that I plan on continuing in my spare time with the help of this community. 

As a novice/new college graduate, I had no means to purchase this vehicle based on knowledge and financial situation. However, I couldn't pass on such a great deal. The vehicle itself is in pristine condition, garaged its whole life, and belonged to an elderly woman before me purchasing it from her grandson. I hope to post pictures in the forum soon to share with everyone so you can appreciate her beauty. 

Since having the car, my father and I have already done a basic tune-up (spark plugs, oil change, fuel filter). I've also scoured the internet for information using the resources to build up a database of bookmarked websites for future use, along with viewing countless hours worth of YouTube and Motortrend. I just discovered Hagerty DIY a couple of days ago, and that's how I stumbled onto this forum. Some problems I've run into and I know need to be addressed now includes:

*please excuse me if I am referring to things incorrectly or if I am unclear in any way... 

  1. On cold starts, the car starts up no problem but dies out immediately. The car would only idle after I press the gas for a while, and I don't want to continue to do that on a cold start as I know it's the worst thing for it. I spoke to a technician, and he believes the choke needs to be adjusted. 
  • Now, I am thinking at this point it would be best to rebuild the carburetor as part of the overhauling process to make it a daily driver. Do you recommend this for a novice? Or is adjusting the choke something I could do? I plan on visiting the local junkyard to find a carburetor to mess with meanwhile to get familiar with the process. 
  • I know I need to replace all vacuum lines just in case I have a leak somewhere. 
  • Brakes WILL BE ADDRESSED! Somewhere along the way, I noticed that the brake pedal was depressing further without much stoppage. I went and checked the brake fluid reservoir to find it empty. I'm not too sure what's going on, but I haven't driven her since. Any ideas are welcomed! 


Ultimately, I look forward to getting to know the community and becoming a regular contributor to the site where I can. The corolla is my current daily driver…well, not really considering the circumstances today, but I am determined to do all I can to give it the respect it deserves. 

Community Manager

Hello and welcome tinateea, I hope you love your time here in the Hagerty Community.  I loved reading your story, and no doubt your Corolla is lucky to have you as its new owner!  

Regarding the brakes, that's of course your first priority.  Odds are you should redo the pads/rotors (front) the shoes/drums/wheel cylinders (rear) and replace the front and rear rubber brake lines just to ensure your safety. (brake lines can collapse internally, dont trust your eyes 😀) All the parts look dirt cheap online (I just scanned RockAuto and was happy with what I saw there) so get it all if you have any doubts to the age of anything on the car, ESPECIALLY since you want to daily drive it. 


Regarding the carburetor: yes, it's probably the choke that need adjustment. I have tried rebuilding carbs in the past and I do not have the patience for it. I wish I did!  If you do, get a spare unit and give it a shot, but keep in mind that rebuilt carburetors are a couple hundred dollars (Rockauto has one too) and some of them come pre-tuned so you just need to drop them on and go.  Which is nice for a daily driver, for sure. 

Good luck!

New Driver


Thank you so much for your detailed response and effort! You even took the time to go on Rockauto for pricing, which will be noted! I couldn’t agree with you more about replacing the braking system, especially with its age. The owner had it registered non-op for three years prior to my purchase, and I was told that he only drove the car a couple of miles at a time around the neighborhood to ensure it was operable. Can you believe I drove the vehicle on the highway for over ninety miles after the initial purchase, and it passed a smog check with no problems? Right now, I plan on keeping the vehicle as close to stock as possible; therefore, I am keeping/looking for an exact replacement of the original Aisan carb. I’m unsure if that’s the best idea, but I am just paying homage to how I received the car in its stock factory form. Well… other than an aftermarket radio and rims that the owner put in, which will be restored back. Again, I will be updating this post with progress and pictures. I appreciate the reply!
Community Manager

I am glad to hear that my advice could help, thank you for your reply back!  One thing you should always keep in mind is that parts are available for most any vehicle that was mass produced, all it takes is a lot of online research to find the right vendor or community to support you.  It sounds like you have a great plan for this Toyota, and I am excited to see photos and see your progress! 


No reason to not go with the original carb if you can get it serviced. Toyota sold bazillion of these cars and they ran quite well as designed. Whether you're going to have the brakes serviced elsewhere or do it yourself (including replacing those rubber lines), I would suggest a visit to a dealer or shop that has a vacuum machine to do a complete removal & replacement of the brake fluid. They work great, and don't cost that much. Unless the bleeders break, so you'll want to shoot a little Kroil and make sure they turn at your place...

Intermediate Driver

Hello Tina, and welcome to wonderful world of old car ownership. 

Regarding your issues, (the brakes at least for now as that is without doubt the most important.) Brake fluid lives in a captive environment, therefore if your fluid level is dropping, it's leaking out somewhere, usually through bad wheel cylinders, ruptured or cracked brake hoses or bad master or slave cylinder. check the area right behind each of your tires after the car has been sitting and the backsides of your tires for signs of leakage, it will appear as wet leak marks on the tires themselves or small puddles on the ground if your wheel cylinders have gone bad.  Follow each of your brake lines from the master cylinder (usually right near your steering column where it enters your engine bay) all the way to each wheel, especially the rubber lines and check for leaking, it will be evident when you see it. That should give you a good place to start on the brakes. Could be other things, but those are the quickest and easiest to fix.

Pit Crew

Welcome to old Toyota addiction, it is usually incurable. 

All the info folks have posted here is really good and super helpful, i just thought of mentioning a few pitfalls you'll likely encounter. 

Find pictures of your car that rusty, it will be a good guide on where the trouble spots are for your chassis.


Brakes:  buy some GOOD flare nut wrenches, not harbor freight.  And when you do have to replace a hardline upgrade to cunifer brake lines they are a rustproof copper nickel alloy and easy to bend.


Interior: that old vinyl WILL crack in the California sun, so if you can no longer keep it in the garage, time to consider tint, 3M has some UV blocking that is near clear, dislike tint on 70's cars.  But I know the struggle of no AC in old cars, there is some newer tints that reflect more heat than its darkness level too.  


Also you might consider a high mount third brake light, they are all over ebay cheap and are better than being rear ended by some idiot texting.


Best of luck

Eventually I bought a "new" toyota for my daily commute.Crown PEARL 1.JPG


A bit late to this party but second the focus on a thorough overhaul of the brakes, lines and fluid. That should solve the low fluid issue. 
Personally I think a QUALITY carburetor rebuild always involved a little “art” in addition to simply following instructions with a rebuild kit.   And I was never artistic. Maybe you have that gene and practice with another carb will, at the least, make you a knowledgeable consumer. 
A couple other things I’d suggest....

* Search online for a hard copy or downloadable version of the Factory Service Manual and/or get any and all tech literature associated with the car you can find. In addition to it often being interesting reading, it can also often be a lifesaver in sorting out issues.


*Look for and join any mark-specific forums and read thru any FAQ stickys they might have for insight, history and tech info on the car. 


* You’ve already done that tune-up and by now you may have also sorted out the braking system with new fluid. But don’t stop there. Change the transmission fluid/gear oil, the differential gear oil, flush and change the coolant for a good baseline for maintenance. Belts and hoses are relatively inexpensive and an easy R and R item...especially with the coolant drained. 


* Check the date code in your tires. The car is new to you so I assume you don’t know how old the tires might be. Tires have a SAFE lifespan independent of the amount of tread. UV, heat and just age can render an otherwise normal looking tire unsafe especially at hot summer highway speeds.  


I would agree with your mechanic about the choke. That being said, your fast idle is basically doing the job of your foot, but with a little mixture enriching by way of the choke. What causes it to stumble and die when cold is fuel puddling. Using the throttle to keep it running when cold is more of a nuisance than something that will damage your engine. 

I think you will find that getting rid of any vacuum leaks might also help with cold engine performance/running. That being said, replacing things "just in case" can be a rabbit hole that you don't want to go down. When looking at vacuum, fuel lines, etc., ask yourself a fee questions like,"Are my lines brittle and not flexible? Is my car showing signs of a vacuum leak (does it not idle down with the curb idle adjustment screw and suddenly die once it's too far out)? Can I pull off any of these lines from a fitting and not observe a change?I would try disconnecting your fuel line from the tank and the fuel pump and blowing compressed air through it to see if it passes air. While doing this, you can check the condition if your rubber lines and replace them if necessary. On your low brake fluid problem, I would,, if the car has drum brakes either front, rear, or both, pull the drum off and look for a leaky wheel cylinder. A telltale sign would be fluid on the inside edges of your tires although sometimes it takes its time before you end up with it outside the brake assembly. Doing a visual inspection would confirm/deny, or lead you in the right direction of what you need to replace, the condition of other parts. And also help you to see the inner workings of those mechanisms. Try inspecting things before blindly replacing them. It will save you time and money in the long run as you will be more likely to diagnose the problem the first time vs. throwing parts at a problem only find the problem is still there.

Anyhow,  welcome to this life we call automotive enthusiasm. Have fun with your project. Be patient. And don't be afraid to ask questions should you run into something that puzzles you. We have ALL been there.



Welcome and it is great you are skiing for help. Too many people fail to do this and pay the price. 

I work in the performance aftermarket and I see the mistakes daily so here are some observations. Note since you already have a car I will by pass choosing the right car. 

#1 access the car you have and make up a list of needs and the parts you will need. 

#2 look around and see just how hard some of these parts will be to find. Many cars from the 70’s and 80’s are difficult to find original parts in either new or restorable condition. At time they can be found but it can take time. 

#3 make a list of what needs fixed and prioritize it. #1 for sure are brakes as no matter how well a car fund if it fails to stop it is pointless. 

#4 join a forum for the brand or model. They are filled often with people that have a ready learned what you need to know. Some can be a little obsessive but most are good people and generally are willing to help. 

#5 don’t be afraid to farm work out if it is beyond your skill set. In the long run it will save time and grief. 

finally really look at how much work the car needs and how much you are willing to put in it. Odds are you will not make a profit here so the love of the car is key here. 

I always tell people decide what car you want but make sure you love it enough that if is not worth what you put in it you still love it. You do this for the love of the model not the profit. 

Also since you have the car. Before you invest a lot in it really have someone look it over. An unbiased eye can often see things you may miss. I always take a friend to look when I look to make sure I did not miss anything or over look something.  Many projects find fatal issues too late. 

Good luck and work smart. This is a journey so enjoy the trip. 


Pit Crew



I would like to add that a '77 is not the best commuter as a daily. Doesn't matter if Aunt Tootie kept it garage kept. Older cars are sluggish compared to modern vehicles (especially in So. Cal) and you will have to tinker with them often. Sometimes you are going to wait several days or a week (maybe more) to get it fixed. This is the difference between daily drivers and cars you tune or older cars. Daily drivers you don't have to worry about hurdles.


Something you need to address that no one has mentioned is the fuel system. I would change the pump and fuel lines as these older components are prone to failure to the new formulas in unleaded fuels.


Also, 1976+ cars you need to smog it every two years here in Cali. That means your smog components need to be working and the vehicle needs to run well to pass. Older cars like these can be very hard and expensive to find. 


I am glad you are enthusiast, but a carbed '77 as a daily is not the best car to have for a beginner.