Toyota Celica Problems: 3 Most-Known Issues (Explained)

Japanese automobile company, Toyota started production of the Toyota Celica as far back as 1970. Its existence spanned multiple decades, from the 1971 model year to the 2006 model year, which was its last.

During its time, the Toyota Celica was one of the best and most popular, affordable sport cars in the world. It won the Motor Trend Import Car of the Year award multiple times and achieved a considerable level of success.

Let’s examine some of the Toyota Celica’s most common problems as reported by past and present owners.

1. Problems With the Engine and Its Components

Engine problems are some of the most reported problems with the Toyota Celica.

On Carproblemzoo alone, there were 75 reports about the Celica’s engine and engine coolants out of 286 problems in total. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

Excessive Engine Oil Consumption

Toyota Celica owners have expressed their frustrations with the vehicle’s extravagant consumption of engine oil. Many of these owners reported the unpleasantness of having to refill with a quart of oil per trip.

One owner was even more specific, claiming that the Celica burns oil at around 1 quart per 500 miles. Many of the owners also decried the rather loud unresponsiveness of the manufacturer regarding the issue.

This issue is most common with the 2000 and 2001 models of the Toyota Celica.

Engine Belts and Pulleys Issues

A number of Toyota Celica owners have reported serious problems with the serpentine belt pre-tensioner. The problem reportedly starts with loud rattling noises, and later, the belts would start slipping.

This problem has been recognized as one that poses a risk to the life and safety of drivers and passengers.

Our research showed that the problem first occurs at 20,000 miles or thereabouts and then recurs every 20,000 to 30,000 miles after a fix.

Engine Exhaust Issues

Some Celica owners complained about a billowing smoke from the vehicle’s exhaust. The reports showed this problem is linked to the earlier-mentioned issue of excessive oil consumption.

The problem is more common with Toyota Celica models with over 50,000 miles on the odometer.

Possible Causes and Solutions

Below are some potential causes of the afore-listed Toyota Celica engine problems, as well as workable solutions:

Bad Piston Rings

Piston rings are important because they help keep the engine oil in the crankcase and the fuel/air mixture in the cylinders. If the piston rings are faulty, the oil will keep burning up, which could lead to significant damage.

Bad Head Gaskets

For a smooth running of the engine, there are components known as gaskets working as a seal between the engine block and the cylinder head. However, gaskets are susceptible to blowing up, and when they do, all sorts of issues follow, including excessive oil consumption and poor fuel economy.

Misaligned Pulleys

A serpentine belt functions alongside multiple pulleys, and if any of the pulleys are not properly lined up, the belt will rattle or squeal. It will wear out after some time, causing problems for the serpentine time and the engine altogether.

Oil Leak

Oil leaks could also be responsible for serpentine belt issues. This happens when oil starts leaking around the belt area and eventually soaks the belt in lubricant, leading to serious damage.

What to Do

If you have noticed a problem with your Toyota Celica’s engine, we strongly advise having a trusted auto expert run a diagnosis. This will help determine the exact nature of the issue and the appropriate solution.

Related: How Long Do Toyota Celicas Last? (9 Important Facts)

2. Issues With the Vehicle’s Powertrain

Several Toyota Celica owners have expressed their dissatisfaction with the vehicle’s powertrain and manual transmission.

A number of owners reported a range of problems with the vehicle’s manual transmission. Some owners reported hearing clicking noises from the engine while they were on the go, after which the vehicle shut off abruptly.

Another commonly reported transmission issue was with the gears. Owners complained about a malfunction in gear shifting, which could potentially result in a crash.

We also found reports of the vehicle jerking around and the clutch pedal getting stuck to the floor. Some of the owners reported avoiding potential crashes by picking the pedal up with their feet.

Possible Causes and Solutions

Here are some of the potential causes and solutions to the issues mentioned above:

Broken Cable

A broken clutch cable could be the reason the clutch pedal goes all the way to the floor and gets stuck there.

Damaged Cylinder

If your gear keeps slipping and malfunctioning, it is likely because of a damaged clutch master cylinder. It could also result from problems with components such as the release fork and the release bearing.

Other causes of manual transmission issues include:

  • Misaligned Transmission
  • Worn Out Gears
  • Low Oil Level
  • Worn Out Synchronizer
  • Broken Transmission Mount

What to Do

Transmission issues can be very crippling; hence, they require immediate attention. If the vehicle is close to or has exceeded 100,000 miles, you’ll most likely have to replace the entire transmission. In some other cases, replacing just the faulty components will do.

The most important thing is to have a trusted auto expert diagnose the problem and come up with a solution.

Related: 11 Toyota Supra Statistics You Should Know (Facts & Numbers)

3. Problems With the Airbag

A vehicle’s airbag is crucial to the safety of its driver and passenger, if there are any. Thankfully, Toyota Celica models come equipped with functional airbags. However, there are several complaints about the airbags’ operations.

A number of Toyota Celica drivers reported that the airbags failed to deploy during a serious crash or collision. Many of these owners suffered serious injuries to their body and barely avoided death because of this malfunction.

This problem was common with 2000-2002 Toyota Celica models with as little as 15,000 to 20,000 miles on them.

Some other Celica owners also complained about the airbag sensor light illuminating permanently. One particular owner even claimed that the problem persisted even after resetting the sensor four times.

Possible Causes and Solutions

The following are possible causes and ways to resolve these issues:

Damaged Airbag Sensors

If the airbags fail to deploy in the event of a serious accident, it is most likely because of defective sensors. Airbag sensors help to detect the impact of a crash and consequently trigger the airbags and if they are damaged, the airbags will not deploy.

Bad Wiring

If the airbags wires are routed through areas where they are vulnerable to severance; it could prove dangerous during a crash. This is because the severance will very likely happen during the crash, depending on the impact, and the airbags will not deploy once the wires are severed.

Non-Replacement of Deployed Airbags

A common occurrence in used vehicles is the failure of past owners to replace the airbags after they have been deployed. So, when a used Celica model fails to deploy its airbags during a crash, it could be because there are no airbags to be deployed in the first place.

Weak Battery

A weak car battery could also mean a depleted airbag backup battery, which could cause the sensor light to stay on.

Defective Clock Spring

The clock spring helps a great deal in maintaining continuity between the wiring and the airbags. The spring often wears out after a long time, which could light up the airbag warning light.

What to Do

The airbag system is nothing to mess with; hence, we advise letting a professional handle it by way of a proper diagnosis so you can get the problem fixed permanently.

Related: Ford Mustang In Snow & Winter Driving? (Explained)

General Pros and Cons

Here are general pros and cons of the Toyota Celica:


Here are some of the Toyota Celica’s fine points:

Fuel Economy

One of the high points of the Toyota Celica is its very decent fuel economy. It has a massive MPG of 33 on the highway and 25 in the city for a combined average of 28. This helps Toyota Celica owners save up to $250 in fuel costs over five years.

Comfortable Seats

The Toyota Celica also prides itself in the comfort that oozes through its seats, even on a long drive. Many owners on Consumer Reports and other such platforms attest to this, demonstrating impressive consumer satisfaction in that area.

Futuristic Exterior Styling

If there is one thing the Toyota Celica is renowned for, it is its absolutely beautiful exterior. The Celica was discontinued in 2006, but its exterior style would still pass for “gorgeous” even in today’s auto climate.

Reasonable Running Costs

As we browsed through consumer reviews of the Toyota Celica, we couldn’t help but notice the high praise for its running costs. Many of the owners who had apparently used other cars in the past lauded the Celica’s decent maintenance costs.

Impressive Safety Features

The Toyota Celica also boasts a long list of safety features to keep its owners and their passengers safe. The features include:

  • Front-Impact Airbags
  • Seatbelt Pretensioners
  • Anti-Whiplash
  • Anti-Lock Brakes
  • Daytime Running Lights
  • Child Seat Anchors
  • Ventilated Front Disc/Rear Drum Brakes

The Toyota Celica also got an NHTSA rating of 4 stars for the driver front, 4 stars for the passenger front, and 3 stars for the front side.


• Recurrent Problems With the Engine and Components

• Issues With the Vehicle’s Powertrain

• Problems With the Airbag

What Do the Reviews Say? 

It’s every bit as good to drive as it is to look at, too. You sit in a suitably sporting low driving position and, in traffic, its typically light Toyota controls make it easy to get around. Then, on the open road, you can really enjoy the crisp steering, slick gearchange, and sharp handling. In many ways, it’s the best of both worlds.”

Source: What Car

Great looking, reliable car that is really fun to drive. … A very attractive car that looks faster than it actually is. Great fun and very comfortable to drive

Source: Car Sales

What Is the Resale Value of the Toyota Celica?


Model Year Mileage Price
2001 Toyota Celica 138,250 miles $5,995


2002 Toyota Celica 132,754 miles $5,995
2003 Toyota Celica 153,256 miles $6,996


2004 Toyota Celica 150,014 miles $7,999

Go Back: Problems for each Toyota model.

Was this article helpful? Like Dislike

Click to share...

Did you find wrong information or was something missing?
We would love to hear your thoughts! (PS: We read ALL feedback)

ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.