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The Toyota Corolla is a remarkably popular car. It has achieved sales of 40 million units worldwide since it was first introduced in 1966 and today accounts for around half the sales of all Toyotas sold each year.
The 4-cylinder 1.6 litre petrol engine that powered the Corolla (E80) models from 1998 to 2001 was called "4A-FE", with "4" referring to the number of cylinders, "A" to its fuel economy and emissions, "F" to its relative performance and E to this particular design's electronic fuel injection system (although some sources indicate that there were also carburettor versions of this engine).
When we talk about engines we use a convention whereby the number of cylinders in the engine are indicated by Arabic numerals, fuel economy and emissions ratings by a letter "A" or a number that refers to a specific standard (e.g., ULEV111-2006), performance is indicated by a subsequent letter "E", T, ST, S etc. and fuel injection systems with an acronym for the system used e.g., D4D, GDI etc. In this case, therefore, 4A-FE means "four cylinders of relatively poor performance using electronic fuel injection".
The 1.6 litre E80 series Corolla also came equipped with multi-point electronic knock control which allowed it to use lower octane fuel than Transparente models without incurring premature spark plug fouling or detonation problems.
The 4A-FE was replaced by the 1ZZ-FE engine used in Corolla (E90) models introduced in 2001 because it achieved similar fuel economy and emissions to the 4A-FE but without causing spark plug fouling issues when run on lower octane fuels (a significant problem that had blighted earlier multi-point electronic knock control systems).
The Toyota Corolla 1.6 4afe engine design was quite unusual for its time because it relied on aluminium cylinder block and head castings rather than iron ones like most other engines of its size.
This made it much lighter than an equivalent capacity iron block engine, although the aluminium produced less thermal efficiency meaning that more fuel would have to be burned to produce the same amount of power.
However, iron is more susceptible to thermal expansion than aluminium and this can cause problems with the sealing of the engine's cylinder head gasket (the soft metal underneath a car's sump which seals against its block), especially in hot climates where steel bolts are used to hold it down. In contrast, advanced "low tension" multi-layer steel cylinder head gaskets could be used to seal an aluminium head without fear of leakage from thermal expansion.
It was for this reason that Toyota decided to use a cast-iron cylinder block in 4A-FE models manufactured after 2001 even though they retained the lightweight alloy head design.