Toyota Celica, Corolla, ECHO & MR2 1999-05

Pistons & Connecting Rods


Only pistons with the wrist pin retained by C-clips are serviceable by the home-mechanic. Press fit pistons require special presses and/or heaters to remove/install the connecting rod and should only be performed by a machine shop.

All pistons will have a mark indicating the direction to the front of the engine and the must be installed into the engine in that manner. Usually it is a notch or arrow on the top of the piston, or it may be the letter F cast or stamped into the piston.

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Fig. Most pistons are marked to indicate positioning in the engine (usually a mark means the side facing the front)

C-Clip Type Pistons

  1. Note the location of the forward mark on the piston and mark the connecting rod in relation.
  3. Remove the C-clips from the piston and withdraw the wrist pin.

Varnish build-up or C-clip groove burrs may increase the difficulty of removing the wrist pin. If necessary, use a punch or drift to carefully tap the wrist pin out.

  1. Insure that the wrist pin bushing in the connecting rod is usable, and lubricate it with assembly lube.
  3. Remove the wrist pin from the new piston and lubricate the pin bores on the piston.
  5. Align the forward marks on the piston and the connecting rod and install the wrist pin.
  7. The new C-clips will have a flat and a rounded side to them. Install both C-clips with the flat side facing out.
  9. Repeat all of the steps for each piston being replaced.

Cleaning & Inspection

Connecting Rods

You should have the connecting rod checked for straightness at a machine shop. If the connecting rod is bent, it will unevenly wear the bearing and piston, as well as place greater stress on these components. Any bent or twisted connecting rods must be replaced. If the rods are straight and the wrist pin clearance is within specifications, then only the bearing end of the rod need be checked. Place the connecting rod into a vice, with the bearing inserts in place, install the cap to the rod and tighten the fasteners to specifications. Use a telescoping gauge and carefully measure the inside diameter of the bearings. Compare this reading to the rods original crankshaft journal diameter measurement. The difference is the oil clearance. If the oil clearance is NOT within specifications, install new bearings in the rod and take another measurement. If the clearance is still out of specifications, and the crankshaft is not, the rod will need to be reconditioned by a machine shop.

You can also use Plastigage® to check the bearing clearances. The assembling section has complete instructions on its use.


The piston should be visually inspected for any signs of cracking or burning (caused by hot spots or detonation), and scuffing or excessive wear on the skirts. The wristpin attaches the piston to the connecting rod. The piston should move freely on the wrist pin, both sliding and pivoting. Grasp the connecting rod securely, or mount it in a vise, and try to rock the piston back and forth along the centerline of the wristpin. There should NOT be any excessive play evident between the piston and the pin. If there are C-clips retaining the pin in the piston then you have wrist pin bushings in the rods. There should NOT be any excessive play between the wrist pin and the rod bushing. Normal clearance for the wrist pin is approx. 0.001-0.002 in. (0.025mm-0.051mm).

Click image to see an enlarged view

Fig. Measure the piston's outer diameter, perpendicular to the wrist pin, with a micrometer

Use a micrometer and measure the diameter of the piston, perpendicular to the wrist pin, on the skirt. Compare the reading to its original cylinder measurement obtained earlier. The difference between the two readings is the piston-to-wall clearance. If the clearance is within specifications, the piston may be used as is. If the piston is out of specification, but the bore is not, you will need a new piston. If both are out of specification, you will need the cylinder rebored and oversize pistons installed. Generally if two or more pistons/bores are out of specification, it is best to rebore the entire block and purchase a complete set of oversize pistons.