The recall covers vehicles from the 2005-2008 model years sold in the U.S. and Canada. Three accidents and one minor injury have been reported, though Toyota said a link to the engine issue has not been confirmed.
Toyota's latest recall is one of its largest since it began recalling cars and trucks last October. The automaker has now recalled more than 10 million vehicles worldwide for problems that run from faulty gas pedals and floor mats that can trap accelerators, to problems with its Prius hybrid.
Toyota said Corollas and Matrixes equipped with 1ZZ-FE engines may contain a defective engine control module, the computer that regulates the performance of the engine. In some cases, a crack may develop on the module's circuit board, which could prevent the engine from starting or could cause harsh shifting or an engine stall.
Separately, General Motors Co. is recalling 200,000 Pontiac Vibes in North America due to the same problem, GM spokesman Alan Adler said. The Vibe is similar to the Matrix and was built under a joint venture between Toyota and GM at a now-closed factory in Fremont, Calif.
Both automakers said they will replace the engine control modules on the recalled vehicles at no charge. The companies will begin mailing notifications to owners of the affected vehicles in mid-September.
The engine control module with the possible defect was manufactured by Delphi Corp., a large auto parts supplier headquartered in Troy, Mich., according to documents filed with federal regulators.
The automaker has been more aggressive in its pace of recalls in recent months. Its last recall was in late July, when the automaker said it would fix half a million cars, mostly Toyota Avalon sedans, over a steering issue.
U.S. regulators hit Toyota with a $16.4 million fine earlier this year for failing to promptly tell the government about its car defects. Toyota has been working to overhaul its quality controls and respond more aggressively to customer complaints in the fallout of its recall crisis.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been investigating the possibility of engine stalling in the Corolla and Matrix models since late November. On Tuesday, the traffic safety agency said it had intensified its investigation.
NHTSA spokeswoman Olivia Alair said Thursday that the probe is ongoing. Toyota spokesman John Hanson said the automaker is cooperating with the safety agency on the probe. He said it was the automaker's decision to issue the recall, adding it was not pressured by NHTSA to do so.
U.S.-traded shares in Toyota Motor Corp. fell 34 cents to $68.72.