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Chevrolet (Geo) Prizm



  • infinia1infinia1 Posts: 174
    in the last generation prizm (98-02), per the actual brochure, the lsi is a higher trim level versus the base. i'm positive it's the same for previous years. many things that are optional on the base model are standard on the lsi. for example, my 02 is a base but it has optional, almost everything the lsi has standard which includes power windows and locks, cruise, rear defrost, tach, tilt, aluminum wheels it might as well be an lsi. the only lsi feature it lacks are the fold down rear seats, keyless entry, and premium cloth seats. i don't see why it would make a difference to the insurance agent since a base can be loaded as an lsi like mine. if it's an lsi, it will say "Prizm LSi" on the rear trunk. if it's not, it will just say "Prizm". have you tried another insurance company?
  • squeak6squeak6 Posts: 28
    Prizm update... I now have 170,995 miles on my 1998 Prizm 5-speed. I just put on a new set of tires as well as new brakes... I went to jiffy lube and got the "High Mileage" oil... this weekend I'm going to try my luck and change the spark plugs... I want to do a flush of the radiator but I can not find the release valve for the radiator... where is it located?

    also if anyone has any additional suggestion, feel free to let me know

  • asafonovasafonov Posts: 373
    We had a 96 base Geo Prizm 3-speed for years, it has 125k miles and will be passed on to my sister-in-law shortly. Last week, I bought a used '02 base Prizm with a 5-speed manual tranny. My impressions:

    1. When I read about the "Lexus-like" quietness in the 93-97 Prizms (and Corollas), I thought this surely was an exaggeration. I can see now that the 02 is a LOT less quiet at highway speeds. Whether it is cheaper insulation or stock tires or both remains to be determined. Bottom line: the car is noisy at 70mph, even with the manual. I was hoping to use it for longer trips to avoid putting the miles on my wife's car, but this probably will not happen.

    2. A combination of a somewhat stronger engine and a 5-speed gives a very different driving impression. Even without a tachometer, it is easy to figure out when to shift, and the car really (though somewhat noisily) flies.

    3. Interior trim and materials are actually better than what I expected after reading about the decontenting that was done on 98-02 models. Decent plastics and upholstery for an economy car, reasonable sound from 4 speakers/CD player.

    Conclusion: too bad Toyota skimped on soundproofing when designing 98 Corolla and Prizm. Still, at the right price (50% off invoice for 1-year old car), for in-town trips mixing street and highway driving, with cheap insurance and excellent fuel economy, this is a sensible little car.
  • I've spent the last several months looking at used Prizms and have not found a single one with folding rear seats. Is this an option that is purchased or some sort of X-Files conspiracy? This seems like a great car, but it would be a real shame if the folding seats weren't available.
  • asafonovasafonov Posts: 373
    AFAIK, only LSI trim has folding rear-seats on the 93-97 and 98-02 generation Prizms. LSI's are less common than base model (I estimate 1 out of 5 to 10), but can definitely be found in most larger cities. I was shopping for a Prizm and concluded that an LSI may not command a significantly higher price than a base, especially if you go back to 96 and earlier. Now if you want to find a 4-speed auto LSI (or any 4-speed auto Prizm), this can be problematic...
  • goose1207goose1207 Posts: 113
    My folks have a '99 Prizm that they just picked up. Was an off-lease vehicle. They have been noticing small amounts of water in the trunk around the spare tire. Maybe I need to replace the round rubber plug on the floor, right next to the spare?? And also on the passenger side of the trunk mat there is water. I opened up the rear taillights and didn't see any evidence of water in there so I'm not sure if siliconing the area around them would work (this was mentioned in an earlier post on this board, after running a search). The weatherstipping around the trunk looks good. Other than that, the car has been solid. Any ideas? Thanks!
  • jas9297jas9297 Posts: 26
    I'm looking at buying a '98-'00 Prizm/Corolla (and also Saturn or Sentra) with under 50,000 miles and am concerned about the quality of the engines. I've read about a few engine failures on this board (about 65k miles) and seems like the engine quality is suspect. Also seems like folks say 1994-97 has better build quality.

    Can anyone shed some advice about the quality of these cars?

  • asafonovasafonov Posts: 373

    From a sample of one each of 96 and 2002, I can say that the sound insulation (and the road noise) is definitely worse in my 2002 Prizm. I read a lot about decontenting and cheaper plastics with the 98 model changeover, but find the interior actually pretty decent. Still prefer the charcoal plastic of the 96... Noise at speed is my biggest gripe (with speed limit of 70 mph just outside the I-494/694 loop, you can imagine how fast on average traffic flows outside the rush hour).

    As for the engine quality, I don't expect it to be any worse in the last generation Prizm compared to 93-97. I have not seen or heard any complaints about Corolla engines of the newer vintage. On the 96, I already have 128k and it runs like clockwork with reasonably regular maintenance.

    I will repeat my advice to Corolla/Prizm shoppers: do not get a 3-speed automatic. These are more common, but look for a 5-speed manual if you are comfortable driving it, or a 4-speed auto with an overdrive gear. Anytime you exceed 60mph in a Corolla/Prizm without overdrive, you will hear the engine rev and think about potentially wearing it off faster.

    When I was shopping for a Prizm a couple of months ago, I always verified with dealers that their cars had 4-speed auto (though I ended up buying a manual from a private seller, on eBay no less!) One of the dealers commented that though his 00 Prizm was a 3-speed, it had a torque converter that essentially did the job of the overdrive. I know that every automatic transmission has a torque converter and dismissed his claim (and this dealer) outright, but perhaps there was something in his remark that I should have investigated.

    Good luck,

    P.S. I cannot say much about Saturns. I had a '87 POSy Sentra, should have got an '88 or later - serious tranmission, idle, carburator issues around 100k. Call me ethnically insensitive, but I would not touch newer Sentras (or any other car) built in Mexico.
  • asafonovasafonov Posts: 373

    I think newer Prizms/Corollas are great cars but if they are too plain for you or cannot find one, I would look for a Protege before a Sentra or a Saturn. Proteges depreciate rather steeply, maybe approaching Prizms in that respect, and are nice little cars - rented them several times. Of course, you don't want the base 1.5l engine with automatic... However, according to Phil Edmonston's LemonAid books, repairs are more expensive on Proteges than other cars in its class.

    I would even consider a Suzuki Esteem before a Sentra or a Saturn, much as I like Nissan's other cars. I have not checked Esteem's crash ratings, though.
  • Boris2Boris2 Posts: 177
    I don't think you need to worry too much about the reliability of Prizm's engine. I had '98, which I bought new, till 70K mi. I never done any maintnence on it except oil changes and EFI cleaning one or two times as a precaution. I had Check Engine Light going on one time when I hit 40K miles and that turned out to be one of the sensors that controls the ignition or something like that. While my warranty covered it, the total bill that the dealer would charge was around $200. That was about it. I think the new generation of Corolla/Prizm engines are super reliable. As was mentioned already if it's not too plain for your taste, go for it!
  • squeak6squeak6 Posts: 28
    After 173,897 miles my check engine light came one for the second time w/my 98 5-speed... I hope its nothing major... what would cause the light to just come on?

    I changed the passenger side front head lamp with no problems, it took me less than 20mins.... I may try to do a radiator flush later this week...

    As always any additional tips to keep her running will be greatly appreciated... I only have 5 more payments...!!!!!
  • goose1207goose1207 Posts: 113
    The check engine light could mean a number of things. See if you can get the OBD-II code. Autozone can do this for you for free.
  • caesarslegioncaesarslegion Posts: 109
    Local chevy dealer has used 2000 prizms. My question is since these cars are basically toyotas, do these cars have any issues with the sludge problem I heard about? Maybe these engines dont have these problems? I dont think the dealer would give me a straight answer so I figured you guys would.
  • mcdawggmcdawgg Posts: 1,666
    The Corolla engines were not affected by the sludge problem. The sludge problem was on the V-6 and larger 4 cylinder Camry, not Corolla. And even on these sludge-prone engines, the "problem" is never a problem unless you push your oil changes too far.
    Any engine will sludge if oil changes are not often enough.
    The Prizm will be fine, if it has had proper maintenance, it will last so long you will just want to get rid of it because you are tired of it, not because of any mechanical problems.
  • lrlprizmlrlprizm Posts: 15
    Squeak: You're cruising along w/ your prizm! I'm glad my prizm doesn't have that idiot "check engine" light. Having a loose gas cap is a common culprit. If your car is driving OK, the "check engine" light usually points to something minor. But I know it's a pain to see that light on. Goose is right; you'll need to go somewhere that can pull the codes off your car's computer system to see what's amiss. I'll never buy a car with a "check engine" light! By the way, my trusty '95 Lsi just passed the 150k mark. Had to go to Walmart to buy a new tire (Goodyr Viva Touring) since the old one was worn down to the treadwear bars. If you rotate your tires and keep them inflated properly, you can get at least 50k - 85k per tire (assuming you buy a good tire). One longevity tip that will save you money in the future: Try to treat your rubber parts (CV joint boots, weatherstrips, etc) with a good wiping of silicone spray or other rubber automotive treatment products. This will keep the rubber pliable and long-lasting. Replacing a CV-joint boot is a pain, not to mention expensive. Flushing your radiator should be ez. Hope you've already done it. I plan to do another transmission flush soon (it's been about 22k miles)... never had a tranny problem. Will also attempt to "purge" and replace the brake fluid this summer. Other than that, synthetic oil and careful driving remains the key to longevity. See you at the 200k mark!
  • lrlprizmlrlprizm Posts: 15
    Caesar: If you've owned chevy cavaliers and ford taurus' in the past, I feel you'll find owning a prizm (corolla) a pleasant surprise. Like the reply b4 mine, I wouldn't worry about sludge in the prizm engine. Just make sure you change your oil regularly and you should have no problems with the prizm's engine. My Lsi prizm is now over 8 yrs old w/ over 150k miles--no engine or tranny problems. I use nothing but synthetic oil, and feel that's the ultimate secret to longevity--plus overall routine maintenance. Pick a good used prizm and enjoy the reliability. I have friends who have taurus' and cavaliers and I'm amazed at the amount and type of problems they have with their cars every few thousand miles--amazing.
  • caesarslegioncaesarslegion Posts: 109
    Thanks for the info. The local chevy dealer has a bunch of them at reasonable prices and low miles. I usually buy new but the company I work for is going through a hard time and laying people off. So the lower the car note/high reliability the better.
  • 09norcim09norcim Posts: 8

    We have a 96 Prizm. The ABS (yellow light) stays on sometimes after start. Sometimes it goes away and the ABS works fine. Went to "MIDAS", they told me that they do not have the "ABS scanner", so I need to go to the dealer (However, they told me on the phone that they will charge $70 to get the ABS codes only). Dealer's shop said they charge $175 to service ABS and parts are extra. "TUFFY" told me to come on workdays only as GM ABS brake parts (Denso??) parts are available only at the GM dealers. Found a bulletin ( at "Carquest." It tells to it look for two codes and change pinion gear ($20.00 part).

    I need suggestions for owners who had the similar problems.


    PS: (I am going to disconnect the battery to see, if all data/elec. resets. Does the break oil needs to be changed)
  • lrlprizmlrlprizm Posts: 15
    Although I might not be able to help you out completely, here's some info about your ABS light. Good news: If your ABS light remains on, it usually means you have regular braking, but not ABS braking. However, according to my thick service manual for my '95 prizm (900+ pgs), if the ABS light flashes, regular braking has been degraded and you must service the brakes pronto. BTW, the anti-lock brake section covers over 200 pgs! Bad news: The diagrams and charts get pretty technical, so it's best left up to the pros to pull the codes and correctly diagnose the root of the problem. Being that your light "sometimes" stays on, it's possible there's a short somewhere in the system--but that's only an educated guess. Flushing and bleeding the brake fluid is always a good maintenance idea (I plan to do it soon on my '95 prizm), but ABS brakes involves an extra step to bleed the hydraulic modulator--although I heard from "click and clack" that bleeding ABS brakes the regular way won't harm your ABS--you just won't completely bleed the system. Low brake fluid will cause your red "BRAKE" light to illuminate, and isn't connected to your amber ABS light. BTW, I've had no pblms with my ABS, and they've saved me from a couple of accidents already.
  • Hi,
       Ihave come across an offer to buy a Geo 1994 Prizm. The seller tells me that it is a replica of the corrola.

      I was wondering whether that is the truth.
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