Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Chevrolet/Geo Metro



  • zaken1zaken1 Posts: 556
    Hey; you faked me out with the title of this last post (#1535). Read the title and see if you can find the problem. The 1.3 is the displacement of the 4 cylinder Metro. But you've been saying you had a 1.0 liter 3 cyl up until now. I saw that title when I was halfway through with writing a detailed answer; and had to scroll back about 3 pages to find your original posts. And in the process, my answer went away. I'm assuming you really have the 3 cyl engine, and just made a typo. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    First of all; you've got to have clean, dry plugs in the engine, in order for it to start. Since you say the plugs are wet, they will all have to be taken out and dried off. The best way to dry plugs off is with the flame from a propane torch. In a pinch, a gas flame from a kitchen stove can also be used; but the stove burner flame isn't hot enough to burn off carbon deposits; it can only boil off gasoline. Be sure to hold the metal plug body with a pair of pliers, so your hand doesn't get burned.

    While the spark plugs are out; the next thing I'd like you to do is to remove the distributor cap, and turn the engine until the rotor tip points to the 3 o'clock position. This should put the piston in #1 cylinder at the bottom of the compression stroke. Then hold your thumb over the spark plug hole for #1 cylinder, so that it seals the opening; and have someone either very briefly tap the starter, or push the car forward in second gear. As soon as the engine begins to turn, you should feel strong air pressure against your thumb. If the engine turns enough to move the rotor tip to the 12 o'clock position, and you have not felt strong pressure against your thumb; the timing belt is out of position. (If that turns out to be the case; I would suspect that the timing belt tensioner came loose because it was not properly adjusted or tightened. There are TWO bolts for the tensioner. The bolt in the adjustment slot is the first one to tighten; to set the belt tension, after the spring has pulled the belt as tight as it can. The second bolt is in the center of the tensioner wheel. It must then be tightened to lock the tensioner in the position where the adjustment was set.)

    If you feel strong compression pressure against your thumb when the engine turns that 1/4 turn of the rotor (which equals 1/2 turn of the crankshaft), that proves the timing belt is in proper mesh. And this test will address the point which Senor Mechanico brought up, about the distributor being 180 degrees off.

    The next thing to do is to hold the end of the coil wire close to and directly above the inner end of the metal strip on top of the rotor, and then have someone crank the engine. If there are any sparks from the coil wire to the rotor while the engine cranks; the rotor is internally shorted; and must be replaced. With a good rotor; there should be no sparks during that test.

    If you still haven't found a problem; take the distributor cap out into bright sunlight, or put it under a 100 watt desk lamp, and look closely at the inside surface of the cap with a magnifying glass. If there are any cracks or lines radiating from the center terminal to any other part of the cap; the cap should be replaced.

    If all the above tests come out good; install the clean, dry spark plugs, and try starting the engine while you hold the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor. The engine should be allowed to crank continuously for up to ten or fifteen seconds each time you're trying to start it.

    If it still doesn't start; is it possible that you bought a tank of E85 ethanol fuel when you last bought gas? This engine will not run on E85. It is only intended for use in new cars which are made for it.
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54
    Sorry about the typo. I'll give your suggestions a try. This car is driving me nuts!
  • zaken1zaken1 Posts: 556
    And if nothing is found with all that I said above; get a compression gauge, and check the compression in all the cylinders. It should be at least 180 psi all the way across; and preferably higher. The compression in a new engine is 195 psi. If the compression is lower than these figures; the engine cannot be tuned to start and run reliably. In that case it would either have to be replaced or overhauled. There is a great engine remanufacturer called Hiperformer Engines, in Spokane, Washington; who sells completely remanufactured Metro 3 cyl engines for about $1,300 plus shipping. These engines come with a 7 year, 100,000 mile warranty:
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54

    OK, here's where I'm at- Put in new plugs, wiring ok, cap-rotor & coil ok. I did the 3 o'clock test with the rotor. The piston did go to top dead center while the rotor is at the 12 o'clock spot with the piston at TDC. BUT, the marks where you time it (0-20), now has the little white timing mark set at 17 when the rotor is at 12 o'clock and the piston is at top dead center. Shouldn't the white timing mark line up to the 5 notch? Remember, this is a new timing belt. Could it have slipped after initial installation. Do I need to take the belt off to reset things or what.
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54

    Keeping the above post in mind- I am working on this car alone, so I had no one to turn it over to get the piston to TDC with the rotor at 12 o'clock, so, I can't tell if the piston was at the top of the compression stroke, or at the top of the exhaust stroke. I believe this would make a difference and maybe that is why the timing mark was at 17 and not 5.
  • zaken1zaken1 Posts: 556
    First of all; it would not make ANY difference in the timing marks whether the engine was at TDC Compression or TDC exhaust stroke. The pulley with the timing mark on it is firmly bolted to the crankshaft; so there is no way there can be an error in the timing you read. When the mark lines up with zero degrees, the piston WILL be at TDC. But there is a good chance you made an error in the way you determined TDC; which I assume you did by sticking something into the spark plug opening and feeling the piston. 17 degrees is not an unlikely amount of error, when using that method while working alone in the dark. So let's set that concern aside for now.

    When the rotor is pointing anywhere between 3 o'clock and 12 o'clock, the piston in # 1 cylinder will be on the compression stroke. When it is on the exhaust stroke; the rotor will point between 9 o'clock and 6 o'clock (with 6 o'clock being TDC).

    Incidentally, the actual TDC position coincides with ZERO degrees on the crankshaft pulley. 5 degrees is when the spark is supposed to take place; but the crankshaft position at that point is 5 degrees BEFORE TDC.

    In order to check the timing belt alignment; turn the engine until the timing mark lines up with zero degrees, and then look at the rotor position. It should be either pointing STRAIGHT UP (12:00) or STRAIGHT DOWN (6:00). When the timing mark lines up with 5 degrees; the rotor should line up with the cap terminal for the #1 spark plug wire. But the difference between TDC and 5 degrees BTDC is so small that it can pretty much be ignored for this purpose.

    If the rotor does not point very close to straight up or straight down when the pulley mark lines up with zero degrees; the timing belt is off.
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54
    Thank you Zaken1:

    The timing mark is now set at exactly zero degrees and the rotor is pointing up exactly 12 o'clock. So I can assume that the belt is secure and that the timing is good, right? So, in light of everything I have done to the car, it should now start. I am almost afraid to try it. And, I always put regular gas in it from the same station, so bad fuel should not be the problem. I'll wait a few minutes to see if you send me anything else and then I will go and try to start it again.
  • zaken1zaken1 Posts: 556
    If I got back in time; be sure the plugs are clean and dry; and if it doesn't start easily, hold the accelerator all the way down while you're cranking it. You may need to alternate different positions of the accelerator pedal.
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54
    Spins fast-still no start-not even a sputter. This car is wearing me out.
  • zaken1zaken1 Posts: 556
    In view of what is going on; I can think of two more possibilities: One is that your fuel injector is sticking open, and is as a result dumping unregulated quantities of raw fuel into the engine. If that is the case, the way to determine that is to remove the fuel pump fuse (from the fuse box in front of the shock tower, next to the inner fender on the drivers side). Then remove and dry the plugs again, and reinstall them. Crank the engine with your foot down to the floor on the accelerator for a full fifteen seconds. If it does start; it will probably not run for long, as there is no fuel coming in. But any firing at all would suggest the injector is stuck. If it doesn't fire during that time; this was probably not the problem.

    The second possibility is what I mentioned last night; the timing belt may have slipped exactly enough to put the cam and distributor 180 degrees out of phase. And that is why I asked you to check for compression in # 1 cylinder when the engine begins to turns while the rotor is pointing to 3 o'clock. The fact that the engine spins fast sounds like what usually happens when the belt jumps time. But without checking for compression, there is no other way to determine this. So I ask you again; either find someone who can help you push the car a few feet in second gear; while you hold your thumb over the plug hole, or buy a compression gauge that screws in to the spark plug threads. With that kind of gauge; you can sit in the car and crank the starter for five full seconds with your foot at least partly down on the accelerator; and then walk over to the gauge and read it. Repeat this test on the other two cylinders. If the compression is below 50PSI; the timing belt has probably slipped. If the compression is between 80 and 125 PSI; the valves are probably burned.
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54
    Thanks very much. Back to the garage. GRRRRRRRR
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54
    Sounds like a plan. How do you get the switch to come out. I tried, don't want to break it. Is it the big black box next to the FI box?
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54
    Had my roomate turn it over. Put my thumb on #1 plug hole and rotor at 3 o'clock.

    There was a big blast of compression while the rotor went from 3 o'clock to 12 o'clock. So' I don't think compression is the problem. Per my previous post........
    which thing is the fuse you want me to pull. There are 3 "fuse" looking things with different colors on top and 2 bigger black boxes right alongside them. The big box on the left says fuel, but I tried to pull it out and it won't come out. It has a lot of wires going to it on the underside.
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54
    OK, I think I found the right fuse to pull. It was not one of the 2 bigger black boxes. I think it was the one that says 15 amps on it. When I pulled it, I could not hear the fuel pump go on before I tried to start it. Anyway, I cleaned the plugs, and pulled the fuse. Let it turn over a few times for about 10 seconds each, or so, but not even a sputter. So, got real good compression out of #1 hole and tried the fuse. No results.

    This has got me stumped. Sorry to bother you with all these questions but NEED TO GET THIS CAR GOING.

  • zaken1zaken1 Posts: 556
    There is a list of the fuses and their positions on the cover of the fusebox. Don't mess with the two bigger black boxes, they are relays. Looking from the drivers side at the fuesbox; the row closest to the fender starts from the left side with green, red, and yellow fuse looking things. They are heavy amperage main fuses; don't mess with them either. To the right of those 3 heavy colored fuses; next to the right end of the box, there are two spaces for smaller fuses. If your car does not have air conditioning, the right side space will be unused. But there will be a small blue 15A fuse in the left of those two spaces (closest to the 3 colored large fuses). That is the fuel pump fuse. That position is marked "F.I." on top of the fusebox cover. (The right hand position is marked A/C.) Just grab the blue fuse with a thumb and index finger, and pull it straight up. You can use a pair of pliers if necessary; but don't squeeze them too hard, or the fuse may crack.

    I just read your last post; which invalidates what I wrote above. The only possibilities I can think of is that the plugs you're using were not sufficiently cleaned; or that the plug wires were not installed in the cap in the right order; or the rotor was not installed in the distributor, or the coil wire was left off the distributor cap, or the primary wires were not connected to the coil when you tried to start. But I expect none of these things were the problem. I'm stumped for now. Sorry!!!
  • zaken1zaken1 Posts: 556
    I now have another idea. The coil or the ignition module may be bad. If that is the case; the spark may not be as strong as it appears. A low current spark sometimes will blow out under compression, although it seems fine in free air; but there is a test which can help find out how good it really is.

    Please do the following test; wrap a heavy, clean rag around the coil wire, and hold the rag so that the end of the coil wire is near a bolt in the valve cover; crank the engine, and see how far you can move the wire away from the bolt before the spark quits. Have a ruler nearby, so you can measure the greatest distance the spark will jump. Please tell me that distance; as accurately as possible. I would also want to know the color of the spark. Is it blue white, orange, maroon, or yellow? Also let me know if you hear any crackling or strange noises from the coil when you make this test. Coils and modules can be expensive; so we need to be careful about condemning these parts.

    Please also tell me whether there are any add on items connected to the coil (like a tachometer) and whether the coil has an electrical plug attached on the opposite end from where the coil wire attaches. If it doesn't have such a plug; it probably will look like a tin can, with the coil wire and the two primary wires all coming out of the top. Which type is it; and is there a brand or any label on it?

    While we're at it; please find the ground bolt on the back edge of the intake manifold, near the passenger side. There should be a bunch of wires fastened under that bolt. See if that bolt is loose, and if possible; take it off and clean off any corrosion on the manifold surface, the bolt, or the wire terminals. Then put it back on tightly. There is also a ground wire that runs from the distributor to a bolt in the firewall. That, too should be clean and tight. And the battery ground terminal (the one closest to the front of the car) should have two wires coming from it. One wire should go to a bolt on an unpainted part of the engine. There should also be a smaller wire which goes to a bolt in the fender. Please tell me if all these wires are on your car. Thanks!
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54
    I just returned from WALKING to the store, so I will implement your new suggestions first thing tomorrow. I do appreciate your help. I used to be somewhat of a mechanic some 40 years ago, when you did not need a degree in computer science or brain surgery to fix a car (old flat head engines), etc. Your posts are keeping me going on this. Thank you.
  • zaken1zaken1 Posts: 556
    Gee, another old soul: I spent all my money to buy my first motorcycle 50 years ago; only to find out that the engine, which had just been freshly rebuilt by the dealer, did not run properly. I couldn't afford to pay anyone to fix it, so I went to the library and read every book they had on repairing engines. After spending weeks going through all the usual electrical and fuel stuff to no avail; it seemed like the only remaining possibility was the valve timing. So I bravely pulled the timing cover; and sure enough found that the idiot who had assembled the engine had not meshed the cam gears correctly. The motor ran great after that; and I was enthused and inspired enough to take two years of auto shop in high school, and then began fixing all my friends' cars and motorcycles. I had the major advantage over most other mechanics of being open minded, patient, humble and inquisitive enough to read and learn about things that I did not already know. So it usually turned out that I ended up working on engines everywhere I went.

    After dropping out of college in my senior year as a Cultural Anthropology major and then having a series of abortive employment experiences; I decided I could not be happy spending my life working for someone else. I spent a summer at a spiritually based commune in the Nevada desert, and then returned to my beloved northern California; reinvigorated and inspired. A week later, I was walking down the street and saw a man struggling to start his Volvo. I offered to help; and ended up correcting an ignition problem which had baffled a series of previous mechanics. The grateful motorist turned out to be a professor at Stanford. He began recommending me to his students; and I soon had a thriving business. I then went back to night school, took some advanced courses in emissions, oscilloscope engine diagnosis and ignition electronics, bought a bunch of specialized tools, and spent the next 27 years as a self employed fuel, electrical, and diagnostic specialist. I never had to advertise; clients usually told their friends about this weird guy who had no official credentials, worked out of old buildings, charged half the hourly rate of the major shops (but usually spent twice as much time as they did to do a job; in order to do it right, and maintain sanity) and sold parts at no mark up. When word got out that I had decided to retire in 1997, one of my more creative clients somehow got hold of my address book; and secretly organized a huge farewell party. It brought tears to my eyes to see so many people whose cars I'd worked on for all those years.

    I spent the next 3 years helping out at the US headquarters of a Buddhist meditation oranization in rural Maryland; until the stock market tanked in 2000. I then was hired to teach courses in engine theory at Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Orlando, Florida. Having no formal credentials; I had to once again enlist the support of enthusiastic former clients; who wrote 20 letters of reference. And that was what got me that position. I taught at MMI for most of 2001, and loved the work; until bikers bad attitudes and a profit hungry administration eventually combined to create an unsustainable environment.

    So that's why I'm back in California, and now write online. I hope this background information was not excessively long or boring.

    If the wiring issues I mentioned do not turn out to fix your problem, and the information you provide indicates a weak spark; it will be necessary for you to buy or borrow a voltmeter, in order to conclusively determine the source of the problem. Radio Shack sells several different types of voltmeters which would be suitable. Any meter which can resolve the difference between readings as close together as 1.3; 1.5; and 1.7 volts would be suitable. A digital meter would be nice; but the very cheap digital meters have poor accuracy. If you're going to pay $20; an analog meter might be a better choice. That store used to sell an analog meter with a mirrored scale, for about that price. And it was a particularly good value.
  • zaken1zaken1 Posts: 556
    I just wanted to add that there is an alternate way to trigger the coil to produce sparks; which does not require running the starter. This method will only work on cars which have a centrifugal advance mechanism in the distributor; so you need to confirm there is a centrufugal advance by turning the rotor counterclockwise with your hand, to confirm that the rotor turns easily for a short distance. You should feel a spring trying to turn the rotor back when you do so.

    Just remove the distributor cap, remove the fuel pump fuse, and turn the engine until the rotor points to somewhere between 12 and 1 o'clock. If it is too close to the 12 o'clock position, this won't work; so you need to aim for something closer to the 1 o'clock position. Turn the ignition key to the position where the dashboard warning lights come on; hold the end of the coil wire close to a grounded object with one hand, and turn the rotor counterclockwise against the advance spring with the other hand. There should be a spark from the coil wire each time you turn the rotor. If you rapidly turn the rotor back and forth, there will be a stream of sparks from the coil wire. If there are no sparks from the wire; you'll need to turn the engine to reposition the rotor a little more clockwise.

    This method is a lot easier on the battery, starter, and doesn't flood the engine from unnecessary running of the fuel pump.
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54
    Thanks, I checked your messages. I will be working on the car a little later today and get back to you.
  • fastford1fastford1 Posts: 4
    been reading this and it sounds like the same problem I'm having. I have a 94 geo with the 1.0L in it. It has the updated coil in it. The book I have said the ignition module is on the firewall. I can't find it ???? I have tried and tried to get this car running. Put a new re-man motor in and can get it to start. HELP me too.
  • zaken1zaken1 Posts: 556
    Your ignition module is a small plastic box which is mounted with two bolts, and has a three terminal plug on it. It is located on the firewall near the coil. If you can't find it; go to and look up your car year and model in their online catalog (under Geo). Scroll down to "ignition" and click on the ignition control module category. You can see a photo of each part in their listings by clicking on the blue icon with the "i" in it, which follows the part number listing.

    I have NEVER seen one of those modules go bad. (which does not mean it can't happen) But one little known thing that commonly prevents a spark is that you cannot run power through a jumper from the battery to the hot side of the coil (regardless of whether or not the ignition switch is on). The coil power MUST all go through the ignition switch; or the ignition system will not produce sparks. Apparently there is some sort of anti theft circuit which disables the spark if you try to hot wire the car.
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54
    The coil says 12 volts, made by "Denso" company-there are 2 small wires coming out of the top, 1 is brown and 1 is red-those, and the big wire going to the distributor-nothing else coming out of the coil, nothing else attached to the coil. There are no wires coming out of the bottom of the coil and the distributor rotor cannot be turned either way by hand. I pulled the 15 amp fuse to disable fuel and it did not start.

    I put a new distributor cap and rotor on it and it still won't start, not even a sputter.
    I was wondering...if I take the coil to a parts store-do they check these things out to see if they are bad Likewise-the ignition module???????

    All wiring is tight that you suggested I check.
  • zaken1zaken1 Posts: 556
    It is highly unlikely that someone in a parts store could check the coil adequately. They might be able to check popular modules; but it is unlikely that they would have the required information to enable them to connect test equipment to your module. Metros just are not that common; and electronic components vary greatly from one brand of vehicle to another. Besides; I think we can deal with this without additional cooks.

    The coil on your car is not listed as the coil that belongs on it; in the source that I usually rely on. But there is some confusion in the coil listings for Metros of that era; so I cannot be sure it is not the right coil. If you had a volt-ohmmeter; it could provide information about the coil which might conclusively determine its suitability. And a volt-ohmmeter would also be essential in determining whether the ignition switch has developed excessive resistance; which, along with the coil, is one of the most common causes of weak sparks.

    But, for now; I'd like you to test the spark from the coil wire for its color, and to see how far it can jump; as I explained earlier. Since your car apparently has the type of distributor with electronic spark advance; the rotor cannot be turned, so you won't be able to use the test that doesn't require running the starter. But you've apparently been able to test for spark before; so I expect you have a remote starter switch, or an equivalent. If you can only crank the engine from inside the passenger compartment; I'll ask you to either get a remote starter switch; or I can explain how to make a usable jumper wire for cheap; or you can ask someone else to help crank the starter while you're under the hood measuring the spark.

    I don't know whether spending 20 or 25 bucks on a voltmeter would be something you could afford or not; and I'd like to get a better sense about your limitations in that respect, so we can decide more appropriately on how to proceed from here.

    But if you at least can somehow test the spark to see how far it will jump; that might be as much information as we need for now. So let me know where you stand on this.
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54
    Will do as soon as my roomate gets home.

    Thank you Zaken1

    ps Sometime when I try to shut the engine off with the key, the engine will keep on running even with the key out, usually if the battery is somewhat run down. I have to quickly disconnect the battery terminal when that happens. Could this ignition thing have anything to do with it.
  • zaken1zaken1 Posts: 556
    That could have something to do with the ignition problem; if the contacts in the ignition switch were connected to the wiring harness incorrectly. Do you know whether any work has been done on the wiring under the dash? Has the ignition switch been modified or replaced with a different type of switch? Also:is your car a convertible? (convertibles use a different ignition coil than the coupes or 4 doors).
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54
    The car is a convertible. I don't know if any ignition switch work or under dash wiring was ever done.
    The co that made the coil also made a lot of the other parts. Looks like a Japanese company (subcontractor or whatever).
    The key problem is only of recent vintage. I really think that it doesn't have anything to do with the current problem. Just that when the battery is low, it seems not to kick off the key when you attempt to shut the engine off. Maybe something to do with not having enough juice to do it or whatever. Anyway, the car ran for over 1 1/2 years without any key problems before all this started.
    As soon as I can get my roommate to work the key, I will measure the coil spark length, color, etc and report back. Many thanks.
  • zaken1zaken1 Posts: 556
    Since the car is a convertible; you have the right coil. But it begins to sound like the ignition switch is defective. This is where a voltmeter would be very handy.

    Nippondenso is one of the largest automotive electrical suppliers in the world. It is owned by Toyota; and Geo (Suzuki) uses lots of their parts. They make top quality stuff.
  • annieluluannielulu Posts: 54
    I'll check the coil spark as soon as I can get my roommate to turn the key. How would the key mess up the starting?? Not making some kind of connection/contact or something like that.
    Then, is there any way I could jump the wires or something like that at the key switch (like on TV) to see if it is in fact the key (provided the coil spark is ok).
    I don't know anything about voltmeters and never used or saw one. I probably could learn to use it for this problem if I could be walked through it.
    I learned to fly small planes and gliders since I moved here 13 years ago, but I am not Mr Technology when it comes to electrical stuff. If most people were like me, we'd probably still be living in caves.
Sign In or Register to comment.