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Chevrolet (Geo) Prizm



  • yes. it seems to be typical.

    Mine has diminished partially in about six months but has not gone away completely.

    I figure its either gear whine, alternator noise, or intake noise.

    but don't quote me on that.
  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    There is a whine at about 3000-3500 rpms. This is not a problem. I read it somewhere that it's an harmonic effect. It would appear that at 3000-3500 rpms, the vibration of the engine comes into resonance, and it sound like whine.

    Break-in will help to reduce the amount of the resonance, but probably won't totally get rid of it. Since the engine should only be at about 26-2800 rpms even at 80 mph, the whine should only appear during acceleration, most typically between the 2nd-3rd gear.


    if the engine light comes on, take it to a dealer without delay.
  • Anyone knows? I am seriously considering one.
  • 130130 Posts: 7
    When does the whining occur? At low speed? When the engine is cold?

    My 99 Prizm whines when the engine is cold, at speeds between 10-40 mph.
  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    Like I said, the engine is likely to whine at 3000-3500 rpms. It's some sort of a resonance-harmonic effect.

    It's more likely to whine when it's cold. Small part is because all engine are noisier when cold. The big part is because, the toyota engine is programed to have an higher idle speed when it detects the engine is cold. The reason behind the higher idle rpm (1500-2000 rpm compared to the normal 500-600 rpms) is because it warms up the engine faster. Cold engine produce the most engine wear, and so by programing it to warm up faster is designed to help it last longer. But that also means it's much easier for one to reach the 3000-3500 rpm resonance frequency. That's why whines more when cold.

    hope I was of help.


    The current corolla/prizm will be redesigned in 2002. So any model sold between 1998-2002 will essentially be the same, with only minor changes. But the 2000 corolla get's a better VVt-i DOHC engine, rather than the normal DOHC in the 98 and 99. So right now may be the best time to buy.
  • Thx Wenyue. I heared Toyota will use the Prizm/Corolla factory to manufacture a new small SUV, which will eventually stop the Prizm production in the near future. So I want to know if 2002 is the last year for Prizm? I have GM card and still want to accumulate more points before I buy one.
  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    hmmm... I haven't heard any news about Toyota plan to unveil a new small SUV. But you maybe right. But I have no info on when will they discontinue the Prizm. But I don't think they will do it at least until after 2002, when the current model is due for a redesign. Isn't that enough time to accumulate enough points? :)
  • 39043904 Posts: 16
    The whinning noise I originally spoke of is most noticeable when accelerating from a complete stop. Once the road/wind noise reach a certain level, you can no longer hear it. The day time running lights, AC, or any added electrical load only worsen the whine. I've had the alternator checked at an independent shop and it's not the source of this noise. The noise is no worse when the engine is cold...I first noticed it in July in mid-90 degree temperatures. My experience suggests that this noise is most noticeable at far less than 3000 rpms but barely perceptible at idle. My '99 Prizm has over 4,000 miles on it and was purchased in July. I've yet to notice any reduction in the noise level. If this noise is due to some sort of resonance-harmonic effect, shouldn't the dealership or Chevrolet be aware of it and welcome the opportunity to pass it off as "normal engine noise???"

    By the way, I contacted both NUMMI and Chevrolet via email regarding this problem. Both appear very hesitate to provide me with a straight answer. It almost sounded like they built (NUMMI) and marketed (GM) the car, yet expected the dealership to fix their mistakes and/or design errors!!!
  • 130130 Posts: 7
    I have the exact same whining problem with my 99 Prizm, also bought in July. I took it to the Chevy dealer and the mechanic said that it was normal air rush noise. I don't believe it since my father has a 98 Prizm and there's no whining at all.

    I noticed that the whining tends to be less noticeable when the engine is warm and at speeds over 40 mph.

    I know a guy who has a 99 Corolla and his car also whines...
  • 39043904 Posts: 16
    I, like you, certainly wouldn't buy the "normal air rush noise" story because my Prizm will make this noise even if I accelerate the engine while the car's in neutral. As a matter of fact, this was how the dealership first identified the noise prior to road testing it. Like I mentioned earlier, engine temperature, warm or cold, doesn't seem to affect the noise level I'm hearing in my Prizm. At speeds of or over 40 mph, it's difficult for me to hear due to exterior road/wind noise, however, the noise is most likely still there...maybe at a different (higher) pitch???
  • 130130 Posts: 7
    So what are you going to do about it? Can you take it to another dealer? I already took mine to 3 different Chevy dealerships and they didn't do anything about it although I told them that my father's 98 Prizm , basically the same car, doesn't whine at all...
  • I just bought a 98 Prizm 98 LSI and notice the same "engine noise" -- sound like alternator bearing ... The Hertz (where I bought it) and Chevy dealer claimed that they are normal for this kind of engine!!
  • 130130 Posts: 7
    If the noise is normal then why don't all 98 & 99 Prizms make it? My father has a 98 and there's no noise at all.
  • My 99 Chevy Prizm doesn't whine so it can't be "normal" since not all of them make the noise... only problem with my Prizm has been the check engine light... It came on last friday and I tried the gas cap trick and it fixed it after 3 starts, but yesterday it came back on and tried the gas cap trick and this time it didn't work so she is going to the dealership in the morning, will post more info about what they say to try and help out anyone who may encounter this problem.... but there has been no whinning noise in my car...
  • .... what is the gas cap trick..? how do you do it?....***
  • Have a 98 Prizm LSi with about 15K on it. No whining at all, so any dealer who tells you that it's normal is BSing.

    However, the seat belt light doesn't go off when the seat belt is fastened, unless the belt is pulled out almost all the way. Anyone had this problem?

    There is also a weird budge on the right rear passenger door that is causing the paint to crack. Of course, the dealer said that is cause by something hitting the door, even though it budging out from the inside. An non-dealer body shop said no way was it caused by a collusion.

    Oh, if anyone wants to make their Prizm a little more sporty, check out the Prizm spoilers at They will even prepaint the spoiler to match the factory paint.
  • wenyue wrote:

    >I think where most of the internal machinery is
    >the same between the 2. Once the major machinary
    >is put in, the corolla and the prism go their
    >seperate ways to different side of the plant.
    >Toyota uses their own body pannels and Chevy >uses theirs. This is just a theory.

    You should talked like you know what's going on if it's "just a theory". I believe they are actually made on the same line, with some ordered to be Corollas, and some finished as Prizms.

    >Example, the trunk of the prizm is not the same >as the corolla, so I wouldn't be surprised if >more prizm owners have problems with their >trunks in the long term than corolla owners.

    Haha, only the sheet metal is different, and only in styling. The mechanical is the same. I am not sure, but I would venture the sheet metal is made at the same place by the same people.
  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    True, it's just a theory. But Corolla is built using toyota assembly line technology, and using toyota technitians. This is a fact, it's publcised and advertised by Toyota for their corolla. But I don't know if same is applied to the Prizm. It might very well be, but I wouldn't be so sure. I stated to that effect.

    And also, I said the trunk and many body pannels are different which is obvious by plain sight. I did not know or state exactly which parts are different. Do you know? Do you have a list of parts for the corolla and prizm? I wouldn't presume to say exact parts are the same unless you can show it.
  • Hi, I just bought a 99 Prizm. I used GM card
    points and the rebate. I am happy with the price
    and all. But I was thinking. I probably drive
    this car for another 5-10 years depending when
    it dies. I have a long commute everyday from
    home to work. (Each year, I would put on about
    18K+.) So, I'll probably have to buy another
    car in the future. I saw messages going around
    about MAYBE Toyota won't make Prizm anymore. Can
    anyone confirm this for sure? Or can someone
    tell me where I can get a more definite info? I
    understand, maybe there is no way to know. I just
    want to know if I should continue collecting
    points with GM card or forget about it.
    Any advice would be appreciated.
    Thank you.
  • pinghupinghu Posts: 1
    Actually Prizms (and some Corollas) are built by the joint venture of Toyota and GM in California. I read from last Sunday Chicago Tribune and Toyota's CEO stated that they wanted to increase the production there. What they want is to build some SUVs that implied that they're going to get rid of Prizm.

    I ordered a 2000 Prizm a week ago in order to cash in my GM card points. I started to accumulate them seven years ago hoping that GM would produce some cars I like. Now I still could only find the Prizm worth to buy after seven years. So I'm not going to use my GM card any more. In fact, if I did not have those GM card points, I wouldn't buy the Prizm either. I could buy a Corolla with options I want (PS,PL,ABS and split rear seats etc.) for $400 less. This also takes into account the $1K rebate from GM. In addition, Corolla's resale value is typically $1K higher than Prizm. So I don't want to be trapped by GM again.
  • pinghu,
    I think I agree with you. If we are pretty sure
    that GM won't have Toyota making the prizm in
    the future, there won't be anything worth buying.
    I think the GM card and the cashback/rebate
    were the plus, or else I would have gotten
    a Toyota too.
  • atlga1atlga1 Posts: 1
    I'm the owner of a 5-speed base-model 90 Geo Prizm built at the NUMMI plant in California. I bought it exactly 10 years ago. It has 140,000 miles on it and is still is on its first clutch, with no signs of slippage.

    I've been religious with oil changes every 3,000 miles. The only thing I've had to do outside of routine maintenance is replace the headliner and the driver's side seatbelt.

    When is this car going to die? I only like to replace cars when they start costing me a lot of money, which explains why I've only owned two cars in the 17 years that I've graduated from college. (My first car, a 1981 Plymouth Champ--the twin to the Mitsubishi Mirage, died after 97,000 miles. It probably would have lasted longer if I was more regular with the oil changes...)

    Anyone out there with long-lived Prizms/Corollas?I was hoping to jump up to a Toyota Avalon or Mitsubishi Diamante, but my car just won't die!
  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    Yup, I had a 87 Chevy Nova. That's what the Corolla clone was called before GM bunched all their import clones under the Geo badge.

    Anyway, that car was rock solid. Got it from my dad as a hand-me-down. But ultimatly it was my complacency of it's reliability that killed it. By the time the car had 113,000 miles on it and I was 23, I know this car was never going to give me any problems, and got lazy on the oil change. (met my current wife, and lost my head for a while) The result was I forgot to check the oil level for 5 months (I use to check it once a month, and change it over every 6 months). During that long period, it developed a slow leak. It wouldn't have been a problem if I had checked the oil level more often. But what can I say... There goes the car after 12 years of faithful service to my father and I.

    These corolla and it's clones just last forever, as long as you do your part in caring for it. I can see ads in the new paper about corollas with 200,000 and 300,000 miles on them. Geez!
  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    The point is, if you are going to wait for the car to die, and you do your regular oil change, it's probably going to be a long wait. :)
  • OK then, which one should I buy? I owned a 95 Prism and liked it. I've driven a corolla and I liked it. Are Prisms going to be around or not?
    Is the used price of a corolla really going to be $1000 more than a Prism. I thought I knew what I wanted, now I'm confused again. Any more input or advice?
  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    Right now, without any rebates or incentives from GM on the Prizm. I would definitly go for the Corolla. The Prizm as it stands is actually priced higher than the Corolla without those rebates. :( Besides, the Corolla has much better resale.

    When they come out with $1000-$2000 rebates, then think about the prizm.
  • cpzhangcpzhang Posts: 16
    On the recent Popular Science, there was one paper talking about the production plan for all the brands in US automobile market. As to the Prizm, it said:" in 2003, it will be stopped and a new small SUV, which based on the Collora platform will be its successor." Also this small SUV will be sold under Pontiac nameplate. I wish this will be a good one, like Honda CRV, rather than RAV4.
  • 130130 Posts: 7
    The airflow knob on my 99 Prizm is VERY hard to turn beyond the floor position. I took the car to two Chevy dealers and they claim that that's normal - that's the way all 99 Prizms are made. I suspect that they simply don't want or don't know to fix it. Is there anyone else having this problem?
  • I've been looking at the Prizm, basically because I have a lot of GM card points built up and I don't want to waste them. It is the only car in their line I'll even consider.

    When I took the card out, it was because Saturn was a (new) company under GM. Well, lo and behold...they don't take GM card points! They said they might in the future so I've been building it up and hoping that it would get worked out or that GM would come out with something (over 6 years) that I would want to buy.

    Anybody else get caught in this or hear anything on it (the GM vs Saturn issue w/ the card points?)
  • ohhohh Posts: 7
    they will never accept gm card points for purchasing saturn.
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