Buyer's Info

Johnny Mullet
Elite Member
Joined: September 8th, 2008, 1:49 am

May 18th, 2009, 1:42 pm #1



So you are wanting to buy a Geo Metro or Suzuki Swift? I suspect you are interested in this purchase because of the great fuel economy these cars get and not for the creature comforts. Well, before taking the plunge, there are a few things you should know about these cars so please read on...........

The Metro is small, but surprisingly roomy inside even for a large person and the hatchback models can haul a lot of cargo especially with the rear seat folded. The Geo Metro from 1989-1994 are the lightest models, but they do lack the safety features found in the 1995+ models like Airbags, better side impact design, anti-swaybars, ect. As far as comfort goes, these cars are great for local driving and fine for long trips, but the seats (especially older models) can get a little uncomfortable. The interior design is functional and everything is in reach, but there are no frills. Be aware that 1995-1997 models seem to have Dashboard Cancer issues with the dashboard material fading and deteriorating. Interior carpet also seems to wear out fast on all models.

The body styling is nice on all models, but the body panels dent very easily. Finding a Metro with no dents would not be easy. Some models have composite headlamps which are prone to fogging or discoloring, but can usually be restored from kits available at parts stores. External mirrors are also easily broken off due to the very short screws holding them on. Longer screws will fix this issue.

The available engines are the 1.0L 3 cylinder G10 and the 1.3L 4 cylinder G13. Please understand that a Metro is a commuter car and not a performance car. The average person used to driving average American vehicles may deem the Metro engine weak or underpowered. There are Performance Parts available to give your engine more power. These engines will last a long time when maintained properly and if you do encounter problems, these engines are really easy to work on or even rebuild if inclined to do so. There is plenty of info on this forum on engine repairs and DIY threads to help you get on the road to better fuel mileage.

The manual transmission will last a long time as long as the fluid is changed regular and the car is not beat on. Changing out the factory gear oil with Synchromesh oil will improve shifting performance. Down shifting these cars generally add more stress to them and trying to jam the shifter into 2nd or first gear while moving at speeds above 25 MPH is not recommended. This can prematurely wear the synchros and is a common issue caused by this. As long as the car is rolling, there is no need to put the transmission in 1st gear. Automatic transmissions will also last if the fluid is changed regularly, but be aware that a Metro with an automatic will not get the fuel mileage as a standard shift model since the auto is a 3 speed with no overdrive.

The deal breaker with these cars is the frame rust issues they have if the car is from areas that see winter. The known problem area is the lower control arm mounts. These can rust away to the point that the wheel can separate from the vehicle. Rocker panels and floorboards also rust, but can be repaired. Another area is the rear inner wheel wells on 1995+ models can rust and create holes. More info on frame rot can be found HERE and other threads on the forum.

So what to do when looking for a Metro? First, make a good visual inspection of the body including the rocker panels and check the frame at the front control arm mounts. If you find the car to be rust free or no issues, then you have a good, solid chassis to work with. Move to the interior and make sure the headlamps work. To do this on 1995+ models equipped with daytime running lights, turn the key on, set the parking brake, and then turn on the headlamps. If they do not come on, then there is a problem at the fusebox wiring that can be repaired. More info on the headlamp issues can be read HERE. Take a peak under the hood and look for oil leaks. Some leaks are usually minor and can be fixed easily. Look at the condition of the oil for evidence of poor maintenance. Start the engine and let it warm up. A 3 cylinder may not idle perfectly smooth due to natural balance, but should not shake badly. A 4 cylinder model should idle smooth as glass. If the engine runs poorly, then you must decide whether it's a spark problem or a dead cylinder. If the Check Engine light is on, the codes may reveal the problem. You could always take a compression tester with you and test the compression in all cylinders. This will determine if the engine has internal issues. A common reason for rough idle or low power is burnt exhaust valves from timing settings or maintenance issues. Minimum compression readings should be no less than 156 PSI. If you find a cylinder with low compression, then expect to do at least a top end rebuild. Read the Compression Test How To for detailed info. Also note that a car running on a dead cylinder may clog the catalytic converter and cause low power.

Test drive is the most important part of any purchase. While you are driving, take note of any noises coming from the transmission or wheel bearings. Look for smoke behind the car and also start turning on accessories like the heater, A/C (if equipped) and take note of any smell of coolant or oil while driving. The transmission should shift without making noises and be sure the brakes work. Don't be afraid to take it for a long run from in-town to highway speeds. Getting the car to operating temperature will reveal any coolant system or oiling issues.

So what is the car worth? Well, depending on the current price of fuel, the prices on these cars can vary a lot. If you have a solid chassis, then regardless of engine or trans problems, the car is worth repairing if you really want to save money on fuel in the long run. You will get the best fuel mileage from a 3 cylinder 5 speed model. A 4 cylinder with a 5 speed is a rare find, but will get decent numbers also. The automatic version on average will get 35-38 MPG depending on condition, driving habits, etc. If the car has rust issues, then you need to decide if you want to repair the frame or not. A frame can be repaired to last a long time, but finding a shop to do this repair could be a challenge due to liability issues.

Good frame, no rust, runs great, looks good expect to pay anywhere from $2000.00 to $7000.00 depending on current fuel prices. Fuel prices really determine the value of these cars.

Good frame, some rust, needs cosmetic and or engine/trans work you can expect a range from $500.00 to $2000.00

Frame rust issues, but runs and drives good, pay no more than $500.00 since a car like this is generally considered junk. If it has rust issues and runs poorly offer them scrap value.

I happened to purchase a 1998 Metro that had a slew of problems. Basically my Metro (Christine) was a "Worst case scenario" purchase. The engine had a dead cylinder requiring a top end rebuild. The transmission went bad a month later, then the exhaust fell off, the brakes went bad, and then I discovered the dreaded frame rot. Normally, I would have scrapped the car with so many issues, but this car was saving me over $300.00 per month on fuel costs compared to driving my 4X4 truck so I was determined to keep this car on the road. You can see the entire project HERE. I have had the car almost 2 years now and it has already paid me back even after performing all these repairs. The car has also been very reliable after getting all the bugs sorted out. The wife and I loved the car so much, we got another Geo Metro and I did a complete makeover on it and now we save even more money on fuel costs.

Depending on your situation, you must make a judgment call before purchasing any car. We are here to help you with that decision.
Last edited by Johnny Mullet on February 20th, 2010, 2:31 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Woodie
Elite Member
Joined: February 13th, 2009, 12:29 pm

May 19th, 2009, 11:11 am #2

That's brilliant, should be on Wikipedia.


Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
Should be the name of a convenience store, not a government agency.
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Cobb
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Cobb
Elite Member
Joined: February 9th, 2009, 2:53 pm

May 19th, 2009, 3:11 pm #3

What I do when I look for a used car is check the fluids. Are all the fluids the right colors and do they smell funny. Is the tranny fluid if automatic burnt. Is the engine oil creme color or black as coal. Is the car warm when you come by to test drive. Does it smoke at start up, under hard acceleration or when you slide your foot off the gas. Does the tranny slip? Take it to highway speed legally somewhere and around the block. Does the cvc joints knock when turning? Why is the car for sale and does the seller have any other cars for sale.
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Potter
Elite Member
Joined: April 16th, 2009, 10:21 pm

July 13th, 2009, 12:30 am #4

:gp Ill have to remember these things when i go to buy a Metro Vert :deal

And also if your going to buy a Metro Vert. and they arent shure of the condition of the Vinal top have them spray it with a garden hose and you sit in the car checking All arround your tears are most common arround the stiching, and arround all weather striping, also do a visual inspection of the weather striping as well.
Sophia
1994 base 1.0 High Output.
Sophias project thread CLICK HERE
Taylor
1989 Swift Gti 1.3L big block twin cam
Taylors project thread CLICK HERE
Frankie
2001 Ford Focus Zx3 2.0l Zetech
Ford Racing, Comp/Crower cams, Massive Speed System, CFM performance
Fswerks Performance, SCT tuning.
Race/build thread CLICK HERE.

R.I.P Sara, we won't forget you http://medicdoom.com/
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Geodude
New Member
Joined: July 26th, 2009, 3:36 am

July 28th, 2009, 5:26 pm #5

"Does the cvc joints knock when turning? "

I think I have heard this, care to elaborate? Solutions?
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Fireball 89
Elite Member
Joined: October 6th, 2008, 4:09 pm

July 28th, 2009, 9:28 pm #6

Geodude wrote:"Does the cvc joints knock when turning? "

I think I have heard this, care to elaborate? Solutions?
Hi Geodude-

The knocking, clicking, or ticking when driving and turning the front wheels are an audio indication the constant velocity (CV) joints have worn out.

When you hear the clicking sound the CV joint is beyond maintenance and repair. The joint will continue to deteriorate becoming louder and then begins making sounds on straight line acceleration, coast, and straight line braking. Eventually, a definite "judder" will be felt in the drive line and gearshift. The next level will be catastrophic failure, possibly damaging your transmission and suspension.

When a CV joint begin knocking, clicking, or ticking, plan on replacing it. I understand with our vehicles, it is easier and cheaper to replace the whole drive axle (with CV joints) rather than just a single CV joint. When one CV joint reaches the end of its service life, the chances are very high the other three are right behind it.

Hope this helps.

Edward

- A Graduate of the Better School of Road Side Mechanics -
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Nate
Member
Joined: March 19th, 2010, 5:43 pm

March 19th, 2010, 5:57 pm #7

I have a question about Johnny Mullet's great explanation of the rust issues as well as a few other general questions.

I didn't discover this forum until AFTER I bought my 89 Metro.... I may have paid a bit much for it ($1200) but I'm already seeing prices go up on them as summer gets near. I was told the mileage was 107,000. If that is in fact true then I think I got a good deal but with the 5 place odo on these cars you really can't tell if it is 107,000 or 207,000 :( A compression check and oil pressure check should allow me to tell if it is a true 107,000.... unless the engine has been replaced/rebuilt at some point, then all bets are off.

Anyway, since mine is a 1989 and the car has been in Washington state for years according to papers I've found in it I was scared to look at the bottom of the uni-body (frame?) after reading Mullet's posts. We have rain and snow in eastern WA all the time so I was shocked to find NO RUST on the car... anywhere?

Could this be due to the fact that the 1989s were actually completely built in Japan by Suzuki? (if Wiki is accurate on that)
You hear some people say foreign built cars use a better grade of sheet metal and/or coating process so I hope that is one of the few advantages of owning the first year Metros that came from Japan :hmm

I bought the original 1989 Genuine Service Manual after also getting the Haynes book first. On certain things such as the PCV system the OEM book shows two different systems for "Metro" and "Metro LSI" Mine is an LSI.... what exactly is different about the LSI vs. regular. I was under the impression that there was only one model for the first few years (other than being able to get Auto vs 5 speed)

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this and shed some light on my questions.
Last edited by Nate on March 19th, 2010, 6:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Bad Bent
Elite Member
Joined: December 26th, 2008, 6:38 am

March 20th, 2010, 2:25 am #8

According to Wiki: The Geo Metro was a small economy car based on the Suzuki Swift (Cultus). It was produced from 1989 to 2001 model years. The first generation was offered in three and five-door hatchback models as well as a 4-door notchback sedan that was only sold in Canada. In 1990, a convertible was available but was phased out after 1993. Metros came in three trim levels: XFi, Base or LSi.
The XFi's engine has less horsepower than the Base and LSi and achieved startling gas mileage 53 MPG (city) 58 MPG (highway). However all of the Metros at this time had three cylinder engines with a 5-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission.
The convertible is also the only first-generation Metro to offer an airbag. In 1995 the Metro was redesigned with a more modern appearance and offered a 70hp four-cylinder engine, standard dual airbags and optional anti-lock brakes. A four-door sedan replaced the five-door hatchback. The XFi did not return for 1995 and only the Base and LSi models were offered. The three-cylinder engined remained in the Base hatchback.
In 1998 the Metro, now branded as a Chevrolet, was revamped one last time. It was given a minor re-styling, improved headlamps, and improved four cylinder engine, now producing 79 horsepower. 2000 was the last year for the Metro hatchback and the three cylinder engine. All 2001 models were four-door sedans that were sold to fleets only. wikipedia.org/Geo

I got a 1991 and 1996 in central Idaho, snow country, and neither have rust issues. :dunno

At www.all-acronyms.com one use of LSi is Love, Sex, Intelligence. B-)
Last edited by Bad Bent on March 20th, 2010, 2:29 am, edited 2 times in total.
Have fun...
BadBent
"The Filthy Beast" 1991 Metro Rescued from trip to junk yard. Aluminum underdrive pulley, Header, 218/350 3Tech cam/+10 gear, Bosch Plat. +4s, FlameThrowerII coil. K&N, Catco Cat., Jones glasspack, KYB, Vortekx Generators, Air dam, 7mm Ground wires, Ram Air, Mood Disk hubcaps and lowered & rear strut bar. No TB bridge. No A/C - Roof scoop works.
"Goody Two Shoes" 1996 Metro, The Wife's car. 3Tech "econo" cam, +10 gear, Al. underdrive pulley, K&N, KYB, Bosch, Magnaflow, Syn. & grounded. No TB bridge.
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Woodie
Elite Member
Joined: February 13th, 2009, 12:29 pm

March 20th, 2010, 10:55 am #9

Wiki is a little wacky on that 89 birthplace subject but to be fair, the official word from Suzuki and the CAMI factory is wrong also. They say all 89's were built in Japan, but I owned an 89 XFI that was built in Canada, so something is not quite right there. First digit of your VIN# tells the tale, 2 is Canada, J is Japan. Not that it matters much for the purposes of this conversation because the Japan built cars rust out just the same as the Canada built ones.

Not aware of any reason why the LSI should have different plumbing than the base, but the automatic might be different than the manual and there were California and 49 State cars with big differences. In Washington state you could easily have a California car. I'm pretty sure that standard spec cars had a vacuum advance distributor and no EGR, California cars had an electronic advance distributor and EGR just like all the newer cars do.
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
Should be the name of a convenience store, not a government agency.
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Starlight
New Member
Joined: August 21st, 2010, 8:43 pm

August 22nd, 2010, 4:02 pm #10

I just read Johnny's treatise on buying a Metro/Swift; thanks for the info. :)

Rust should not be an issue for me since I live in Arizona.
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