View Full Version : Rebuild a GEo Metro?
05-29-2009, 10:35 AM
I note that many vehicles are noted for fine economy today at 35 mpg; yet 15 years ago I had two friends who had GEO metros and got over 60MPG in Idaho.
We are retiring to our ranch in northern New Mexico and want to visit all the National parks in Utah and Arizona. Obtaining an efficient vehicle for that type of traveling is a must for us.
In the 1977 we rebuilt my 72 3/4 ton 4 wheel drive Ford pickup and doubled its horsepower and increased the gas mileage 50%. Recently my nephew sold that old vehicle and that old engine was still running. Using this past history as a basis, would it not make sense to locate a older Geo Metro ( say a 1995 3 door hatchback with its 3 cylinder engine and 5 speed transmission) and really do a major overhaul to that engine using the latest up to date parts such as stainless steel valves which are superior to the original equipment?
This would be a very basic vehicle, but would allow us to travel long distances very efficiently and the license and insurance rates would also be lower.
I'd appreciate hearing from other people with experience with Geo Metros or who have done this sort of things before.
Thanks a lot, in advance.
05-29-2009, 11:18 AM
With a full rebuild of the engine and transmission the only problems I can see would be with things like the brakes, rusting (or bent) frame, or something along those lines. With the long trips this could be a major consideration.
Other than that, I believe the Geo Metro would be an excellent choice if that's all your budget allows. Decent cargo capacity, good FE (as long as you get the XFI version), and inexpensive. If you can afford a little more, a used Insight or Civic Hybrid would be excellent choices (Honda's hybrid tech is better for highway FE than Toyota's). You may even be able to get one for less than the cost of finding a Metro XFI and rebuilding it.
05-29-2009, 12:44 PM
I have zero expertise in Metros, but plenty of experience with buying and selling older vehicles-maybe 40+ motorcycles, and 15 cars/trucks.
The main problem with your plan is reliability. Your cost -maybe $2500 for a Metro+ $2500+ to spiff it up, isn't too much. If you weren't planning long trips, reliability wouldn't be too much of a concern.If you break down at home, or near home, you can get it towed, and them hunt around for the cheapest/best way to repair it. This isn't possible when you are 500 miles from home.
There are an almost unlimited number of ways for a car to breakdown and leave you on the side of the road-
1)Alternator-not too bad- but how easy is it to get one in middle of nowhere USA
2)Engine actually breaking- very bad but not too likely
3) Transmission/transaxle- very bad, but not too likely
4)Clutch and clutch mc slave cylinder-fairly common and not too hard to fix
5) Electronic-ECU etc- not too uncommon in an old car-easy enough to fix if you can get the parts
6)Fuel pump-not uncommon- easy enough if you have the parts
7) Radiator/heater core/hoses etc- easy to fix-hard to find the part.
I wouldn't choose a 15 year old very uncommon car for a road trip vehicle-no matter how good the mpg.
1) Civic MT- I see plenty of 125,000 mil 10-1998 yo Civics for under $4000-easy to get parts for, and more reliable than a Metro to begin with. The MPG penalty-maybe 38-40 vs 50+ at 65 mph.
2)Corolla-same story as above-maybe slightly lower mpg
3)Geo or Chevy Prizm- same assembly line as the Corolla-same car/same everything-just cheaper to buy used because of the Chevy name
If you want to splurge-consider a $13000 Prius 2004- or so. Folks will be trading them in, or trying to sell them, since the Toyota dealers will screw them on trade in.Many Prius fanatics want the 2010. They will be in for a nasty, but typical, Toyota surprise when they find that there 75000 2004 Prius is only worth maybe $10,000 toward a 2010 Prius. You might be able to get a 2004 Prius with well under 100,000 miles for maybe $12000.
It will match any 5 passenger vehicle on the road(maybe not the newest TD, or the 2010 Prius ) in hy FE. It will beat all but the latest Prius in city FE. Once folks realize that the main batteries don't automatically croak at 150,000 miles the high mileage(say 150,000 miles plus) resale will be pretty good since gasoline is on the rise again.
An old-15 yo-car with so so reliability isn't such a great idea for a road trip car-not with much younger Civics/Corollas out there. Cars with parts that are easy to find. They get pretty good FE-the MTs should get about 40 mpg at 60 mph on level highways.
Even if you redo the Metro's motor there are many,many other ways for it to break.The motor is probably one of the more reliable parts-electronics, cooling, trans,clutch,alternator, starter-are all more likely to break, and those parts won't be easy to find.
10 yo Hondas and Toyotas-(Echo also is cheap)-are much better bets-safer also.They will be road ready for less than the $5000 it will take to get a metro with rebuilt motor.
PS -I do appreciate the adventurous and minimalist aspect of using the Metro-so just ignore my devils advocate advice. It will probably work out just fine. I might consider carrying certain parts with me-experts here can tell you which parts are most likely to punt.
05-29-2009, 02:25 PM
One bug with the Metro is that the frame rusts out by the lower control arms in the front suspension. You will see some of them on ebay or other sale sites "for parts only or repair" if you want to have new brackets welded in and the frame repaired. The other "they all do that" quirk on the second generation (1995 and newer) is that the upper dash panel fades to a chalky white, but that's only cosmetic. If looking for an older Metro, be sure you check for frame rust before continuing the evaluation.
06-02-2009, 08:42 AM
I personally love Geo Metros. I've had 4. They are as reliable as a Honda in my opinion if driven sensibly. I've had 3 Hondas.
Metros do have some shortcomings. IF they come from "Up North" they can be ate up with rust from the salted winter roads. We "Down South" folks make snow cream with our snow so our cars don't rust. :D Inspect the underside as Maxxmpg mentioned.
When I first bought my 97 Metro hatchback 3cyl/5speed I would race it like a Honda. Bad idea. It isn't geared for that kind of abuse and the bearings inside the transmission are too weak. After tearing one down and much alcohol induced engineering ideas, I have two suggestions for you:
1. Replace manual transmission fluid with Pennzoil Synchromesh. Don't shift at rpms higher than 3k EVER! (truthfully there is a bit of room between 3k-4k) But your not going to win a race with this car regardless of being the first to get off the line. Consistant 4k shifting will kill the transmission, see #2.
2. Split the transmission, remove and inspect the input shaft bearing, replace with a new stock or machine for a larger O.D. bearing with higher performance capabilities. Replace all synchronizers. :D.
Parts are cheap for Geo Metro's
alternators: $105 (replaced one on the 92 conv at 275k, it helped lower my idling rpms too!)
clutch kit: $130 (now that I hypermile instead of race, it won't be very often)
CV axles $50 each (get new ones, not rebuilt for zero rework, this goes for any brand of car including Hondas)
wheel bearings: $30-$40 each (they have an automatic timer to go out at 225-250k miles :D)
struts: $55 each (I need some, but haven't done more than price them, 250k miles)
As for rebuilding the engine, if your really into this than I can offer you two options:
1. http://awep.com/index.htm This is THE CHEAPEST PLACE to get engine parts for Geos. They are quick and I've used them for years. They have great prices on rebuild kits, pistons etc. They sell parts for other brands but I wouldn't know.
2. Use above link for 99% of your parts and:
a. Shave the head .060-.080" to increase compression (don't worry about service limits), regrind cam lobs with the appropriate .060-.080" off lift (keeps valves from slapping piston if belt breaks) and machine a larger collar for timing belt tensioner (when you shave head this much it makes the belt loose). these steps will give you more bottom end torque to get out of peoples way when starting, it will cause top end to decrease from the mind numbing speeds of 85mph to about a max of 75-80mph. I still can use 87 octane at .060" but would recommend 89 octane at .080".
b. blade edge the crankshaft to slice thru the oil in pan, install crankshaft scraper, both of these will reduce frictional drag on engine, ie faster acceleration and/or better fuel economy, depending how you want to drive.
I would go for slow rpm shifting with great F.E. (I just learned this from SeftonM from Winnipeg, about shifting from 1st to 2nd (5mph), 2nd to 3rd (15mph) at about 1800 rpms, 3rd to 4th (20mph) and 4th to 5th (35mph) at about 2000 rpms. I got my first 50mpg tank a few days ago. I deliver pizzas in a "slightly congested" road system delivery area and 42mpg was my running average lately, generally shifting all gears at 2700-3000 rpms.
XFI Metros are hard to find, they are the most FE of all stock metros. But you can easily find a good non-XFI 3cyl/5speed and make some improvements. If you were going to convert a standard or LSi to an XFI you would need to replace the ECU, cam shaft, transmission and remove the A/C. I might be leaving something out, but you can go to www.teamswift.net for good conversion information.
You could replace the final drive gear of the standard 3cyl with the final drive of the 1.3L 4cyl. And put 14" rims on the front wheels instead of 12" or 13" wheels.
I have been experimenting with WAI and warmer engine/bay temperatures with great success in the winter but I don't think this will be as much of an issue in your locale. If your interested, go to the Geo Metro forum and see the insulated hood thing there.
www.ecomodder.com has a few Geo Metro FE guys that can provide some great modification knowledge for your project. The MPGuino is the obdI, pre-96 version of the obdII compatible Scangauge that makes such a difference in driving skills for FE. You can get the MPGuino for about $50, you have to hard wire it in (4 wires), rather than the Scangauges plug and play.
Let us know what you do and if I can be of any help let me know. :D - Dale
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