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Home of the Suzuki mini-compacts ! Your Home for all things Suzuki Swift, Geo Metro, Holden Barina, Chevy Sprint, Pontiac Firefly, and Suzuki Cultus. TeamSwift is a technical performance oriented community!
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Underbody braces, turbos and more!

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2016 6:21 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jan 22, 2016 5:10 pm
Posts: 4
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Hello everybody,

This is my first post! I've been reading this forum for the past couple of months, but only today decided to register. My girlfriend and I recently got a great deal on a red 1991 Chevrolet Sprint in very impressive condition for its age. Paid $599 Canadian dollars for it: no rust whatsoever anywhere on the body, only 122,000 KM (about 76,000 miles) on the odometer. This thing looks like it's been parked in a garage most of its life. Not sure about the service history, as the previous owner only owned it for 3 months before selling it to us, but everything under the hood looks like it's been recently serviced. Everything looks clean: the timing belts look great, the engine looks fantastic, the battery is excellent (confirmed by the AMA guy one day after the car wouldn't start - turned out to simply be a loose connection on the battery. He tightened it and the car started perfectly. Then he tested the battery and it had great readings) the headlight wiring has been upgraded to handle halogen bulbs with 55w ballasts.

The car was making a bit of a grinding noise when we got it. After doing some reading, I suspected it was the wheel bearings. The noise got worse after a couple of weeks and we took it to a mechanic who confirmed that the front driver side bearings were shot, and also diagnosed a blown CV boot and axle on the same side. After a $670 bill to replace the entire CV assembly and bearings on the driver's side, the car sounds incredibly quiet - quieter than I thought it was capable of sounding. The repairs cost more than we paid for the car, but in my opinion it was worth it.

I purchased all the wheel bearings myself, anticipating that they need to be replaced. However, when the mechanic tried to install them, they turned out to be the wrong kind of bearings, which was confusing because both myself and the guy at NAPA made sure to confirm that 909 bearings are the ones a 1991 Chevy Sprint non-turbo uses. Turned out I needed 107DD bearings, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to return the 909s I bought to NAPA, so I might end up losing the money I spent on them. No big deal.

For now, I only changed the wheel bearings that needed changing. I'd like to replace the other 3 wheels, but I'm a little torn. I see that some people see wheel bearings kind of like break pads - you wouldn't change just one, you should change all 4 wheels at the same time. Other people seem to think that there's no point in changing things just because they "might" break. Right now the other 3 wheels are not making noise and are not in danger of falling off, so the mechanic recommended leaving them the way they are. I might try to save money and just do the other 3 wheels myself (maybe get a new set of wheel hubs at the pick-and-pull so that I can try swapping the bearings on the spare set of hubs. I have a fear of taking the car apart and not being able to put it back together - it's our only car right now, so we wouldn't be able to drive it to the mechanic if that happens. so I'm thinking of getting an extra set of wheel hubs just so that I can practice. If I'm successful at installing the new bearings, I can just remove the hubs it currently has and pop on the hubs with the new bearings)

The only problem we are having with it right now is the heat is not very hot. It only provides heat when the fan is on its low setting - if you turn the fan up, the air flows too fast for the heater to warm it up.

Even though the heater does produce some heat, it's not nearly enough for these cold Alberta winters. In the city it isn't too bad, but when you are driving at highway speeds the heater just can't handle the -30 Celsius with windchill. I've got the front carboarded up, but it's still much too cold in the car. The floor in particular gets very cold.

This weekend I'm going to try flushing out the heater core and also taking a look a the thermostat. Hopefully flushing the core would fix the heater issue.

The mechanic also diagnosed a couple of other issues with the car, saying the front struts will need to be replaced soon as they are leaking. The back shocks will need to be replaced "eventually" according to the mechanic because of a "minor leak." And finally, they also said it needs a new steering rack and pinion, but this does not seem right. They said it the steering column was "rattling" but I suspect it was because of the CV boot, which caused the car to produce a clicking noise when taking sharp turns. Once the CD boot and bearings were replaced, the clicking noise completely went away, so I'm not actually sure whether the steering rack and pinion need to be replaced, or if the mechanic thought the clicking was being caused by the rack and pinion. Either way, the car steers fine and even the mechanic said this was not an urgent repair and can wait a few months.

Pictures and updates next week! Taking the car down to the family farm this weekend to do some work in a warm garage.


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File comment: Here she is the day we bought her
1991 Sprint.jpg
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1991 Chevrolet Sprint (Red, 5 Door) 1.0L 3-Cylinder Non-Turbo - Automatic Transmission
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2016 10:38 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 20, 2006 7:17 pm
Posts: 1378
Location: Alberta, Canada
Nice find, car looks great and that's super low mileage which is a major bonus. That's a great purchase price as well, because they always need some work even with really low mileage.
I run a shop about an hour away from the city and used to fix these cars nonstop, I would be happy to help you repair/maintan the car as necessary. For example it's about an hour to 1.5 to do wheel bearing and axle = $100-150 labour. Just done so many of them drops the labour costs because most jobs get done fast around here.
Flushing the heater core should help, but to make the car super toasty it will require a heater core replacement. I flushed many before finally breaking down and replacing a few cores and the difference between old flushed and a new one is pretty major. These cars(and trackers/sidekicks), aren't known for being terribly warm, but with a new core they put out tons of heat. A new thermostat is a good idea as well. If the temperature gauge is riding in the middle of the range the thermostat is working properly though.
There are some other common issues that come up due to age, but overall a car like that should be quite reliable and incredibly cheap to run and maintain. Enjoy

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1995 Swift w/16V 4.39s, 3tech cam, Esteem t-body, Header, needs more.
1995 Gt Mustang "Boss Shinoda" package.
1999 F150 4x4 Supercharged
1967 Mustang 428 auto, never ending expensive project
1993 Civic si h22a, fell in my lap, couldn't resist!


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2016 9:26 am 
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Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2009 9:27 pm
Posts: 814
Location: walsh,alberta,canada
welcome!
I personally will recommend cody for any work needed on your sprint-great guy to deal with, AND he knows these cars in and out-I think he used to work on these in his sleep? :-P

if its not bouncing all over the road, and tire wear is normal (no cupping on the tread) I wouldn't worry about the struts. on the other hand, the struts are easy to replace, front or rear. minor hand tools and a strut spring compressor for the front, even easier on the rear.
front struts take me no more than an hour, likewise for the rears. no wheel alignment needed!
check Canadian tire, usually on sale, buy one get one free, or half off.
steering rack? maybe worn inner and/ or outer tie-rods.(wheel alignment needed after those items replaced) lower ball-joints, replace entire lower control arm.

rear wheel bearings are easy- buy them from a bearing shop, they will be way cheaper, most times better quality. koyo brand bearings, #6205ru inner, #6204rs outer- they can cross those numbers to any brand. don't loose the spacer between them, and it fits only one way. might as well do the rear brakes as well,(if needed), so you only take the spindle nut off once.
the castle/ stake nut (under spindle cap) is a one-time use nut-BUT- if you swap the nuts side to side, you can get one more use out of them.( not a common part, the spindle nut; last time I was at gm I ordered 10 of them!) DO NOT EXCEED 74 FOOT POUNDS OF TORQUE WHEN TIGHTENING SPINDLE NUT-BEARING DEATH WILL RESULT! lug nuts a measly 41 ft lbs
I have been lucky to never have to replace a front wheel bearing on any of the 20+ suzukis I have owned- although for me it would be fairly easy, I have all the tools needed to do the job.

flush the entire cooling system, back-flush the heater core- that should help. t-stat is easy, you can pick your temp- 190* should work fine, but you can install a 197* for a little extra heat
BUT
if the core is overly plugged, it might need replacement. not an easy job, it requires that the entire dash be removed to get the heater box out, to get at the heater core. yuck. :x

sounds like it needs minor maintenance, then it will be a great daily driver! and with the price of cheap gas right now, it should pay for itself in no time! 8)

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89 1.0 turbo firefly
2"exhaust,no cats/resonator
3 tech 6*gear
3 tech turbo grind cam
3 tech cylinder head/w/port,polish,blend,oversized s/s valves
gti brake swap
89 white gti twincam....need I say more?
92 metro aka ''blue lump of coal''
92 white metro lsi vert
91 blue chevy sprint (gas sipper)


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:26 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jan 22, 2016 5:10 pm
Posts: 4
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Thanks for the welcome and wow, thanks for that offer Cody. We might just take you up on that. What town are you in? Are you ever available on Saturdays?

And thanks for those tips blueturbofly, I'll definitely take all that into account. Definitely want to try my best to get the bearings right the first time.

So we didn't end up doing the heater core flush like we wanted to. Hoping to do it soon, though. We bought the whole kit and some vinyl tubing and everything, we just need to find a place with a water hose, which is surprisingly hard when you live in an apartment building. We also bought the Prestone flush+clean fluid so we'll probably do a soak with that stuff and then a flush with water.

We'll see how that goes, but a heater core replacement sounds like it's a good idea. I read that there is a way to replace it without completely removing the dash, just sort of undoing a bunch of the screws so that it comes out enough for the heater core to slide out. That would be a whole lot less stressful than completely removing the dash, but apparently even this 'easy' way still requires removing the gas pedal, so it's not really a minor task.

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1991 Chevrolet Sprint (Red, 5 Door) 1.0L 3-Cylinder Non-Turbo - Automatic Transmission


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 22, 2016 1:12 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jan 22, 2016 5:10 pm
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Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Sorry for disappearing for a while, been too distracted over the past few months. Been very busy with shopping for a house, finalizing the paperwork and moving into the new house.

It has now been over a year since we bought the Sprint in November 2015. It is still doing well and now has its own detached garage. It has always been stored indoors, but as you can see in the picture above, our last place was an apartment building with a big parking garage. While it was good for protecting the car from the elements, it was not a good place to work on the car, aside from the occasional vacuuming. Now that we've got our own house with a yard and garage, we are looking forward to doing a lot of repairs ourselves.

The first project will be replacing the heater core. We recently had a coolant flush done at a local mechanic, and the performance of the heater actually improved afterward, but it wasn't a big enough improvement and ultimately it still needs to be replaced. So we ordered the new heater core from The Wrench Monkey and it just arrived yesterday, so in the next couple of weeks we'll be attempting jstone68's method of replacing the heater core.

A couple of updates about the Sprint's performance over the past year:

After the wheel bearings and CV assembly were replaced in January 2016 on the front driver's side, there have been no other problems with wheel bearings or axles. We did not replace all 4 wheels when we did the bearings, just fixed the one wheel that was broken. Not sure whether the previous owners ever replaced any of the wheel bearings or CV assemblies, so the other 3 wheels might still have the original bearings from 1990, who knows. For now, we are taking the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach.

Took the car into the mountains in British Columbia in late June, and the car performed beautifully. We expected it to be slow and tedious in the mountains but it was great. Yes, the acceleration sucks on these cars, especially on the automatic models, but once you figure out how to drive them, it's perfectly easy to maintain highway speed even in the mountains - as long as you don't care how long it takes you to get to highway speed.

We are constantly surprised by how roomy these 5-door Sprints are. Our trip to BC was a cycling trip on the Kettle Valley Railway Trail - a 700+km abandoned railway that has been converted to a multi-use path for cycling, hiking, horseback, etc. Really great for cycling because railroads can only have a maximum of 2% incline, so it's perfect for cycling up a mountain - you don't even notice the elevation but over the course of 100KM, you've climbed an entire mountain! We left the car, cycled about 180 km of the trail, turned around and went all the way back for a total of 360km or so. It took just over 3 days to get back to the car. Anyway, we pulled off the entire trip without using an exterior bike rack. We were able to fit 2 full sized mountain bikes inside the car, one with 27.5" rims, the other with 26" rims, a full sized suitcase style cooler with wheels and a handle, and four big bicycle panniers. It was incredible. I have been inside SUV's that would never be able to hold all that stuff. We had to take the front wheels off the bikes to fit it all in, but that was only because we had the cooler. Normally, we could fit two bikes inside this car without even taking the front wheels off, but they can only go in one specific way. Taking the wheel off gives you more options for shifting things around, which we needed to do because of the cooler.

Anyway, we are very happy with this car, it's reliable, convenient, and the mileage is incredible. It always feels like you're in that commercial where you're just laughing out loud every time you are at the pump. It gets 400-450 KM out of a tank easy, and the tank only holds about 28 litres. Costs about $25 to fill up and lasts a good 3 weeks. Not exactly sure about the amount of KM's because the wheels we have on it are a size too large, so the odometer and speedometer are under-reporting the real numbers.

A couple of minor issues with the car:

New tie-rod a couple of weeks ago. The tie-rod on the front passenger side had play so it was replaced.



We've had a couple of times when it has trouble starting after it rains. We mostly keep it in doors, but the couple of times it's been outside during the rain, it's had trouble starting afterwards. After letting it dry out, it starts fine and never has problems after that. The weird thing is that both times this has happened, it started fine when we turned it on to drive it into the garage, but after sitting in the garage for a few hours, it wouldn't start. After attempting to start it for a while, it eventually dries out and starts fine from there on out.

After the coolant flush, the car began to make strange noises that it had never made before. It's always frustrating when you get a mechanic to do something because you figure they are a professional, but then the car starts to show symptoms that it never had before. Right after the coolant flush, we heard strange whistling noises coming from the engine whenever the car was running. When it was idling, there was no whistle, but when you pressed the gas pedal, it would whistle. After a few days this completely stopped and it sounds normal again when applying the gas. Maybe it was the coolant settling in, or maybe there were air bubbles in the coolant, or something? I have no idea. Is it common for cars to have an adjustment period when the coolant is flushed and replaced?

There's a strange rattling noise that started happening since the coolant flush as well. When the car is in reverse, it sounds like something is rattling around in the engine. When it's in drive and going forward, it sounds fine. When it's in idle it sounds fine. (this car never really liked idle or reverse, to be honest. especially in the winter. All last winter it was a little shaky in reverse, but I don't think it made the strange rattling noise that it's making now)

Other than that, the car has been great. Replaced the stereo with a Hyundai CD player. Had to solder a custom harness adapter for it. I ripped the female port straight out of the old stereo and soldered it to the Hyundai harness using this schematic, and it created an adapter that I was able to use with the original wiring in the Sprint.

One thing that's annoying about having an old car like this 1991 sprint is the aging of the plastics in the interior. Replacing that stereo resulted in cracking a bit of the plastic housing in the dashboard that surrounds the stereo. The brittle plastic just cracks. Same with the overhead sun visor. The little plastic hooks that holds the sun visor in place both cracked off, and now I have to try to salvage others from another car. Little things!

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1991 Chevrolet Sprint (Red, 5 Door) 1.0L 3-Cylinder Non-Turbo - Automatic Transmission


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2016 7:52 pm 
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It might be time for a new water pump.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2016 1:46 pm 
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Location: Vancouver BC
Trouble starting after rains may be moisture getting into the distributor cap.. take it off and check.. may help to change the cap and rotor if they are worn.


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