Old news I suppose - Sep 2009
(There is more, newer, info but the below reports some of the cars history while in my care.)
I was looking for an older fuel efficient car that I could use to run around. I noticed Metro’s were cheap with very good fuel economy. On Craig’s List I found one South of Olympia for $500. Maybe a little more primitive than what I was really looking for but then I read it was a 1998 with only 93,000 miles. Now on www.fueleconomy.gov this metro was reported to get 33 to 39 mpg.
So off Linda and I went. We found the car at a very nice gated RV trailer park just south of Miller Sylvania State Park. A couple our age had pulled it behind their motor home for 30,000 of its 93,000 miles. They sold their motor home and purchased a 5th wheel trailer and pickup combo and were ready to head south. The Metro was now extra.
The car has it’s exceptional qualities but comes with some distracters also. One distracter is it has baked some while in Texas and Arizona. The roof looks like it has been real hot as the paint is thin on top and even the headliner is overheated and falling down. Then the Constant Velocity joints are failing on the front drive axles as I could easily feel and hear on any turn. Then there was another problem of needing a quart of oil on each gasoline fill up! Then there was the damaged plastic in front of the headlights that were so cloudy it must have cut 30% of the light output.
Well it still seemed like a good fixer upper so I willingly gave them the $500. We were having such and enjoyable time visiting I only got his signature in the one blank line of the title. The car was however in both their names. When I tried to register the title they needed her signature also even though there was no place on the title for a second signature. I gave the sellers a call and said I could send them a Release of Interest form and if they would have that notarized all would be well. They volunteered to come up so we met at JRO (our title company) and within 5 minutes all was well and they headed to Downtown Poulsbo for a beach walk.
Then cleaning began. I washed and scrubbed inside and out! (The car was smoked in until 3 months prior to my purchasing.) I tried gluing up the headliner cloth but only partly successful. The headliner needs more work although now it does not hang down enough to bother me. I ran Napa Fast Motor Flush through engine then changed oil and oil filter. I could tell the filter had not been changed in a while!
Then for the interruption, the weather was so warm I felt the need to get to the alpine mountain country. With the Metro I headed across the ferry where I noticed huge amounts of smoke from the exhaust each time I started the car. Rather embarrassing really! The car drove well other than that and of course the clicking around each turn which does not help ones confidence of reliable ride. Never had to stop for gas though. The car did start up just fine after sitting at the trail head for 5 days which was another point in its favor.
While hiking I received the three volume large used Chevrolet Metro 1998 Service Manuals I ordered on EBay. They are in great shape and very useful. While looking on EBay I also found and ordered a Service Manuals for our 2000 Caravan. It was also used but is very clean and nice. I purchased it for about $30 maybe a little less. Then they had a four volume set of Chevrolet 2000 Caravan Diagnostic Manuals I purchased for $20. They all are so much better than the aftermarket manuals. Last year I looked for Caravan manuals but none were available.
Next came the repairs. New windshield wipers, whew were the originals shot! New air cleaner, whew was the original dirty but still working. Nice design. Power cleaned the engine with Super Clean which works so well! Then I purchased a plastic cleaner from Napa called Megular’s Mirror Glaze. Wow did it do a nice quick job of clearing up the plastic in front of the headlights. Just a couple minutes for each one. It even meets a military spec! They said it would clean up scratches on plastic glasses which I tried and it did a good job there also. Not back to 100% but sure a lot better!
Next I raised the front of the car and inspected the underneath. I noticed a rapid oil leak at the bottom of the timing belt case. I pulled off the front drivers side axles with the Constant Velocity (CV) joint and installed a rebuilt one for $46. Pulled off the passenger side axle but before installing the rebuilt one I removed the timing case and replaced the $36 water pump and the $16 timing belt. The original belt looked in rather good shape. I replaced the $8 camshaft oil seal which I suspect was the source of the oil leak and also replaced the $8 crankshaft oil seal which may have been leaking. Replaced the alternator belt and air conditioning belt while reassembling everything.
While the car was up in the air I removed the front bumper assembly which is easy once it is all figured out. Just 4 easily accessible bolts and maybe 5 Phillips screws. That makes the radiator and air-conditioning all easily accessible. It also made the tow bar assemble accessible. So I removed the 25 pound tow bar and reinstalled the bumper. Then I installed the $46 rebuilt Constant Velocity axle assembly on the passenger side. This task seemed easy compared to the timing belt replacement. I added a little power steering fluid and filled the radiator with water which I will run with for a week to ensure no leaks prior to installing fresh antifreeze.
The original sticker for the car was in the glove box and indicates this car gets 39 mpg in the city and 43 mpg in the country. On my first tank I got 42 mpg! My motorcycle gets 46 mpg! This is the third generation Metro Lsi model with a 4 cylinder 1.3 liter, 79 horsepower engine, with two front airbags. It has a 5 speed manual transmission and drives easily like my second car (back in 1966) the Volkswagen Beetle. The Metro has more power which is nice. The Napa auto parts salesmen when asking for the engine size usually comment oh you have the big block engine. I am still not sure if they are joking? (Most Metro’s come with a 3 cylinder 1.0 liter engine.) The engine is less than half the size of our 3.3 liter Caravan mini-van and gets double the gas mileage. (The generation 1st car weighs only 1367 pounds! I suspect this 3rd generation car weighs a little more.)