chevy prizm 3spd vs 4spd

Messages
152
Location
Ohio
I have been considering a 2000-2002 prizm as my next used car purchase. I'd really like a manual but it seems 99.99% of the used prizm's around here are automatic transmissions. Highway MPG is important to me so I want the optional 4 spd automatic. How can I quickly tell if the car has a 4spd or 3spd automatic? Is there a VIN code that tells the tale? Do the numbers on the shift lever or a button somewhere identify this? I'm afraid if I ask most owners on the phone they won't have a clue and I don't want to make unnecessary trips. Does anybody know any major issues with the 2000-2002 prizms?
 
Messages
36,471
Location
ME
Briefly had a 95 prizm 3 speed with PRND2L. You are right, they buzz at speed. Your issue could be the same shift pattern but a seperate OD lockout button, I have not seen a 4 speed shifter. The 3 speed autos are all mechanical, and the PCM supports a 5 speed manual swap without tossing codes. The 4 speed electronic auto has worse luck. Most prizms seem to be stripped models sold to old ladies, and regrettably cursed with the 3 speed. [Frown] You could find out for sure with an RPO code, but good luck getting the owner to read off the list. [Frown] You could go on ebay or autotrader and sort through listings you think look accurate, and get underhood shots. The dipstick will be different, if you're lucky, a different color, and you could talk owners through that.
 
Messages
202
Location
sokali
i used to have a 4 speed prizm, i think the easiest way to tell is as mentioned, if there is a O/D button on the shifter. I didn't ever drive them back to back but I have also driven a 3 speed auto prizm of the same generation. My old one was never a fast car, but the 3 speed was even worse, the gear ratios were obviously too long and wide apart, the car just lugged everywhere. But also as mentioned almost all the auto prizms in existence are 3 speeds, the 4 speed i got was something the dealer had to trade in from inventory somewhere when i got it new. I never had any problem with mine, but only had it for 50K miles before it got run over by a big rig.
 
Messages
11,665
Location
Illinois
I thought 1997 was the last year of the three speed. Up to and including 1997, the Prizm came with one of two engines, the 1.6L 4A-FE that was mated to a 3 speed automatic or the 1.8L 7A-FE that was mated to a 4 speed automatic. In 1998, a new engine was used and I believe only a 4speed automatic was used for automatic transmission cars. I didn't think the 3 speed auto was used after the 1997 model year. So at least for older Prizms, if you know the engine size 1.6L or 1.8L, then you know which auto tranny you'll get based on the engine size. The 1993 to 1997 Prizm VINs are easy, because the engine digit is 6 for the 1.6L and 8 for the 1.8L. I don't recall which digit that is.
 
Messages
11,665
Location
Illinois
Like I said, from 1993 to 1997, which auto tranny you got depended upon which engine, the 1.6L only got the 3sp and the 1.8L only got the 4sp. The 1.8L engine was optional on the LSi model only, again IIRC. The LSi did not guarantee a 1.8L as I have a 1.6L 1994 LSi, manual tranny model. In 1998, the Prizm came with the new 1.8L Toyota engine with VVT, IIRC, and there was the choice of a 3sp auto or a 4sp auto.
 
Messages
1,463
Location
CA
quote:
Originally posted by outersquare: but only had it for 50K miles before it got run over by a big rig.
[Eek!] pics?
 
Messages
11,665
Location
Illinois
Wow, I guess there was three tranny options for the 1998 to 2002 Chevy Prizm, the 3 sp auto, 4sp auto, and 5sp manual. Well, really only one for me, the 5 speed manual, LOL. Good luck.
 
Messages
3,094
Location
Metro Detroit
FWIW, the RPO code for the 3 speed is MB3. The 4 speed is MS7 and the 5 speed is MB4, but checking for the OD button would be a lot easier. The RPO codes are listed on the spare tire cover. There's no way to tell from the VIN.
 
Messages
36,471
Location
ME
www.fueleconomy.gov gives you the powertrain choices by year. Corolla wagons (no prizm wagons) pretty much got the bigger motor and/or 4 speed automatic, year depending. Torque handling perhaps? Seems like the prizm, neon expresso, and perhaps the cavalier, were the end of the 3 speed autos. Funny looking at prizm MPG figures that GM didn't spring to make the 4 speed the only available automatic to get CAFE credits. My prizm 3 spd was zippy, never needing a kickdown, but I would have traded some zip for better MPG.
 
Messages
2,698
Location
Silicon Valley
quote:
Originally posted by Diesel_Clatter: I'd really like a manual but it seems 99.99% of the used prizm's around here are automatic transmissions. Highway MPG is important to me so I want the optional 4 spd automatic.
Then hold out for a manual. It'll be worth it.
 
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