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Just bought a 1996 USA Geo Tracker (16V, 5spd, 2WD, rally top) as a fun car to take out with the wife on weekends. Car was overhauled by the previous owner and is in very decent shape with a new clutch, new AC compressor, new brakes, aftermarket stereo, and new paint. We had a great time driving it out to the coast and back today (first drive), and it performed well with no obvious mechanical issues.

I'm willing to invest over time to make this little car even better, so I wanted to ask your expert advice on what I should consider updating/upgrading about the vehicle to make it even better. I've worked on a few classics before so I have the ability to maintain/upgrade the car myself in most cases. Here's a few things I noticed on today's first drive that would be good to address sooner or later:

Brakes - the pads are new and the car stops fine in normal driving, but is a bit slower to stop than I'd like under heavy braking. Is this typical for this vehicle? Is there anything I can do to improve the braking performance? Willing to invest some money in brakes if there is a path to make this better - safety first!

Suspension - ride is a bit harsh; any straightforward suspension upgrades you would recommend? This is a 2wd so I'm not looking for a lift or anything extreme, but improving the ride quality a notch or two would be great.

Tires - will need to be replaced fairly soon; any recommendations? Again, not off-roading in this car, but may take it on a dirt road from time to time. Most driving will be on paved roads.

Audio - Needs a significant revamp. Rear speakers were poorly replaced some time ago with ones that are too small. Front speakers sound OK. Stereo is aftermarket and nothing special. I have a lot of background in audio so I'll likely do some substantial work here, but would love any advice or points to threads on audio upgrades for the tracker.

Lastly, are there any accessories you would recommend I look into?

Thanks, and glad to become a part of this enthusiasts community!
 

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Forgot to mention, 2nd gear is a little "lurchy," meaning instead of smoothly maintaining speed it kind of jerks back and forth by a couple mph, which is not very comfortable. When I switch up into 3rd gear it becomes much smoother. Curious if there's anything I should look into for that 2nd gear issue.
 

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Welcome to the forum. And welcome to your ‘new to you’ car.
Of course, with a new car, the first thing I’d do is change all fluids - oil, tranny, diff, coolant, etc. I’d also do a compression test, to verify the engine timing, as well as make sure that your spark plugs are gapped to .028”. I’d confirm that the check engine light is on with the key on, and off once the car starts. And I’d invest in a proper scanner, so that you are able to read your own codes, get live data from the computer, etc.
Taking the simple stuff first, you mention tires - you’ll notice that your door placard suggests 23psi for the tires, and I’d check that this is so. Having higher pressure in the tires makes the ride really rough. I don’t know if the shocks, etc., have ever been changed, but remember that you’re driving a little truck. The suspension is stiffer than on a regular car, but checking the tires pressure should help.
Brakes - do you know offhand whether you have the rear wheel anti-lock brakes or the load sensing proportional valve set up? If RWAL, you’ll find a small black box, high up on the driver’s side footwell, which is the RWAL computer. Have you checked the level of fluid in the master cylinder? You have front discs and rear drums - the rear drums will adjust themselves by you driving in reverse and braking hard. This light car should stop fairly well - when you get your new tires, I’d see if they improve your braking ability.
For your auto tranny, I’d recommend trying AT-205 to see if it helps your 2nd gear issue. A lot of the posters here have had excellent luck with that additive.
Just curious - what size tires are on the car? For the 2wd, I believe that the factory size was 195/75/15...????
Audio - hmmm....With the rear seat in place, there’s not too much of an area for any kind of seriously good upgrade for speakers, other than replacing the speakers in situ, in the side panels, which, without soundproofing, can vibrate a bit if you really like bass. Search the forum - there have been upgrades to the system, and others may join in with what they’ve done.
Good luck with your new car!!
 

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you're getting old Bex, he said its a 5 speed.....205 ain't going to help.

Wonder if its a flat spot? there again, plugs and timing check will help.

Just bought a 1996 USA Geo Tracker (16V, 5spd, 2WD, rally top)
 

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Thanks Bex! Great advice and I will be sure to check all fluid levels as well as plug gaps, thanks!

Great idea on the tire pressure check; that could certainly be the case! I'll report back in a couple days after playing around a bit, much appreciated!
 

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Slightly off topic but I went to 225s for my tires. Drove it home and it drove awful. Really bumpy and stiff like the shocks were bottomed out. Got home, checked air, and discovered the tire place inflated the tires to 35psi! Bled them down to 23psi and what a difference. So being a new car for you, check the air pressure in your tires as Bex suggested. It does make a big difference. As for the age of some of us posters - no comment!
 
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