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'97 Geo Tracker, 1.6L 16v, automatic, 4wd, 2dr
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I took the new Tracker out to the desert to get into the dirt. Everything was going fine then out in the middle of nowhere I stopped to go for a hike. When I got back the engine wouldn't turn over. While the starter was engaged it sounded fine then as soon as I let off the key RPM would just drop to zero. After realizing it wasnt gonna turn over, I decided to give it some gas before letting off the key. That was enough to get her going and get me back to civilization.

I read through a bunch of the "low RPM" posts in here and they all seem to affect only cold starts. Mine was definitely not a cold start, had already driven 100 miles of highway and 20 in the dirt. The next day I went out to see if I get the same result when starting cold and it started up fine, idle went to ~1200 then dropped down to ~800 after less than a minute.

Any tips on what to look for? I am not an ace mechanic (live in a condo as well so limited tools) but I have the Haynes manual on its way. Should I just defer to a mechanic? Taking her deep out into the desert it would be good to have no worries about starting up!
 

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I’m sorry that you bought the Haynes manual. It attempts to cover a number of years, has a lot of misinformation and is not really recommended. The 1996 Tracker FSM is here on Acks FAQS and is free to view and download. The only difference between the 1996 and 1997 Tracker will be the wavy washer set up at the front locking hubs.
When you couldn’t get it started n the desert and had to give it some gas, exactly what did you do? Floor the gas pedal or only depress it slightly? Flooring it stops fuel delivery (so, if your engine started this way, it would be an indication of overfueling.). Depressing the gas pedal slightly gives the engine a more air. Something about more air vs ‘dirt’ might be a hint. Maybe. Or did you use starter fluid?
 

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My air idle valve was not doing it's proverbial job and causing very low idle. If you disconnect it the engine stops . If the AIV is malfunctioning that may be the cause of not working when warm. Just throwing it out there as a possible. BTW on my Sport I watched the videos , washed the valve twice still had some problems and third time I took it out I sprayed bicycle chain lube on the shaft . Video said, do not oil. It still goes to very low idle at some times but nothing like it did before.
 

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'97 Geo Tracker, 1.6L 16v, automatic, 4wd, 2dr
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I’m sorry that you bought the Haynes manual. It attempts to cover a number of years, has a lot of misinformation and is not really recommended. The 1996 Tracker FSM is here on Acks FAQS and is free to view and download. The only difference between the 1996 and 1997 Tracker will be the wavy washer set up at the front locking hubs.
Thanks for the link. Bookmarked.

When you couldn’t get it started n the desert and had to give it some gas, exactly what did you do? Floor the gas pedal or only depress it slightly? Flooring it stops fuel delivery (so, if your engine started this way, it would be an indication of overfueling.). Depressing the gas pedal slightly gives the engine a more air. Something about more air vs ‘dirt’ might be a hint. Maybe. Or did you use starter fluid?
I gave it just enough gas to bump it up to maybe 2000 RPM. Definitely didnt floor it. I did order an air filter the other day which will be here this week, but not sure if that could be the issue.
 

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'97 Geo Tracker, 1.6L 16v, automatic, 4wd, 2dr
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My air idle valve was not doing it's proverbial job and causing very low idle. If you disconnect it the engine stops . If the AIV is malfunctioning that may be the cause of not working when warm. Just throwing it out there as a possible. BTW on my Sport I watched the videos , washed the valve twice still had some problems and third time I took it out I sprayed bicycle chain lube on the shaft . Video said, do not oil. It still goes to very low idle at some times but nothing like it did before.
Can you point me to the videos? My searches are coming up empty.
 

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The Sport has the 1.8L engine, so different in many ways from the 1.6. If you search this forum, look for idle speed solenoid, or ISC.
Much depends on whether your engine was cold when you came back to start it, and encountered a ‘crank but won’t start’ scenario. By the way, is your check engine light on with the key on, and off when the engine is running? Do you have a proper scanner for codes and real time data? If not, you should get one. Many are not very expensive and can even work off of your cell phone. If you search the forum, you’ll find suggestions, particularly from Aquanaut20.
It’s difficult to deal with issues that are intermittent (until they happen again), sadly. Basically the engine needs fuel, spark and air in order to start. But you seem to indicate in post #4, that the engine was starting, but you needed to rev up a bogging engine to 2000 rpm. This would lead me to ask whether or not you’ve ever cleaned your EGR valve….????
 

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'97 Geo Tracker, 1.6L 16v, automatic, 4wd, 2dr
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Much depends on whether your engine was cold when you came back to start it, and encountered a ‘crank but won’t start’ scenario. By the way, is your check engine light on with the key on, and off when the engine is running? Do you have a proper scanner for codes and real time data?
Engine should have been pretty warm. Had a couple hours of driving, vehicle was baking in an 85 degree desert and only turned off for 30 mins or so. Check engine light does indeed come on with key on then turns off after its running. I don't have a scanner yet but will look into getting one for sure.

This would lead me to ask whether or not you’ve ever cleaned your EGR valve….????
I have not. I just got the vehicle last week so only things done were belt replacements and mechanic gave it an inspection.
 

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Ah….as the car is new to you, it’s normally suggested that you do a compression test on the engine to verify valve timing. Also make sure that your spark plugs are gapped to .028”. I don’t know how much of the maintenance history you know on the car, but it’s a good idea to check the EGR valve…it has a diaphragm that rides on a spindle. When carefully pushing that diaphragm forward, your car should try to stall. When letting the diaphragm go, it should snap back strongly on its spindle. If the diaphragm is sluggish, it can cause bogging issues and difficulty getting the engine started.
 

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And when you say belt replacements, was the timing belt replaced??? If so, you need to check the 17mm crank pulley bolt (or confirm with your mechanic that he did NOT take this off, when doing the timing belt. Some people mistakenly do). That bolt use be torqued to 94 ft/lbs, otherwise you run the risk of shearing the keyway.
 

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'97 Geo Tracker, 1.6L 16v, automatic, 4wd, 2dr
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ah….as the car is new to you, it’s normally suggested that you do a compression test on the engine to verify valve timing. Also make sure that your spark plugs are gapped to .028”. I don’t know how much of the maintenance history you know on the car, but it’s a good idea to check the EGR valve…
Good advice. I'll add the following to my TODO list (let me know if I missed anything):
  • compression test
  • replace plugs and wires (might as well while I'm in there)
  • clean EGR and check diaphragm (do I need to replace the diaphragm when I do this?)

Should I also clean the air idle valve?
 

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Was your timing belt just replaced? If so, probably the first thing I’d do is ensure that the center 17mm bolt on the crank pulley is torqued to 94 ft/lbs. Many people mistakenly remove this when doing a timing belt, and the proper torque on that bolt is imperative. I’d also then do a compression test, your plugs and plug wires, and check to see if the EGR needs cleaning by carefully pushing the diaphragm forward to see if the engine tries to stall and that the diaphragm snaps back when you let it go. If not, then remove the EGR, clean it thoroughly with carb cleaner….if really dirty you may need to soak it, but do not soak the diaphragm as the carb cleaner can damage it. Normally you don’t need to replace the EGR, but just clean it. The diaphragm cannot be replaced individually. While the EGR is off the car, I’d also spray carb cleaner into the intake and exhaust ports that you see once you’ve removed the EGR, and ream those passages out as best you can. People often use a stiff wire or similar attached to a variable speed drill to do this. Just before you put the EGR back on the car, start the engine up for about a second or two. It will rev very high, and potentially blow some loosened carbon out.
Regarding the idle air valve, this terminology can be somewhat confusing. There is an idle speed solenoid that is electronic, and an idle air valve that is mechanical. As you advise your cold idle and warm running idle are within factory spec, it doesn’t look like they need cleaning. The electronic one is difficult to clean and should only be bench tested for about a second with 12v before letting it rest. I wouldn’t deal with them unless you have an idle problem.
 

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'97 Geo Tracker, 1.6L 16v, automatic, 4wd, 2dr
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Was your timing belt just replaced?
Timing belt was deemed all good by mechanic. Alternator and AC belts were the only ones replaced.

Thanks again for your replies. You've helped me out a ton here getting started on this little truck.
 

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What desert are you in? My 92 Sidekick has spent most of it's life offroading in the New Mexico desert. It has been a very reliable offroad vehicle and tolerates the 100+ degree heat well. It has vapor locked on me a few times on a short stop, but started with a slight depression of the accelerator for the additional air as you did. I would first start with cleaning the EGR as Bex recommended. Cleaning mine made it run so much smoother! Easy to clean. Mounts to the engine with 2 bolts and some hoses. It will likely be filled with black exhaust soot. Just clean all that soot out with rags, even some Q-tips on the ports. You do not need to replace the diaphragm, just clean it and a drop or two of oil on the shaft it slides on if needed. It should easily move with light finger pressure. Also, inspect all those small vacuum hoses for cracks, holes or kinks for possible vacuum leaks. If needed, those hoses are sold by the foot at most auto supply stores rather cheap. Good luck with the repairs.
 

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'97 Geo Tracker, 1.6L 16v, automatic, 4wd, 2dr
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
What desert are you in?
I'm a bit west of you in the southern California deserts and mountains. Anza Borrego was the maiden journey for me and the new little beast. It handled everything great besides that one startup issue.
Wheel Tire Sky Car Vehicle


Also, inspect all those small vacuum hoses for cracks, holes or kinks for possible vacuum leaks.
Will do, putting that one on the TODO list as well.
 

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Your photo looks just like a New Mexico desert arroyo (dry river bed). They make good trails for exploring.
 

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'97 Geo Tracker, 1.6L 16v, automatic, 4wd, 2dr
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Your photo looks just like a New Mexico desert arroyo (dry river bed). They make good trails for exploring.
Spot on. This particular arroyo gets over 200ft width at points and goes for over 20 miles. It’s like a super highway arroyo except you rarely ever see anyone else in it.
 
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