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I'm looking to get my first tracker! Did the research and it fits the needs. Found one about 80 miles away on the cheap, but it doesn't pass emissions. Here is what they say

1991 geo tracker manual transmission, no issues with engine or transmission no leaks although will not pass emissions tow away..... needs some tlc but would be good for someone who has time to fix the minor things im moving out of state and need it to be gone by thursday

Talked to them a little and said it would make it down the interstate and they drive it everyday. Maybe going up in the morning to take a look. Was wondering if there are any other tell tale signs of a head gasket or dead cylinder problem other than coolant in the oil, visa versa, brown coolant, or without using a compression tester? Anything else major to look for?

Thanks guys
 

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Perhaps it would be better if you got info as to why it won't pass smog - high nox, etc.? As each of the failures may be attributable to different things.
When you are going to look at the car, make sure that the check engine light is on with the key on and off when the car starts, look for the condition of the oil in the dipstick if you are concerned about head gasket, ask whether the car has ever overheated. Car should start up at about 2000 rpm from cold, then you should hear a definite drop of idle to about 1500 rpm within 5-10 seconds. Idle will then slowly reduce to about 800 rpm warm idle once the car warms up. You should have great heat in the cab, no bogging when driving, nice pick up in 3rd gear, no smoke from exhaust when driving (although the 8v engine is a bit smelly, actually), etc. Looking at spark plug tips can be a good clue as to how the engine is running. You should also ask them if they have ever changed the capacitors in the ECU (which, if not, will need to be done. Costs about $5 if you can solder)
These cars are really easy to work on, and if you are assured that there is no head gasket problem, and the price is good, I would grab it. I have the same car, and have owned it for 19 years. It's the best, most reliable car I have ever had.
 

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I think Bex has pretty much nailed it there - you need to know why it didn't pass emissions before you can fix it.
 

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I bought my 94 sidekick from Arizona, failed smog. The quickest test you can do is to push the EGR diaphragm in manually and you should hear the engine bog down and stutter. If it doesn't, it's likely that the EGR valve might be stuck or the exhaust/inlet ports to the EGR system might be clogged. The EGR system has quite a few parts that could make it fail a SMOG test. If you buy it, take it for a SMOG test and post the results here, it will help point out the likely problems. Good luck!
 

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