While the Chevy Spark was discontinued after the 2022-year model, the vehicle is still available in some dealerships of Chevy across the US. Also, the price is very tempting. So, I decided to have a look at what powers this little city car and how long can you drive it without having problems and fatal issues under the hood.
Today, I will tell you about the 1.4L engine in the Chevrolet Spark on the American market and reveal its good and bad sides as well as its durability. I will talk about the technical engineering of this engine and also drivers' reviews. I've talked to a couple of Chevy mechanics before writing this because I personally haven't ever driven the Spark but have always been interested in this little and affordable car.
So, here's what I will talk about today:
- What should you know about the 1.4L engine in the Spark?
- How long will this engine go in your little Spark?
- What are the common problems of the 1.4L Chevy engine?
- How can you drive your Spark longer without any problems?
Let's get started!
Key features of the Chevy Spark 1.4L engine
So, in the US you could only get the fourth-generation Spark with the 1.4L engine. In some other markets, there was a 1-liter option with obviously better fuel economy but very disappointing durability. In 2023, you can still buy this hatchback for less than $15,000 for the cheapest version and about $18,000 for the most expensive one.
But despite being the cheapest vehicle on the market, the Spark wasn't selling well. Chevy sold about 30,000 models yearly in the US and they just sold 14,000 Sparks in 2022. After that, the vehicle was discontinued and it's not going to reappear in the future because the industry is obviously moving to SUVs.
Here's what you should know about the 1.4L engine in the Spark:
- this is the LV7 engine from the SGE family of General Motors offering 1.4 liters of displacement, 98 horsepower, and 94 lb-ft of torque;
- the engine is extremely simple - it has no turbochargers and basically nothing that would make it very cool to drive;
- the engine was only used in the Spark and was manufactured in a South Korean GM plant which is unusual for the American market;
- a simple multi-point injection is great but not very economical in terms of fuel consumption;
- the engine has lifters, the timing system is driven by the chain, and there is a Dual VVT system for valve timing on both camshafts;
- this engine was equipped with 5-speed manual transmission or the CVT - both great and reliable;
- this engine ensures a gas mileage of 29 MPG in the city and 38 MPG on highways, not bad but not great for such a small vehicle.
Maybe, the 1.2L turbo would be much better for the Spark and it would feel much sportier on the road. But the 1.4L SGE engine is great in terms of durability and quality. I've investigated GM forums and couldn't find even one owner who would be completely disappointed with Spark's engine.
Mechanics told me much more and said that the main secret of success is that these vehicles aren't driven a lot during the year and they actually haven't gone to high mileage. But when they do, the fatal problems will obviously show up. I'll touch on this later. Now let's see what the durability of the LV7 engine has to offer.
How many miles will the 1.4L Spark engine last?
It's easy to predict that this engine will last 220,000 to 240,000 miles on average. That's a lot! That's huge for any modern engine, especially for the unit with small displacement. Well, it works in pair with wonderful transmissions and it powers a really light car.
The manufacturer obviously wanted to make a reliable engine, so GM didn't even try to make the power as high as possible. They just engineered a good 4-cylinder naturally aspirated powerplant that potentially can go a lot of miles with zero problems. And they succeeded.
The manual transmission is going to live as long as the engine but the CVT is a little worse. I've seen reports about CVT failure at 90,000 miles, some other owners reported the CVT issue at 120,000 miles. So, within the average lifespan of the engine, you will need to repair or even replace the CVT if you choose the automatic version of the Spark.
In terms of engine longevity, I personally see only one possible problem - a pretty thin timing chain. If the chain breaks or jumps, the engine is dead or severely damaged. And the chain can live about 100,000 to 140,000 miles.
What are some common problems with this Spark engine?
It's hard to say whether the Spark's engine is actually optimal for this car. I would want something more powerful and maybe turbocharged in this small vehicle to make it more active. But for a city car to go to supermarkets and to drive kids to school, this configuration seems just perfect.
Still, it has some common issues that you need to know about to prevent them and save some money:
1. Thin timing chain
The timing chain is said to live as long as the engine, but it's not completely true. If you drive your Spark actively, the chain will stretch and start rattling at about 100,000 miles. In normal driving conditions, the chain will stretch at 140,000 miles. So, I recommend planning the chain replacement to 120K miles to avoid issues. Or replace it once it starts rattling.
This will save you from chain jumping and all possible issues that come after that. If the chain jumps, the pistons will hit valves and possibly bend them.
2. Oil consumption after 80,000 miles.
On average, the LV7 engine starts burning some oil at about 80K miles because of piston rings wear. This is not a big problem but if the consumption is too high, you will need to change the rings.
Also, extensive oil consumption may lead to low oil levels and poor engine lubrication. If you see the oil warning light going on the dash, stop the vehicle and don't drive it till you add some oil or make sure the oil level is OK.
At 200,000 miles, the oil consumption should be crazy and without the repair, the engine will not be able to go longer than that.
3. Electrical glitches
Even new engines may suffer from software glitches and small electrical problems. For Chevy, these issues became normal in the last decade. The engines become more technological and have more electronic settings and control modules that can fail. So, this leads to issues with all those modules and with software created for the engines.
If you have some electric glitch or software problem, the best strategy is to go to the dealership. In most cases, there will be a bulletin for your case and the dealer will update the software for free or for a little money.
4. Wrong oil problems
The engine needs 5w30 oil and if you use any other type with other viscosity, it will not work long. Given the majority of buyers will not service their Sparks in dealerships after the warranty is over, they may decide to use some other type of oil recommended by a local oil store or repair shop. Remember that the rule of thumb for the oil in your Spark engine is to use OEM oil and filters.
The Spark 1.4L engine is not expensive in maintenance and I would recommend to continue servicing it in a dealership even when the warranty is over. If you maintain this engine correctly, it will go for a long time and will not require any expensive repairs till its natural death.
5. Excessive fuel consumption
Bad gas mileage may be just the result of your driving style. Try adjusting it and see if this changes. If not, you may need to scan the engine for error codes and see if there is a problem with injectors or throttle body. There is simply nothing else that can fail and lead to low gas mileage.
How can you prolong the life of this 1.4L engine?
Your Chevy Spark engine is good to go about 220,000 miles, on average, or even more if you care about it and provide it with some TLC.
Buy only OEM oil and parts. It costs you a little more than aftermarket parts and fluids, but this ensures that the engine works in optimal conditions.
After the engine reaches 50K miles, check the oil level regularly. It can burn some oil and kill itself pretty fast.
Also, after 100,000 miles, listen to some rattle in the engine. If you hear it, just have the chain replaced immediately. Otherwise, the engine may die at any moment because of the chain failure.
Other than that, there are no specific recommendations for how you can prolong the life of your Spark 1.4L powerplant. Don't overload and overheat it, don't drive aggressively and the engine will live even longer than you may expect it to.