GM Prizm/Nova 1985-1993 Repair Guide




See Figures 1, 2 and 3

Prolonged and repeated skin contact with used engine oil, with no effort to remove the oil, can be harmful.

Always follow these simple precautions when handling used motor oil:

Avoid prolonged skin contact with used motor oil.
Remove oil from skin by washing thoroughly with soap and water or waterless hand cleaner. Do not use gasoline, thinners or other solvents.
Avoid prolonged skin contact with oil soaked clothing.

The engine oil should be checked on a regular basis, ideally at each fuel stop. If the car is used for trailer towing, or for heavy-duty use, it would be wise to check it more often.

When checking the oil level, it is best that the oil be at operating temperature, although checking the level immediately after stopping will give a false reading because not all of the oil will have drained back into the crankcase. Be sure that the car is on a level surface, allowing time for all of the oil to drain back into the crankcase.

  1. Open the hood and locate the dipstick. It is located on the right hand (passenger's side) of the engine.
  3. Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with a rag.

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Fig. Fig. 1: Typical oil dipstick

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Fig. Fig. 2: Engine oil dipstick location - 1992 VIN code 6 engine shown

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Fig. Fig. 3: The engine oil should be between the L and the F marks on the dipstick - 1992 VIN code 6 engine shown, other engines similar

  1. Insert the dipstick fully into the tube and remove it again. Hold the dipstick horizontally and read the oil level on the dipstick. The level should be between the F (Full) and L (Low) marks. If the oil level is at or below the L mark, sufficient oil should be added to restore the level to the proper place. Oil is added through the capped opening in the top of the valve cover.
  3. Replace the dipstick and check the level after adding oil. Be careful not to overfill the crankcase.


See Figures 4 through 8

The engine oil and oil filter should always be changed together. To skip an oil filter change is to leave a quart of contaminated oil in the engine as well as a contaminated filter. Engine oil and filter must be changed at least as specified in the Maintenance Intervals chart.

Certain operating conditions may warrant more frequent changes. If the vehicle is used for short trips, water condensation and low-temperature deposits may make it necessary to change the oil sooner. If the vehicle is used mostly in stop-and-go city traffic, corrosive acids and high-temperature deposits may necessitate shorter oil changing intervals. The shorter intervals are also true for industrial or rural areas where high concentration of dust contaminate the oil. Cars used for carrying heavy loads, pulling trailers, or in mountainous areas may also need more frequent oil and filter changes.

The type of engines used in the Nova and Prism - overhead camshaft - are particularly sensitive to proper lubrication with clean oil. Don't risk an expensive repair by neglecting the easiest maintenance on the car. Change the oil and filter regularly - it's cheap insurance.

To change the engine oil and filter, the car should be parked on a level surface and the engine should be at operating temperature. This is to ensure that foreign matter will be drained away with the oil and not left behind in the engine to form sludge, which will happen if the engine is drained cold. Oil that is slightly brownish when drained is a good sign that the contaminants are being drained away.

You should have available a container that will hold at least five quarts, a wrench to fit the oil drain plug, a spout for pouring in new oil and some rags to clean up the inevitable mess. If the filter is being replaced, you will also need a band wrench to fit the filter.

  1. Position the car on a level surface and set the parking brake or block the wheels. Slide a drain pan under the oil drain plug.
  3. From under the car, loosen, but do not remove the oil drain plug. Cover your hand with a heavy rag or glove and slowly unscrew the drain plug. Push the plug against the threads to prevent oil from leaking past the threads.

The engine oil will be hot. Keep your arms, face and hands away from the oil as it drains out.

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Fig. Fig. 4: By keeping an inward pressure on the drain plug as you unscrew it, the oil won't escape past the threads

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Fig. Fig. 5: Remove the oil filter with a strap wrench

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Fig. Fig. 6: Lubricate the gasket on the new filter with clean engine oil. A dry gasket may not make a good seal and will allow the filter to leak

  1. As the plug comes to the end of the threads, whisk it away from the hole, letting the oil drain into the pan, which hopefully is still under the drain plug. This method usually avoids the messy task of reaching into a tub full of hot, dirty oil to retrieve a usually elusive drain plug. Crawl out from under the car and wait for the oil to drain.

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Fig. Fig. 7: Install the new oil filter by hand

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Fig. Fig. 8: Add oil through the cylinder head cover only

  1. When the oil is drained, install the drain plug and tighten it.
  3. Loosen the filter with a band wrench and spin the filter off by hand. Be careful of the one quart of hot, dirty oil that inevitably overflows the filter.
  5. Coat the rubber gasket on a new filter with clean engine oil and install the filter. Screw the filter onto the mounting stud and tighten according to the directions on the filter. Do not overtighten the filter; it may rupture under pressure and instantly deliver 5 quarts of oil onto the ground.
  7. Refill the engine with the specified amount of clean engine oil. Be sure to use the proper viscosity. Pour the oil in through the opening in the valve cover.
  9. Run the engine for several minutes, checking for oil pressure and leaks. The oil warning light on the dash should go out after a few seconds of engine operation. A few minutes after the engine is shut off, check the level of the oil and add if necessary.

Please dispose of used motor oil properly. Do not throw it in the trash or pour it on the ground. Take it to your dealer or local service station for recycling.