1998 GMC Jimmy
1998 GMC Jimmy. Click image to enlarge


By Chris Chase

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When the SUV craze took hold in North America in the late 1980s and early 90s, General Motors was one of a few manufacturers that already had a foothold in the segment. They’d been building their Chevrolet Blazer and GMC Jimmy compact SUVs (bult on the same platform as Chevy and GMC’s compact pickups) for a few years already, and even before that, those two nameplates had been used on larger trucks, based on GM’s full-size pickup trucks.

By the mid-90s though, the original compact Blazer and Jimmy were starting to show their age. So, for 1995, the Blazer and Jimmy got the same styling update that had been applied to the Chevy S-10 and GMC Sonoma pickups the year before. The changes were largely skin-deep, though: the new truck rode on the same wheelbase as the old one and was powered by the same 4.3-litre V6, albeit with more power for 1995. A four-speed automatic became standard equipment in place of a 5-speed manual, but the stickshift could still be had as a no-cost option. Most trucks found on used car lots will be automatics; the manual option wasn’t terribly popular, and was dropped from the four-door truck’s option sheet in 2004.

These low-tech trucks soldiered on for a decade in basically the same form. In 2005, the last year of production, the Blazer was offered only in two-door form while the Jimmy could be had as either a two- or four-door.

The 4.3-litre V6 (190 hp; 260 lb.-ft. of torque) found under the hood of these trucks is a simple and fairly durable engine, and was also used in the aforementioned S-10 and Sonoma, as well as base models of Chevy and GMC’s full-size pickups and the Chevy Astro and GMC Safari minivans. Those who know these trucks well will advise you to avoid 1995 versions: many engine parts aren’t interchangeable with those from 1996 and later models and can be difficult to find.

2001 Chevrolet Blazer
2001 Chevrolet Blazer. Click image to enlarge

Many automotive publications will tell you to avoid these trucks at all costs, but again, knowledgeable types will tell you that well-maintained examples of these trucks can be quite reliable, though far from perfect. Many owners have complained of transmission failures, but regular servicing will help avoid problems. True sore spots include brakes that wear quickly, alternators that tend to fail predictably after about 130,000 km of driving and the fuel pump is flaky and prone to failure. Also, interior fittings are cheap and tend to break easily. Replacement parts are cheap and easy to find, though, and most maintenance procedures and repairs are straightforward for anyone who’s decent with a wrench.

Fuel economy is, well, truck-like. Don’t expect a four-wheel-drive version to use much less than 15 L/100 km in the city and highway fuel consumption hovers around 11 L/100 km.

Crash safety is unremarkable for the most part, with early models scoring low (three stars for driver protection, one for front passenger protection) in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) front impact tests. Later models scored better, three and four stars for front occupation protection and five stars each for front and rear seat occupant protection in side impacts. The Blazer and Jimmy scored a “poor” rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) frontal offset crash test.

1996 Chevrolet Blazer
1996 Chevrolet Blazer. Click image to enlarge

Used prices for the Blazer and Jimmy are attractive, thanks to high depreciation. A 2005 Blazer two-door is worth $18,975 today, a whopping $9,500 off the $28,345 M.S.R.P., and a 2004 four-door model is worth $18,800, down from its M.S.R.P. of $35,465. Look back to 2000 and the same four-door Blazer should sell for a little more than $10,000. Go older than 2000, and prices range from about $5,000 for a 1995 model to about $9,000 for a 1999. Resale values for the GMC Jimmy are a little higher, but only by a few hundred dollars in most cases.

While the Blazer and Jimmy aren’t the most reliable SUV’s around, their combination of smaller size, stout body-on-frame construction and torquey V6 make these trucks great for towing small to medium trailers while being compact enough to be well-suited to city driving. If you want years of trouble-free service from your SUV, look elsewhere, but if you do most of your own vehicle maintenance and repair work and need a decent tow vehicle on a tight budget, one of these trucks might be just the ticket.


Online Resources

One would think it’d be easy to find a good online community to discuss the ins and outs of a truck as popular as the GMC Jimmy and Chevy Blazer clones, but as it turns out, there’s actually not much out there. While the four sites listed below all cover the S10 Jimmy and Blazer to some extent, most of them either have low traffic (which generally doesn’t promote quality discussion) or just don’t give these trucks the attention they should get. Another option is to check out some of the many four-wheeling forums out there. Many of them will have sections dedicated to specific makes, so you can expect the Blazer and Jimmy to show up on at least some of them. This site – http://top4x4sites.com/top.htm – is an extensive list of 4×4-related websites and forums and a good place to start. Even if you’re not into off-roading, you may be able to find some information on repairs, maintenance and aftermarket modifications.

www.blazerforum.com – It’s not the biggest forum on the web, with fewer than 2,000 members, but it’s a good place to start a search on all things related to these SUVs. Officially, this site is aimed only at owners of Blazers and the newer Trailblazer, but the mechanical similarities between the Chevy versions and the GMC Jimmy and Envoy mean owners of the GMC trucks would be in luck here too. The General Tech Help forum section is a good resource for owners troubleshooting problems with their trucks.

www.chevroletforum.com – This site goes after all Chevrolet owners but doesn’t seem to have attracted many. There are just over 1,000 users here, which isn’t much for a site dedicated to a big carmaker like Chevy. Unfortunately, not many of those members are Blazer or Jimmy owners, and there are only a handful of topics in the forum section dedicated to those trucks.

www.gm-trucks.com/forums – As you can probably guess from its URL, this site covers all of General Motors’ trucks. It lumps the Blazer and Jimmy into a forum with many other small and medium GM truck and SUV models, so you might have to dig a bit for info. There are more than 20,000 members here, and while there a number of topics in the Blazer/Jimmy’s forum section, it doesn’t look like much discussion takes place.

www.chevytruckworld.tenmagazines.com/forums/forum.ten-id-464-n-blazer – This site boasts almost 40,000 members, but it does cover a multitude of vehicles, and the Blazer forum itself covers newer versions as well as the older, bigger K5 Blazer.


Recalls

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1999135; Units affected: 72,445

1991-1996: Certain four-wheel drive vehicles may experience increased stopping distances during ABS stops while in the two-wheel drive mode. A switch can erroneously signal the ABS system that the vehicle is in four-wheel drive when the vehicle is actually in two-wheel drive. Correction: Dealers will replace the switch on affected vehicles.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1997152; Units affected: 23,860

1994-1997: On certain vehicles, the driver’s and/or passenger’s front outboard seat-belt webbing could separate during a frontal impact having at least the same dynamics as a 48 kph frontal barrier collision. If a separation occurred and there were secondary crash events or rollover, there would be no restraint of the occupant and increased injuries could occur. Correction: a protector cover will be installed over the recliner mechanism.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1995070; Units affected: 36

1995: Certain 4WD vehicles could have either or both upper ball joints under-torqued. This can result in improper seating of the tapered ball joint stud in the tapered hole of the steering knuckle. In this condition, the stud can loosen, eventually fatigue and fracture. This could result in loss of vehicle control and a crash without prior warning. Correction: dealers will torque the upper ball joint nut on both sides of the vehicle to the required specification.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1996178; Units affected: 29,104

1995-1996: Certain vehicles may not comply with C.M.V.S.S. 301 – fuel system integrity. In certain types of vehicle crashes, the propshaft may penetrate the fuel tank, resulting in a fuel leak. If an ignition source were present, a vehicle fire could result. Correction: dealers will install additional shielding for the fuel tank.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1994192; Units affected: 11

1995: These vehicles may have the brake pedal pivot bolt started in the weld nut but not torqued (“finger loose”). With the bolt “finger loose”, it is possible for the bolt to disengage from the weld nut very early in the life of the vehicle. This could result in a total loss of braking capability and a crash without prior warning. Correction: brake pedal bolts will be inspected and torqued to specifications.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003087; Units affected: 19223

1997: On certain vehicles, sustained loads of sufficient magnitude and duration on the seat belt in severe crashes could fully deploy the buckle energy-absorbing loop, introducing a total of 10 additional inches of webbing into the seat belt system. The free falling latch plate used in this system may allow webbing to dynamically distribute between the lap and shoulder belt as the driver’s position changes during a multiple rollover event. If the energy-absorbing loop fully deploys in a severe multiple rollover event, it is possible that a belted driver may experience partial or even complete ejection from the vehicle. Correction: Dealer will replace the driver’s safety belt buckle assembly.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003064; Units affected: 323,584

1997: Certain vehicles (not involved in recall 98-150), may experience a windshield wiper failure due to cracked solder joints on the controller circuit board. If this were to occur in a severe weather situation, driver’s visibility could be reduced, which could result in a vehicle crash without prior warning. Correction: Dealer will replace defective wiper motor until 7 years or 112,000 km from date vehicle was originally placed into service or for those vehicles currently outside of this coverage, until March 31 2004.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003062; Units affected: 40,759

1997: On certain vehicles, a short in the electric outside rearview mirror switch could develop. If this were to occur, it could result in an inoperative switch, heat damage to the driver’s door, and/or ignition of components in the driver’s door and a subsequent vehicle fire without prior warning. Correction: Dealer will install a fused jumper harness to the electric outside rearview mirror switch.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1997217; Units affected: 404

1998: Note: vehicles without the high wider performance package. These vehicles may exhibit a fatigue fracture of the rear axle, right-hand brake pipe. Should the pipe crack a slow brake fluid leak would result causing a soft pedal and an eventual decrease in rear braking capability. Should the pipe break there would be a sudden drop in the brake pedal and a loss of rear brake performance. Correction: a brake pipe bracket will be installed on affected vehicles.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001263; Units affected: 63,484

1998-1999: Certain vehicles do not comply with the requirements of C.M.V.S.S. NO. 118, “POWER-OPERATED WINDOW, PARTITION & ROOF PANEL SYSTEMS.” When the hazard flasher switch is used to turn the hazard flashers on or off, the retained accessory power (RAP) feature can be activated without a key in the ignition. Correction: There is no detrimental effect on vehicle safety so no corrective action is necessary.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2000196; Units affected: 16,621

2000: Certain vehicles do not comply with the requirements of C.M.V.S.S. 209 – Seat Belt Assemblies. Vehicles may have seat belt assemblies that will not withstand the force requirements of the standard. In a crash, if the belt buckle fails, there is an increased risk of injury to the occupant. Correction: Suspect buckle assemblies will be replaced.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2000201; Units affected: 10,752

2000: Certain vehicles may have incorrect payload information on the vehicle certification label. The payload shown on the label is greater than the maximum validated payload. If the vehicle is loaded to the incorrectly labelled payload, it may not ride and handle in the manner expected by the operator and could lead to loss of vehicle control and and/or an inability to stop the vehicle within expected stopping distances. Correction: Dealers will install a new label, directing operators to their owner’s manual for payload information.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001285; Units affected: 30,108

2000-2002: Certain sport utility vehicles. The multifunction switch could develop an open circuit condition with the bottom connector in the hazard switch carrier that results in the stop lamps and the hazard lamps becoming inoperative. The centre high mounted stop lamp and turn signal functions are not affected the loss of stop lamps and rear hazard lamps could fail to warn a following driver that the vehicle is braking and/or is stopped and could result in a crash. Correction: Dealers will replace the hazard warning flasher switch.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004105; Units affected: 1,028

2004: On certain vehicles, the Supplemental Inflatable Restraint (SIR) caution label contains an incorrect statement. However, in every case, the owner’s manual provided with the vehicle correctly describes the acceptable rear-facing child seat location for the particular vehicle configuration. Correction: A correct pressure-sensitive sunshade label and instructions for its application are to be mailed to owners.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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