Based on a Korean design and introduced to the US market in 2002, the Chevy Spark is a reliable car overall and there are no frequent, well-known problems with it.
With regular maintenance, a Chevy Spark’s lifespan can be as long as 100,000 miles, and it’s inexpensive to boot.
However, no car is perfect, and its two most reported problems have been excessive oil consumption and transmission slipping.
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These issues are more prevalent in older models, particularly the 2013 and 2014 spark.
Below, you’ll find the Spark’s most common problems listed by frequency along with the model year of the Spark where the problem occurs, how to fix the problem, and the repair cost.
1. 2013 Chevy Spark Uses too Much Oil
The 2013 Chevy Spark sometimes develops engine problems that cause it to consume excess oil.
This is the most prevalent problem of any model year of Chevy Spark, and it’s only common with the 2013 Spark.
If you check your car’s oil level, find that it’s low, replace it, and then notice that the oil levels are back to where they were only days later, you’ll want to get the engine looked at by a mechanic as soon as possible.
Don’t just keep adding oil—this won’t fix the underlying problem.
Over time, any engine will start to develop small leaks as its components wear down, letting oil escape.
The most common causes of excessive oil consumption are worn out seals, gaskets, or piston rings.
Engine oil protects these components by keeping friction to a minimum, but this can fail when extreme weather conditions make the oil thickness change, when the oil levels are too low for a while, from using incorrect or poor quality oil, or simply from years of use.
What’s the Best Way to Keep My Chevy Spark From Consuming Too Much Oil?
Don’t wait for the “oil low” indicator on your dashboard to turn on—this means the oil is nearly gone, a dire sign that your car’s engine parts are grinding against each other and tearing apart.
The biggest driver of excess oil consumption is not regularly replacing the oil, because lack of oil wears out the parts, causing leaks.
A good rule of thumb for oil replacement is to change the oil every 3,000 miles, which shouldn’t be too frequent on a maneuverable commuter car for city driving like the Spark, but that doesn’t mean you should let you guard down.
Be sure to keep an eye on the odometer and manually check the oil every 3,000 miles so you don’t get caught in the vicious cycle of increasing oil consumption.
How to Prevent, Recognize, and Treat Worn Out Engine Parts
The first step to treating any problem is to recognize it. Here are the telltale signs of a worn out gasket, seal, or piston ring.
- White or gray exhaust smoke
- Poor acceleration
- Reduced horsepower
- Sludgy buildup under oil cap
- Excess oil consumption
If you notice any of these symptoms and show your Spark to a mechanic, the solution can range from replacing a single part to installing a whole new engine.
The price of an engine part repair can range from $1000 to $5000 for a piston, gasket, or seal replacement. A new engine for a Chevy Spark costs over $5000.
The most severe symptoms of engine damage on this list are any decrease in horsepower or acceleration, and the least serious symptom is overconsumption of oil.
If you start to notice a change in the car’s performance, it’s a sign that the engine is severely damaged and might need to be replaced.
Other symptoms can be dealt with by replacing a part.
2. 2014 Chevy Spark Transmission Slipping and Failure
Transmission slipping happens when the engine is running but the car doesn’t change gears smoothly or stay completely in gear, and it’s dangerous when it happens while you’re moving at high speeds, making you lose control of the car.
\This problem is the second most common of any Chevy Spark model year, and it’s most pronounced with the 2014 Spark.
If your transmission is slipping, you’ll definitely need to get some maintenance done, but thankfully, it’s more likely with the Chevy Spark that the shop can repair your existing transmission and you won’t need a new one. Here are some signs that your transmission is slipping:
- Inability to shift gears
- Sudden, uncontrolled shifting
- Engine revs are louder than normal
- Unusual vibration or noise
- Reduced acceleration or horsepower
- Strange, burnt smell
Cars are complicated, and sometimes a single symptom can be the result of multiple causes.
Nevertheless, if your Chevy Spark is showing any of these symptoms, it could be due to transmission slippage, which also has multiple causes:
- Old transmission fluid
- Not enough transmission fluid
- Gears need to be replaced
- Broken solenoid
- Broken or worn out transmission bands
Luckily, the most common cause of transmission slipping is the easiest to treat and the least serious for the health of the car: it’s transmission fluid.
Topping up the transmission fluid is the easiest and most effective way you can improve the lifespan and functioning of your transmission, and you can do it yourself.
The minimum amount of time you should wait before replacing the transmission fluid is 30,000 to 50,000 miles, and the maximum is 75,000 to 100,000 miles.
If a part of your transmission is broken, you’ll need a mechanic to diagnose the problem and decide which parts need to be replaced or if you need a completely new transmission.
This includes fixing a broken gear or transmission band or performing a fluid flush to replace all transmission fluid.
The repair is somewhere between $1800 and $3400 and can leave your car in the shop for days—that’s why transmission repairs are infamously annoying.
Solenoids are a part of many systems in cars, and their basic function is to translate an electrical impulse controlled by a computer into the movement of a mechanical part. Transmissions have a complicated solenoid system that distributes transmission fluid as evenly as possible.
It costs $250 to $7000 to replace a transmission solenoid, depending on how damaged the overall system is.
General Pros and Cons for the Chevy Spark
Chevy intended the Spark for a specific purpose, i.e. to be a super-cheap subcompact, and it performs that purpose well. It’s not intended to be a high-powered road warrior or a luxury car, and it’s not.
- Low Price: The Chevy Spark is one of the cheapest cars you can buy new. At a manufacturer suggested retail price of $13,600, it’s great if you need a no-frills, reliable commuter car.
- The Spark’s size makes city parking easier.
- Subcompacts generally have good maneuverability and the Spark is no exception.
- The Spark’s dashboard touchscreen and entertainment system has a good user interface and all the modern trimmings, stacking up well next to the other comparable compact hatchbacks. At seven inches, it trumps the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio screens, matching that of the Nissan Versa.
- Maintenance costs shouldn’t be a huge issue since the car is reliable, especially the newer models.
- The Spark has a reputation for getting good gas mileage.
- The Spark lacks the standard saftey features of other cars. For example, unless you’re willing to go the extra mile and get the 2LT model, the Spark lacks an emergency automatic braking system. This is typical of cheap subcompacts, and the only comparable car that does have them is the Nissan Versa.
- The Spark’s shape, size, and geometry make it more vulnerable than a sedan or SUV in an accident.
- The Spark can feel cramped if you’re in the backseat. The front seats have adequate room, but it’s not a spacious car.
- There’s not very much cargo space in the Spark. It can handle a typical trip to the grocery store, but it can’t haul a heavy, large piece of furniture or a large pet carrier.
- At 98 horsepower, the Spark isn’t exactly NASCAR-ready. Other comparable compact hatchbacks like the Accent or Rio have around 120 horsepower at a higher price point.
- The 2022 Chevy Spark comes with a CVT, or continuously variable transmission, as well as a manual transmission option. CVTs have gotten a bad rap over the years, and when they were first introduced in the late 1980s, it was well-deserved. They have improved dramatically, but some are still wary of them.
What do the Reviews Say?
The Chevy Spark has met with positive to mixed reviews. It has some obvious deficiencies in the horsepower, size, and comfort department, but it hits its goals as a car: to be reliable, affordable, and maneuverable.
“A new car with a starting price below $15,000 might sound like paying to drive a penalty box, but the 2022 Chevy Spark puts that fear to bed… Every 2022 Spark has an engine that’s anemic at highway speeds, but it works fine around town and in traffic where the car’s nimbleness shines.”
“The 2022 Chevrolet Spark is affordable and easy to drive in the city, and it has user-friendly tech, but it’s let down by its cramped back seat, few safety features, and nervous highway manners.”
What’s the Resale Value of a Chevrolet Spark?
The chart below shows an example of a Chevy Spark from each model year since 2013 with its milage and current sale price displayed.
New or near-new Sparks cost somewhere from $13,000 to $1800, which should give you some idea of the Spark’s depreciation rate with use.
If you’re buying a used Spark, it’s best to avoid the 2013 and 2014, since they account for the majority of the problems mentioned here and with Sparks in general.
There are four trims of Spark available which increase in amenities like heated seats, keyless entry, and safety features like automatic emergency brakes as follows: LS, 1LT, ACTIV, 2LT.
Go back to see problems for all Chevrolet models.
ⓘ The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.