GEM Modifications/Upgrades

Hi Everyone!

I own a four-seater 2002 GEM with the 2006 electronics upgrade. Its my daily driver and I already posted 500 miles on it in a month’s time.

So far I’ve done the following to it:

  1. Installed Hazard Light Switch (new $20)
  2. Installed 12V Accessories (Lighter) Plug (new $12)
  3. Installed Chrome Bumper (used $30)
  4. Installed Retractable Sun Visor (new $50)
  5. Installed Silver Plastic Hub Caps (new $70)
  6. Replaced the original cracked rear shock cover (used $30)
  7. Installed Panoramic Rear View Mirror (new $25)

Essentially, just small stuff to make it more user friendly or cosmetically pleasing.

I’m interested in more complicated modifications such as:

  1. Replace front drum brakes with disc brakes
  2. Install a framed (canvas-covered) door for the Driver and Soft (Zippered) Doors for all the Passengers
  3. Install a stereo with separate battery and solar charger
  4. Install a 2000W Honeywell Generator, thus converting it to a hybrid

I’d like to hear other peoples ideas on how to modify, thus improve their GEM and any success stories.



I would be interested in learning what disc brakes could be retrofitted to a pre-2005 GEM. I heard somewhere of someone using Geo Metro brakes. Using the post-2004 GEM disc brakes would be an expensive update as so many parts are different.


Good point.

At work I drive a 2007 GEM e4 and the ride is simply amazing in comparison.

First of all the motor is less whiney, yet it doesn’t go 28mph like mine does.
Secondly, it turns much easier, but you have to turn the wheel a lot more.
Third, the ride is less harsh, I don’t feel each and every bump like you do in my 2002.

I can’t imagine that the suspension changed much between the two model years, but I’m guessing because they lightened the front by moving the batteries, they were able to put better shocks on it or something. Whatever the case, I wish my 2002 was as smooth as a ride.

So with that said, another project for me would be to determine if there’s a better suspension set up that allows for a plusher ride.

BTW, getting some 14" Motegi MR7 rims I got on eBay for under $280 after shipping. Didn’t think I wanted to go that route this early, but the price was right.

Anybody else out there drives their GEM Car everyday as their daily driver and have ideas on how to spruce up the ride?


The suspension is completely different. Up to 2004, GEM used “swing axle” suspension. This type was best known for it’s use in the Corvair back in the sixties. The wheel alignment camber changes as the suspension moves. This is also why early GEMs are so hard on front tires. Be sure to rotate them often. I have found no aftermarket support for suspension parts. Starting in 2005, GEM went to “double wishbone” suspension, which is much more like that used on modern automobiles. The whining noise is the result of using beveled gears in the early transmissions. Newer GEMs use straight cut gears, which are quieter. Many users have switched from 30 weight oil to 80W90 weight oil which also reduces noise. Changing gear oil is important. I change oil in four GEMs every year and the oil is always dirty.


[QUOTE=GEMmechanic;8309] Starting in 2005, GEM went to “double wishbone” suspension, which is much more like that used on modern automobiles.

Q: is it possible to upgrade an '01 GemCar to the double wishbone suspension?

thx for all the great info Daniel! :smiley:

A lot of parts would be needed and the older (pre '05) frame will not have the welded reinforcements in the correct places. Basically, you would need the complete front end from a '05 or newer GEM. This would be a job for an experienced mechanic and may involve welding aluminum.


Did you ever get any further with this idea? My upgraded 2001 E825shortbed GEM could use more serious “whoa power”.

At one time, NEV Accessories offered a disk brake kit for 1999-2004 GEMs around $600 but last time I looked, they didn’t appear to offer them anymore.


I have had little luck in finding suspension or brake upgrades for the pre-2005 GEM. Some users have removed one pair of rear shocks on the longbed truck to improve the ride. This, of course, will reduce the maximum payload. Others have disassembled the front shocks and installed lighter springs. The shocks are not really meant to be rebuilt. I remember reading that someone used GEO Metro front brakes on a pre-2005 GEM. ATV front disc brakes may be powerfull enough, but the hub assembly might not be able to support the weight of a GEM.


I have a 2000 e825 and I would like to replace the oil in the transaxle, but I cannot find a drain plug. How does one drain and refill it? I’ve searched this site and read the GEM car service manual without success.

There is no drain plug per se. You pull the black plastic plug/cover on the front of the housing (it’s about half way up on the passenger side) and suck the old oil out with a hand pump, slurp gun, irrigation syringe & hose, etc. For filling I’ve found that unless you have a pressurized oiler, a funnel with a really long flexi-spout works well. It doesn’t take much oil. Like a pint or maybe only 10oz. I forget exactly. Fill to the bottom of the hole and put the cap back on.

Thank you for the explanation. I’ve successfully replaced the oil which probably had not been touched in over 18 years.

What oil did you use?

IIRC I used SAE 80-90W gear oil without friction modifiers for limited slip differentials. Original spec is 30W, but that leads to a really noisy gearbox.

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