A lot of people have been drawn to the EVO family over the years. They were a great example of early JDM classics that dominated the rally scene alongside the Subaru WRXs. With EVO 4’s (IV) specifically, a lot of improvements were done over their predecessor, the Evo 3. With these upgrades, some oversights were made that led to common issues.
A lot of issues revolve around the transmission and electrical systems of EVO 4 – both of which are new systems over EVO 3. Continue reading for a more detailed explanation and tips for fixing the problems. If a component starts acting strange, then start by looking through the electrical parts before moving to the mechanical troubleshooting phase.
To make things easier for you, I’m going to review 11 common EVO 4 problems that you should know about.
What’s an EVO 4?
An EVO 4 is short for Evolution 4. This is a quick nickname to refer to a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV — the 4th generation of the Lancer. Like a Subaru WRX STI, the Lancer is a shining example of a JDM rally legend.
Lancers were first released in 1992, and they saw a new generation and Evolution every few years until the final version, the EVO X which ran from 2007 until the EVO line retired in 2016. Since its discontinuation, demand has grown a lot for this vehicle, especially for the older generations.
People who appreciate the lineage of the Lancer will often point to the Evo 4 (or IV) as the start of when Lancers started being Lancers.
This Evolution came with some major changes: the car got a little bigger and heavier, the chassis became much stronger and more robust, the horsepower was slightly increased, it got a new transmission, and the designers added a ton of extra technology. It also donned big fog lights in the front and a much bigger spoiler in the rear — two factors that became staples for Mitsubishi’s line of Lancers.
The EVO 4’s run was from mid-1996 to early 1998, just 17 months altogether.
The EVO 4 Is Reliable, It’s not Mitsubishi’s Fault
Some people will blame Mitsubishi when they run into issues with their early-generation EVOs, specifically the IV and V. However, the EVO is one of the more reliable brands on the market.
The problem can be broken down into a few factors. First off, the IV and V saw some huge technological and electrical upgrades across the car. Whenever a model goes through significant changes like this, there are going to be issues down the road.
Secondly, these cars are now 25 years old. Any time you’re dealing with a car that old, the reliability will be poor and you’ll regularly run into issues.
Finally, you’re taking a gamble whenever you buy a car this old. Over 25 years, the car could have had countless owners that treated the vehicle poorly, got into accidents, and ignored required maintenance.
I’m always hesitant to buy a car that old unless I personally know the owner. If someone drives a car aggressively for two decades and forgets to regularly change the oil, then you could be buying a lemon that has a dozen problems with it.
I’m pointing these factors out for a very specific reason: it’s not Mitsubishi’s fault that the EVO 4 has these common issues. The simple fact is that the EVO 4 basically revolutionized the JDM culture when it was first released, and the car was a huge hit in the international markets.
11 Common EVO 4 Problems to Know Of
Without further ado, I’ll cover 11 of the most common EVO 4 problems. A lot of these problems aren’t just specific to EVOs, but they’re worth knowing. Also, these common issues shouldn’t deter you from buying an early-generation EVO – the great parts of the car outweigh these simple issues.
1. Electrical Issues
Above everything else, you’ll need to prepare for electrical issues. Lights that randomly stop working, pumps and motors that won’t turn on, and even taillights that short and catch on fire: these are all common problems that you might expect with an EVO 4.
I’m lumping them all into a simple “electrical issue” category because that’s the root of the problem. The team at Mitsubishi made a lot of big strides by adding brand-new electrical runs to the EVO 4, and these issues are simply the byproduct of that. Over time, the newer EVOs fixed the electrical problems.
Solution: The only solution is to replace the part or component that failed. It’s not feasible to simply replace the wiring to the part, in most cases.
2. Suspension Problems
Over time, the struts in your EVO 4 will need to be lubricated. This is a natural bit of routine maintenance that a lot of people overlook. If you hear a knocking or rattling noise when you take turns, then you should start by lubricating your suspension.
You might also notice that your car bounces for a while after hitting a pothole. This means that your struts are failing, and you should replace them.
Solution: Start by lubricating your suspension and inspecting your struts. If you notice any physical damage, then you should replace the struts.
3. Stock Wheel Noise and Vibrations
An issue that you can blame Mitsubishi for is a lot of noise and vibration from your stock tires. The EVO IV is the first year that they implemented their OZ lightweight racing wheels, and plenty of owners complain about these wheels.
You might want to consider swapping your tires to an alternative set that isn’t from Mitsubishi to get rid of this issue. The tires won’t hurt your performance, but they can be very annoying. It might also lead to uneven tire wear which is a big problem and absolutely impacts your performance.
Solution: Begin by inspecting the tread of your tires and looking for uneven wear. You may swap your wheels, balance your tires, and get a car alignment to see if the noise and vibration go away.
4. Brakes Wearing Too Fast
The EVO 4 installed the lighter wheels as I just mentioned, and they also swapped to a lighter brake assembly on the front wheels. While this might not seem like a big change, it results in a brake system that causes the pads to wear down very quickly.
You’ll notice an even bigger issue if you drive your EVO 4 aggressively and brake hard. The pads will wear out quicker than a modern car’s pads.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to fix this. You just need to be mindful of your brakes and be prepared to swap them more often. If your brake pedal starts feeling spongy or you need to press harder to stop, then take your wheel off and inspect the brake assembly.
Solution: Set a reminder to check your brakes every few months and remember that they tend to wear quicker. Replacing brake pads is easy enough to do DIY, it’s just annoying that you have to do it more often.
5. Rust Issues
Just like any other old car, you should get ready for rust. Rust happens when the protective topcoat of your vehicle gets damaged and moisture seeps into the raw metal at the base of your vehicle’s body.
This can happen through dents, dings, or deep-enough scratches. With older cars, there is a higher chance that some damage was done to the body which can result in rust, since it spent more years on the road, parked, and driven.
You should closely inspect any rust before purchasing a vehicle. If the rust is bad enough, then it can create actual holes in your car. If those holes interact with the framework of your EVO 4, your car might not pass inspection.
If you have a hole in a supportive part of your car, the car won’t absorb impact correctly during an accident. In addition, there’s a chance that the car can fall apart while you’re driving or taking a corner (depending on the location and severity of the rust).
There are ways to stop the spread of rust, but it’s always best to attack rust when you first notice it. If the previous owner of your EVO 4 let the rust get too bad, then you might have to scrap the car.
Solution: If you’re looking at an EVO 4 that’s exceptionally rusty, I would avoid buying it. If you already paid for an EVO 4 and you’re noticing the rust now, do your best to prevent the rust from getting worse and isolate it.
6. Failing Transmissions
A well-maintained transmission can last up to 300,000 miles, but Mitsubishi has a bad track record with their transmissions. I owned an ‘02 Lancer (not an EVO ) that needed a full clutch and transmission swap after just 180,000 miles.
After doing some digging, I found out that the early Lancer family had an issue where transmissions would overheat and cause premature death of the transmission. A transmission swap is very expensive, and there’s a good chance it’s not worth repairing.
Solution: Consider shifting at a lower RPM while driving to prolong the life of your transmission. If it fails, see if you can find a replacement at your local junkyard before paying a mechanic big money.
7. Issues with the Clutch
My buddy had an early-generation EVO, and he had a few issues with his clutch. It turns out that the early EVOs use a plastic master cylinder for the clutch assembly. The plastic is located pretty close to the firewall, which can destroy the plastic as the clutch is used.
Some people report a clutch that stops working, others have issues where the clutch pedal won’t fully release after being pressed. In either scenario, I would suggest starting with the master cylinder.
Solution: The solution is similar to the transmission issues I just discussed. Start by changing how you drive and pushing the clutch pedal even further down. Check your local junkyard for a replacement clutch if you can.
8. Relays and Fuses Failing
An electrical relay is basically just a switch. It gets an electrical pulse from the onboard computer that tells the switch to change to a certain state.
These can be used in fuel pumps, transmissions, the AC system, and many other places.
Fuses are used as sacrificial pieces in an electrical component. The idea is that the fuse will fail before the part does. When this happens, it means replacing an inexpensive fuse instead of an expensive starter motor, for instance.
Since the EVO 4 is 25 years old, you can expect some issues with the relays and fuses. As I mentioned, a lot of new technology and electronics were added to this generation of EVO. As such, a lot of owners report issues where fuses and relays randomly stop working.
If you want the easiest solution, I would suggest starting with fuses and relays whenever an electrical part isn’t working on your EVO 4.
Solution: Before getting too deep into the troubleshooting process, inspect the relay and fuses. If either is blown or broken, then replace them and cross your fingers.
9. Sticking and Grinding Gears
My ’02 Lancer had the same 5-speed transmission that was used in the EVO IV through IX. A common issue I noticed was that the gears would often stick as I went to shift. This might have been the early signs of my failing transmission and clutch, but it was very noticeable.
For instance, you might notice that it’s tough to get the shifter into third as you shift up from second. You might also hear a grinding noise and feel your car jerk as you push the gear in.
Both of these are really bad signs, and they can do a lot of damage to your transmission. Inside the transmission, the clutch isn’t completely removing the Selector Arm. You’re basically slamming the gear into position before the transmission is ready for you.
The only way I know to fix this issue is by swapping out the clutch and hoping it’s not a transmission issue.
Solution: Don’t ever shove the gear into position and grind it. Push the clutch pedal a little extra. Otherwise, release and re-press the clutch to see if you can then shift. You might need to replace your clutch or transmission if you continually have this problem.
10. High Idling Revs
When you’re parked and out of gear, your car should idle at around 1,000 rpm. If your car starts randomly revving higher while you’re idling, you can blame the idle control valve or actuator. This system will limit your revs so you don’t damage the engine or waste too much gas.
The actuator receives an electrical signal, then tells the valve to open a certain amount. If the valve is physically damaged or the actuator is electrically failing, your car can receive false signals to start revving while you’re idling.
Solution: This repair is pretty involved, so I would suggest asking a mechanic for help.
11. Climate Control Issues
Whether it’s a bad smell, a lack of power, or lukewarm air, early EVOs are notoriously bad when it comes to the climate control system. Of course, these issues only become more prevalent as time goes on. To be fair, any 25-year-old car has its fair share of issues with HVAC climate control units.
The same AC system was used from EVO IV to VI, and a lot of parts were shared from EVO I. My buddy had a lot of problems with the AC on his early Evo, and one time his temperature knob just snapped off when he went to change it.
Needless to say, I’ve heard all about the EVO AC issues.
Solution: Start by troubleshooting the AC system. Look through the compressor and evaporator, checking for blockages or damage. Also, consider recharging your AC system and changing the air filter. If the knob breaks, you’ll have to replace the whole dashboard section (my buddy just used needle nose pliers to change the temperature after his climate control knob broke).
As you can see, there are a few issues with the EVO 4, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad car. The 11 common EVO 4 problems I just reviewed are simply to prepare you for owning an EVO, not to dissuade you. I loved my ’02 Lancer, and my buddy loved his EVO III, so I highly recommend getting your own EVO.