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Suzuki Samurai - Weak Links, Strong Fixes

Front View
Posted March 1, 2006

Part VI: Suzuki Samurais

Suzuki Samurais have gained a cult following in recent years. Their low price, light weight, and nimble size make them a perfect choice for budget-minded 'wheelers who like tight, technical trails. With very few modifications, Samurais can be made into excellent 'wheelers that share many of the attributes of the original flatfender Jeeps. As with any vehicle, a lift, lockers, and bigger tires will do wonders to the Samurai's trail prowess. There are a few issues specific to these vehicles, though, that should be addressed if you want to make your Suzuki as reliable and capable as possible.

'Case Closed
Weak link: Transfer-case mounting arms.
Models affected: All.
What happens: The stock transfer-case mount is adequate when exposed to the low torque of the stock motor and gearing. Once lower transfer-case gears or a larger motor are installed, the transfer-case mounting arm can fail.
Strong fix: Spidertrax builds a heavy-duty transfer-case mount featuring box construction design and two added mounting points to make sure that all your available torque gets to the ground.
Contact: Spidertrax.

Stranded Starter
Weak link: Dead starter
Models affected: All
What happens: The wiring on Suzukis from the battery to the starter can often degrade over time, leaving you stranded when you least expect it.
Strong fix: An easy fix to this problem comes in the form of Rocky Road Outfitters' starter relay kit, which upgrades the wiring to the starter and also adds a relay so that fewer amps are drawn from the battery.
Contact: Rocky Road Outfitters.

More Reduction
Weak link: Gear reduction for torque multiplication.
Models affected: All.
What happens: The stock low-range in the Samurai transfer case is a paltry 2.268:1. With the stock 1.3L motor only churning out 76 lb-ft of torque, there is not enough grunt to turn big tires on difficult trails.
Strong fix: Trail Tough offers Rock Monster Gears with a 6.4:1 low-range, 181 percent lower than stock. These gears are manufactured from one piece of billet steel and come complete with all necessary gaskets, seals, and bearings. Due to the offset nature of the Samurai transfer case, the Rock Monster Gears also have the ability to lower the high-range in the transfer case by 17 percent, often making the need to change expensive ring-and-pinion gears unnecessary.
Contact: Trail Tough.

Stuttering Squirrels
Weak link: Vent tube.
Models affected: '86-'90 carbureted models.
What happens: Prior to 1990, all Samurais were fitted with a 1.3L motor with a Hitachi carburetor. Sometimes these mills bog down upon acceleration.
Strong fix: The problem is related to a clogged vent tube, and was addressed by Suzuki under Technical Service Bulletin TS 4-06 03109(R). Simply replace the vent tube with a new piece, which is available from the dealer or most aftermarket Samurai parts vendors.
Contact: Your local dealer or favorite Samurai vendor.

Sloppy Steering
Weak link: Stock drag link.
Models affected: All.
What happens: Once the springs have been relocated to the top of the axles, the passenger-side spring will be directly in the way of the drag link. In the past, bent drag links were used, but these sacrifice strength and often result in bumpsteer.
Strong fix: Calmini offers a kit that puts the tie-rod above the springs with machined billet steering arms, resulting in improved steering geometry and placing steering components up and out of harm's way.
Contact: Calmini

Get A Handle On It
Weak link: Door handles
Models affected: All
What happens: The stock door handles are constructed of plastic, and over time they can become brittle and eventually break, leaving you crawling through the passenger-side door or sliding out the window like the Dukes of Hazzard.
Strong fix: Petroworks can supply you with aluminum door handles for both the interior and exterior of your Samurai that are far more durable than stock, and look better to boot. You could buy stock replacement plastic handles from the dealer every few years, but it is much easier to buy the aluminum handles once and be done with it.
Contact: Petroworks.

Subpar Suspension
Weak link: Stock suspension.
Models affected: All.
What happens: The stock Samurai suspension offers approximately 12 inches of wheel travel and fits 27-inch-tall tires. With leaf springs all around, the suspension is relatively easy and inexpensive to modify, but in stock form it is a limiting factor on difficult trails.
Strong fix: Spidertrax offers a very thorough spring-over kit that doubles the wheel travel and allows room to accommodate 32-inch-tall tires. In addition to placing the springs on top of the axles, the kit includes long-travel shock mounts, bumpstop relocations, and extended brake lines.
Contact: Spidertrax.


Cortez, CO 81321
Rocky Road Outfitters
Heber City, UT 84032
Bakersfield, CA 93313
CV Unlimited
Acme Adapters
Lightning Conversions
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