Project Suzushi Engine Rebuild

Nov. 01, 2005 By Scott Gomez
How I came to be travelling to Las Vegas on the day after Thanksgiving, 1996, is irrelevant. Suffice to say I was going in order to catch a plane. Figuring I might get in a little gambling before my flight, I left plenty early for the 4 hour drive. Little did I know that things were not about to go as I'd planned?

Between Victorville and Barstow, I decide to switch from tape to radio. There's a travel report about some sort of jam due to an accident near Baker. "No sweat," I think, "By the time I get to Baker it will be long gone." About an hour later I'm dismayed to find myself idling, along with thousands of other folks, waiting for the line of cars to move. Three hours after that, we're finally beginning to move along. (It happened that there was a multi-fatality rollover accident that day on that stretch of highway. CHP kept the road closed for hours while the investigation was made.)

"Well, I'm still about an hour and some from Vegas, and my plane isn't for 3 hours, so it should be no problem. Still time for a little fun."

Suzushi has other ideas?

On the first up-grade I suddenly find the engine losing power. On the flats it seems OK. On the next up-grade it's actually worse. By the third upgrade I'm in the "Slow Trucks" lane, and the truckers are getting a mite tetchy about the fact I'm slower than them.

I'll spare the gory details about how I finally limp into the parking garage at the airport, late for my flight, only to have the only good news of the night: the flight is late, so I'm gonna make it anyhow.

After I return, I've still gotta make it back home. The first stop on leaving the airport is at an all-night auto parts store. (I'd planned on making the trip back late at night, so as not to cope with lots of traffic.) Suzushi had stalled (and been real hard to restart) at every stop light on the way to the store. After changing out the plugs, rotor, cap and wires, the trip home was made with a top speed of 45 MPH. Suzushi used over two quarts of oil on the way.

Suzushi got me home, though. Diagnosis was engine failure. Although I'd known it was a little tired, I truly hadn't expected it to die quite so thoroughly and suddenly.

I had the engine rebuilt at West Coast Rebuilders of San Bernardino, California, having had the shop recommended by a friend who had his Samurai rebuilt there. They did a good job, ultimately. It did take two warranted trips back, however, due to a couple of minor errors made by the machine shop.

The first was that piston clearances were improperly set. The second was a leaking rear main seal. What is important, as far as I'm concerned, is that West Coast stood by their 12/12,000 warranty, and cheerfully handled the problems I had.

Cost was $1400.00, which included all necessary repairs and replacements. For mine, the head was totally rebuilt (new valves, guides and seals, valve seats redone, springs and etc. replaced where necessary), the cylinders were inspected and honed, new pistons and rings installed, oil pump checked, all new gaskets installed, water pump replaced, main bearings replaced and the crank resurfaced. All parts were thoroughly cleaned and the re-installation was very neatly made. Newsletter
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