Nov. 01, 2005 By ORC STAFF
Clutch alignment From:

I am currently swapping motors in my ?88 Samurai. I am trying to install a stock ?87 motor of the same size. I have never done this before but so far everything has gone smoothly. I am ready to attach the clutch assembly and my question is this: Is it important to use a clutch alignment tool when installing the clutch or is it OK to align it by eye? Also any tips on sliding the new motor in would be appreciated.

--KK Warren

I would definitely use a clutch alignment tool, unless you have better perception of dead-on center than the rest of us do. You don't want to support the tranny's weight on the input shaft while trying to jam a misaligned clutch disc.

--Jerry Haberer

Better yet, buy a complete clutch kit (pressure plate, friction plate, throwout bearing, pilot bearing). Not only will you save money over buying the pieces individually but it usually comes with an alignment tool too.

--Jonathan Hall

If you're careful, you can just eyeball the alignment (I've done it twice). The trick is too look at where the outer edge of the clutch disk is relative to the machined surface of the flywheel. Line 'em up all the way around, and crank the pressure plate down (evenly).

As a side note, however, the alignment tool is about $4 at NAPA.

--Troy Graham

Catalytic smells From:

I have an ?88.5 Samurai, and when I accelerate hard (full throttle) the catastrophic converter (?) smells like rotten eggs for about a minute, and then the smell dissipates.

Any ideas? Is this normal? Should I worry?

Sidney, B.C.

I read a few days a go that Suzuki issued a silent recall for catastrophic converters. Not sure what years are affected, or whether this could be the cause, but should call dealer and find out.

--Jerry Haberer

Try running a couple tankfuls of premium gas through the Zuki. The smell is from sulphur oxides that the convertor can't process quickly enough, and I do believe that it is from an overly rich condition. But it seem that runnning premium gas works, but I don't know why. Hope this helps.

--Ryan Patridge

Ford engine swap From:

Is there an engine that is well suited to an engine swap in a Samurai? I have a 2.8 Ford engine & 4x4 drive train. Can I make this fit or is this to sophisticated for a shade tree mechanic.

From the Suzuki4x4 Mailing List: asked about the possibility of the V6 swap and it was answered by Jonathan Hall as being too heavy and too much power?

Well, (if that is your real name? ;^) ), I'll tell you that the V6 is a definite possibility. It adds about 200 lbs. up front and while that does add some extra weight up front, so do the guys who bolt on a 60-70lb. brush guard and another 70lbs for the winch (and that is weight in the very front of the vehicle not over the axle where it won't affect handling as much).

The added power, like lower gears and lockers, does increase the chance of parts breakage. But if used with prudence, you won't have any major drivetrain failures. In fact in over 3 years of running the Ford 2.8 engines, the only failed parts we've had have been a couple sets of rear spring due to "S" wrapping them (cured once we built a decent traction bar) and just recently a front birfield joint (though in the same predicament I am sure a low geared lockered (yes the rig has a front locker) would have did the same damage).

The major pain of the V6 swap is the smog legality of it and the fabrication work to install one. It fits in real nice, easy to put in, but the pain is the fabrication work to install exhaust, radiator, wiring and all the little stuff required to do a major engine swap.

A few of the lists guys saw Mike LaCroix's (aka "Toaster") V6 Samurai at the Zukfari and they can tell you how nice it fit and wheeled (though the Holley carb did give him some fits). If you want to yak at Toaster directly, he can be reached at

Tim Lund
Wild West Off Road

PS: Yes, I do sell the kits, so I am a little biased about this swap.....NAH!! :^)

Hesitation From:

I have an ?87 Sammy and have been having some hesitation problems lately. It has 130k miles on it but still runs strong and has been taken care of. Lately I?ve noticed that my gas mileage has slipped off a bit and it seems to hesitate in the secondary on acceleration. I?ve taken it in to a shop and they diagnosed a carb problem. They rebuilt the carb and checked ?everything? supposedly, yet I still have the same problem. If I really punch the accelerator I can power through the lag, but you can really feel it lose power as it goes through that spot in the secondary.

I don?t know much about carbs but I?m willing to tear into anything. Have you heard of this problem before? What do you think is causing this?

--J. D. Phelps

Since the carb has been rebuilt, it's unlikely to be the accelerator pump. I'd hazard that the problem is the infamous "Hesitation and/or Flat Spot on Acceleration" that Suzuki addresses in a Technical Bulletin for the Samurai. The part required to fix it is simple and inexpensive.

See the article on the fix here on, and call your local Suzuki dealer or Petroworks Off-Road Products for the part, which costs around $11.00.

--Scott Gomez
Petroglyph Computing
Suzuki Editor,

Engine performance From:

I have an stock ?86 Samurai and without making any major changes what can I do to boost the horse power along with helping the road speed? The tires are approx. 30". Is there anything to assist? I want to work with what I have.



My 1986 Samurai is in pretty bad condition. It has 133K miles and lots of things are just wearing out. How much would it cost to rebuild or replace the 1300 engine. How much is a 1600 engine? Is it worth buying a K&N filter for it? I also wanted to get wider exhaust for it but I don?t know if it is worth it. I could get a Flowmaster and 2.25" piping for about $275 (including tip). Is any of this worth it?


The rebuild on my Samurai engine ran about $1400.00 (it was done in Southern California in December, 1996). Ask around your area to find out who is a competent rebuilder and make sure you know what you are getting for the price. Mine included full tear-down and rebuild, with included replacement of pistons, rings, valve-train components, timing belt, etc. (basically any/all worn parts) and crank regrind. Generally, replacement of things like the water pump and oil pump may well not be included in the rebuild price. My rebuild also included a 12-month/12,000 mile warranty, which proved useful since the original work did not properly redo the piston/rings. It was therefore redone at their cost.

Replacement engines are available used. Prices seem to vary a lot depending on where you are. Some comments have been made on the Suzuki mailing list that it is not all that much more expensive to replace the 1300cc carbureted engine with the 1600cc fuel injected engine from a Sidekick/Vitara. Again, prices seem to vary widely.

Replacement of the standard air filter with a K&N seems to provide some small benefit in performance, but the biggest benefit seems to be in the lower cost of ownership, as the K&N can be cleaned and re-used (as opposed to the OEM-style replacement filter, which must be changed) while providing better filtration.

Exhaust system modification also seem to be an inexpensive way to go to get a few more horses. The consensus opinion from the mailing list so far appears to be to switch to a header, and to consider changing out the muffler and going to larger diameter pipe as well. I would think that the Flowmaster isn't a bad idea. Some people don?t like the way the Flowmaster sounds though.

There are other performance modifications possible, such as Weber or Mikuni carbs, supercharger, and so forth. Make sure that the basic power-plant is done first, however, anything else would be nothing more than a ?band-aid? fix without that being done.

Also, be sure to check smog regulations for your location before proceeding with performance modifications or an engine swap. Smog laws vary widely from state to state in the U.S. I've no idea what may be required if you are not in the U.S.

The following vendors carry performance products for the Samurai:

Calmini Products Manufacturing Petroworks Off-Road Products
Victory Engineering Wild West Off Road

--Scott Gomez
Petroglyph Computing
Suzuki Editor,

Highway rpm From:

I recently built my ?87 Samurai into a rock-crawler. While it has the stock engine, the t-case has Calmini?s rock crawler with 12% reduction at high range and 83% reduction at low range. It also has 5.12 Sidekick gears in both differentials. At 60 mph on the highway the engine is revving at 4000 rpm. Should I expect to be able to run this engine at that speed on the highway for hours at a time without engine damage? What should I expect would be the fastest highway rpm I should run?


You've forgotten that Suzuki also builds high rpm motorcycle engines?that's their expertise, small engines. As long as you change the oil regularly, I don't see any problems with running the engine up to 5500 rpm (horsepower peak) on a regular basis. I've seen several blown engines here in my neck of the woods (Oklahoma), however, these were due to severe neglect and redlining. One owner didn't change the oil in over 50K miles! What do you expect when you redline it?! It seems that alot of stupid teens buy Suzukis?ok, I was one of them but I also religiously maintained it and have 115K on the engine.

FYI, the stock 88.5 and later Samurai turns 4100rpms at 70mph. The redline mark is at 6500rpms. The engine is extremely well built and loves to rev?just don't redline it. Mario Raco of Victory Engineering recommends gearing down the Sammy when you get large tires so that the engine rotates at around 5500rpm at 70mph in fifth. This is what the engine really needs to turn to be able to move those large tires at that speed. MPG will go down the toilet but until you get a larger engine (hint, nudge, wink... 1600cc) you'll need to gear it down substanially.

--Jonathan Hall

Engine swap From:

Any suggestions on more legal power (20+hp) I?m interested in swapping. Which swap is the best? I called Advanced Adapters and wasn?t satisfied with the idea of stuffing a V6 into a small spot (the reason is that i havent seen what it looks like, or how it performs and is it legal) The Suzuki 1.6 sounds really good because it?s Suzuki and only an engine swap, not engine and tranny, but will it be enough and legal? Any other ideas?

You've mentioned a couple of the common swaps for the Samurai, others (Toyota 20R or 22R, Mazda rotary, etc.) have also been done.

Since you didn't mention what state you live in, I can't comment much on what may or may not be legal in your state. You'll have to check your state's laws.

I do know that in California, it's generally OK to swap to an engine of the same or newer model year, providing that all relevant smog equipment is also properly installed. In the case of the 1600 this may require changing the wiring harness, computer, fuel tank, etc. in order to be legal. It may also require getting a formal waiver approved by the AQMD. Check with a reliable mechanic for proper procedure to follow.

There are other performance modifications possible, such as Weber or Mikuni carbs, supercharger, and so forth.

The following vendors carry performance products for the Samurai:

Calmini Products Manufacturing Petroworks Off-Road Products
Victory Engineering Wild West Off Road

--Scott Gomez
Petroglyph Computing
Suzuki Editor,

O2 sensor From:

I have an ?89 Samurai and I am searching for an O2 sensor. The original one is very expensive and the Bosch one does not support the ?89 engine. Do you know any why to get a cheaper one?


Are you sure that the Bosch O2 sensor doesn't work for the '89 Sam? I'd check around at some different parts dealers to see if all of them say the same thing.

--Jonathan Hall

1300 head on a 1600 The 1300 head will fit on a 1600 block. This could make the purchase cheaper for some or enable some to buy a new short block from the dealer for a basically new engine. When I used my 1300 head, I got the top end gasket kit for the 1600.

--Glenn Wakefield

1.6 liter burning oil From:

I own a 1988 Samurai with a 1.6 liter Sidekick motor. The engine has 180 lb. compression on all 4 cylinders. I purchased the motor from a Samurai/Sidekick salvage yard and they said it came out of a ?91 vehicle with 33k on the odometer. I notice when it is cold it blows blue smoke but that this resolves to no smoke when the engine warms up. It seems to use a quart of oil every 3 tanks of gas and I get 22 mpg, so about every 700 miles. It does not blow smoke on the highway or when I deccelerate. In all other ways it seens to run well, plenty of horsepower, etc. When I spoke with Mario at Victory Engineering he said it sounds like I have a stuck oil ring on one of the cylinders.

My question is then: Can I just pull the pistons and replace the oil rings without doing a major overhaul at his time? This would only put my vehicle down for a long day or two. I have owned several Suzuki products and oil rings seem to be the weak link in the engine in all of them. I heard the same for Geo Metros. I will need to smog next year and it will not pass if burning oil.

Also when I did the engine change I noticed that the engine seemed to tilt more to the rear. Could this be causing me to overfill my oil by one quart and having the overfill slipping by the rings? When it is down a quart it seems to burn less oil at start-up.

The gas mileage seems low; I hear about 33mpg Zukes, but the only time mine approached 28-30 mpg was when it was bone stock with stock tires, and it would not break 65 mph. I run tires two sizes over stock with a Rocklobster and Lockrite in the rear. I have a Weber Carb and Jacobs Ignition. It?s a lot more fun now! I think the speedo is off about 10%. Do you think aggressive tires really eat more fuel?


There's an engine rebuild kit for the Sidekick and Geo Tracker 1.6 liter available from Calmini Products Manufacturing. It's available in standard bore as well as .020 and .040 over. Kits are $649.95.

--Scott Gomez
Petroglyph Computing
Suzuki Editor,

Power loss From:

My ?87 Samurai seems to have little power on the highway. In town it seems ok. On the highway 50-55 max. in fourth gear, unless I have a tail wind. Compression is within specs., no vacuum leaks. The ignition system seems ok (plugs, wires, coil, etc.). My tires are 215-75R15. I have noticed I do use some oil on the highway (usually a 60 mile round trip).


Check to make sure that your brakes aren't dragging, especially the rear wheels as the cable actuated parking brake might be misadjusted.

--Jonathan Hall

Lacks acceleration, hesitates From:

I own an ?88 Samurai that has no acceleration; the gas mileage has gone from 33 mpg to 22 mpg. The truck was purchased new and has had no modifications done to it. All the normal maintenance items have been done (the timing belt was changed at 60k by a pro) with 80k on the clock. Catalytic converter is not plugged. When pulling out onto the highway and flooring it, it runs smoothly, but still has no acceleration. In town it hesitates and acts like it has a miss but the plugs, wires, distributor cap, rotor and PCV valve are all new. Help! Any suggestions to try?

--David Cassity

Here's what I can offer, anyone else have any suggestions?

You may only be having a carb problem; it sounds like the secondary is never opening up. If you have access to one of the little hand vacuum pumps (or don't mind spending about $25 at an auto parts shop for one) you can check vacuum lines and attachments for leaks. That could be it right there.

You also ought to take a look at the carb, with the air-intake off, and see if you can ever see the secondary open up. Have some one increase the RPMs slowly for you and simply eyeball it. It's the throat on the driver's side, and when it kicks in it ought to be noticeable. If it doesn't, a carb rebuild kit may fix it (assuming no vacuum problems). Carb kits cost about 50 bucks, but rebuilding the carb is a tricky job sometimes. Having it rebuilt at a repair shop will cost about $200. I've no idea of the cost of buying a factory-rebuilt one.

Hope this gives you some leads. On a worse note, if none of the above proves bad, it could be you've got valve or compression problems developing. Then you're talking valve-job or engine-rebuild time. That's significantly more expensive. I just had my poor abused Samurai totally rebuilt (previous owners didn't treat it very well, I suspect). Cost was about $1400.00 at a shop here in Southern California.

--Scott Gomez
Petroglyph Computing
Suzuki Editor,

Chevette Engine I have a 1983 Samurai with a Chevette motor and 4-speed tranny, 5" lift, if you are thinking about this conversion best if you can find 5-speed tranny or just go to V6 automatic as the 4-speed at 100 kph is running at 5500 rpm, just a tad too much for the Chevette engine.

--Colin McDonald

SJ413 single-point fuel injection From:

I?m looking for someone that can explain me if it is possible to mount a single point injection system to a Suzuki SJ413 equipped now with carburetor. Thank you!

--Andrea Falco

Yes, you can mount an SPI system in your Sammy. You first need to find a donor Sammy with this system (?89 and up). You will need the wiring harness, fuel tank with fuel pump and the SPI system and sensors. It?s a lot of work, but it can be done. If you are looking for better performance, you really want to go with a Weber carb. It?s a lot cheaper, easier to install and easier to repair. If you need more info please don?t hesitate to ask. If I don?t know the answer I will direct you to someone that does.

(Roland Hahn)

Toyota 20R engine swap From:

I have an ?86 Samurai and was looking for more power. I found a 20R engine and tranny out of a 2WD Toyota truck and was wondering if it would fit. Any help would be appreciated.


It can be done. See the Photo Album page for someone who has one. I e-mailed the owner and asked about it, and he states he?s got no idea what went into it as he bought the car that way. If there?s anyone else that can add any details to this answer, I?d sure like to know as well. The 20R Toyota engine is a widely available and good-running 2.0 liter and seems like it would make a great upgrade for Samurais.

--Scott Gomez
Petroglyph Computing
Suzuki Editor,

Oil problems From:

I have an ?88 Sammy and I am burning about a quart of oil every two weeks. But there are no leaks on the ground and I can?t see it blowing any smoke. Whats wrong with my ride?



I know it is common for Samurais to burn some oil, but mine does it only when I go up or down a slope. This isn?t too often, but when it smokes, it SMOKES.

Is this normal, or I mine just really screwed up?


Well, I?m not sure if it is normal for any car to burn a lot of smoke. I have a 1986 Samurai and it burns a bit of oil but it is the same on hills as it is on level ground. Check your spark plugs. If they are really oily, then I suggest rebuilding. Also, I bought some cans of CD-2 (the can that says ?stops oil burning?); you put it in with every oil change for a while, and that is supposed to seal worn rings if they aren?t in terrible condition. I?m using it right now and I notice a lot less oil burning.

--Hesham Aly

Your Sammy needs new oil rings and probably a total rebuild. I only burn about ? quart of oil in 3K miles on a fairly old engine (115K).

--Jonathan Hall


I recently bought a 1987 Sammy with 45k miles, and find the little devil uses a quart of oil every 500 miles. It does not seem to burn oil, and I can find no oil drips under the car. It passed the Connecticut emission test with flying colors and the plugs have even tan deposits. I have changed oil twice in 2000 miles to purge the system but other than having clean oil I have not affected my poor oil consumption. I do notice that the engine always misses for a while each morning, but then seems to run fine. It is under powered, but I have no point of reference to determine if it has less power than it should.

--Joe Aschauer


Found your web site today & thought I?d request your help in solving a problem for my daughter who owns an ?87 Samurai. It has 140,000+ miles and burns (it goes through the combustion chambers of all 4 cylinders) about 1 qt. of oil/100 miles. She had the head gone through a couple months ago with the valves ground and new valve seals installed. The only change was higher compression pressure (about 160psi), no change in oil consumption. Every shop she?s had it to says the problem is rings. I find it hard to believe that with the compression pressure as high as it is that it could be the oil control rings on all 4 cyl. are bad.

Therefore, the following questions:

1. Does anyone know of any quirky problems related to high oil consumption such as oil lines connected to the intake manifold, weird cracks in the head, or other wild ideas? I have heard defective PCV valves and other wild stories but haven?t yet connected them the Samurai.

2. Does anyone know how to contact Suzuki Tech Support Engineers (most companies have regional people who call on dealerships to solve weird problems)?

Thanks for your help gang.

--Larry E. Dickson

Are you sure you are burning it? Just out of kicks check the vent tube on the fuel pump and see if it?s pumping out oil. I know this sounds strange but I?ve see two fuel pumps do this. If your not sure put a hose on the vent tube, then put the other end into a 2L bottle and drive around for a day or so. If you see any oil at all you?ve found your problem. At 160 lb. you might be burning oil. The book calls for 199 lb. fresh so you?re down a bit. With the fresh head on the old bottom end the rings could be giving up the ghost. Do you see oil smoke out the exhaust? If so does it smoke all the time? Give me some more info and I?ll try and help you figure it out.

(Roland Hahn)


I have an ?88 Suzuki Samurai and it is leaking puddles of oil. I notice the oil has sprayed down as far as my starter, but there seems to be a collection at the top by the intake manifolds. Any ideas?

--Kay B. Sample

My first guess is that it's a relatively simple problem: The valve cover gasket is shot. That's the only thing I can come up with, off the top of my head, that would leak oil in significant amounts ABOVE the manifold (assuming I understand your description properly). Another possibility would be a dead gasket on the oil filler cap (if the majority of the oil is towards the rear) but that would also leave significant amounts of oil all over the top of the valve cover as well.

It should be a pretty easy (and inexpensive) fix, although while it's open, it wouldn't hurt to get the valves adjusted as well; it'll save having to open it up again later!

--Scott Gomez
Petroglyph Computing
Suzuki Editor,

Idle Problems From:

Just a quick question for you. I recently bought a 1987 Samurai and just love it. I have one little problem: After it warms up the motor just dies. It restarts but as soon as I take my foot off the gas it sputters and dies. I would like to know if anyone else has had this problem? As a diehard CJ7 fan and ex-owner I have had my share of problems, and joys. I live the R. V. life and the Samurai seemed to be the proper weight and size for a little towed vehicle. By the way where did they hide the fuel filter? [Editor?s note: Inside the frame just by the right rear wheel.] Guess I need to buy a manual. [Editor?s Note: Call Helm Incorporated or Petroworks Off-road Products for a manual.]

--CR Penny

As far as your idle problem goes, if you have the stock carb, sounds like a linkage has come undone or you have a vacuum leak. The most common vacuum leak is the connection from the air intake cover (the one that sits on top of the carb) down to the intake manifold. A can of carb cleaner can be sprayed on the hoses to check for leaks.

(Roland Hahn)


I have a 1987 Samurai with a stock (for now) carbureted engine. Whenever I start it cold it idles extremely high when on the choke. I mean, it sounds like it?s running at the redline (it has no tach). After five minutes or so it slows to a calm steady idle. Do all Samurais idle so high? I live in an apartment complex and have to park my Sami around the corner to avoid waking the neighbors at 5:30 in the morning when I leave for work. In addition to the noise it?s eating a lot of fuel. If this isn?t normal do I need a new choke or should I just change the carb to a Weber? If I do that, are they reliable, or will I always be messing with it?

The choke idle seems to work itself up, huh? There is an adjustment screw for the fast idle, look at the a shop manual to get a good picture (the Haynes manual doesn?t have a good picture). It is facing the passenger side of the carb and is located near the back. It is a spring loaded screw that adjusts the cam for the fast idle. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I usually set mine around 2000-2500 rpm, otherwise the engine seems to want to stall.

--Jonathan Hall
1986 Samurai
1988 Samurai
1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Convertible

Overheating From:

Thanks for the quick response to my problem. I now have bigger problems: I took the Zuk on a short drive on the freeway at normal speed. The temperature gauge went off the scale, but as I pulled of the freeway the temperature plummeted right back to normal. Well the first thing I did was to remove the thermostat. But someone had already done that deed. I noticed that the fan could be held very easy at idle hot with little or no resistance. So I don?t think it?s working all that great. At temperature, the exhaust manifold is leaking near the oxygen sensor. Maybe that is messing with fuel mixture? I noticed at full throttle it would cool down, so go figure. What?s up? The engine doesn?t boil over or run unevenly unless at idle. I?m trying to get a motor manual, maybe that will help. Any ideas?

--CR Penny

Now for the overheating problem: It has to have a thermostat, without it the water flows too quickly to be cooled properly. Also it sounds like the fan is shot. You can replace it with a new stock or 15" electric; both work well. Have your system flushed and use the additive Water Wetter from Redline Oil. If you still have an overheating problem then you should take a closer look at the engine, but I don?t think you will have to go that far. Good luck and if you have any more questions I?ll be glad to try and help.

(Roland Hahn)

Electric fuel pump From:

I need to know about electric fuel pumps on ?88 Zukis. My manual one is dead, dealer wants $80 for the part. Do you know if they work well on Zukis? At what pressure? Do I need a pressure regulator? Any information would be helpful. Thanks.

I bought a regular electric fuel pump from Grand Auto. It works great on my ?86 Sam. The only problem you might run into is that there is no place to hook the vapor return hose to. Not much of a problem, unless you are in a emissions testing state. I just plugged the line at the charcoal canister.

--Jeffery McAllister

I had to install a remote electric pump on my Sammy for the 1600cc engine. You can purchase a universal electric fuel pump from any auto parts store for about $20.00. Just tell them it is for a carbureted 4cyl engine. They come in all shapes and sizes and mine is mounted on the inside of the frame rail next to the passenger?s rear tire. When you make this addition, make sure you wire it through a ?kill switch?. The kill switch cuts power to the pump when oil pressure is lost as in an accident. Without this switch, you will be pumping gas all over your vehicle in an accident which very well could lead to a movie style explosion. Explain at a parts counter your application and they can provide you with the switch for installation on your engine block.

An adjustable fuel pressure regulator is a good idea in any carb?d 4x4. Every Sammy owner I?ve wheeled with has had one, stock engine or no. Turn it up on the highway and down to 1 or 1.5 on the trail. It will help keep your engine from ?loading? and dying when you are climbing an obstacle and have to apply more throttle to make it over. Slice it in line in the engine compartment for easy access at the trailhead.

--Glenn Wakefield

[From the editor] Thanks for the info, Glenn. Do you know if anyone makes one that allows the stock smog crap to be properly reconnected?

Up by my engine I have a filter with a fuel return on it. I put it on so the pump wouldn?t burn itself out when the engine is shut off but there is still some residual ignition signal for the pump. I don?t know if this is the smog stuff you are talking about. Sorry? I don?t have to concern myself with smog stuff here. hehehe.

--Glenn Wakefield Newsletter
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