Six Things You Might not Know about the Suzuki Vitara
- The Suzuki Vitara or Suzuki Escudo, which was released in North America in 1988, is more commonly referred to as the Sidekick. An upgraded version was also sold under different badges such as the Geo Tracker or Chevrolet Tracker in the US. In Spain, it was sold as the Santana 300 and 350. In Japan, it was made available under the Mazda badge. In Australia, two models were initially available, the Vitara JX and JLX.
- The Vitara (an off-roader) and its modified version, the Geo Tracker (a mini SUV), are considered almost identical in looks; the only noticeable difference is the design of the front grille after giving the 2nd generation Vitara a facelift in 2002 and 2004. Another similarly looking vehicle is the Suzuki X-90, a mechanically identical car that includes a T-bar roof that can be removed, a trunk, and a rounder body.
- The Suzuki Escudo badge name was based on the word escudo, which was Portugal's monetary unit before the country adopted the Euro.
- In 1993, a special edition known as Vitara Rossini was released. This unit looks like a life-size Barbie Doll ride because it features a metallic pink exterior and a cream-colored leather interior. To date, only 250 units were sold around the world.
- Another special version--the Vitara EPI (Electronic Petrol Injection)--was released in 1995. Although this model sold poorly because of its expensive price, it is now considered a collector's item because of its rarity.
- Because of its availability and popularity across different countries in South America and Asia, it was actually featured in various movies such as Brazil's Celeste & Estrela, which was released in 2005, and Thailand's Lohk Thang Bai Hai Naai Khon Diao (Romantic Blue), which was released in 1995.
- Japanese rally driver Nobuhiro Tajima actually used a modified V6 Escudo during one of his stints at the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, which is an annual motorcycle and automobile climb to Colorado's Pikes Peak summit. Because of the popularity of this heavily modified version, the PPE or Pike Peak Edition of the Vitara is a highly coveted prize vehicle in Gran Turismo 2 (Sony PlayStation 2 edition).
Common Issues with the Suzuki Vitara
The Suzuki Vitara, also known as the Suzuki Escudo, is an off-road vehicle that boasts of a high RPM, powerful engine, and sturdy built. For car buyers who are planning to purchase this vehicle, it's best to know first the several common problems encountered by owners. These problems often resulted in recalls, so it's best to read on and know the possible issues potential owners might encounter.
Models released from 1999 to 2002 were susceptible to excess vibrations coming from the steering system and front suspension, especially if the driver is going beyond 55 mph. This excessive vibration can then lead to difficulties in controlling the entire vehicle.
Keyless entry system
A number of Suzuki Vitara units (1998 to 2002 models) with the name Suzuki found on the fob are prone to keyfob problems because of a faulty diode. A poorly functioning diode can cause the keyfob battery to prematurely die, making the keyless entry feature practically useless.
The 2000 and 2001 Suzuki Vitara models were part of the recall issued by Sabersport due to headlamps that failed to conform to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards since they don't have amber side reflectors. This issue can easily lead to decreased visibility, making the vehicle more prone to accidents.
Another issue with the exterior lighting system caused a recall for about 8,408 1999 Suzuki Vitara units. According to the manufacturer, some vehicles were equipped with a malfunctioning brake lamp actuating switch. If this switch doesn't work, the brake lights won't switch on once the brake pedal is triggered.
In 1999, a recall for 38 1999 Suzuki Vitara units was released due to a faulty coupling that links the intermediate steering shaft and the steering column shaft. This can cause the steering shafts to separate, making the vehicle more prone to accidents because of poor steering control.
Around 1,273 units were also recalled in 1999 due to a faulty sound system wiring harness. The manufacturer claimed that the wiring harness for the rear stereo speakers could have been pinched between the speaker's retaining plate and the stereo speaker. If this is not fixed ASAP, an electrical short circuit can occur.
I am having problems starting my Sukuki Vitara. What could be causing these?
Usually, this problem points out to the carburetor; however, you have to check things first before touching this vital part of the engine of your Suzuki Vitara.
First, if you find out that it is because of fuel overflow, the float level in the carburetor must be the one to focus on. You need to replace the fuel needle and seat to be able to put float level back to normal. Second, if you are having a hard time starting the engine from its cold state, the throttle plate might not be closed properly, so you need to adjust throttle cables. And lastly, if you are having a hard time starting the engine from its hot state, your idle mixture screw might be adjusted too far, so you have to set the idle mixture screw between 2 to 3 turns out.
I can hear a metallic rattling noise coming from the engine. This makes me feel unsafe every time I ride on it. What should I do to fix it?
One of the most common problems of Suzuki Vitara is issue with the timing chain that, most of the time, makes a metallic rattling noise from the engine. It is not the most "unsafe" problem in your Vitara, but it is one that should be taken care of to achieve a smoother ride.
If you are not checking the engine regularly, this will likely happen to your Vitara because, normally, the tensioners are failing. If this really defined the problem, it is advisable to replace the timing chain tensioners. However, if the whole timing chain is damaged, you have to replace it as well. You can always ask a mechanic to confirm the problem. It would be better to be sure than to fix things over and over again.
The air-conditioning of my Grand Vitara is not getting cold on the temperature that I want. What should I do to make it cold again?
After checking the cabin air filter and finding out that it is not clogged, a more vital part of the air-conditioning might be causing the problem. The common problem with a defective air-conditioning in the Grand Vitara is condenser failure. When the condenser fails to function well, the air-conditioning will not blow out very cold air on the coldest settings or your preferred climate setting. It is highly suggested that you replace your Vitara's A/C condenser when you have confirmed that it is really the problem since this is an important component of the air-conditioning to blow out cold air. It may be expensive, but fixing this will make your ride on the Suzuki Vitara back to a comfortable one.
There's white smoke coming from the tail pipe when I start my Suzuki Vitara. Any idea what's causing this?
The reason why white smoke is coming out from the tail pipe is that there's coolant burning in the combustion chamber. To know which is causing this, you have to check the cylinder head and the engine block for cracks, and also try to check if there's a blown head gasket. A qualified mechanic can help you diagnose the real cause.
The Rugged yet Comfy Suzuki Vitara
Also known as the Suzuki Escudo and Sidekick, the Suzuki Vitara is an off-road, compact SUV that was meant as a follow-up to the Suzuki Samurai. This model was sold worldwide under various marquees and badges and was first introduced to the Japanese market in 1988. Today, the Vitara is still in production in other countries, while second-hand units continue to attract US buyers looking for an off-road vehicle with the comforts of an SUV.
1988-1998: First generation
The Suzuki Vitara started out as the Escudo and was first sold in the Japanese market in 1988. In the following year, the Vitara (sold as Sidekick) was introduced in the North American market. The first-gen model was available either as a hardtop or a two-door convertible and was sold in three trims: JA, JX, and JLX. In 1991, the four-door version’s wheelbase was lengthened and all models were equipped with rear anti-lock brakes.
A limited edition, the Vitara Rossini, was introduced in 1993. This version featured cream leather upholstery and came with metallic pink exterior. But because this was a limited edition, only 250 units were produced.
1998-2005: Second generation
Released in 1998, the second-gen Vitara was a larger of its predecessor and was renamed as the Grand Vitara. It had larger dimensions, has a more powerful engine, and was more expensive than the Vitara four-door version. In 2002, the smaller Vitara model was given a facelift. In 2003, the smaller Vitara was pulled out from the North American market because of slow sales.
2005-present: Third generation
For the third-gen Vitara, the GM Theta platform was used. But even though several of its components were made using the Theta platform, it was still very different from Theta-based vehicles. This difference was seen in its rear wheel drive and engine that was longitudinally mounted. And unlike Theta vehicles, the Vitara or Escudo offered off-road capabilities with its optional four-wheel drive. Aside from the standard five-door unit, the third-gen Vitara was also available as a three-door model in some countries.
In 2008, the Grand Vitara received a facelift and became available with two new engine configurations: a 2.4L inline four that could produce 164 horsepower and 166 lb/ft. of torque and a V6 that could produce 221 horsepower and 209 lb/ft. of torque. However, the V6 engine was only available in flagship prestige models. Both engines were also equipped with VVT to improve fuel efficiency. Aside from new engines, third-gen models also received an upgrade on their safety features. All models were equipped with standard traction control and additional airbags.
In 2012, Suzuki stopped its North American production and discontinued the production of Vitara and all its models for the US market, although it continues to sell vehicles in other countries. Despite this, second-hand Vitara units are in demand among buyers looking for an SUV with reliable off-road capabilities.