vitara JLX 1989

Submitted: Thursday, Jun 26, 2003 at 10:55
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I am going to buy a 1989 Suzuki Vitara JLX and I was wondering if they typically have any problems I should look out for?

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Reply By: Rod - Thursday, Jun 26, 2003 at 11:55

Thursday, Jun 26, 2003 at 11:55

Owned a JX with the 1.6l EFI engine. Not sure if yours has the same engine.
Pleasure to drive, good visibility, plenty of go, fuel efficient. Independent Front Suspension meant limited wheel travel and was sometime embarrased off-road with more capable vehicles. Nevertheless, took that Vitara some pretty interesting tracks when in groups and yet it never developed annoying rattles and bangs.

Problems with mine were:
* Front oil seal went on gearbox requiring replacement twice
* Ignition leads required replacing every 6-9 months as the insulation simply broke down. Genuine ignition leads were $40 per lead, so always bought the best after-market ones I could find.
* Did a head gasket.
* Had a mysterious miss in the engine that would come and go. Mechanics (various) never worked out the cause or cure. In the end, this is what made me sell it.
* Cracked the exhaust manifold when doing water crossings.

Would buy another except the engine miss always worried me that no-one could solve it.
AnswerID: 23559

Reply By: projects - Friday, Jun 27, 2003 at 10:01

Friday, Jun 27, 2003 at 10:01
Pretty good really, yours is the 8v carby not the 16v EFI. They sometimes get a leak around the distributor but it's an easy fix. As you are looking at the JLX, check the power windows go up and down fine, the window switches can go and also the door regulators, but replacements are available. Also check the rear door opens fine. Have a look to see if the hubs lock and unlock and look for signs of coolant leaking from under the starter motor, signs of cracked block. The exhaust manifolds can crack but headers are available to replace them and gives you more power as a bonus. Look underneath for signs of offroad damage, check the front diff for cracking, is the radiator sitting up straight, if tilted backwards is a sign the a-arms have been hit and check if the strut tower bolts are centred in the housing. Apart from that they are great little wagons ( I have one!). Good luck.
AnswerID: 23632

Reply By: Member - Wombat (Vic) - Friday, Jun 27, 2003 at 11:30

Friday, Jun 27, 2003 at 11:30
Hi Libby,

We had a little red convertible JLX about twelve years ago and it was great fun. In the time that we owned it (3 years) it didn't let us down once. They are obviously not as proficient off road as the bigger vehicles but our "Bert" was willing to have a go at anything. IMHO they were the best off roader in their class at the time. One frustration with it was the exhorbitant amount of time it took to put the soft top up or down. When you find the right car make sure you take the spare wheel off the tailgate and check the condition of the sheetmetal behind it. The spare wheels were mounted too close to the tailgate so that when it rains the spare wheel covers hold water, which then rubs the elasticised edge across the rear door. Ours went through the top coat off paint and the primer and had started to chew into the actual steel panel when we discovered it.

All in all they are a great fun little car."Live today as if there may be no tomorrow"

AnswerID: 23640

Reply By: libby - Friday, Jun 27, 2003 at 13:53

Friday, Jun 27, 2003 at 13:53
Thanks a lot guys....I really appreciate your help and will put it to good use in the next couple of weeks!
Thanks once again!
AnswerID: 23653

Reply By: Suzuki Viagra - Saturday, Jun 28, 2003 at 09:06

Saturday, Jun 28, 2003 at 09:06
I blew my motor up - but that's more the extreme 4x4 use it cops and not anything wrong with the car. If you wanna see the stuff a Vitara is capable of then you can see what I've done with my 1.6 JX Vitara at

link text

If you wanna go much harder than that then you probably need something else.....


Considering how many times I have stuck the thing bonnet deep underwater without a snorkel had to happen sooner or later and until the last trip or two I've had no problems with it but drowned alternators......Other than that no real problems with it - Suzuki make tough little trucks

Yeah, the softtop takes a while to put up and down (although it does improve with practice), the seats in it are not the best, the tanks are vulnerable for offorad use and they're quite low to the ground in stock form. The door windows are also very big so window winders can be a problem to look out for, as can the front alloy diff which can be broken more easily than other designs.

IFS Suspension design is nowhere near as limited as say a Rodeo, Jackeroo, newer Pajero, MU or Pathfinder so don't let that put you off. The coil spring front is much easier to properly modify than any torsion bar type suspension.

If your tyres are getting old, replace your original tyres with 235/75's on the standard rims if they're not on it already. Any more than that requires some changes made first.

A few bucks sunk into some suspension lift and a tank protector before you go serious offroading is a good investment, as it saves a lot of underbody damage.

Enjoy it, they're great fun.
AnswerID: 23706

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