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Old 05-11-2013, 08:25 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question Which One Should I Buy?

Brand new to the forum. Should I buy the Geo Tracker or Suzuki Sidekick, 8 valve or 16 valve? '96,'97 or '98? Any problems with the Manual shift? How hard is it to get an automatic and then convert it to a manual shift? Any good performance mods for the original engines or should I look at a transplant of the 125HP sport engine or something else? I am open to all good ideas. Lift kits? I will not be doing any real serious 4x4 work will do some mild stuff on mountain trails.
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Old 05-12-2013, 12:12 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I don't really see what it matters which badge you get.
Also are you looking for 2 door 4 door?
If you're going for mileage go for standard transmission. (personally I would always go for the standard if possible)

I don't see the point in transplanting the sport engine or a standard into an automatic when you could just get a 5 speed sport.
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Old 05-12-2013, 07:00 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Geo Tracker is just a rebadged Suzuki Sidekick, and basically you will most probably be sourcing whatever parts you need through Suzuki, as the Tracker is no longer really supported. Much of your questions is a matter of opinion. One thing I will say is that you should stay away from the Suzuki Sport 1.8L, as it was only made for a couple of years, and can be problematic. I might also try to get a car that is 1991 and newer, as the 1989-1990 are not quite as 'modern'.
The 8v as one injector, 80hp, the 16v has 4 injectors, 95 hp. So, question - less horsepower, or 4x as many things to go wrong? Your choice. The 1991-1995 is the earlier OBD1 engine - no scanner needed, a bit more of a workhorse, but perhaps harder to diagnose if something goes wrong. The 1996-1998 is OBD2, a scanner needed for codes, a few more sensors, easier to diagnose but a bit more 'problematic' in its complexity.
Certainly, I would go for the manual transmission - better gas mileage, better control on the car, less to go wrong - auto trannies are complex.
I would also make sure that I got the manual locking hubs, rather than the auto locking ones.
There is not a lot of performance mods that can be done on an 80 or 95hp engine, though.
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Old 05-12-2013, 08:37 AM   #4 (permalink)
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For mild stuff on trails you won't need any mods.
These little buggers are amazing in bone stock configuration...well...you might let some air out of the tires.

I'd suggest you find the nicest example you can in your price range and buy it. While gas mileage might suffer a bit, the automatics are quite sturdy. Samurai guys swap the 3 speed into their crawlers - so that should say something about reliability.
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Old 05-12-2013, 02:02 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks to all respondents! I did forget to say that I am looking to buy the 2 door convertible. So it sounds like I'll be going for the: 5 speed, 4x4, newish 95hp engine*, and try for the manual hubs not the automatic hubs...right? So this brings up the question again; are the 16v engines truly problematic? And are the more modern ('96-'98) 4x4's auto hubs or manual hubs?
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Old 05-12-2013, 04:37 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gcpdriver View Post
Thanks to all respondents! I did forget to say that I am looking to buy the 2 door convertible. So it sounds like I'll be going for the: 5 speed, 4x4, newish 95hp engine*, and try for the manual hubs not the automatic hubs...right? So this brings up the question again; are the 16v engines truly problematic? And are the more modern ('96-'98) 4x4's auto hubs or manual hubs?
IF it were me knowing what I know now - I would avoid anything before 1999. Engines in the early models were prone to poor maintenance resulting in crankshaft bolts either breaking off in the crank or the keyway grove getting wallowed out. Many have been repaired with epoxy and may work during a test drive only to fail later. Unless you find one w/o a Suzuki engine, I would avoid the early models.

fwiw - I have had 2 of those failures that IS how I know. Try to find an engine in a junkyard near you ;-)

The 16 valve engines are not problematic other than gumming up the EGR system and the crankshafts the the crank problem isn't only the 16 Valve models either.

Personally, I would not buy anything today that does NOT have OBDII. It is sooo much easier to identify and repair problems. Also much easier than counting the blinks of a lite to find out what it wrong - that is so 70's technology.

But hey it is your money - you can put it in a pile to burn if you want to.
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01 Chevy Tracker 4D, 2.5L auto trans, A/C, ps, 125k, mi. auto locking hubs
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Under Repair
95 Tracker 2D Conv. 16v VIN#6 171k mi. 5sp A/C ps
96 Sidekick Sport 4D 1.8L, auto AC 114k mi.
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Old 05-12-2013, 05:01 PM   #7 (permalink)
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It's all quite a matter of opinion. And while the crank keyway has been a problem for some, it certainly is not the majority of problems that are posted on the forum. Some are just more unlucky than others. Personally, I like the OBD1 cars, but that is my preference.
The auto vs manual hubs were an option, so you would be able to get either/or on any of the years. And if you find the car of your dreams with auto hubs, you can easily switch them to manual, if that's what you prefer. Logically, regarding the 8v vs 16v, if you have 4x the injectors, you have 4x the possibility of something going wrong. But the injectors themselves don't normally cause the problem, it's the wiring - these cars are old now, and old wiring that has been chafing around for 15+ years can be problematic.
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'97 Suzuki Vitara 8v, 1.6L 5 sp, 4wd, 2dr, tintop, horribly purple
'61 NSU Quickly - 150mpg
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Old 05-12-2013, 09:04 PM   #8 (permalink)
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fwiw - most of the people don't/didn't know what their problem solution was so it would be impossible to post "my crank key went" when all they knew was the darn thing is slow to accelerate or has "no power" (power loss) for example.

But the early models had no real power so it was hard to tell if it had a problem. Or like the ones I bought that had the "epoxy fix" and worked for awhile.

How many people actually post what fixed their problem?

Then of course there are those who are still in denial.

IF it wasn't really a problem then you should be able to find a "good" used engine in your area.

Don't misunderstand me, these things are awesome 4WD vehicles and for me the only question is just how much money you want to put into something? Then there is the super-rust factor too.

In 2005 I paid $1800 for a 95 Convertible Tracker with 4WD & AC. You can't find a 4WD for that price let alone a convertible w/AC. Some people pay more than that for an ATV and you can't drive a $12k ATV on the road to work (legally). But that $1800 Tracker will go in the woods most everywhere that $12k ATV will and in more comfort to boot.

Others will spend $5-10k on a bicycle.

When I first got mine I would go down a path in the woods just to see where it when. With the short wheel base you can turn around almost like a forklift truck and drive back out.

So it comes down to how you want to manage "your money". I think I got my $1800 of fun & pleasure from mine and refuse to invest any more into it.

IF you are these things are almost as much fun to mess with as a VW Dune Buggy but with AC AND 4WD.

Keep in mind the 99 and later engines (1.8 and 2.0) engines have a lot more pep (which is prob only helpful on the highway). But drive one of each to see for yourself the diff between those and the early 1.4 and 1.6L engines.

HTH
Good Luck
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96 Geo Metro 84 k mi 3cyl 5sp Lsi
01 Chevy Tracker 4D, 2.5L auto trans, A/C, ps, 125k, mi. auto locking hubs
----------------------
Under Repair
95 Tracker 2D Conv. 16v VIN#6 171k mi. 5sp A/C ps
96 Sidekick Sport 4D 1.8L, auto AC 114k mi.
----------------------
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Old 05-13-2013, 05:55 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I don't think Trackers or Sidekicks ever came with a 1.4L engine. The very early ones, pre-1991, might have come with the 1.3L engine, but these would be the carburetted engines, and not the fuel injected. I don't know if they were even sold in the US. The cars in the scope of this forum (1989-1998) would be the 1.6L engine, either 8v or 16v. I will say that my 8v is quite peppy, and manages well on the highway, etc. Much is due to maintenance.
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Old 05-13-2013, 09:12 AM   #10 (permalink)
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What do you expect from your Tracker[or Sidekick}? You don't get a Shetland pony to run the Kentucky Derby.
I'm with Bex on this 100%.
I had a pos Maverick once,all Mavericks are pos,s
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