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Discussion Starter #1
Looking for a little guidance and suggestions.

Looking for a Suzuki Sidekick and located a 1998 Sidekick JX with the 16 valve 1.6 liter engine, 4 wheel drive and 4 speed automatic transmission (3 speed plus the overdrive). The body and interior are in good condition and it appears to have something less than 100,000 miles.

From what I can learn, the current owner purchased the unit then decided to have some routine work performed such as front break work. When performing this work, the shop addressed the issue with the transmission not shifting as intended. The unit was then sent to a full service transmission where the complete transmission was removed and rebuilt which cost in the $1,200 range. When they re installed the transmission, it still not shift as intended. A further investigation revealed a varmint had chewed and eaten the wires going to the transmission. In addition, there is some issue with the wiring harness located near the wiper motor. The covering has been removed, therefore, it is unknown if this was an attempt to trace the transmission wires or if this was addition varmint damage.

The transmission shop says it needs a wiring harness (transmission)??? and a computer but it is unknown if the main computer also controls the transmission or if it has a separate computer. Also, states it starts and drives but does not shift as intended.

In addition, the entire radio is missing from the dash. Don’t know it some of the wires under the hood resulted from that removal.

At this point I have several concerns.

Is it worth the effort to make it road worthy?

Does the main computer control the transmission?

Is it easier to attempt to repair/splice the damaged transmission wires or find a wiring harness if one can be found?

Same question regarding the wires under the hood?

Where can these parts and computer be found? And at what cost?

What would it be worth in current condition and if able to be repaired, what would it be worth?

I would appreciate any ideas.

Thanks
 

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At this point I have several concerns.

Is it worth the effort to make it road worthy?
That is a personal decision - what's it worth to you

Does the main computer control the transmission?
As far as I'm aware - no - the vehicle should have a separate ECU to control the fuel injection (which I assume is what you mean by "main computer") and a separate TCU or Transmission Control Unit for the transmission

Is it easier to attempt to repair/splice the damaged transmission wires or find a wiring harness if one can be found?
This is not a question that we can answer for you without seeing the extent of the damage. If you don't have the skills do it yourself, and I assume you don't because if you did you wouldn't be asking - you need to get someone to look at it and give you an estimate.

I can tell you that I've gone through a damaged transmission harness on a different make of vehicle that uses what is essentially the same transmission - there is a fair bit of work involved in getting the harness out to work on it, and putting it back after you're done, which would also be required if you were replacing the harness. The actual repair work - unwrapping, splicing, heat-shrinking and rewrapping the harness is not a highly technical or difficult job, but it is time consuming, and if you're paying someone to do it, the hours will add up.

The flip side is how difficult will it be for you to find a known good harness - something else we can't answer.

I've been soldering wires since I was in my teens, so I knew I could fix my damaged harness, it was my first time working on a transmission related issue, but not my first time working on automotive wiring. It took me several hours of what I would describe as back breaking work, sitting on the floor of the car hunched over, but for me, worth the pain.

Same question regarding the wires under the hood?
Same answer as above - we can't answer "sight unseen".

Where can these parts and computer be found? And at what cost?

What would it be worth in current condition and if able to be repaired, what would it be worth?
More questions that we can't answer.

We don't know where you are, we don't know what's available in your neck of the woods, we don't know what car values are like there, we don't know what labor rates are, we don't know how much of the work you can handle or are prepared to do yourself.

Personally, if someone offered me a 1998 Sidekick (or the Vitara equivalent since the Sidekick was not sold were I am) in reasonably good nick, with the problems you describe, at a reasonable price, I would be on it like white on rice - and that is bearing in mind that my wife thinks I have enough vehicles already and that I need to stop buying "old junk" - the golden rule is if it's not drivable, don't bring it home, so as long as that can move under it's own steam, I can take it home.

It doesn't sound like it needs a lot of parts, radios aren't expensive and are readily available on Amazon, if it needs a TCU you can probably find one on ebay - what it sounds like it needs is someone willing to sit down and methodically go through the damaged wiring and perform a competent repair job. The wiring is color coded, so it's actually as simple as matching the two ends based on insulation color and splicing them with perhaps an inch or two extension depending on the damage. If needed the diagrams are available from several sources on line.

Here's a tip - the TCU only controls selection of the forward gears when the selector is in D - PRN and the lower gears can be selected using the shift lever if the TCU is disconnected. Unplug the TCU start the car and shift through the gears manually, if it shifts properly, the problem is going to be either the TCU or the wiring, and at that point I would think it's worth buying - but bear in mind, that if it's me buying it, fixing it is just a couple of weekend's work in my drive way.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the info. I really have not seen the extent of the trans wires. I am going on info from the tranny guy. He says it drives just like before the tranny was rebuilt but does not shift as intended. How would one determine what tranny we are talking about and what if any other vehicles or model years might have the same. If one were to locate a tranny wiring harness, wonder if a 2 wheel drive is the same as the 4wd?
How many computer does it have? I know of 1 in the left side of the dash maybe behind a speaker at the location where the left knee would be. Does that computer control the entire vehicle? Where would one locate the tranny wiring diagram?
Am I correct that 1998 offered a 3 speed which was not computer controlled then this 3 speed with overdrive, is it considered a 4 speed, which is computer controlled? Thanks
 

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I think that in the 98, the tranny computer is not a separate unit to the ECU, I believe that perhaps in 1997 (??) the TCM was incorporated into the main ECU unit. The diagram from Ack’s FAQS may not help in that regard, but presumably the wire color coding would be the same:
Prior to that, the TCM would have been a separate unit. I believe that all 4 door Suzukis, would have the 4 speed (03-72LE) transmission, as well as some 96+ Geo Trackers.
The 4 speed tranny shifts electronically, using the solenoids that are indicated in the above diagram. It may be possible to disconnect this set up by disconnecting the connector at the tranny, rather than at the ECU. In any event, as the trans was rebuilt and still had the same issue (and I wouldn’t have been pleased with dumping $1200 into that ’repair’) it would indicate that the issue is with the wiring. As Fordem says, a good way to check is by disconnecting the tranny computer (or potentially, the connector). You would then have the 3 speed mechanical transmission, and would be able to shift through the gears manually, which, if successful, would be further proof of the wiring issue.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Talking to a friend yesterday evening that had been part hunting in a wrecking yard. He said he saw maybe a 2000 Vitara but all he knows is that it had 4 doors and a 4 speed auto still in the car. Don't know if it was 4wd. I don't know that much about them but wondering if the 4 speed harnesses are all the same? Unsure if the yard would have that knowledge.
 

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Let me tell you what I'm hearing - you want a Sidekick and you've found what you think is a suitable candidate, it's in reasonable physical condition, but has a transmission issue, the transmission has been rebuilt and the transmission shop is now saying it's an electrical issue and aren't willing to get involved any further. Does that sound about right to you?

Ok - I'm going to simplify the decision for you - answer this one question - do YOU have the experience, tools, time and space (whether it be shop space or driveway space) to competently do automotive electrical work?

Yes - buy it and have a go at fixing it.
No - forget it, and keep on looking.

Two out of the four 4WDs in my drive way needed electrical work because of "varmint damage" prior to my ownership - the one that I redid the transmission harness on, I think the damage was done by a dog, the other one, I would guess at rats or mice.

The car with the damaged transmission harness, I've had for just over nine years - the last time I worked on the transmission harness was probably January of this year - I think I've opened that harness five times - twice within a month when I first fixed it, and three times in the space of a month this year when an intermittent problem finally became a solid problem - for years the vehicle would randomly not shift in to top gear - at first it would only do it on long drives and maybe once or twice a year, and the fix was just switch off and switch back on - when it became twice a week is when I started working on it, and when it became twice a day is when I finally figured it out - and yes - I did swap the TCU, only to find the problem remained - it was caused by electrical noise being picked up because of poor shielding in the damaged harness.

The reason I'm telling you this story is so that you understand what you're getting into - do not buy a vehicle with a problem unless you have the resources to get the problem fixed - if it was a simple repair, the previous owner (who it seems bought the vehicle with the problem) would have fixed it, in fact, it sounds like he spent quite a bit trying to fix it, and has now decided to cut his losses - so you're hoping that you'll have better luck - if I were in your shoes I wouldn't bank on it.

I bought the vehicle I mentioned above dirt cheap, knowing it had problems, at a time when I needed a vehicle because one of the ones I had was badly damaged in an accident - I've been daily driving it and fixing one problem at a time, spending a few bucks this month, a few more next month - I've put a lot of my personal time & energy into sorting out the problems, if I had to pay other people to fix it, it would have been a bad investment, but, given what I paid for it and the service I've gotten out of it, and considering what I've spent as "ongoing maintenance", I've definitely gotten my money's worth.
 
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Personally I prefer a standard transmission as any electrical things attached will not hinder shifting. There must be other Suzuki's out there and they may have far better wiring than what you are describing. As my hands do not function like they used to my repairs go to my trusted mechanic. A good used 4x4 does not require head scratching or palm face . I spent a whopping 138.00 on an inspection and saved 3500.00 after reading the inspection report.. Exterior of 4x4 was good but there was nothing holding the body to the frame except the weight of the body! Rust covered by fiberglass and undercoated !
 
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