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Buying advice - how is the rust on this one?

3085 Views 35 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Bex
Hey all.

I'm from the UK. I'm going to be buying a Vitara soon for my partner. Looking at late 90's models. I've been to view 5 of them now, and think the last one I saw was the best one yet but wanted to get some advice before handing over my cash.

Having seen 4 before this one I've seen where they usually rust. This one was clean in all of these spots aside from one of the rear seat belt anchorage points:
Black Automotive tire Line Automotive exterior Vehicle door

Automotive tire Automotive lighting Wood Motor vehicle Bumper

One spot of rust I did notice which I've not seen before was as in the pic below, behind the bonnet hinge:
Automotive tire Hood Motor vehicle Automotive lighting Automotive design

I think this is the A-pillar, just below the lower corner of the windscreen.

Does anyone know if this is a major problem? How hard is it to cut out and fix?

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First, tell us all you can about your rig.

Next, there's a lot of discussion on this forum about RUST.

The stuff under the hood does not look bad to me. The rust on the bottom is the bigger possible problem -- it depends on what is going on UNDERNEATH.

Others will join in with their ideas. Underbody rust can be a BIG DEAL.

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I've seen rust like this plenty of times. For the rust at the rear seat/seatbelt bracket, look in the wheel-well where the captured nut is welded to the body and look for bubbled undercoating. Rear wheels always kick up dirt & road salt so look at the whole underside, bumper reinforcement, fuel tank and tank shield. Matter of fact, look at the whole underside for bubbling undercoating, indicating expansive rust. Regarding the bonnet/hood hinge rust, it may indicate additional rust hidden between the front fenders & plastic inner fender liner, very common collection point for dirt and leaf accumulation. In closing, if your selected vehicle has plastic rocker panel trim, best to remove and inspect as it's a hidden area for further corrosion. Good luck in your search
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Rust near seatbelt anchor points.....its your life. I wouldn't even touch it. That would get the vehicle ordered off the road permanently here.
That series had an issue with the front cross member rusting, check that well with a chipping hammer..
Are you aware that these cars have a ladder frame underneath the body work? thats the most important structural part in the car, you need to crawl under with a flash light and check there.

the setbelt point rust in the pics mean rust is coming from the mating are between frame and body.

on th eother hand, forum moderator Bex runs a "horribly rusty" car, so you might want to hear from him
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Horribly rusty is right… You need to get under the car and check the frame/chassis. What you are currently indicating is body rust, which can be repaired, patched, welded, etc. It’s the frame that is the issue. The seat belt brackets are welded to the frame, and have nothing to do with the body (which is where the photo of your rust at the seat belt is indicated). Frankly, if frame and cross members are in good condition (and as Aqua says, a chipping hammer or similar is the best way to test), everything else can be repaired. Don’t just look at the frame…hammer it. I say this because in the past, I actually had a mechanic who wasn’t welding the frame as needed, but was just covering it up with fiberglass. It looked great. But wasn’t.
I only wish that my car had those little bits of rust that your photos show!!
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Thanks for the replies. I was aware that it is a body on frame design yes. I've spent a decent amount of time looking at resto vids on youtube including body splits and finding as many posts with pics of rusty Vitaras as I can!

I had a good look under the car with a bright torch and the frame looks good. The only bits I didn't manage to check were the rear cross members in front of and behind the petrol tank. I'll be checking these if I go back with the intention of buying it.

The only bit i'm still worried about is that rust on the A-Pillar, since I haven't seen any photos or videos of anyone tackling rust in this area. It could be a death knell for all I know...
If I wanted the car, a rusty A pillar wouldn’t stop me (if that’s what’s actually rusty). Aside from the attempt to fix it, you can also buy one for about USD75.
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You’re looking at a vehicle that is over 20 yrs old. Over here, in the states, that means drive to until it dies from cancer…
I bought it! Negotiated on the price so we have some budget left over to get the rust looked at. Will post photos here when we tackle it.

in the meantime, what should be at the top of my maintenance list given that the car has barely been used for years but is now going to see daily use? It’s only covered 1,200 miles in the last 6 years… Engine oil (5w30?) and filter change, brake fluid, anything else? It’s a G16B engine.
most important is cam belt change, gearbox and transfer oils, plugs, air filter, radiator coolant,

brake fluid should be a proper system flush, not just changing the fluid in the reservoir, :)

download the manual and just follow the 80K km (last column) tasks ( )

Font Parallel Number Document

Font Parallel Pattern Number
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All fluids. All filters. Check that the 17mm crank bolt is torqued to 94 ft/lbs (if it is, then just leave it alone). That’s what I’d do to start.

These engines are not interference, so if the timing belt breaks, you just replace it. But it is a good idea to do the timing belt at some point. Check that your spark plugs are gapped to .7mm. Maybe do a compression test to verify engine timing. At some future point, you will probably want to check the valve lash.
most important is cam belt change, gearbox and transfer oils, plugs, air filter, radiator coolant,

brake fluid should be a proper system flush, not just changing the fluid in the reservoir, :)

download the manual and just follow the 80K km (last column) tasks ( )

View attachment 109200

View attachment 109201
By the way, the schedule in the 1991 Geo Tracker FSM is somewhat different than Rhino’s. It gives two different schedules, depending on how the vehicle is driven (short trips, excessive idling, dusty conditions, etc). For example, it indicates oil change every 3,000 miles, if your vehicle is driven in those specified conditions.
These engines are not interference, so if the timing belt breaks, you just replace it.
The G16B 16V he just bought IS interference..... so my recomendation is to change the belt ASAP.

It's the 8V G16A that is not interference....
There is a great deal of discussion about whether the 16v is ‘interference’. If you go on to sites Ike Zuwharrie etc, they have had situations where the 16v timing belt breaks at speed, and there is no engine damage. The 16v trucks (Vitara/Sidekick) are not interference engines, nor, at least up to now, is there any indication on any Suzuki Vitara, Sidekick or Tracker thread anywhere that indicates any damage. If you have actually seen any, I’d like to see it. From internet info the cars are interference. The trucks are not unless they’ve been modified from factory.
Exactly, if there is a great deal of discussion like you say, then better be safe than sorry, change right the belt away rather than bet on who is right ;) :)

First thing i did in my G16A (even if regarded as non interference)
Hey all! Tara the Vitara is going well. We've been doing lots of research and she's currently on axle stands in the garage.

We've drained the coolant, removed the radiator, taken off the drive belts and are now working on getting off the pulleys so we can get off the timing belt cover and then replace that.

Moving the alternator to get the drive belt off was tricky... That bolt at the rear was very hard to get to...

Does anyone know the correct size drive belts? From my research it seems PK4800 for the one that goes around the water pump and alternator. I can't tell if I need a 4PK790 or 4PK810 for the one that goes around the steering pump. The parts catalogue I'm looking at says 4PK790 for a "Type1" car, 4PK810 for a "Type2/3". What "Type" car do I have, or how can I check?

Is the Haynes manual a good reference for changing the timing belt?

We're also doing the oil and filter. What oil should I use? I'm in the UK so temps aren't going to be below -10 celsius, won't be much higher than 30 celsius, so according to the manual turboguzzi linked I can pick any of them:

Rectangle Slope Font Parallel Number
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The Haynes manual is good kindling for your fireplace, but other than that, it’s filled with misinformation as it attempts to deal with more than one year, model, engine, etc., in one book. You don’t advise any specs on your car…..please put your car’s specs into your signature, so everyone knows what you’re driving.
In the meantime, if you put your VIN into the website here:
you will get the parts catalog specific for that VIN (assuming no mods, etc.).
My 1991 FSM had recommended 5W30 for oil viscosity, however, I’ve been using 10w40 for years.
When you are doing the timing belt, check to confirm that the 17mm center bolt on the crank pulley is torqued to 94ft lbs. You do NOT take that bolt off to do the timing belt (just the 5 smaller bolts).
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1. Ditch Haynes, follow the original FSM from my link.
2.Dont overthink the oil, unless you want to see here a 10 page discussion.... And everyone has his own ideas too... then most members here are USA based , so they use brands that might not be available in UK. 10W40 or whereabouts just fine, just dont buy the cheapest oil you can find in the supermarket, ok?
3. for belts, most car spares sites will give you automatialy what you need, youll see that sizes might vary +/-10mm because theres plenty of adjustment in the slots, no biggie if its a 800 rather than 810....
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