Jason Hutchison upgrades his drivetrain with several mods.
Editor: Eric Bewley Photo/Story: Jason Hutchison
SAN DIEGO, CA -In the ever growing pursuit of trail prowess there comes a time in every 4×4 vehicles evolution that locking differentials is a decision that has to be made. We want bigger better faster and more capable, lockers and stronger components are a key parts to that equation.
The following is a short essay on what needs to happen and where to get the parts to make your whole Suzuki Sidekick drivetrain tougher.
The Aluminum front end drivetrain of the Suzuki Sidekick is known as the Achilles heel of the vehicle when the trail gets tough. We have seen several of the stock OEM components break with just limited slips installed with stock 5:12 differential gearing on mild trails and this simply won’t do. Through countless hours of research we have located cast iron and steel components in the larger and newer Suzuki vehicles namely the Grand Vitara and the XL-7. So, ZUKIWORLD online set out to find these items and make them work.
So we started putting together a plan. We wanted the highest gear ratio possible to help move our new 33 tires. So we selected the Richmond 5:83 gear set running a 10 bolt front ring and pinion and a 12 bolt rear ring and pinion thinking the 12 bolt would be stronger, and we procured the master install kits from our friends at CALMINI Products.
On to the next step, up until 1992 Suzuki outfitted the sidekick with 10 bolt rear carriers and our vehicle just happened to be a 1990. Just our luck. We called up our local Suzuki dealership and ordered a new 12 bolt rear carrier. So what to do about this front sidekick carrier. Our good friend Mike Hagan showed us that we could use a samurai 4 pin carrier in the front our sidekick with some simple machining. So we called Hawk Strictly Suzuki to obtain a Suzuki Samurai carrier and low and behold we found out that Hawk Strictly Suzuki has the samurai carrier already machined ready to accept the passenger side CV . This was perfect, the carrier is ready for install and comes with new shorter bolts which you will need for the install. We also learned that with the 5.83:1 gearset we dont have to run a diff can to insure that the carrier pins stay in place. Our gearset hangs over the pins just enough to make sure they wont fall out. With a 5:12 or lower ratio a diff can may want to be considered to hold the spider gear pins in the correct location.
Next was the locker selection currently we are running a Powertrax locker and it seems to pop and crack quite a bit so in an effort to find something different we called the authority on gearing and traction Randys Ring and pinion. The staff at Randys is exceptionable knowledgeable. They helped us identify a Detroit EZ locker for our Sidekick.
Now to fix the Achilles heel. An XL7 front differential set up is all solid cast iron and to our relief is almost identical to the sidekick aluminum components. We searched through pages and pages of vague drawings at the dealership and resorted back to our friends at Hawk Strictly Suzuki. They knew exactly what we needed and got us a front housing from and XL7 and a front 3rd member from a 99 Suzuki grand Vitara 5 speed. The XL7 front 3rd member is a bit bigger than the Grand Vitara 3rd member the reason we didnt go with the Xl7 component is because the mounting system to the front cross member is different than our sidekick. The Grand Vitara 3rd member is identical and we could reuse our mounting brackets with out modification.
Setting up ring and pinions takes a lot of skill and especially sets with such a high ratio. Here at ZUKIWORLD online we want to urge you to have your ring and pinions set up by a qualified highly reputable professional. We can say this a ton of different ways but the end effect is the same Do it Right or Do it Twice. Spend the money and have a professional set up your gears. These high ratio gears require custom set up and nonstandard settings for the gears to achieve maximum strength and life span. As you may know gear manufacturers will not warranty gears set up incorrectly and trust us they can tell if a gear set has been set up improperly. So we had everything drop shipped directly to Leonards Offroad in Hillsboro Oregon. We have heard nothing but positive feedback about Leonards work from a multitude of enthusiasts. Upon receiving all the components Leonard made short work of our project and had our complete front and rear third members ready to go.
Install was a snap because all the mounting holes and sizes of our components are identical to stock sidekick components. Out with the old and in with the new!
Trail testing revealed these component choices to be a great success. The front end housings are now ready for and have had some serious thrashing and have held up extremely well. Additionally, the Richmond gears and Detroit EZ lockers make trail riding that much more enjoyable.
Calmini Products, 1-800-345-3305, http://www.puresuzuki.com/
Hawk Strictly Suzuki, 1-888-726-8724, http://www.hawksuzukiparts.com
Randys Ring & Pinion, 1-800-292-1031,
Leonard’s Offroad, 1-503-693-8689, http://www.leonardsoffroad.com