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Upgrade your Suzuki Sidekick / Geo Tracker IFS front end with OEM Steel


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.

read on!


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 don’t 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 won’t 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.

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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 Randy’s Ring and pinion. The staff at Randy’s 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 didn’t 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.  

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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 pinion’s 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 Leonard’s 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

Randy’s Ring & Pinion, 1-800-292-1031,


Leonard’s Offroad, 1-503-693-8689, http://www.leonardsoffroad.com


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Trail Tough’s new Trail Savage Gear Set

COTTAGE GROVE, MN - We're extremely excited to tell you about Trail Tough's new offering for Suzuki Sidekick, Geo Trackers, and Grand Vitara. What is exciting is not only that Brent and his fine crew in Medford have bridged the gap between the stock gear set and the 4.24:1 low gear set that may be too low for many applications. They have solved one of the fundamental issues that has plagued Suzuki enthusiasts since we started wheeling the Grand Vitara and Xl-7 or at least, began transplanting those engines and transmissions into Samurai and Sidekicks.


  1. can I bolt up the 99 grand Vitaras 3rd member to my aluminum sidekick axle housing. or do I need the xl7s axle housing

  2. I just found your site.. I’m from CDA, Id. snowbirding in Az. Interested in
    race rules, build etc. I have a 91 Tracker, part way built.

  3. It would be great to have a “parts” list for this upgrade as it appears to be a bit confusing,
    did you use a XL7 front carrier and a grand vitara 3rd member or did you use the stock sidekick front carrier.

  4. I would like to put 5.83 gears in a 1996 tracker but I am a little confused, richmond gear says that they don’t make a 5.83 for this application, what am I getting wrong, do I need to use a different vehicle application when looking for gears? Is this no longer possible since Hawk Strictly Suzuki is gone. My 96 Tracker is an automatic with 31” tires and it really struggles to hold 70mph on the highway, unless you don’t mind wraping it to 5000 rpm and holding it there and if you are on any bit of a hill you might as well pull in to the ditch because the slow lane is too fast. the engine is new and still has good compression and runs great, the trany may have 200,000 miles on it but seems to work fine, am I stuck with being strickly offroad or is there somthing I can do to have the best of both worlds. Do i need to ditch the automatic or just have it rebiult

    • Tom, one other option you have instead of going up to 5.83’s is to swap in differentials from a 5-speed Tracker/Sidekick. They’re 5.125:1 stock, whereas your auto Tracker has 4.3:1 stock – plus used diffs should be pretty easy to find for cheap.

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