The Most Common Suzuki Samurai Problems 2023

You have probably encountered a Samurai on city streets, college campuses, or in the wilderness. Suzuki’s diminutive 4×4 is capable of traversing terrain where other vehicles cannot. While the Suzuki Samurai enjoyed a period of popularity in the United States, neither its beginning nor its conclusion occurred there.

An overview of the Suzuki Samurai

The story of the Suzuki Samurai began in 1968 as the ON360, a Kei-class vehicle produced by the Hope Motor Company of Japan. The model first arrived in the United States for the 1986 model year and disappeared from the market in 1995.

There were specific capacity requirements for Kei-class vehicles to qualify for tax incentives in Japan, and Suzuki purchased Hope to rapidly enter that market. In 1970, Suzuki adopted the Hope ON360 and renamed it the LJ10 (LJ for Light Jeep), although it is now known as the Jimny in other regions.

The second-generation Jimny debuted in 1981, and Suzuki introduced the 1986 Samurai model to the United States in 1985, equipped with a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine producing 63 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque. According to MotorTrend, the Samurai required 16.9 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph and 20.47 seconds to complete the quarter mile at a speed of 64.5 mph.

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While those times did not impress the sports car crowd, the Samurai’s standard four-wheel drive and manually-locking front axles gave it unparalleled off-road capability.

Suzuki Samurai issues

According to Hagerty, the Suzuki Samurai’s terrible reputation for safety is one of its most significant flaws. In the late 1980s, the Samurai lacked airbags and anti-lock brakes, and Suzuki issued a recall for non-latching seatbelts. In addition, the vehicle’s light weight and short wheelbase caused a regrettable and unwarranted rollover during a Consumer Reports videotaped test; more on that in a moment.

In addition to deteriorated floors, clicky starters, and leaking distributor O-rings, additional Samurai issues include corroded flooring. In addition, the original Samurai carburetor is finicky and complex, prompting many owners to replace it with a simpler model. The plastic selector frequently breaks due to age and wear, but it is simple to replace with a brass unit.

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The SUV’s ultimate demise

In 1988, Consumer Reports filmed a Suzuki Samurai during a high-speed collision avoidance test sliding onto two wheels. The magazine made the video available to anyone willing to view it. The footage was broadcast on prime-time television alongside the claim that little Samaruai simply rolls over.

The extended video footage shows Consumer Reports engineers modifying the test parameters to force the Samurai to fail the test after passing the original course with all four tires securely planted on the ground at velocities up to 55 miles per hour. Consumer Reports’ modified test and incendiary claims led to a litigation in which Suzuki sued the publication. After a protracted court conflict, the parties reached an out-of-court settlement.

However, by the time the legal conflict was over, Samurai sales had dropped to a few thousand per year from more than eighty thousand the year prior to the fateful test. While the Suzuki Samurai persisted for a few more years, its availability in the United States presumably ended as a result of the Consumer Reports scandal.

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