Cambelt Change…Finally Suzuki Vitara


I will admit to avoiding major mechanical work whenever I can. Simply put I don’t like going into engines any deeper than changing spark plugs.  Yet even I know that you cannot avoid going into the bowels sometimes.

Having not changed a cambelt in more years than I care to admit, it was time to enter the dark bowels of the Vitara and changed it for peace of mind. Having a friend with not just the tools but more importantly the knowledge as well I decided to do it there. Sadly, my friend was called into work that Saturday morning and I was left to my own devices in an alien workshop. With a deep breath, I started to remove the radiator. Avoiding the face full of antifreeze as the bottom hose was released. Normally I would try from the top but sadly, in this case, it was better from under the Vitara.  The cooling van was unbolted to allow the radiator shroud past. With this done, it simply became a question of removing the power steering belt and the water pump/ alternator one. Then off came the cambelt cover with the aid of an air gun.  At this point and with a sense of panic I decided to change the rocker box cover.

Of course with that off, I then decided to check the valve clearances and promptly got stuck as the feeler gauge was nowhere to be found. So now I had two jobs halfway finished and my friend was still at work…

After a cup of tea and a quick check on YouTube, I decided to carry on with the cambelt.

Checking the timing marks, the old belt came off and then my friend turned up.

With the immortal words, “that now will be easy” the new belt and tensioner turned out to be a complete sod to put on. Then with the cover on and after struggling to find the right feeler gauges, I checked the valve clearances. There was one too tight and a couple a little loose, but mostly they seemed fine.  When doing this I was turning over the using the crank pulley bolt and a socket. The benefit of doing is that I knew that after the cambelt change nothing was going to interfere with each other.   The new gasket was put on with a fine smear of normal grease to help seal it. After that, it was a question of reassembly.

My friend with more years of experience than we both care to admit made a rooky mistake by saying that refitting the radiator would be a simple job… 20 minutes later and with my head under the front valance the radiator was finally in place. The joy of old cars is that sometimes a difficult job will be easy and an easy job, well less said about the better.


With everything finally done and with a sense of relief the Tugg started and settled down her high idle.

Suzuki Vitara Long Distance Journey.

600 miles in 2 days and a total of 1200 over the next week.

The traffic is as bad as you expect for the week before Christmas.  That particularly British habit of roadworks and poor driving ensuring that the handbrake was applied often in the fast lane on the first day. In the last few years, I’ve done this journey more times than I would care to admit in a variety of vehicles from Holly the camper than to a £120 pound VW TDI MK Golf via the Peugeot 406 estate.  Apart from the Holly, the little Suzuki Vitara must be the slowest and arguably the silliest.

I will admit that I tend to drive quickly, not overly so.  At a guess, my average speed on the motorway in good conditions is about 80 MPH.  With speedo error taken into account, it is more like 75. That speed allows progress yet does not attract attention from the those few remaining traffic officers. I will also admit to being completely focused and looking a long way in front and behind me.  Oddly doing that often allows me to filter through traffic more quickly and safely.

The little Vitara will not sit in the fast lane at 80 mph, or even slightly higher for hours on end and even if it could I would not want to drive it like that. To be honest it would scare the crap out me. So yesterday on the parts of the motorway that actually flowed I sat bang on the speed limit at 70, well at guess it was more like 65 when compared to the lorries I crawled past. There is a real advantage to sitting a little higher when in heavy moving traffic and that is being able to see a lot further ahead. Like a motorcycle, you can drive quickly in a 4×4, but you do need to plan a long way ahead.

Every vehicle has a natural cruising speed. For instance, when I owned my Kawasaki GTR1000 motorcycle the speed was 100 mph. Despite my very best intentions, every time I relaxed the speed would creep back. Both Golfs seemed to like about 80 to 85 on the open road. Anything much slower and it felt like they wanted to take off, much faster and I could feel them straining. The van when not near a hill sits at 65, that is the sweet spot. When it comes to hills… Well, that is very different matter, being overtaken by fully ladened lorries when going up the Pennies was more than a little embarrassing.

It is possible to drive what most would consider unsuitable vehicles long distances. All it takes is a change in the mindset and a little mechanical sympathy. I should also say that having something interesting to drive help’s  and Tugg is very always that.

On my second day, due to an accident blocking the M1 a little further south, the traffic flowed. It was busy, but at no point did I use the handbrake on the motorway. Which is really unusual for any journey in this country, especially so when so close to Christmas. Tugg was a little tail happy carrying so much weight, not helped with gale-force crosswinds.

We arrived just as it finally got dark and yes, I was very impressed with the little truck.


Tools… The Importance of a Good Socket Set

“Halfords Professional socket set?  I’ve got one of those as well, really good tools.”

My well used and slightly battered set had come out of the passenger footwell to allow me to bolt on one the wheels I’d finally picked up on the back of the Vitara. Having never met my friend before other than speaking on the phone it was funny how my choice of socket confirmed much.

Tools are all important, anyone who does any type of practical work soon develops a fetish for them. You often start out with a few lower quality ones and slowly upgrade. This was the case with my socket set. I call it the only positive thing to come out of my marriage as it was a Christmas gift many years ago from my ex-wife.   With some metric, some imperial sockets, various Allen sockets, torque bits and with a set of metric spanners from 8 to 19 mm. Over the years some parts have become lost or broken, for instance, the ¼ inch ratchet broke many years ago after it got wet and rusted. I did add fairly early a ½ inch T-bar and socket reducer set. An added benefit of the breaker bar was that the ½ inch extension bar slipped over its end, thus creating a breaker bar when needed. Yet it is my default choice for any job.


Tools are important and you develop a real relationship with them, often to the point that using another person’s tools feels alien. Get the best you can for they will last a lifetime.

I will be covering some of the other tools that have become essential to me over the years, but nothing truly beats a good socket set. After checking the Halfords website, the new name for the Professional range is Advanced. Whatever they call them, they are very good value and truly recommend for the amateur.

On a much cheaper note… Lidl’s and Aldi seem to have the best cheap tools out there when they have them in stock. I have a set of Lidl’s ring spanners and small socket that are carried with me at all times. The spanners seem they well made for the price, the socket set a little less so, but still very useful.

When I Grow Up…

When I grow up I want to be a…

No, I’m happy being me.

After a long day yesterday that included a round trip of 80 miles and introducing someone to off-roading finally I got to rest…

When I was left, there in front of me was a Land Rover Defender.

For a moment I was worried, I mean  would it pick on me overnight?

These things do happen…

But then I looked more closely…

See, my wheels were covered in mud…My paint work streaked with the results of an hour playing….

What is more…

On that road trip, from the traffic lights I took a Jag…


The Land Rover did look a little intimidating but I reflected on the day and simply smiled back…