Suzuki Vitara MOT, 4th Time.

Another year, another MOT…  

Wow, where has the time gone? Can this be Tug’s forth MOT with me?   

At the time I was doing my masters in Professional Writing and had decided to write about what I knewcars.  Well, among other things as well, but classic cars have always been there. It could be said people became hooked on hydrocarbons during the last century.  I was and still, I’m among the worst. Well in regards to cars and bikes anyway. My last post spoke about surfing and car culture. My passion is a mix of situation, work, marital, financial, environmental and my own often dubious mental state.   

The picture of Classicaraddict is just after I’d bought her. I’ve written about this in the past, but it sums that moment the brain catches up with consequences of the latest impulse buy. It didn’t start off well with the fuel filler pipe collapsing the day after I got her legal… 
My friend Nigel recommended that I should look at one. At the time, his project Vitara was a bare shell exposed to the elements.  Tug has changed how I work and after 4 years I’m still constantly amazed about how capable she is. I’m also constantly shocked at the fuel consumption, aside from that, they are just what Nigel said. MK1 Vitara’s are amazing little off-roaders.  

Oddly they seem to be creeping up in value once more.  A lot seem to rust like well, Suzuki Jimny’s and MK1 and 2 Mazda MK5’S, (Oh bugger.) Also, because they were cheap, plentiful and good off-road, many got used and abused.   

I do use Tug off-road a lot, but don’t really abuse her. She is my workmate, my colleague, my friend. In the last 3 ½ years I’ve only welded her twice. The first time was around the rear seat mounts a month after I bought her. The second was two years ago and a little around the driver’s side tow bar mount.  Last year when Dan at Dan CB Tyres fitted the exhaust, I checked under her…  We were both were amazed at how good the floors and chassis are.  I know how bad they can rust as Nigel’s didn’t have any floors at the time of me getting Tug.   

Over the years I’ve done the fuel filler pipe, cambelt, plugs, leads, air filter, radiator, exhaust silencer, petrol filter, battery,  two sets of front brake pads and rear shoes. Two clutch cables, one clutch, rear brake cylinders (both sides,) front to rear brake pipe, cylinder head gasket, one injection unit, two internal door handles, passenger external one, both door catches, two passenger mirrors and lots of oil changes.  Oh, and all the transmission fluids. 

It seems a lot, but over those 3 ½ years and 31000 miles, it isn’t.  Checking the old MOT’s, I’m averaging about 9000 miles a year… Wow! A lot of gear is carried which means at least the weight of another full-size adult, and then towing a trailer as well. No wonder the brakes take a bashing… 
In my keeping, she has failed two MOT’s first time and passed two… I always try to prep a car properly and joke it is the only time I get to see the back seats. They are still there but hardly used.  


Considering the time frame, she hasn’t been expensive to run. Well apart from fuel…  

Now worth more than the £350 I bought her for. About £800 to £1000 with the fresh mot, if not a little extra at the moment. Apart from fuel, insurance, and road tax I doubt that anything else could have been so useful and cost so little over the years. Now that I have Bel my little MX5, Tug does far fewer longer drives which is one reason I’m shocked at the annual mileage. She is used most days for work and pleasure, often with trailer in tow and paddleboard on the roof.  

There is no reason that she shouldn’t keep going for years to come with a little TLC and I’ll keep her until I change my work and then I’ll struggle to part with her… I’ve never been bored driving. Scared once or twice yes, but never bored. 
The smile is there every time I get in and then it dims a little as fuel is needed again

Thank you Tug, my Spanish lady with a Japanese heart.  
You are the perfect example of a practical classic…

One More Wave

One more wave… 

After the last post, what have I been up too?  

Recovery was slow and it wasn’t until about mid-October that my back was good enough to consider being almost back to normal. The other scars will take far longer and for the second time, my younger brother and I are no longer speaking.  

My knee… As I write it should have been operated on the 3rd of this month, (December 2019.) Sadly, the op was canceled and will hopefully get rescheduled for mid-January 2020. Some nights the pain is constant, on others I can cope. Work is a struggle, likewise doing anything to the fleet is difficult. I changed the front brake pads on Tug, my little Vitara just before my op was meant to happen. A job that normally takes 30 minutes max was over an hour with much swearing and cursing.  

In August whilst taking clean washing from my machine my right leg locked. Stuck, I had to pop my knee and after seeing the specialist it seems I’d torn and possibly detached my right meniscus…  

If my life was not so physical this would not be an issue. Yet walking on uneven ground, carrying off-balance weights, steps, kneeling are. All of which are a major part of my daily routine. At the moment, workwise I can do about 50% of what is normally possible, and then only for 3 to 4 hours before it becomes too painful.  

Thankfully there is one thing that I can do. 

After ringing my good clients in the morning, I’d told them I’d be there for 12…  I arrived at 12.30…  

“One more wave?” was their greeting, we have a mutual friend who got into paddleboarding very early. My clients understand, during the winter, on the south coast of Cornwall we often get rideable surf, not large, but to longboarders and paddleboarders, we can surf it.  

At Swanpool there are now a group of regulars. We have come to trust and respect each other. My weapon of choice, an old 14ft downwind board that turns as fast as supertanker, yet will catch ripples.  

Last year I wouldn’t surf in the pack, now I can. Maneuvering this 14ft board through the group is possible and a lot of fun.  

More than one regular has commented that Swanpool is among the most chilled outbreaks that they have encountered. Mostly free from ego, wave sharing is common, and mutual respect even more so. For a little while, on every wave I’m free, walking the board and reaching back to those early Hawaiian beach boys who reintroduced surfing to the world at the start of the 20th century.  


Growing up in Perranporth, on the north coast of Cornwall, surfing culture was a part of everyday life. Summer fashions being a mix of both Hawaiian and Californian.  Admittedly I tried surfing and really struggled. Then went back to bodyboarding. Yet, there in the racks of Perranporth Surf Club stood some of those original boards. Tall and elegant they were echoes of times past.  

Modern longboard type surf sups share similar lines, rightly so. Both those early Hawaiian beach boys like Duke Kahanamoku and the later watermen like Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama used essentially longboards with a paddle when they chose to SUP, (stand up paddle.)

Some aspects of car culture and surf go hand in hand. Hot Rodding originated in Southern California in the late 1930s and exploded into popularity after the Second World War. For instance, The Beach Boys were essentially a group of car guys and not surf ones.  

When I load the board up and head towards the beach the cultures combine. Instead of the woodies of old, now converted vans, for more affluent, VW ones, of course, gather.  

Out in the line-up, the mantra is one more wave and who I’m too argue. Even with my buggered knee…  

Thank you Toni for the pic of me paddling.

A Little Fun, Off Road Playing in a Suzuki Vitara

‘Fancy a go?’

My friend asked if I wanted to try his newly acquired MK 4 Golf, it was nothing special, but then that often does not matter.  What did surprise me was just how cheap it was.

Now, old cars are worth next to nothing in the UK. A good one with a long MOT can be bought for what is little more than pennies. In this case, a car 14 years old with almost a full year’s road test was£300 pounds. Yes, it does have a few issues, including needing a heater matrix changing. I suspect my friend has never changed one, for one the first things that goes into an empty body shell during assembly, is the heater matrix. I once did one on a MK 2 Golf, never again, as complete sod does not even start to describe how difficult it is.

It seemed only polite to allow him to have a go in Tugg, my little Suzuki Vitara. In past, he has owned a Mitsubishi 4X4 pickup and a Unimog. So, he knew a bit about driving 4×4’s.  He and his family are converting an old NATO pumping Station to apartments. What this means that their property is not overlooked and is about 3 acres in size. With a high bank on one side. After a little go on the tarmac, his next suggestion was that we tried the track up the bank, so swapping over I went first.

It turned out that the test drive was a little more extreme than either of us expected. Tugg, climbed the slippy bank with ease and then with her small size, she squeezed through the gap at the end. Then it was his turn, same route, but with a steeper bank at the start. Yes, we were both very surprised and my friend could see why I like the Vitara so much.

Just as I was about leave, he suggested I tried the really steep bank. After Scraping her tow bar, we finally got Tugg stuck, but on a dry day he thinks she would get up there… Unhooking her tow bar was fun, both of us simply  lifted the rear wheel arch and Tugg rolled back as if this was normal.

There is a real importance to sometimes kicking loose. I would not let everyone drive cars and bikes, but to those who I trust there is real joy in sharing the magic.

The best part is my friends laugh at the end of the short clip.  Sums up friendship and the joy of both us simply taking a few minutes out from adulthood.

Welding One Small Patch?


Older Suzuki Vitara’s have a reputation for rusting, well the bodies anyway.

When I bought Tugg, I did miss a couple of holes near the rear seat mounts. Now removing the seats was an option but would mean notifying  DVLA this would not be an issue for the MOT or annual road inspection. But then Tugg would become a commercial vehicle and that would affect insurance etc…

There are a few basic rules to welding, the first is that any hole will be far bigger than it initially appears. Many years ago when welding a friend’s Ford Escort after tapping a small area almost 2 foot of rust landed on my head and in my eyes…  So yes the holes did appear a little larger than expected, but not overly so.

After being taught to weld by a friend 10 years ago I enjoy it much more a lot of mechanical work. I still use the same second-hand Cebora 130 Mig welder I bought then. Over the years I’ve welded on a fairly regular basis and have slowly increased my skill level.

Along the way, I’ve acquired a few tricks. One is to disconnect the battery. This is becoming increasingly important with the increase in sensitive electronics. Perhaps the most important trick I’ve learned is to prepare the metal really well. I use sanding disks on my angle grinder as they give a better finish than grinding disks.

Having prepared the areas that required welding I started work. After cutting a patch to fit I then spot welded it into place. Metal expands and contracts as heat is applied, so almost fitting is good enough in the tacking process. You can either hammer down each section as you work along the edge or press down using an old screwdriver. Once the patch is spot welded in place it is simply a question of then joining them up using little beads of weld. To avoid overheating an area it is best to weld on alternating sides of the patch. I was taught to weld on the lowest setting to avoid blowing holes in the metal. Sadly this means that good penetration is not always achieved. With experience, I now weld on a higher power setting.

Once done, I ran over the welds with the sanding disk. With a coat of black paint, the job looks fairly tidy for MOT test next Thursday.

Yes, the holes are a little bigger than expected, but now they are done.

A good afternoon’s work.

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.


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…

Multiple Choices When It Comes To Parts. Suzuki Vitara.


Never an easy job…

There is a rule when it comes to getting parts. There will be multiple choices and whatever part you choose will be wrong. Since the advent of smartphones, the sensible person always takes a picture when they have a component apart. Which is great unless you have never done it before.


Yesterday was one of those days… Having checked the MOT certificate for recommendations, it mentioned that the front brake pads were low. So I checked them, and not a moment too soon.  So that means a trip to my local motor factors. Even in Cornwall, there is always a choice. I’ve been going to one for many years, they supply the trade mostly but still have a little counter. It is like a club, not exclusive, just one with its own rules. They also look after their local clients, so always my first port of call.


Brake pads, yes they will be here tomorrow, old stock £10… well, £12 with the dreaded VAT… Great but they were the wrong ones. My friend behind the counter mentioned that my Vitara was a Spanish one, hence the other blog post. Of course, the pads were the wrong ones, a return trip to the counter. The replacements will be here at 3 pm, two pairs ordered just to make sure. As promised they arrived and off I went to change them.


After the problems getting them the nice surprise was how simple it was to replace them. Having a chassis at the least jacking up the Vitara was easy. As I was working under the car an axle stand was used. With a normal car, I would also suggest placing the wheel under it as well, just not much point with a 4×4.


The large wheels are remarkably light for their size, so no problem to remove or mount. There was a nice surprise with the general condition of the calipers with the rubbers all sound and the pistons sliding smoothly. Also the owner before the last one I think liked Copper slip, as some bolts already had a smear on. A very good and sadly rare sign. After the struggle of getting the pads at least fitting was easy. I remembered to loosen the brake reservoir cap a little and even tighten it up when I was finished. The only real problem was squeezing the new pads in, simply because of the amount material. With a little smear of Copper slip for good measure, reassembly was easy. Of course making sure the pads location springs fitted properly as I did.


The large wheels fitted easily back on and the job was completed. When I tightened up the brake reservoir I checked the VIN plate. Yes, there was the name, Santana, confirming that Tugg has a Spanish heart.


Another job ticked off the list as slowly the Vitara receives a complete service.

When is a Suzuki not a Suzuki?

When is a Suzuki not a Suzuki? This may seem like a daft question and the answer is when it is a Santana…

What are Santana’s and where are they made? And why would something wearing Suzuki badges not be one?

The answers that Santana’s were Spanish, I say were as sadly they are no longer made.  2010 was not the best year for European motor manufacturers with names that started with S as Santana and Saab both effectively ended production. Santana had been making Suzuki’s under license from the mid-1980’s. Before that Santana made under license localized versions of the Land Rover, this agreement ended in the early 1990’s. So at one point both Suzuki’s and Land Rovers were being assembled in the same factory at the same time.


So what has this got to do with my Vitara? If anyone checks the details of when Suzuki stopped making the model, most will say 1998. Yet mine is a 1999 model, so who made it?

Of course Santana, officially it is a Santana Suzuki Vitara. When Suzuki and Santana’s agreement ended in 2006 so did a lot of the support for those models. The result being that it is far easier to get certain parts for earlier Vitara’s than later ones.

Does this change how I feel about the Vitara? Oddly I have a passion for oddballs and even had known a little of Santana’s history long before I bought the Vitara.

So quite the reverse, I always fancied having one and now I have one.

Petrol Filter Change On a Suzuki Vitara (Tugg)


A filtered change?

Finally, after almost a month I’ve changed the fuel filter…  An easy job, but not having a workshop a real pain. As funds allow the Vitara is slowly getting a complete service. The parts I expect to come to around £150. Some things seem to make very little difference, yet I know in the long run will pay dividends.


The fuel filter is one of the cheapest components to change, yet has had a major difference to the driving experience. When I first bought the Vitara (Tugg,) she ran so badly it was frankly almost dangerous to drive her.  The filter is fairly accessible but I would still need wheel ramps to make it that bit more accessible. Oddly it was the easiest reverse up ramps I’ve ever had, in low range, the Vitara simply inched her way up.

Needless to say, but a rusty bolt led to almost a bugger moment. Normally a little heat can be applied, but not near fuel lines. The bolt loosened as I held my breath and carefully turned it half a turn one way and then quarter back the other.  Having loosened it off, I then bolted it back in and undid the fuel lines. No matter how carefully I did this, yes I did get an ear full of fuel.  With disintegrating latex gloves and making sure that the direction of the filter was right. Of course, the shape of the replacement was different to the original. In the process setting off my dyslexia paranoia. So after a double check, I fitted it and crossed my fingers. Checked the fuel lines and even remembered to use fresh washers.


As Tugg was up on the ramps I had a little inspection. Some brake lines might need changing for the MOT. But it confirmed the generally good condition that I first attracted me to the Vitara.

The road test was a revelation. Tugg drove so much better, not perfect but a real difference. Each little improvement brings an increase in my understanding and appreciation of the little 4×4.


After a shower and shave my partner commented on my new aftershave. Apparently being a petrol head is ok, smelling like petrol is not.