HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR SUZUKI JIMNY

Skills, Phenomenology, and Motorcycles: Why following rules, then forgetting them and taking risks makes you a better rider.

INSIGHTS FROM A RETRO OWNERS MANUAL

Does anybody read the owners manual of their new vehicle, or for that matter, any new gadget? This year we see the introduction of a new generation Suzuki Jimny. The Jimny model LJ (Light Jeep) first appeared in the 1970s and it was designed as a recreation and work-site mini-car that delivered mid-20th century vehicle technology, with excellent off-road capabilities in a really small form factor. Although a lot has changed over the years as Suzuki have improved each generation, introducing new vehicle technology, safety features, etc, the essence of the Jimny has remained the same across all four generations.

 

One aspect of owning the original Jimny, and this was probably typical of this era of vehicle, was the requirement for a hands-on, entry-level mechanical relationship with the LJ. Suzuki expected the owner to understand the basic components and abilities of their vehicle, roll-up their sleeves and sometimes, if problems occurred, work to resolve them. For evidence of this, just read the Suzuki LJ50 1975 Owners Manual. 


What did Suzuki believe, in 1975, was important vehicle owner information? Well, it turns out to be quite a lot. The manual is an interesting read providing detailed instructions on how to care for your Suzuki Jimny. In fact, aspects of this old owners manual might also be helpful for owners of the new 2019 model and it certainly has tips for all vehicle drivers. Let’s have a brief look at a few sections of the LJ50 owners manual.

CARRY OUT A DAILY OVERALL CHECK-UP

Aircraft pilots routinely follow a pre-flight checklist prior to take-off. It’s a proven method to ensure all necessary pre-flight procedures and exams are undertaken, making sure no items are skipped and critical tasks are completed in the correct sequence, to safely operate an aircraft. For happy and safe motoring, the Suzuki LJ50 Owners Manual recommends taking a few minutes to check over your Jimny to “reveal defective or warn parts as well as possible sources of future trouble”. Although this is certainly good practice, it’s arguable whether this is a daily requirement for a modern vehicle. Maybe a regular weekly check-up or even a couple of times a month, depending of how much you use your Jimny, is more suitable. However, the key point is a vehicle check-up needs to be habitual and relatively comprehensive.

The overview check-up Suzuki recommends includes:
- Check steering and brakes
- Correct tyre pressure and tyre condition
- Check suspension, body condition, seatbelts, luggage load
- Check battery and condition of battery terminals
- Check engine oil, cooling system, and engine belts
- Check fuel level, instruments, and gauges
- Check lights, mirrors, number plate
- Note any changes from your last check

This is a long list of items to check. Most vehicle owners will likely keep an eye on a few of these items, such as tyre pressures and fuel level. The Suzuki LJ50 Owners Manual has detailed information on most of these checklist items and even some guidance on operational aspects like starting and how to drive your Jimny in certain conditions.

DRIVING YOUR JIMNY

The Suzuki LJ50 Owners Manual has recommendations for different driving conditions. Guidance is given on driving in mountains and hills, where the most common error is cited as failing to select the correct gear through delaying the down shift to a lower gear appropriate for the hill climb. And when descending, use a lower gear than when ascending so engine braking can help in a controlled descent.

Tips for high speed road driving include driving to the conditions, i.e. in heavy rain greatly reduce your speed. For winter driving, use tyre chains or snow tyres on ice or snow covered roads. The manual also includes a section on how to fit and drive with tyre chains. A tyre rotation schedule is illustrated specifying a 5,000 km (3,000 miles) interval, along with detailed instructions on how to remove a wheel and replace it with the vehicle's spare wheel.

VEHICLE CLEANING

The Suzuki LJ50 Owners Manual advises the owner to clean their car every chance you get. Make sure not to scratch the paint. Be careful when cleaning the wheels; don't force water into the brakes as this may reduce the braking performance of the drum brakes. Pay special attention to the chassis, wheels, and related areas. For these parts wash with high-pressure water to remove mud and oil. If cleaning removes rust-proofing on the underside then apply a new coating of paint for rust protection. When you’ve finished washing your vehicle, for the body ensure you remove moisture and dampness, especially around the windows. Apply a wax coating with a soft cloth at least once or twice a month for a glossy finish. Keep your Jimny in a garage, away from direct sunlight, wind, and rain.

ON TROUBLE SHOOTING AND EMERGENCIES

The Suzuki LJ50 Owners Manual has an an important section on trouble shooting problems. Suzuki ask their Jimny owners to look for changes, in particular to listen for different tones, such as engine or mechanical noises, from the usual ones. Be open to noticing unusual sounds, especially from somewhere unknown or any new sound. Also take notice of any new odours. This advice is provided as a way to detect problems early. Suzuki states if unusual symptoms occur organise a mechanical inspection.

In another interesting section, starter problems are covered at length, reflecting the issues often associated with vehicles with older technology like carburettors and points ignition systems. Suzuki outline a range of ways to diagnose common problems and even provide solutions like push (bump or crash) starting your Jimny if you suspect a discharged battery is causing the starting problem. Modern vehicles with their complex fuel injection and computer engine management systems require sophisticated diagnostic and repair equipment so problem solving is usually best provided by dealerships and vehicle mechanics. It would be unusual to find a modern car owner manual that refers to checking engine ignition timing, for example.   

A section on engine overheating provides useful information for all car owners. In short, if your car's engine overheats take prompt action. Where a fault causes the engine’s cooling to fail, radiator temperature rises and engine performance decreases.

 

The Suzuki LJ50 Owners Manual states the following actions for an overheating Jimny engine:
- Stop your vehicle but don’t turn off the engine
- Idle the engine and monitor the temperature gauge
- Open the engine cover to allow more cooling air to circular over the engine
- When the temperature gauge shows the engine has returned to the normal operating range, shut off the engine

- If the temperature fails to reduce while idling turn off the engine
- Using a cloth over the radiator cap, slowly release steam from the coolant system by loosening the cap "little by little”, being very careful as stream and hot water my blow out.
- Refill the radiator if the coolant liquid is depleted

CARING FOR YOUR JIMNY

These are just a few interesting sections and obviously much of the Suzuki LJ50 Owners Manual is specific to a 1970s era vehicle, reflecting a hands-on approach to vehicle ownership that in many ways is lost with the modern, highly complex computer aided vehicles on our roads today. Nevertheless, the ethos of knowing your vehicle, listening for how it usually operates, actively maintaining and caring for it is, arguably, an important part of owning a Suzuki Jimny. Vehicles with good off-road performance, that are used for off-road driving, often have owners that are mechanically inclined or at least appreciate the need to have a level of technical understanding to get the best out of their vehicle.

 

References:

Suzuki LJ50 1975 Owners Manual