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Hi, just agreed to purchase of a 1997 Sidekick Sport with 30K miles, auto, loaded and in very good original condition. Stereotypical 'older lady grocery getter' (original owner) although it has been used offroad a fair bit. What do you recommend to check or update to keep it reliable? Took it off-road on some challenging terrain and I was totally impressed with it's crawling ability with summer tires. Looking for reliability and near stock configuration, off-road tires, maybe a 2" lift. Mainly SoCal desert terain. Thx.

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Hi, JT...Congrats on the '97 Suzuki Sidekick find...2-door 4x4 I'm guessing?...a low-mileage gem, indeed!

This vehicle is intimately familiar.  I did a publicity challenge for Chevrolet/Geo in the mid-'nineties, taking two 2-door 4x4 Trackers through the Rubicon Trail, a first for any Sidekick/Tracker.  Partnered with CALMINI's owner Steve Kramer, he was on board for his first trip through the Rubicon.  We had one GM engineer and a media photographer with us.

GM allowed us to put a very mild lift on my primary/support Tracker, plus a traction differential at the rear axle and a 5000# winch with prototype bumper at the front.  Steve quickly developed a 2-1/2" lift kit that later became a Calmini Products offering, the popular 2" suspension lift kit offered to this day.  (CALMINI Products 1989-98 Sidekick/Tracker 2" lift kit.)  The second vehicle, at GM insistence, was virtually stock with only an add-on aluminum skid plate/pan, a protective device that Steve fitted beneath each vehicle.  Our support Tracker's "over-sized" BFG tires were a mere 29" diameter on stock Geo wheels.

This trip became my high water mark for the Rubicon Trail.  A customary 8-12 hour Jeep trip became a 46-hour marathon complete with Hi-Lift jacking and episodes of winching along the way.  Nonetheless, the Trackers were plenty up for the task, and to everyone's delight, the feat earned bragging rights and became a national ad campaign for the Geo Tracker.  The lead/support Tracker made it onto the SEMA Show floor at that year's GM/Chevrolet performance booth!

So, when you talk about SoCal desert terrain, I think of those 4WD Trackers (Sidekicks).  You would definitely benefit from the CALMINI 2" or greater lift and oversize tires for ground clearance.  If your finances permit, there is room for some improvement in skid plate protection and an ARB Air Locker at the rear.  We used a Loc-Right prototype differential that created dicey handling (torque steer) on pavement with the short wheelbase, but the device did improve traction.  For any short wheelbase 4x4, I much prefer a manually controlled locker like the ARB.

That would do it.  Your Sidekick is a substantial vehicle with a great chassis and build quality, ample axles and steering, plenty of stamina.  CALMINI has these models down to an art form with a number of off-road upgrades, see the listings at:  http://www.calmini.com.

Moses

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