1.8 liter Suzuki Sidekick SPORT Secrets [J18]

The Suzuki SideKick Sport 1.8Liter J18 chain drive cam DOHC engine,
There are no J18 GEO trackers.
The 4 speed transmisson checks are a tad different than the G16.
1996 to 1998 coverage only.

The J18 is not a free running engine, like the G16.

The Suzuki books on this “Sport” car are very limited. (just a tiny 60page 1/4″, 5mm thick supplement sold and vary hard to find.)
If you know the J20, 2.0L I-4 engine, you are at home. J20 to J18 swap?
The J engine is twin cam and chain drive, unlike the G16.
The J20 are used on Vitara’s in 1999-2002 and the J18 is used on the Esteem 1989-2002. (all are swap candidates but the Esteem crank sensor will not work here.)

See my ENGINE ID (identify) page here, look for 1.8L information.

See my new 2.0 (1.8 near same) engine parts photos/drawing/sensor finder pages. 

See random documents and photos and spec.’s here, in this PDF.

New documents 2014, from friend in Germany. (9 pages fuse box, specs. and basic engine checks, flow chart (PDF)

Head Torque Sequence and spec. 1.8 and 2.0L

See, how to check and find cause of bad spark, here. (CMP/CKP) tests.

  • Pull the outboard side of the rear lamp unit rearward far enough to unsnap the two ball studs on the outboard side of the lamp housing from the two plastic grommets in the quarter panel.
  • Disconnect the wire harness connector from the lamp socket plate connector.
  • Remove the lamp from the quarter panel.
  • Remove the two plastic grommets from the quarter panel and discard.

Firmly grasp the socket on the socket plate on the back of the rear lamp unit housing for the bulb that is being removed and rotate it counterclockwise about 30 degrees to unlock it.idle


< click me to zoom!

Is a completely redesigned Sidekick/Vitara (see Vin code for engine, is engine code 2 for 1.8Liter DOHC) I think of it, as a pre 1999 2.0L– Vitara. <see engine here…

Suzuki has 56 engines (just for cars/trucks alone) but this engine is from a family of “J” engines.
The 4 cylinder, DOHC family. It is the “J” series and has no relationship to the “G” series at all.
Nut shell information:
The “J” series of engines are used in may Suzuki vehicles. (even now) and do in fact share parts. this fact is key, to finding parts., both new and used.
Note the structural oil pan.!
Cars?: with “J” engines are,,, Sports, Esteems, Vitara’s, Aerio’s, SX4s, some Grand Vitara’s and 2.3L Geo Trackers (a close match for parts, DOHC,2 cams not one.)
The Unique thing about SPORTS, is that it is not just a simple engine change option, its a whole new body too. (wider) new suspension, & engine.
Some dealers, put stickers on the side of G16 Sidekicks and it says SPORT, sorry it is not. Check the VIN or pop the hood, a J18 it is (note front oil filler cap?)

If you have an EPC (electronics parts catalog) in your greasy mitts, then you can see all the parts, that match in 1 second flat. The EPC allows searches to see what other Suzuki’s, this part x? fits.
If you have a car made by Suzuki, open the glove box, see the OP guide. In there, is the service schedule; Do you see lash mentioned there, NO!
This engine has HLA (hydraulic lash adjusters) NO more lash settings, like the G16.
The new engine is chain drive, for 2 DOHC cams (intake cam and exhaust cam) and HLA. The front cover is new.
If they make noise they are gummed up or oil pressure is nill.
If you ignore a bad hydraulic chain adjuster, you can kiss off the chain, it will beat itself to death in short order and fly off and then the engine head valve smash the pistons and END OF ENGINE.
This is an INTERFERENCE ENGINE, if remove the chain and roll the crank, the valves do it. FOR SURE. Do a leakdown test.
Look again, NO DISTRIBUTOR! it’s now D.I.S, Distributor less, Ignition system, with 4 COP coils,Coil over plugs.
This engine, an under-stoked 2.0L has an electric EGR. and dedicated, EGR MAP sensor, called MDP. Plus a new DTC P0106 for the Map. The vacuum EGR parts are Gone for ever! (three cheers!)
This new engine. abandons, the 8V Speed Density system, for the air density system using a real MAF now hiding inside the throttle body. (Suzuki don’t sell it, either) See after market MAF here.
The throttle body is new with inside MAF and a new TPS that is devoid of the old silly idle switch. Just set the TPS to 0.5v and all is good. That 0.5v activates idle controls.

The M/T clutch now has a hydraulic slave drive (actuator pedal system) (MC and SLAVE) NOW! The CABLE is GONE.
The new 1.8L engine was later stroked up to 2.0L in 1999 and share many of the same internal parts (head is same) New 2.0L has a longer throw crank.
New body, new 4″ wider frame (to fit V6) and all new suspension and brakes.
Yes, there are vast amounts of code -58xxx and -60xxxx parts(1.6L G16 era) used in the car, vast fiddly parts, like seats. trim.. screws,nuts, bolts, bracket, etc.. yes.
The hyphen suffix codes for 1.8L parts (SUZ) is 77Enn and 2.0L. (USA)
I have a body drawing for the DASH board here just for computer brains. (ask all others part numbers ore drawings, I have them all).

Books, facts, rules, identification, VIN, Online FSM, etc:
If your Operator guide is missing, ask Suzuki for one. Or pray they have it here.

When buying parts, all good stores, in the good ol’ USA, ask for the VIN first. if not?, watch out.!
Most stores, brick or mortar,will think “G” engines and now you are screwed! (x10 that if mail ordered, with x3 shipping costs, ie. shipped 3 times to get it right)
They have no reason for this jive at all, this car has a UNIQUE VIN!!

Many days now, the online links to Suzuki are dead. (chapter 11, not paying the electric bill?) ( online stores have gone bye bye) see below for the one I can find, today)
Suzuki will ask the VIN and you can look up the partial list here, (call them and ask for parts, email them or just look)!

Rule 1, Most Track-kicks G16 89-98 parts, don’t fit any 1.8L Sports 99% or so, not the engine, not body, but maybe some minor plastic trims, inside.?
Rule 2. Some folks did put a 2.0L engine in the SPORT and the stock EFI was happy, the stock MAF could handle W.O.T…no problem with 200cc more SUCK.(flow)
I think, you can slide a good 2.0L block under a 1.8L head. The head has the same part number.

If buying used parts or a car, ask seller for the VIN, if no VIN, look for the oil filler cap, seen on his online photos of engine? IS IT at the front edge of valve cover. bingo, the 1.8L.

Here is a real VIN, note the codes.. notice the 6th digit, it’s a 2, and 2 means 1.8L (0 = 1.6liter, G16A or B in USA)
An Example. (USA VIN 17 SAE format)
Example 1: (seen here)
JS3 T D 2 1 C? V 4 100001
JS3 = made in Japan (not CAMI)
T: Car line Sidekick
D =Gross veh weight class.
2 = Engine type (usa is always 0 or 2) 0= 89-98 8v or 16v 2 = 1.8L
1= design sequence
C= body type C= Canvas top 2door. V= hardtop Van 4door
? – check digit. ( its just the digits added up, a check sum code to prove whole number is not corrupted.)
V= year = 1997
4 = Assembly plant, Iwata Japan.
100001 = serial number of car body. (a fake S/N)

There few and poor after market SPORT only manuals, for best play, you must have the factory 1.6L Sidekick and the 1.8L Suz. Supplement manual.(the latter, is very very rare, and best to have)
The Supplement covers EFI very well and all the new added DTC’s
After market books, you have:
Haynes books states, “excludes 1.8L and v6. ” The Chilton’s 66500 states 1.8L but is very limited. In fact very poor.

Vast On line information is here, at Mitchell’s and Alldata and at Chilton’s.

(you must pay, to subscribe and view) Alldata is the best, Chilton mixes up parts, a years, and engine parts. Mitchells is great, but only runs under Internet Explorer. (sadly)

I see many sites showing diagnostic help for the SPORT but has no idea at all, that it is an air density system. MAF based. They talk about MAP fueling, and is all wrong, that.
This engine sparks (load/RPM) and injects based on MASS AIR flow, RPM and LOAD (and coolant temp.’s) The MAP (MDP) is for checking only EGR operations.

Parts : The same ol’ Same ol; (yes, BULL)
Most stores have this bad habit of selling 1.6L parts for 1.8L owners cars, they are clueless, in many cases. (not just the engine parts, all parts for Sports.)
They have trouble mixing the two names both called Sidekicks, not realizing 2 vastly different bodies and engines.
Many assume (clueless! clerks) that if the screen shows only 1 motor?, in a store, or on their web site, that there is only one engine, (false! there are 3) and that the parts on the screen fit a SPORT, (all lies)
ONLY VIN code 2, parts fit the engine, (and most 2.0L, if crossed correctly)

1.8L (most stores sell no thermostat for the 1.8L or the wrong one! some even have it in stock and don’t know it fits perfect.
The sport thermostat is very unique, and most makers have a unique part number for it.
The ESTEEM 1.8L STAT fits.

My parts finder, 1.8L parts shows the correct thermostat and other 1.8L parts.

My last 1.8 page is here,idle speed problemsISC failures, etc(new)

My hard to Buy parts page has some 1.8L coverage.

Clutch secrets of the1.8L at the end.and new info on how to test it.

Tune up. (photo is of v6 but they use the same COPS)C.O.P, = Coil Over Plugs.
hint 1, you can buy new COP boots for $12 not whole cops for $100, try that.

In 1998 Suzuki changed from fire wall igniter COPS to integrated COPS.
Coil OVER Plugs (spark plugs)

1996/7 1.8L old COPignition coils.

1998 1.8L New COP ignition coils.

These COP parts can not be mixed. If you attempt to drive the 98 COP with a 97 igniter, you get 180degree inversion and the COPS burn to a crisp.

1.8L Engine oil spec.

Gear lubes:
5sp and transfer case use GL4 (or GL4/GL5 dual rated lube) GL means gear lube. (I run dual rated lube here GL-4/5 there are many makers of this lube)

The axles just run GL 5,EP hypoid gear oil, never ever run GL4 only rated lube here., or you will burn it the gears.

If you let the chain snap, the engine blows up. A tragic end of life.
The hydr. tensioner needs changing out, with a new chain, avoid, non name Chain chains (soft metal). Buy kits, with top brand names ore be sorry, later.
As the tensioner wears, it can gall and jam, if it jams the chain whips and goes bad,(stretches) avoid this at all costs… and win.
Minor rattle at start is ok, but must go to zero noise fast, after starting…
If unsure, what is making noise. buy a stethoscope for $3 and listen, and drop all accessory belts and run motor for 2min. max. noise gone now?
Amazingly, Rockauto.com does not list a 1.8 chain kit. or piece parts (a shocker… to me…)
Chains, sprockets and gears are all made of top metallurgical quality materials with very special tempering processes. Harding after stamping and very tight quality control.
Racing motor cycles you learn this quickly, cheap chains don’t last, they stretch fast. When they do, kiss off good sprockets. Get the best chain you can.

Some of the best chain in the world, is from JAPAN or from Diamond (no automotive,sadly). Not from China made by NONAME. Sorry.
RK JAPAN Co., Ltd., I have motorcycles with the cam chain and drive chain from RK, RK is real good. Sadly, not found for Suzuki motors.

Don’t get me wrong, I could care less, what dirt is under the factory floor, I do care about the design, quality (consistency) and controls. Gobsmack me, TOP NAMES do that!
Ask yourself, do you want to do this once or twice.? Do you recognize any of these odd names?

We want to get the chain right and for it to last, see how this smart fella, felt it hit chain off, and wonders (anyone would) how to get it right. You just sneak up on it. If it hits running BOOM, bent valves.
On all DOHC engines, do a leak down test, as the final step. (interference engines)

One guy, using engine oil flush kit, got the chain tensioner to un-stick and some HLA’s to wake up. God speed with that…

My Review of CHAIN: (and guides)
“The bitterness of poor quality, lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”
The truth on chain’s is, there are 9 crap chains, for every good one sold.
My comments are for fixing the car right, and not selling it next week. (no band aids, no jerry rigs…)
Right, means it runs 250k miles more, not 2.5K.
NO NAME: “makers”

The brand called, blank as sold on fleabay, are crap. And no man on earth, can track or test or review a company called blank, not now, not ever. (nor even an address!!!)
The Flea-bay $40 free shipping kit, 14 parts, now that works out to $2.86 a piece, tell me, how is that price going to be quality. (beer can metal)

Top CHAIN Makers names: (the truth is, many top makers, think what is a Suzuki? Now that they, shut down here, it’s a shrinking business.! Would you tool up for that?)
Suzuki does sell the chains and the tensioner. ($481 for the full kit, plus tax, and must make kit up your self) {2013 price} See my chain cross reference here.

If your 1.8L needed a kit? Here is where I’d get mine. With D.I.D chain, DIADO of JAPAN, are great.

Tsubaki ( Toyota certified) the catalog is hard to find… I gave up.
OSK, made in Japan, used in Toyota’s (Toy never buys junk,ever)

Beck Arnely(Repacked Jap top brand, we are told) Rockauto does sell this chain/tensioner for my V6.1999-06 (I’d buy this for 2.0L up)

Beck’s Ecatalog shows no 1.8L chain or related parts. DANG!

Cloyes? 2.0L at ROCK. 1999 Vitara, they are a top brand.

Cloyes, does not do, 1.8L, that seems the reason,

RK of japan is one of the best. (I can not even find their catalogs..) Ask any motorcyclist, and for sure, any racer. (they sell them in hardness grades )

DNJ??? (the boxes are free of any marks, for country of origin, “which is Illegal, but who’s looking, in the USA, $100 billion flow thru L.A every year from China) (posted off bobtheoil guy)”

Rockauto sells 1.8L DNJ parts, my joke is “Defiantly NOT Japan”.? LOL. Some say they are Taiwanese. no proof. we suspect was Taiwan not China crap. (a moving target,good, bad, good… trust it?)
Domestic & Japanese engine parts (DNJ) is the official answer, h’m told.
DNJ, only if, desperate, IMO.

The $15 Tensioner will be junk, the $48 one, will last. Ask your self, who can make a tensioner for 15 bucks… there is only one answer.
Here are two, 2.0L kits. (sorry, they are not $50 China noNAME kits.)

Go to NAPA. Alway look at NAPA first. They do NOT, sell CRAP,

Autozones pages, are copies of FSM (but less photos). DOHC engine, on chain refit. (not for the feint of heart), I never shop at the ZONE.

Evergreen TK8004 Chevy Suzuki Timing on Amazon
This Seems, to be a quality type to me.


SUZUKI CHAIN KIT cross reference: (I did it carefully)
The same parts are used on all:
ESCUDO SQ420L, ALL 1.8L ESTEEM, All Vitara and Grand Vitara’s SB420, SQ420and SV420G (G mean gas here) 1.8L or 2.0L as used in these cars. SAME KIT.
The Suzuki P/N (revised) new!

Long chain 12761-77E11 (revised #)
Short Chain 12762-77E00
Guide 1 12771-77E00
Guide 2 12811-77E00
Guide 3 top 12PM 12772-77E00
Tension’r 1 hyd. bot. 12831-77E02 (revised)
Tension’r 2 top 12832-77E00

Total cost no shipped. $482 (Jan 1, 2013) not including TAX.

Suzuki gold again?

IGNITION: See 1.8L links here.
The ignition timing is stated, under the the hood; open hood;then look up, see it? with a vacuum map? (USE Federal. rules) see spec there, on all kicks made in the USA.

The timing is adjusted at the rear CAM/CMP sender. (loosen screws, (mark it first! center punch 2 marks,bang,bang ) and then set the timing )
The timing freeze jumper, DLC, can be found on the left strut top (drivers perspective) (in 1999 this jumper ended)
4-6 Degrees BTDC is the static timing at HOT idle for 1.8L.

The Ignition don’t just drift off, or go OFF (like 89 cars), but do check it, to see if the chain jumped.
or that the timing is bouncing, as it sure will, if the CHAIN IS WHIPPING bad. (never under estimated the utility of a timing light!!)
Just look for 5 min with the freeze jumper planted. Watch for gross timing jitter. Do this at every tune up.
Getting DTC P030x (x = 0 to 4)? can be a whipping cam chain, this can set DTCs, via the OBD2 misfire monitor, easy..

Spark gap,.028 to 0.031 inches. 18 ft/lbs torque! no more.
Do not run queer spark plugs, like surface fire, or other rocket sparks. IT’S NOT HEI! Use Stock TYPE J-TIP PLUGS (SINGLE grounded TIP)

HEI means super high voltage, high energy ignition, this car is NOT, HEI.
The timing freeze jumper is linked below:
DLC 1 is 16pins and is OBD2 DLC.
DLC2 is: for the freeze jumper 1996 to 2003, 2004 car, only a Suzuki Scan tool can do the FREEZE. (or as they say, FIX triming)
See bottom of my DLC2 page. for 1.8L NEW location (moved from 1.6L R/F head light shell to the left strut) Look in both places for the DLC2
Timing freeze, #4 to #5 pins. jump black wire to blue/red wire at DLC connector.
Some books show jump D to E but its the same pins as above.
My 2004 car has no DLC2 at all.

Spark sensors.
CMP cam sensors is on the rear of the #2 CAM, and loves to heat soak, hot fail. (car stalls, cools for 10minutes and then you get spark)

CKP, the Crank Sensor (3pin) is behind the flywheel and is reliable is seen here clearly on all J20 and J18 engines.

My DLC Diagnostic Link Connector
, page for the freeze jumper, see the end for 1.8L.

See this chain swap text

J18 history text

Here is a monster text file on the chain swap. and torque and other facts, check it out. (found with Google)(new)

The 4 speed automatic transmission.
The TCM does all shifting in Drive. It does so based on engine RPM, engine load, and rear wheel road speed (VSS). The TCM has tables to decide all these shift points (hard coded TCM memory tables)
The engine temperature also causes the shift points to change, as does driver right foot (TPS)

The TCM box, was deleted, and moved to the confines of the ECU, renaming the ECU to PCM.
This happened for the 1997 model year SPORT.
To get access to the OBD2, transmission scan codes, DTC errors when the OD lamp flashes, use any OBD2 scan tool in the normal above right drivers knee, 16pin connector.
The left column are the old pre 1996 codes, flash codes.
The G16 car, has a yellow below steering shaft, DLC port for flash codes via jump wire. but not this SPORT. I think all Sports need a scan tool here, OBD2.
Code P1600 (missing below) means the ECU cant talk to the TCM (1996 only can this happen) I usually means someone unplugged the TCM box.

Here is a larger list:
J18 cars. the first number is the OBD2 code, and (xx) is flash codes.
P0700 (means, TCM errors, but can’t the ECU can not discover them.(see them) (I think the Suzuki does not use this code, but would show P1600)
P0705 (34) Transmission Range Switch Circuit Malfunction (shifter lever switch assembly)
P0720 (31) OSS Circuit Malfunction (output speed sensor VSS1)
P0725 (52) Engine Speed Input Circuit Malfunction
P0741 (29) TCC Lock-Up Solenoid Performance Or Stuck Off
P0743 (25 Or 26) TCC Lock-Up Solenoid Electrical
P0751 (27) Shift Solenoid ”A” (No. 1) Performance Or Stuck Off
P0753 (21 Or 22) Shift Solenoid ”A” (No. 1) Electrical
P0756 (28) Shift Solenoid ”B” (No. 2) Performance Or Stuck Off
P0758 (23 Or 24) Shift Solenoid ”A” (No. 1) Electrical
P0771 (29) TCC Lock-Up Solenoid Performance Or Stuck Off
P0773 (25 Or 26) TCC Lock-Up Solenoid Electrical
P1600 Serial Communication Problem Between ECM & TCM (first factory only code P1)
P1700 (32 Or 33) TPS Signal Input Malfunction (throttle angle, driver demand for accel or de-accel.)
P1705 (51) ECT Signal Input Malfunction
P1710 (35) Back-Up Signal For Speed Sensor Circuit Malfunction
P1875 (37) 4WD Low Switch Circuit Malfunction

Keep in mind the TCM has many inputs that must work right.
ECT, TPS, 4wd, shift selector. (many sensors are shared between Engine ECU and TCM )
If the OD lamp flashes, you must scan the TCM or you will never know why the TCM is upset? This evidence and corrective actions, can in fact, save the transmission for mechanical failure.
The word PERFORMANCE, above, means, that the TCM tables for speed and load, do not match the sensor readings. (example. transmission slip would do that, or even the solenoid is commanded open, but did not, including a failed command to shift up)

VSS, most these cars have 2 VSS sensors, the transmission tail shaft speed sensor (main) and the old cluster (crude) VSS clicker sensor.
If the TCM sees the tail shaft VSS sensor go dead, it switches to the cluster VSS and my shaft funny but does shift..

I was asked:
QOD: (question of the day)
what are major differences. by year SE418 Suzuki. sport 96-98. J18 engine.
98 new oil pan
97 new rings.
98 new cam caps bolts.
98 new main bearings.
98 new intake manifold
98 new throttle cable.
98 new Throttle body
98 new main intake pipe sets and air cleaner box.
98 new engine fan
98 new Radiator and cap. (coolant)
all years, have unique smog parts, and by country
98 new Ignition coils and less one ignitor pack. ignitor transistors are now in the COP packs. (moved)
97 new alternator.
All years, all ECU/PCM different and by trans type, other reasons and country. (smog, EGR, EVAP systems etc)
98 new rear shocks.
All years new air bags and friends.(controls etc)
97 new steering pump pulley
97, all new brake and throttle and clutch pedals.
98 all new HVAC system.
Do not use the ESTEEM crank sensor on this J18 SIDEKICK SPORT. (the former has too many teeth)
are these major?, I’m not sure, but are different.
The parts list do not state why, only that it is different.
I’m not sure the way.?

New question?, can I put a (example) 1999 2.0L Vitara engine in my 1998 Suzuki sport? (my 1.8L is blown) the J20 in to J18 car.? 
Short answer is yes, but don’t mix heads.
Long answer.
The J20 is stroked by 50cc per cylinder, 200 more. Fact.
Some internal parts are same.
It does bolt in to frame and trans, ok. (can’t speak for Esteem J20s)
The head is first to consider. (is different)
The crank is in fact stroked and has longer throws. and taller block and longer timing chains.
The 2 engines use the same front crank tone wheel, and CKP sensor (p/n matches)
the CMP sensors ARE NOT the same (rear of head) 77E/65D
Different pistons (tops, and my guess center line of piston pins are is different. (and quench shapes)
Different rods.
The engine has 200cc more displacement (longer stroke and more swept area in block)
That displacement div. by 4 is 50 more displacement per jug, so that means the head has larger combustion chambers, or it turns in to a diesel with huge CR. BOOM with mixed head… bad…
Use the original sensors. (except the CKP is same )
and injectors, and manifolds 1.8L do not mix.
Keep the C.O.P’s the same. (coil over plugs, do not mix them,) some have internal transistors, do not mix theses parts.
The injectors are not the same.
Just move the long blocks on only. (sans mans, with out manifolds )
The ECU does work ok with 200cc more, the orig. MAF reads this new higher air flows and does ok, as does the ECU air tables inside. Runs good with the J18 ECU.

The CKP sensor and tone wheel are same (front of crank,same p/n in fact)
but not the CMP. (cam sensor)

I think the old CMP (cam)sensor fits ok on to the newer head.

We do see some J20 engines running a totally different Crank tone wheel (CKP). Do not mix them.! or it will not be fun…

Good luck with your swaps.

Best place for asking questions is FixKick forum.

11 thoughts on “1.8 liter Suzuki Sidekick SPORT Secrets [J18]”

  1. My username is rasmeidirt. Why I cannot log in your site?? I really want to log in the site.

  2. I do not run this site but you can start by creating a new account,
    i just scanned all users , 10 years deep active and banned and there is no “rasmeidirt”
    you typed that wrong or it was never activated.
    so start a new users account.
    good luck to you.

    you are welcome here, so tell me how you do , per above.

    • I set everything up. Check email.

    • I really want to log in my old account with new email I really want to log in my old account with new email

  3. No message in new email address??

  4. Why the attachment cannot be added???

  5. Hi. My 1998 Sidekick JLX 1.8 runs too cold. Let it warm up in driveway until normal, drive on road and the gauge goes down all the way to the cold line. Then it turns on Check Engine Light “exhaust out of spec”. Can you help?

  6. I have a 1998 sport with the j18 it bogs on take off really bad it looks like the exuast cam has been replaced the cam sensor has to be turned all the way tword the passenger side to even run halfway decent


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