Project Isuzu VehiCross Part 1: What Are We Getting Ourselves Into?

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In order to help future buyers, we are going to list the common problems the Isuzu Vehicross can have.

1) Bumper Brace Rust: Surprisingly, this is the one issue our VX did not have.  The support beam for the front bumper can catch salty water and rust from the inside out.  If you lay below the truck you can find this support beam hiding beneath the plastic bumper cover.  Poke at it a bit.  If it flakes apart, it's rusty.  Luckily it is a relatively easy shape and most racing shops can fabricate a new one from the old rusted brace.  

2) Oil Burning:  The 3.5L Isuzu V6 burns a small amount of oil.  It is not enough to cause any smoke, but enough to make the oil level drop between tanks of gas.  This is a problem with the Trooper as well.  The cause is the pistons of these engines.  Isuzu only designed six drain holes into the original piston.  Overtime, these can become clogged with debris, especially if the oil is not changed religiously.  Isuzu does offer pistons with ten drain holes which solves the problem.  Obviously this requires an entire engine teardown and rebuild.  Some people have been able to clean their pistons with SeaFoam and a few oil flushes.  We will try that down the road.  Currently, we keep a spare bottle of 5W-30 in the trunk and check our oil level every time we fill our gas tank.  This is what many VX owners end up doing.

3) Broken ABS: The electronic ABS module in the VX will fail over time.  The ABS light will come on and the ABS will cease to work.  Since this is a failure of the ABS module only, the TOD will still work.  There are a few companies that offer to repair broken ABS modules for a reasonable price.  We will be trying one of these services out to see if it works.  Many VX owners just ignore the problem (to be honest, the factory brakes are pretty pathetic and even though we have bald tires and no ABS, we've yet to experience a lockup).

4) Loose Steering: VXs have old school worm gear steering boxes.  Unlike rack and pinion steering racks, the steering gears will wear over time and require the backlash to be readjusted.  Rack and pinions are self-adjusting and require no such maintenance.  Most times tightening the adjustment a few degrees will cure all of the slop (though beware, steering boxes can also wear out, which usually requires a replacement or at the minimum a rebuild).  Since the VX employx a draglink steering system, there are a number of parts with rubber bushings that can wear as well.

5) Bad Leather: The leather Isuzu used is of the very cheap variety.  It needs a lot of care to remain in good shape and most used VXs will have ripped arm rests or cracking driver's seats.  Our seats look to be salvageable, but the arm rest and steering wheel will need to be re-covered.  There is also a Momo VX wheel available from Japan.  If we can find one of these, we will use it instead.  The passenger and rear seats can get away with a good clean and condition, but the driver's seat may need new paint.  We will be taking our VX to a tack shop to get their recommendations.  Hey, if a tack shop can keep a saddle sandwiched between a sweaty cowboy and horse in good shape, they should be able to handle our seats no problem.  Tack shops are pretty common down here, since this is horse country.  They may also be able to help us scrub out the paint left on the front seats by the previous contractor owner.

 

You can see how cracked the leather is on our driver's seat.  Nothing is split yet, but without some attention soon it will and a cheap repair will get much more expensive.  You can also see why we wanted the red leather instead of boring gray.  

6) Window Tracks: The windows will come loose in their tracks and the windows can cock sideways as they go up and down.  Additionally, the seals at the top of the window frame can suck into the window and jam it on a rainy day.  There is no easy or universal fix for this and will require us to engineer a solution once we take the door panels off.  The seals may be fixed by gluing them back onto the door panels.  The tracks are a different story. We've seen a few different solutions to this issue and will decide on the best one once we've determined what the cause of the loose windows really is.

7) Wet carpets: There are three different causes for wet carpets.  One cause is the wiring harness grommet in the firewall.  Many times this gets pulled through and allows water inside.  If only the driver's side carpets are wet, this is usually the case.  The second cause is the windshield.  It seems the sealant Isuzu used was terrible and applied poorly.  Over time it will fail and allow water in on a very rainy day.  Pulling the windshield and having it resealed is the solution here (along with praying the leakage hasn't caused the windshield frame to rust).  The third cause is some of the unibody joints.  In some cases the seam sealant between body joints was not properly applied.  In others, some of the unibody welds crack.  These bad joints are usually located on the transmission tunnel or sometimes where the firewall meets the door frame.  After doing some poking around, the dry rotted seal on the bottom of our windshield leads us to believe we have the windshield issue.

8) Hot floors: The exhaust runs directly below the passenger floorboard.  Couple that with a poorly vented engine bay and everything in the body gets heat soaked after any decent drive (after an hour you can give yourself a mild burn just by leaning on the front fenders).  The insulation on the floor is rather pathetic and actually fractures after a decade of heating.  Wrapping the exhaust in this area helps.  Dynamat would also help keep the floors cool.  The transmission tunnel also gets rather warm.

This is a long list and it gets even longer when you add the following issues that this particular VehiCross was saddled with:

1) Battery.  We actually fixed this moments after we signed the title.  The bank we notarized the title at had a handy dandy parts store next door.  We walked over and bought a new battery right there.  They were even kind enough to install it for us (since we didn't have tools with us).  Unfortunately this lead us to…

 

The above is completely true.  Thank you Autozone for your free installation service!

2) Battery cable ends.  After 14 years ours no longer tightened properly.  We would have to replace these to keep the terminal from popping off under startup (this happened more than once)

3) Tires.  Our VX came equipped with dry rotted and bald Nexen tires (which we're ashamed to say we drove for another 3,000 miles before replacing).  This was fine with us: we're a bit picky when it comes to tires, so this gives us the chance to justify installing something better.  For now we will stick with the Isuzu's factory wheels since ours are in really good shape.  We also have nowhere to store spare wheels currently, and even if we did, new wheels are a bit outside our budget.  This will limit our tire choices a bit, since the wheels are 18″, but not enough to force us into some wussy CUV tire.

 

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1 comment

  1. I an original owner of a 2000 silver Vehicross. Very fun vehicle to drive. Handles more like a sports car on the road. Does not seem top heavy, and can go off road better almost any stock SUV or Truck. I will never part with mine. It now has 120000 miles and looking to try and find another low mileage one or one to do a complete frame up rebuild as a project. Thanks for posting your project and look forward to your updates.
    I have noticed that Used Vehicross are going up in value. seeing prices $6000 higher than last year. Guess that if there were only 4000 made a fair percentage have been crashed or totaled by now. My guess is there are less than 2500 left. Best of luck with your project!

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