By on May 5, 2014

Alex writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I have recently come into possession of a 1994 Isuzu Trooper (pictured above). 158k, One owner, with good service history until 100k. After that the (affluent) previous owner basically used it as a Home Depot Hauler for 7+ years so besides oil changes and tires, not much was done. That’s fine by me as the truck cost $1600 and it is pretty great running shape.

However, I have noticed a few things that may need attention, or are just plain bothering me. Unfortunately Isuzu forums are pretty sparse due to the waning popularity of these trucks…if you can help me out that would be wonderful.

1. The timing belt was done once at 60k and its gone 98k on it. I heard somewhere the Isuzu timing belt maintenance was switched to every 100k? I think this is a non interference engine, do you think I can squeeze 120k out of the timing belt?

2. I think the Trooper is on the original clutch (Previous owner things he may have changed it but doesn’t remember and doesn’t have documentation. The clutch feels fine however.

3. The trooper has a squeal that is heard when driving slowly (heard when near walls since the sound bounces.) This squeal is heard even when brakes are not pressed. My father in law jacked up the car from the rear and it seems that when the rear wheels turn, there is a rotational squeal every half turn or so. It seems to be coming from the area where the drive shaft meets the rear differential, right after the U-joint. If I go faster than 10 mph you cant hear it, but you can hear it when driving slowly. Maybe some tired seals or something caught in mechanical? Doesn’t affect drive-ability at all.

4. Ripped CV boot in the front driver side. Can i drive it till it starts to creak or is it worth replacing with a Quick-Boot split CV boot from autozone?

Sajeev answers:

Troopers are far from my forte, but perhaps you’ll trade it in for a Crown Vic we can give such a cool and obscure ride a group hug via this esteemed column.

So let’s do it, to it:

  1. A thread from Planet Isuzoo suggests your 6VD1 3.2 SOHC V6 (correct?) is not an interference motor. Probably. But if there’s any doubt, there is no doubt: at your mileage, the Trooper’s had two timing belt changes and the next one is coming up soon. Soon-ish. Can you extend the service intervals?  Is it worth the risk? Don’t be a tight wad: FIX IT as per owner’s manual recommendation.**
  2. Clutches aren’t like timing chains: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, son!
  3. Squeals are usually the realm of slipping belts. This sounds like a “squeak” from a bad bearing. If it isn’t an easy fix, get a replacement assembly from a junkyard with a warranty.  It’s easier to swap axles than diagnose an internal problem. Especially if you aren’t rear axle savvy, don’t learn this particular trade on your own ride.
  4. I’ve never used quick boots before, the big concern is that a CV joint with a ripped boot already has grease contaminated with dirt.  Perhaps the quick boot (when installed correctly) can dramatically increase the life of the CV joint.  Or, if you bought it with a ripped boot, perhaps not. Only you can make an educated guess here, best of luck with that.

**Or sell it and buy the Ford/Chevy SUV equivalent and enjoy a bulletproof timing chain and easy repairs for the rest of your life.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom: 

This is a good time to mention that owning such an obscure machine means one must, absolutely must, own a set of factory shop manuals.  Hell, I bought the FoMoCo ones for my British Ford Sierra before it even landed in the Lone Star State. Even though it’s kinda like a Merkur XR4Ti, it’s different enough to justify the cost of buying the proper manual.



Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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35 Comments on “Piston Slap: Weather The Storm, Trooper!...”

  • avatar

    Did the “affluent” owner add that grill?

    Sajeev hit the nail on the head regarding your Qs. I would also check to see if the driveshaft needs any servicing.

    • 0 avatar

      Grill in car on photo is stock, it’s the “luxury” trim.

      Do a full lube job on the truck: if the driveshaft has zerk fittings, hit those with a grease gun. Replace fluid in differentials and transfer case, change transmission fluid as well. Changing the coolant wouldn’t hurt either. Forget the ‘quick boot,’ replace the axle with a new (non reman) unit off of rockauto. You got the truck for a steal, don’t be afraid to spend a bit of money to get it up to par.

      Try jacking up the rear wheels and spinning them by hand and listening for the noise.

      I think it’s silly to suggest a 1990s domestic SUV is preferable to one of these 5spd Troopers. They are incredibly overbuilt in terms of running gear, and will last a very long time. Yes parts availability isn’t as good as an Explorer or Tahoe, but you also won’t be nickel and dimed to death with fuel pumps, ball joints, and transmissions.

      • 0 avatar

        Had one myself. All the advice from Sajeev is good. Also the advice to make sure you aren’t faced with bearing or driveshaft problems, as they can go catastrophic quickly if left unattended.

        And as to the no fuel pumps mentioned above, I do dissent on that one. Went through a series of fuel pumps, about four, fortunately under warranty, before a shrewd mechanic suggested changing both the pump and its housing. Apparently a grounding issue. Ran for many many thousand miles after that with no problems.

        The split boot seems like a good idea to me, it can save you some money while you are fixing other things that should be done on a newly acquired used vehicle.

        In the worst case, it won’t cost that much, and will probably extend the life of the underlying parts. In the end, you will want to do a full refresh if there appears to be significant noise indicating extreme wear. But I have also gone a long time with a split boot in a sandy environment, albeit in a Beetle. Split boots are great, if you don’t mind taking a chance that the corner is too shot. But usually, if it isn’t acting up severely at the time you replace the boot, you will probably get a good bit of life out of that repair before having to lay out more. Unless you can do the job yourself, which saves you a lot of labor cost. Then you might just want to go with a full repair, though still your option.

        They are virtually indestructible…a poor man’s Land Rover Defender. We had two. Once my wife drove mine, and after she was tired of fitting our young son’s seat into the back of a Subaru Turbo XT, she decided she wanted one too. She could drive a stickshift by then, but wanted an auto trans. We found one, rare, and we had both for several years.

        Only reason we got rid of them is that we moved to a more urban environment, and our son became old enough to not need a car seat.

        So she went for a suspension modded Corolla LS and I went for a Jeep Cherokee Sport that had a lot less miles. But I would buy another one today if I were motivated to have another SUV.

    • 0 avatar

      He didn’t add the grille, but it definitely didn’t come with those painted black wheels. This is the limited (or “L”) version with headlamp wipers,chrome wheels, and chromed side mirrors.

      I doubt his current affluence due to the wheel choice though. I’ll also comment that the trooper is one of those always-better-two-tone cars. And the 96+ restyled ones look so much newer, even though they just got cosmetic upgrades.

      • 0 avatar

        @CoreyDL re your better two tone comment. You are absolutely correct. I had a solid Navy Blue one and my wife later opted for a two tone Gold/Tan bottom, White top one. Looked much nicer.

        But personally I prefer the older looking pre 96 ones. But then, I think Land Rover Defenders are one of the best looking SUV’s ever made, also.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, Sajeev’s advice is correct.

  • avatar

    This isn’t the SUV you’re looking for…*waves hand*

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Do the timing belt, change the fluids, lube the drive shafts. You may get lucky with a new CV boot, but the shop time for that will be almost as much as a CV joint replacement. One’s a gamble, and one’s a sure thing. Your choice.

    The shop should be able to diagnose your squeak when it’s on the hoist.

    Sounds like you got a good deal on a good truck. Now you need to take care of it.

    • 0 avatar

      Sounds like he got an OK deal on a truck which needs several hundred dollars in deferred maintenance catch-up. But at least he doesn’t have the fail-prone automatic.

      Also, it IS rare to find a Limited with manual.

      • 0 avatar

        Don’t know about the overall track record of the automatic, but my wife put close to 100K on one that she got with about 85K on it, and never had a transmission problem. Never heard another Trooper owner complain about their automatics, though for the most part, that was the rarer option, at least in their early days.

  • avatar

    If you’re going to replace the boot, might as well just replace the whole damn thing. Just a little bit of extra work, and you’re already well into the replacement process to get that boot off.

    Sometimes you can pull off the front cover fairly easy and get a visual on that timing belt. Or just replace it.

    The squeak sounds like the input bearing on your axle. I would not recommend a junk-yard axle. The replacement could have worse problems then the one on your vehicle. I’ve never worked on a Isuzu trooper, but it shouldn’t be too difficult. Pull the driveshaft off, unbolt the input shaft, pull out the seal and bearing. Hopefully it’s not pressed in there.

    • 0 avatar

      The caveat to just replacing the entire front axle is that cheapo reman units are often of dubious quality. I’ve had remans start clicking within 3 months of replacement. My approach is that if the tear is caught early and there’s plenty of grease inside, then replace the boot. An OEM axle will last the life of the vehicle if the boots are kept intact. If the tear wasn’t caught in time and the innards are contaminated with water and dirt, then I’ll spring for a new, non-OEM unit. These strike me as a happy middle ground of longevity and affordability. OEM axles are usually insanely overpriced.

      i also agree that getting any sort of bearing from the junkyard is just plain silly. There’s a good chance you’ll be re-doing that same job again soon. Get your hands on a new American or Japanese bearing, stay away from the Chinese and Korean ones. My brother and his other mechanic friends avoid those like the plague. All of those Hyundais that have so much trouble with wheel bearings failing prematurely started to make sense all of a sudden. Also, just because it says Timken or SKF does not guarantee an American or Austrian bearing respectively. Both outsource to Korea. Conversely, my brother recently bought a Moog bearing for a Tacoma and it was made in Japan.

  • avatar

    “Or sell it and buy the Ford/Chevy SUV equivalent and enjoy a bulletproof timing chain and easy repairs for the rest of your life.”

    The Ford 4.0 SOHC would like a word with you.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    It’s easy to tell when you need a new clutch: the marcels no longer marceau very well; the engagement point wanders; the car moves out from a dead stop as well as a recalcitrant child on a monday school morning.

    Sajeev’s right: you obtained a real steal of a deal, so show it some love in the parts and service department and you’ll have a faithful friend for many more years.

  • avatar

    I really have a more dubious view of this Trooper than some of these others up here. I never hear good things on their reliability prospects – especially those who try to DD them. Between the auto transmission woes (doesn’t apply here) and various rust, electrical, and trim, CV/bearing issues it just always seems like they’re not worth it.

    I’ve been tempted by a nice two-tone loaded Trooper or SLX here or there**, but then reviews ward me off.

    If you want a DD cheapo SUV, I’d suggest you take the Ford/GM advice and get an equivalent. It’ll be better on reliability, parts, forum support, and headaches for you. Perhaps an Explorer Limited or Mountaineer (with the 5.0), as I’m thinking you’re in a “pearl over tan” mood.

    But if you’re feeling premium-90s-Japanese, spend a little more and go QX4.

    **Have always liked the styling. Still do.

    • 0 avatar

      Auto transmission is in fact a weak link (ironically it is a GM unit, 4L30E), but even then they’ll make it to 130-140k most of the time depending on severity of use.

      I don’t think they rust less or more than equivalent 1990s SUVs.

      Ford Explorer of that era you’ve got weak front ends (ball joints), weak transmission, SOHC timing chain tensioner trouble, and an interior that falls apart. Rust is very much an issue on Explorers, spring perches and rear quarter panels/rockers go first.

      Chevy Blazer also has front suspension problems (idler arm), and a slew of fueling issues including but not limited to: failed fuel pump, fuel injector spider leaks. Better than Fords on rust, but will also rust out (rear tailgate, bottoms of front fenders). 4L60E is a bit of a crapshoot, some have good luck, others don’t. Like the Ford, interior/exterior trim is also not very sturdy, and electrical accessories fail with regularity.

      At the end of the day, anything this old will have its issues. I’d argue the Isuzu on the whole will have fewer, but parts and expertise are not as easy to come by when it’s time to repair. Pick your poison!

      • 0 avatar

        I shall disagree with you on the rust. It’s very easy to find a Jimmy/Blazer/Bravada with no rust on it, not so with the Trooper. The GM models also have the ubiquitous, well-known 4.3 which is excellent in most regards except MPG.

        I’ll defer on the Explorer issues, but I had not heard of them – was this only with the 4.0 or also with the 5.0? They do rust unless kept very clean, but I’ve seen some upper trim ones which have been taken care of. The Mountaineers seem to fair better in this regard.

        It’s funny how the Blazer models were clearly made of better metal than the Suburban models.

        • 0 avatar

          Fair enough. I think a lot of the time Troopers have huge plastic fender flares that can hide a lot of the rust so at least I don’t spot it as easily. While I see many blazers without rust, in my apt complex there is a 2000-ish Blazer (stacked headlights) where the bottoms of the front fenders are in full bloom. The rear painted steel bumpers are also susceptible (just like the Z71 Tahoes with painted steel rather than chromed bumpers).

          The 4.3 engine itself is like you said a sturdy durable unit, but it seems like every auxiliary system hanging off of it is suspect, particularly the fueling side of things. If you smell raw fuel driving down the highway, oftentimes it’s coming from a Blazer of that era limping along in the right lane.

      • 0 avatar

        I have a 98 Blazer with 215k and it’s starting to rust around the wheel wells at the back. Surely 16 years of Minnesota winters haven’t helped it any. The mileage does kind of suck, but it’s my secondary vehicle so I’m not too worried about.

        When you say suspension problems, what should I look for? I’ve finally gotten most of the delayed maintenance done (bought used 2 years ago), but the suspension is my last on the list. It’s fairly easy to get it rocking just grabbing hold of the roofrack and giving it a good yank.

        • 0 avatar

          At that age and mileage, I’d say shocks and struts all around for starters. I hear the idler and pitman arms are common culprits of nasty creaks in the front end, although lubing the zerk fittings up front can solve many issues. In a perfect world every single bushing would be replaced at that age, but that’s hardly worth the expense unless they have failed outright.

      • 0 avatar

        The 91-94 Explorers had the broken trim issues, the 95-01 models only suffer from broken door handles inside.

        I’ll agree on the weak transmission on the sixes, though the OHV 4.0 while gutless, gets the job done with minimal drama and bullet-proof like durability, runs better than the 4.3 as well, and feels faster in DD duties. Front ends are more durable than the GM counterparts. GM cars/trucks that use the 1970s SLA setup (the S-10 Blazers in 2wd used the same 1978 GM A/G body front end) tend to eat up bushings and ball joints in 100k, my 95 Explorer finally needed a front end at 250,000 miles, and it still has the same rubber bushings in it as it had from the St. Louis plant 19 years ago.

        If I were to get another Explorer, I’d get a 96-up V8 model, you get something that will rust out, but the drivetrain will last forever. Mine is a Texas car so it’s virtually brand new underneath it, and has 328,000 miles on it, with just routine maintentnce and fixing what breaks on it when it happens (not that often)

        • 0 avatar

          Must be those smooth Texas roads :) My brother’s and his friends’ bread and butter are balljoints on Ford SLA front ends (F150, Explorer, Expedition, etc). This is in central PA btw. I think the V8s are a good bet. Beefier 4R70W transmission, tried and true small block engine. I hear the bays are pretty tight for doing spark plugs. My coworker here in Indiana has a 1999 with 180k, besides some rust and the inevitable lower ball joints, it seems to be a pretty solid rig.

          I used to ride in a USDA explorer, a fleet-grade 1998 SOHC 4.0 4wd. Great engine power wise, and I liked riding in it despite the vinyl seats. Transmission crapped the bed at 58k miles of easy use. I think one of the door pulls had failed by then as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Best alternative: Jeep Cherokee Sport with the 4.0L inline six…tough as steel, almost as agile as a Wrangler, a lot more room, and not so much of the insane premium due to the fact that every outdoorsy type young man and woman between sixteen and thirty wants to own one, mostly for style points.

  • avatar

    My sister had one of these and it was very reliable. The NE winters did it no favors but it was tough to kill. The perfect SUV if you ask me. Roomy, economical and tough. Big problems were exh manifold and a gas tank line that broke off right at the tank.

  • avatar

    1. The 6VD1 3.2 V6 is NOT an interference engine. It’s also not difficult to change either. My local shop only charged $275 labor to do it on my rodeo.
    The 3.5L 6VE1 WAS an interference engine but they didn’t go in the troopers until 98-99.

    2. If the clutch feels fine leave it alone.

    3. Something to check for this squeal is the Rotors. I had a trooper that with 180k miles I hadn’t changed the rotors and the brakes had worn and created a raised edge around the outside of the rotor that rubbed on the pads even without the brakes pressed. Like you said you heard it most when passing a building or another car because the sound bounced back and it would only really start around 20-25 mph. With the car jacked up and turning the wheels you could hear a faint grinding that when I took the calipers off went away. So check the rotors for a raised edge from wear that is rubbing. With 165k miles or so if they are original rotors that may be your issue. The front are a little bit of a pain as you need the special isuzu two lug front axle nut socket that you can only get online or at NAPA for about $15 to get the front rotors off and the bearings will come out when you pull it off. If you are going to do this it would be a good time to change the front cv axles since they go through the front hub you have to remove to change the rotors anyway if the boots are worn.

    4. DONT USE THE QUICKBOOTS! They are a waste of time. I tried them and they lasted about 3 months. You can get the shafts with boots for about $50 each. DO NOT BUY THE SHAFTS WITH THE INNER HUB INCLUDED. I tried that and couldn’t get the inner hub loose. Just but the shaft with inner/outer boot. If you are changing the front rotors anyway most of the work is done already to change the shafts.

    If you are changing the shafts it’s probably a good idea to replace the ball the ball joints too while you are in there as well.

  • avatar

    After reading your comments, I had to go count my repair library. Since retirement, I have amassed a 64 tome selection, some of which are the factory 800 page type. Damn good to have around. Of course, a sensible man would have the digital, but we know that answer already.

  • avatar

    Other than the low speed squeeky thing, I generally agree with the foregoing comments. Those, I think may be something in the rear brakes, like a stone or a bent shield, etc.
    Regarding quick boots, I have used these twice with mixed results. These were precipitated by lack of available cash, on cars that were near to scrapping. One was done in my driveway in March using a hair dryer to generate the needed heat. No self-respecting shop would use these, but they are adequate for DIY. Do not expect long life. If installed properly, they are fine. But they are difficult to install properly. A shop can install a new “stretch over” boot with a special tool for cheap which would be much better.

  • avatar

    No. My wife owned one, despite my insistence that she NOT buy such a beast. It came in handy when moving a couple times, and that 4wd was great in snow. Otherwise, money pit. And you say the owner before used it as a Home Depot/get the hardware type of car? I’ll bet there’s a LOT more needed to work on. I owned an Audi 5000 wagon someone had used that way. Not only did I constantly find nails, screws, and drywall pieces somewhere in the car on a daily basis, they’d done nothing but gas, oil, and battery it. I needed a car, it was a tough time, and it lasted about three years, started daily, even in Chicago’s evil winters, but every time I went to fix one thing, I saw three or more things that needed fixing. I liked that car, but, we had to part company .. ’cause someone was gonna die, and I didn’t think it should be ME.

    • 0 avatar

      While I liked the 88 or 89 manual 4 cyl I had, my wife thought that it, and her 92 4 cyl A/T were money pits, though a lot of it was deferred maintenance that we were doing in the mid to late 90’s. Bought both used with under 100K miles, sold both around the 200K miles range a few years later. Never had a major failure, but brakes, suspension pieces, minor electrical hassles, etc. Not continuous, but something would always happen sooner or later. I took it in stride as being part of the price of owning a used car, but perhaps I was too forgiving, since I liked them. Have to admit overall I liked my 95 Jeep Cherokee Sport with the six cyl. a good bit more, overall.

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