20 October 1995

THE ISUZU TROOPER

For the low-down on how to buy a good used Isuzu Trooper, Andrew Pearce visits independent specialist John Wildman at Urchfont Garage, Devizes, Wiltshire

THE Trooper is one of those vehicles which seems to have been around for donkeys years. So its faintly surprising to discover that the first commercial vans arrived only in February 1987, powered by either a 2.3-litre turbodiesel or 2.3-litre petrol engine.

As those early diesels wouldnt pull your hat off, it wasnt long before a 2.8-litre turbo materialised. This – and the square-rigged Estate and van bodies it lived in – stayed much the same until March 1992, when the New Troopers rounded curves and 3.1-litre diesel took over.

Commercial vans have always run alongside the Estates, sharing engines. Pre-1992 estates offered two trim levels: The basic Duty and the plusher Citation, which added a limited slip rear diff, heated front seats, electric mirrors and windows, lamp washers and sundry other enticements. New Trooper estates offer an entry model below Duty level. Vans are Duty-trimmed.

"Troopers have no major mechanical shortcomings and last very well if looked after," says John Wildman. "A used cars general condition gives an idea of how its been treated. Preferably go for a vehicle with a complete service history whose condition matches the claimed mileage."

Engine and gearbox

Diesel units are potentially reliable, giving upwards of 150,000 miles when cared for. Expect a fast starter from cold with only normal first-gasp diesel smoke. Be very wary of any engine which misfires, or blows a blue or white haze when warm.

Turbos should give no trouble and the all-mechanical valve gear should be quiet. Oil leaks are uncommon, except where the filter has not been fully tightened.

Services at 5000 miles (oil) and 10,000 miles (full) should be logged in the book. The cambelt must be changed at 60,000-mile intervals, with a resettable speedo-tripped dashboard light giving a reminder. As yet, Urchfont Garage has not come across premature belt failure.

The five-speed manual gearbox and two-speed transfer case are tough, even when thrashed by heavy towing. Reject a car whose transmission whines, groans or jumps out of gear.

Moving outwards, greaseable propshaft UJs eventually give up and generate vibration; replacement is uncomplicated. Now and then a diff pinion oil seal will leak, but its not common. High-mileage early Citations will eventually wear the limited slip diff clutches, producing short, sharp vibration bursts in tight bends. Replacement is the only cure, with parts and labour in the region of £765.

Rear wheel bearings can succumb to frequent towing, showing up as a constant, speed-related rumble. Genuine replacements are around £75, plus two hours labour.

Brakes

The first cars had a disc/drum mix; later ones are all disc. Rotors last around 80,000 miles in normal service, or less in hard off-road use. Genuine parts are £60 each, pattern spares £45, pads £80 for an axle set.

Two brake areas can give trouble, says John Wildman. Sliding caliper pins must be greased at major services, or will seize. Handbrake cables dont like mud and also give up. Replacement is the only option, at £35 each.

When checking a used car, start the motor and tread hard on the brake pedal. Any downwards creep suggests a new master cylinder is in the offing – safety demands one, and its an MOT failure anyway.

Suspension

Older Troopers used a coil spring/leaf spring mix, whereas 3.1-litre versions are all-coil. Rear leaf units generally stand towing well, but look hard for cracks or breaks; a new spring is £80. Dampers generally last very well, expiring with a stain of oil on the body.

Front hubs pivot on swivel joints, and these do wear – particularly if denied grease. Check for play by rocking the wheel from top to bottom, or putting a lever under the tyre and lifting (picture). Again, play is an MOT fail. New joints are £60 a throw plus labour on top.

Leaf spring cars can show wear in the rear shackles. With the car standing on its wheels, find play with a lever as shown. Fresh bushes are £25 a set and £18 to fit.

Steering

Track rod ends last if greased, and steering column joints are durable. With the car on its wheels, look for play in rod ends and in the steering idler arms while someone rocks the steering wheel from side to side. Idler arm bushes cant be bought separately, so you must have the whole arm at £190.

Power steering boxes can leak oil, which wont please the MOT tester. Re-sealing is usually only a short-term fix, so budget for an exchange unit (£770 plus £85 fitting) if you find big leaks.

Troopers are sensitive to track adjustment, wearing the inside or outside of the front tyres and feathering the rest of the tread. Dont be too alarmed if you spot this, but look hard for signs of body repair which might point to major accident damage. The inner wing panels and floor are good clues – open the bonnet and take up the floor mats to check for wrinkling.

Electrics

Although the main systems are largely reliable, relays can give trouble. See that the central locking, wipers, lights, heated rear screen, electric mirrors and window lifts all work where fitted.

Body and interior

Hinges wilt after time, letting the drivers door in particular sag and be hard to close. Changing them is not hard.

By and large, Isuzu takes care over rust proofing. Earlier cars may be bitten along the tailgate lower edges and perhaps the wheel-arches, but structural rot should not as yet be evident.

Above: All versions of the Isuzu Troopers turbodiesel last well if cared for. Expect upwards of 150,000 miles from a regularly-serviced unit; reject anything that clatters, rattles, or blows blue or white smoke when warm.

Estates, three- and five-door

Jan 1988: Introduced with 2.8-litre engine.

Feb 1989: Central locking.

Mar 1992: New Trooper with 3.1 engine.

Jan 1993: Alarm standard.

Duty and Citation options available on first series; New Troopers offer Basic, Duty and Citation levels.

Commercial, short- and long-wheelbase

Oct 1987: Introduced with 2.3-litre engine.

Aug 1988: 2.8-litre engine.

Oct 1992: Rebodied, 3.1-litre engine.

Jun 1994: Revised spec.

Above: Master cylinder condition is checked with the engine running. If the brake pedal creeps down under foot pressure, the cylinder is on its way out – and a replacement is £300.

Above right: Top and bottom steering swivels wear if not kept greased…

Main pic: Pre-1992 Isuzu Troopers may lack the curves

of todays models, but a clean example can

still make a good secondhand buy.

Left: Pins top and bottom should let one half of the brake caliper slide, but seize if forgotten at service time. Braking power goes down and the MOT man will not be happy. Below: …So check for play by lifting the wheel with a lever. Alternatively, rock the wheel from top and bottom.

Troopers are in steady demand and hold their value well. Prices below are for clean vehicles with service history and average mileage.

Three-door Duty Estate: 1988 E-plate £5875

Three-door Citation: 1991 H-plate £10,375

Five-door Duty Estate: 1989 F-plate £7575

Five-door Citation: 1991 H-plate £11,325

New Trooper three-door Duty: 1992 K-plate £11,725

New Trooper five-door Citation: 1993 K-plate £15,850

Van 2.3-litre:

1988 E-plate £5200

Van 2.8-litre:

1991 H-plate £8150

New Trooper van:

1993 L-plate £11,750

Urchfont Garages supply new and secondhand Troopers and Subarus, along with spares for both makes. Contact: John Wildman (01380-840276 or 840721).

Above: Wheels studs stretch or break if overtightened, particularly rears. Centre: Trooper interiors usually wear well, so seat splits and broken trim suggest a hard life; in a low-mileage vehicle, see that service history and speedo reading agree. Above right: Electrical systems are largely reliable, although relays at rear of fusebox can be troublesome. Check everything works before buying, particularly on Citation-trim cars.