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88 Sambar KT6

Discussion in 'Subaru Sambar' started by RMAKES, Jul 9, 2022.


    RMAKES New Member

    Hello, I just picked up a 1988 Sambar KT6 truck with the EK23 3 valve 550 motor, 4 speed manual transmission with extra low gear and 4wd. Previous owner said it was used indoors in a factory in Japan. It's pretty clean for a vehicle from the 80's, so I guess I believe it.
    This is my first kei truck, and now that I've had it a couple weeks, I have questions.

    First of all, the KT6 seems to be less common. I'm not finding very many parts available, and I can't find a service manual anywhere. I'm pretty good with mechanical things so I'll probably be fine without it but it would be nice to know some basics like what type of oil to use, recommended maintenance intervals, wiring diagrams, etc. I looked at Gold Star Parts, Mini Truck Garage, Right Drive Parts, Mini Truck Part, and Yokohama. While they do have some things, they all seem to have much more for newer 4 cylinder models. If anyone knows of another parts source, please let me know.

    4 Wheel Drive
    On my truck, the 4wd works but is VERY slow to engage. I assume it should engage into 4wd at most within a few seconds of the button being pushed. It takes mine several minutes, and is just as slow coming back out of 4wd as well. I can hear the solenoid clicking behind the dash. I found the vacuum lines and vacuum solenoid valves, disconnected the lines from the valves and verified I am getting vacuum from each valve separately as it should, but the vacuum must be too weak to move the actuator, or the actuator has an issue. The vacuum lines all *look* good, can't find any cracks. A vacuum check shows 16 in Hg which seems fine.
    While I was fiddling with the vacuum solenoid valves I accidentally snapped off one of the nubs that accepts the vacuum line. For now I just keep it in 2wd. Mini Truck Garage has one but it's from a newer model, has the wrong electric plug, and costs $250! Yikes! I'll probably try replacing it with an available 12v vacuum solenoid valve from some other vehicle.

    Mine probably needs a good cleaning, or maybe I have several small vacuum leaks that I can't detect, but there's a major dead spot in the mid-range. Seems like it's not getting enough fuel. If I floor it, it runs pretty well, and it idles really well. If I accelerate with 1/2-3/4 throttle, it starts out ok but starts to hesitate a lot in roughly the middle of the rpm range. I looked all over the carburetor for tuning screws and found what I thought was a mixture screw right on top (circled red in picture below) but fiddling with it doesn't help much. Maybe it's an idle mixture screw? I also found a long brass screw/plug that looks like it's an access cover for a jet. If anyone knows this carburetor, please let me know what you know, or point me toward more information.

    Maybe I'm missing parts, or just missing something that's right in front of me, but there doesn't seem to be a way to turn on the blower. Is there normally a blower speed selection switch on the dash?

    That's all for now. I'm loving this little truck and can't wait to get it running just right. Thanks for reading.


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    Smollpp69 likes this.
  2. fmartin_gila

    fmartin_gila Active Member

    See you have no direct answers yet. First off - Welcome aboard, this is a good place to be. Next thing is you have some concerns which you need to handle. I am not familiar with your vehicle so will be kind of general. The only Subaru I ever owned was a 1979 car which had a crappy Auto Transmission and it got dumped ASAP.

    My thoughts on the vacuum lines are that with a vehicle in that age group should have all the lines renewed as they do get hard, cracked, & split and tend to loose vacuum power. Be very careful when replacing to ensure the same connections. Modern silicone hoses are the way to go. May go a long way to help with your carb problems. There seems to be quite a few instances of the vacuum valves becoming sluggish/sticking so if possible, you might be able to clean to help with your 4wd problem. The pic seems to be the normal heater control from that era but there should be a rotary knob with (usually) Off & 3 spds on it, normally right beside the control panel you have. I would go with 10-40 or 20-40 oil in the engine and the standard 90 Wt. trans & diff oils. I would also suggest changing the timing belt if it is equipped with such.

    I use Megazip for my parts needs but I am in the Philippines so you may do better with some other parts source.

    Just things to consider.

    Very nice looking rig for it's age.


    RMAKES New Member

    Hi Fred, thanks for your reply.

    I agree, due to the age, it seems like the vacuum lines should be old and cracked, but they don't seem to be. Maybe I'll replace them anyway and see what happens.

    I played around a bit more with the carburetor and found another adjustment screw which is hidden under the plastic cover in my picture above. It adjusts a flap (sorry, don't know the right name) which is just under the top cover of the carburetor. Turning that screw down a few turns seems to have made a difference in the mid-range. I'm still playing with it, so once I'm more confident that what I'm doing is helping I'll post more about it.
    I've tuned a few Mikuni style carbs where the throttle cable pulls the slide up and the needle is attached to the slide. The needle position determines mid-range fuel flow so it can be adjusted up or down. The carburetor on my Sambar is different than that, so I'm still learning how it works.

    Thanks for the oil recommendations and the reminder on the timing belt. Years ago, I had a 1990 BMW 325i and the timing belt broke a few months after I bought it. Learned the hard way what an interference engine is...ended up replacing the engine. Are these interference engines? I'll get a timing belt on order.

    I searched the web for "1988 Subaru Sambar interior" and found a few pictures of interiors that look just like mine. None of them have a blower speed adjustment knob visible. I'll have to dig deeper on that issue.

    EDIT: I just checked megazip...wow! Thanks for that resource! Even if they don't have the parts they have all the exploded diagrams which is huge.

    Last edited: Jul 13, 2022

    RMAKES New Member

    I figured out how to turn the heat/blower on! The vent selector lever (switches face/defrost/feet vents) pulls out! There are 2 speeds. One click out is low speed, 2 clicks out is high speed. Fantastic! I had a feeling it was right under my nose.

    Attached Files:

  5. OhDeer

    OhDeer Member Supporting Member

    Sometimes if there is enough left of the part, you can tap the body and thread in a brass plumbing nipple. I've used that trick on a newish car and that temporary fix has held for 5 or 6 years. Little pipe dope or teflon tape for some cheap insurance.

    Really neat fan control, don't think I've ever seen one work like that

    RMAKES New Member

    Good idea. I ended up replacing them with some EGR valves from a 90's Toyota Camry. I couldn't believe how similar the parts are. It's basically an exact replacement for $23 on Amazon. I ended up buying some pigtails to match as well. Only $11 on ebay. If the links are broken by the time someone needs this info I think the EGR valve part # 90910-12080 VST-006, at least that's what Amazon lists. In any case, I think you could use any 12v solenoid valve with the right number of ports.

    In the pictures, the green ones are the originals. The new, blue ones even fit onto the bracket that holds them and even the old screws fit. Incredible!

    Attached Files:

    OhDeer likes this.

    RMAKES New Member

    It's been a month since my first post, and I'm getting to know this truck better, fixing it up here and there.

    The engine is gutless. Most of the trucks I read about online are 660cc 4 cylinder. My truck has the 550cc 2 cylinder 3 valve [per cylinder] EK23. The Wikipedia list of Subaru engines says my particular model makes only 28hp! It kind of suits the truck. These clearly aren't designed to be fast by any stretch of the imagination, but on flat ground I can only get 80km/h or 50mph tops. So I can't help but dream of an engine swap. Even 50 or 60hp would be unbelievably better, and that's not a lot of power.

    I've been doing some research and I can't find any good options. Looking at motorcycle engines, Subaru Justy or Geo Metro engines, Snowmobile engines...what makes it so hard is that I really want to keep the 4wd, and therefore the stock transmission. That means I'm looking for something that can rev at least to 7k rpm comfortably (to give me a little more top speed), can lay down flat (to fit under the bed; this truck is rear engine), spins the right direction, and has the output shaft on the correct side of the engine. That last one seems easy to fix - turn the engine around - but I don't want the intake pointed at the ground and the exhaust pointed up at the bed. And I don't want to cut a hole in the bed for the engine to poke up through. I bought the truck to use as a truck.

    Now I'm considering doing some variety of an electric conversion, as an electric motor could easily fit/bolt up to the transmission and spin whatever direction I want. But I'm not as enchanted with all electric vehicles as some people are (I used to be). A recent report from my local electric provider stated 40% of the energy they produce actually makes it to the customer. 60% is lost just in transmission! This information is coming from a high voltage electrical infrastructure industry insider friend of mine. That doesn't include the efficiency of generation, which is 60% at best. Once it gets to you, add in the losses involved with converting AC to DC, storing it in batteries, possibly converting it back to AC (depending on the motor), and you're left with a vehicle that's barely or no more energy efficient in terms of fuel burned to forward motion. And it can only go 50 miles because let's be real, this is a conversion we're talking about and batteries are expensive so I would buy as few as possible.

    All that being said, I think electric motors are better at power transmission than gas engines. They have great torque from 0 rpm and make that torque over a much wider range of rpm, eliminating the need for constant shifting of gears [although that is fun isn't it], they require little maintenance, and run quiet and smooth.
    So in my mind, the perfect vehicle is driven by an electric motor, but the energy comes from a small gas or diesel on-board generator with just a couple large-ish batteries* to provide the surge of energy needed for acceleration, and slowly take charge while cruising or stopped. This is how diesel locomotives work, although I don't believe they have batteries for the purpose of surge energy; they just have huge generators and use electric motors to drive the wheels because a mechanical transmission would be much too complex.

    I've had this idea for a few years now and I'm thinking my Sambar might be a good candidate to finally try it on. It's small, so I think I could get away with relatively small sized electrical components. Although I haven't yet figured out where I would discretely mount the generator...haha. Details..

    This isn't a project I want to start today, but I thought I'd share it here anyway. In the meantime, I'll continue tinkering on my EK23 and appreciate it for what it is.

    Thanks for reading.

    *EDIT: After posting I remembered you need higher voltage if you want an appropriate amount of power from an electric motor of reasonable size. That means I'd need a bank of smaller batteries (not a couple large-ish batteries) wired in series.
    Also I think I would need a larger generator than I was imagining (something small like a Generac XD5000e). 5000 watts = 6.7hp. When I'm going 50mph in my Sambar my foot is to the floor and the engine is near red line, so I am assuming it takes all 28hp just to maintain speed on a country road. So my small battery bank would be quickly depleted. If my math on that is correct, I would need closer to 30kw to maintain speed at 55 or so. 30kw generators are massive and expensive - not something I'm going to slip under the bed of my Sambar.
    So my dreams are crushed, but at least I was the one to crush them.

    The best solution is probably to buy a different truck, or to swap in the drivetrain from a newer (maybe supercharged) Sambar, or to improve airflow perhaps with a different carburetor and exhaust, or simply appreciate the truck for what it is.

    Thanks again for reading.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2022
  8. fmartin_gila

    fmartin_gila Active Member

    Bout sums it up correctly.


    RMAKES New Member

    I've been searching for a timing belt and have had no luck. The stock one isn't broken, but I wanted to replace it before it breaks. Ordered one from minitruck garage/proline part but the one that showed up wasn't right. Then ordered one from megazip (Japanese warehouse), but a couple weeks later they refunded my money and said it was discontinued from the factory. Then I took some measurements of the one still on the engine and tried to find an aftermarket replacement based on that. Found a Gates T092 to be the closest, ordered it, but that doesn't fit either. The tooth spacing is very close but not quite right.
    So I don't think I can get a timing belt for this truck. I think the next step forward would be to replace the pulleys with something that has a different tooth spacing to fit a belt I can actually get. Maybe I'll still try for this, but I'm also itching to do something interesting. I'm still driving it with the old belt for now, but I'm thinking a Honda Goldwing GL1500 engine might find its way into my Sambar. 6cyl boxer 5 speed shaft drive 100hp. What could possibly go wrong?
    Smollpp69 likes this.
  10. rkrenicki

    rkrenicki Active Member

    There appears to be two different timing belts for the 4th gen, according to the parts catalog: 13160KA000, and 13160KA050.

    It looks like I found an aftermarket option for the 000 version, but none for the 050 version. I would need your VIN to verify which one is required for the vehicle, as there is no clear cut way to tell which is needed from year or model.
  11. RMAKES

    RMAKES New Member

    My VIN plate reads: KT6-079271 and KT6F33E. Not sure which one or if you need both.
    The belt on the truck reads 13028KA060. Also I've looked at other diagrams like for the carburetor on megazip, and based on the pictures in the diagrams, my truck's carburetor matches the EK23/C3 variety. If that's correct, megazip says my truck needs the 13160KA050, which is now unavailable through them.
    Please let me know if you find anything. Where are you looking? Thank you!
  12. rkrenicki

    rkrenicki Active Member

    RMAKES likes this.
  13. RMAKES

    RMAKES New Member

    Ordered! For about $18 total, Definitely worth a shot. Thanks rkrenicki! Also I tried entering the part number I see on the belt that's on the truck and it comes up with the same aftermarket alternative which is reassuring.
    rkrenicki likes this.
  14. RMAKES

    RMAKES New Member

    The timing belt showed up in 1 week from Dubai! AND it was the right one! Amazing. Thanks again rkrenicki!

    I installed it last Saturday, then my wife and I went for a drive to her parents' farm. I thought it would be fun to try out the 4wd on the hilly terrain. My mother-in-law wanted a ride so she got in and my wife hopped in the bed. We took off toward the fields and I hit the 4wd button and the light came on immediately. Wonderful! 15 seconds later my wife yells, "IT'S SMOKING!"...and boy was it ever smoking... TONS of white smoke was pouring out of the tailpipe and started engulfing us :eek:. My wife and mother-in-law bailed and started laughing hysterically from a distance...I'm glad I can at least provide some entertainment.

    So here's what happened; gear oil is leaking into the 4wd diaphragm housing. I guess there's a worn seal in there somewhere. I normally drive around on the road and don't need the 4wd, so oil was pooled up behind the diaphragm. When I hit the 4wd button, it pulled vacuum on the oily side of the diaphragm, the diaphragm moved over, squishing the oil into the vacuum line which sucked its way straight into the intake and boom, smoke show. The next day I took the diaphragm housing cover off and confirmed oil was dripping out from behind the diaphragm. Once I drained it all out, I put it back together, fired it up, put it in 4wd and drove around the block with no smoke. So it's a slow leak, but it's a leak.

    According to the diagram on PartSouq, I need the seal 442465410, but it says it's unavailable. Megazip is showing it as available but they previously let me order the timing belt and later cancelled the order saying it was no longer available, so that's not a sure bet, but I'll probably try it. I want to investigate a little further in case there are some more parts I should be ordering.

    I tried taking the diaphragm/rod assembly out just to see if I could see this seal, but couldn't figure out how to remove it. There is a little access panel on top of the transfer case that I didn't open up because I had spent enough time on it already, but I'm guessing the answer probably lies behind there somewhere. Is anyone on here familiar?

    If I can't get the seal, I have 2 solutions in mind.
    1: Make some kind of manual shift linkage and forget about the vacuum actuation. Lots of work.
    2: Install a secondary switch that cuts vacuum to the 4wd diaphragm once the 4wd is engaged. I don't think vacuum needs to be constantly pulled to keep it in 4wd. If it shifted, then vacuum got cut, I don't think the oil would ever make it to the intake, and I'd be in 4wd with no smoke.

    Hopefully I can find the seal. How would you fix it?

    Thanks for reading. Cheers.
  15. rkrenicki

    rkrenicki Active Member

    Looks like that part is sold at US Subaru dealers as it was also used on the Justy: https://parts.subaru.com/p/Subaru_1994_Justy/Sealing-Transfer/49251181/442465410.html

    Partsouq has really crap availability, just because they say it is NLA does not really mean too terribly much... but you should be able to walk into any Subaru dealer and order it from them, or order from one of the many online discount dealers like SubaruPartsForYou.
  16. RMAKES

    RMAKES New Member

    Oh wow! Didn't think to cross-reference other Subaru models. I can see you've been through this haha. Thanks again rkrenicki!

  17. rkrenicki

    rkrenicki Active Member

    Indeed I have. I maintain a massive list of parts for the 5th and 6th gen models for the community. There is a link to it in the References section at the top of this subforum. Unfortunately, it will be of limited use for the 4th gen models.

    If you find a part number for your 4th gen, try running it through parts.subaru.com and even Rockauto.. If it is something like a bearing, bolt, seal, or clip.. it is quite likely it was also used on another model of the time, such as the Justy, DL/GL, Leone, or others.

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