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What I look for when buying a Mini Truck!

Discussion in 'General Truck Info' started by MichTrucks, Dec 29, 2008.

  1. MichTrucks

    MichTrucks Moderator Staff Member

    What I look for when buying a Mini Truck
    By Steven Venglarcik
    Updated and re-posted 9/7/2020

    Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Daihatsu and Subaru — I’ve sold these and will attempt to explain what I look for in a truck.

    Suzuki:
    Radiator in the front and susceptible to damage
    Spare tire is above a lowered fuel tank (susceptible to damage)
    Most popular truck I sell.
    A/C coil is up under the bed of truck and fairly well protected.

    Daihatsu:
    Radiator protected under drivers' seat in front of engine.
    Has a bit more leg room that Suzuki in the early and mid 1990’s models
    Often has diff lock.
    My best accelerating truck was a Daihatsu.

    Mitsubishi:
    My favorite! Quick starting and great acceleration on all I’ve owned
    Spare tire is below a raised gas tank
    Radiator same as Daihatsu…under the seat and well protected.
    My wife and I have these as our daily driver “on the farm” trucks.
    Disadvantage: With A/C, the coil is under the front of the truck and susceptible to damage.

    Subaru:
    Rear engine with 4 cylinders
    Smoothest running truck I ever owned.
    Quietest running and has the best off-road traction due to the rear engine.
    Sold before I was able to grab it for myself.

    Now, what I look for when buying a Mini Truck!

    Frame, Chassis and underbody:
    All mini trucks from Japan and China are built and delivered with a white painted frame and under body (in most cases, anyway.)

    Repainting:
    Look for signs of cover-up…repainted new white or undercoated black. As this is not standard it is the first sign of possible cover-up. Look for welded patches or other signs of repair. While I won’t eliminate one of these trucks, one should be aware and understand the reason for the "cover-up".

    Rusting:
    Minis will show slight rusting over time along areas of unibody and frame component joints, etc. While this is quite normal and is not a concern like one would expect in the US or Canada, it can be used as an indicator of usage and mileage of the vehicle.
    Look under the front quarter panels for signs of rust and rust through. This is where you will find the first signs of any serious rusting on your mini truck. A very good indicator of mileage and usage will be there.

    Rubbing and Wear give usage and age indications:
    Looking at the area below the driver’s window will show seat belt dings and certainly that truck with very low mileage will also show the fewest seat belt dings.
    The driver’s side will also show the paint wear from sliding in and out of the truck. The wheel well and lower door panel shows this and is often repainted for two purposes: One to cover the usage indicator and the other is to allow for a better, cleaner-appearing truck. I feel this is not a negative indicator but rather a gauge of usage.

    Underbody Steering and Axles:
    I crawl under every truck and inspect the CV boots and the steering linkage and arms for signs of damage or replacement. Seldom is there a problem in this area other than torn CV boots.

    Clutch and shifter cables:
    I wanted to add a tip about the ever-popular Suzuki DD51T and DB51T.
    It’s important to always make sure to check that the 4x4 shifter /cable is working and not stuck. It is a common problem in the Suzuki's. Also, by looking at the end of the clutch cable (at the transmission end) and if you see no thread left, that means that the clutch is gone and needs to be replaced. Thanks David@ Yamagin for this added comment!

    Determining the Mileage:
    I may add something to a way of telling the mileage on those trucks that claim to have "15,000 kms" and is a 1992. Since the older trucks only have 5 digits in their odometer, one way to tell if they are really under 100,000 kms is to look at the accelerator rubber pad. As they are rubber, they'll easily show their wear. I've seen lots of "10,000 kms" trucks with a very worn accelerator pad. That tells me the odometer has rolled over. Thanks Steven Smith@ SASTRAD for this added comment.

    Interior of Cab:
    It seems most Japanese are smokers, as indicated by the number of dirty trucks I’ve seen. A clean, well cared-for interior is a sign the truck was well cared for.

    Exterior of Truck:
    A lot of these trucks were sold through auction houses and that meant two photos and a description of features is all that one saw, unless the buyer actually had someone to view it prior to bidding. So many slight body imperfections are given a quick, “cheap” paint spray. The idea here was to bring a better price, of course, but as you are able to see your potential purchase firsthand, you will be able to determine the degree of imperfections you are willing to accept. While the cleaner the truck, the higher the cost, it shouldn’t be your primary concern.

    Engine, Steering, Running:
    I start a truck and let it idle until it warms to temperature. This lets me see if the thermostat or radiator has any issues to be addressed. A rev test will let you know if there is anything loose or wrong within the engine.

    Driving the truck will allow you to check the steering, acceleration, and braking.

    Problems here are good reasons to go to the next truck on your list of candidates!

    Price: (What’s that truck worth?)

    This is the big issue. Are you looking for the most for your dollar or the best for your dollar? Those are often two different things.

    Trucks over 25 years old do not require any special permits to import so those are cheaper and quite a bit less costly and in many states you may be able to plate them for the road as they are not required to be DOT or EPA certified.

    Trucks less than 25 years old they can only be imported by a select few importers. The ones that are Certified and good to work with are: G&R imports and Yamagin.

    G&R from Missouri has a dealer network that offers all of newer trucks you could want as does Yamagin out of California.

    Sure when you buy a truck from a dealer you are paying for advertising and operating costs as part of your purchase. The dealers are the ones you can turn to for answers and parts.

    Sure, when you buy a truck from a dealer, you are paying for advertising and operating costs as part of your purchase. The Ebay seller supports no one after the sale. We are the ones you can turn to for answers and parts.

    Where to begin your search:
    Being from a small town I have always believed in buying locally, keep your money in your community, and support your neighbors. Only after a thorough search in my area will I look outward.

    I hope you find this guide informative and useful.

    Regards,

    Steven Venglarcik
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2020
    Afromus Prime likes this.
  2. greg0187

    greg0187 Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks Steven! Excellent write up.

    -Greg
     
  3. andy_george

    andy_george Member

    Great advice for buying minis or any used vehicle!

    The point about most Japanese guys smoking seems to be right on. I think the guy who had my truck in Japan refused to shower, so I *wish* he had been a smoker to cover up the stank.

    In an unrelated plug for Yankee Candle, the pine scented "Jar in a Car" air fresheners are now only $1 !!!

    -Andy
     
  4. John Canfield

    John Canfield Member

    Most excellent! Thanks for taking the time to write this up.
     
  5. steve_nagoya

    steve_nagoya Member

    Steven:
    That's an excellent post. A lot to consider. If I may add something to a way of telling the mileage on those trucks that claim to have "15,000kms" and is a 1992. Since the older trucks only have 5 digits in their odometer, one way to tell if they are really under 100,000kms is to look at the accelerator rubber pad. As they are rubber, they'll easily show their wear. I've seen lots of "10,000kms" trucks with a very worn accelerator pad. That tells me the odometer has rolled.
     
  6. DAVID-O

    DAVID-O New Member

    Suzuki Tips

    Hey Steven,

    I wanted to add a tip about the ever popular Suzuki DD51T and DB51T.
    Its important to always make sure to check that the 4x4 shifter/cable is working and not stuck. It is a common problem in the Suzukis. Also, by looking at the end of the clutch cable (at the transmission end) and if you see no thread left that means that the clutch is gone and needs to be replaced.

    David Okamoto-manager
    YAMAGIN CORP.
    www.minitruckdealer.com
    Sales: 310-498-4465/310-210-8108
    Los Angeles, California
     
  7. MichTrucks

    MichTrucks Moderator Staff Member

    David and Steven,
    I added your tips to my post with credit to you both.

    Regards,
     
  8. oldsnowman

    oldsnowman Member

    Hi Steven
    i just read through your post...thanks a lot for taking the time:) from the things you have said in this information, now i know for sure the km's are the km's. i guy i bought it from told me right up front that he did not know if it had rolled over or not. i tryed to buy my truck local but when i could find what i wanted i had to go a ways, but like you, i bought from a good guy from a small town, and not once felt worried about the truck i bought and drove it 340km's back home.
    thanks for the info...this will help a lot of guy and girls looking for trucks:)
    wyatt
     
  9. DougGardens

    DougGardens New Member

    Thank you very much for your insight folks, especially Steven.
    I'm looking at all of my options right now and this really helps.
     
  10. I had a chance recently to look over this post and I thought buyers might want to add a couple of items to the most excellent check list that Steven has compiled.

    One: patches on the frame are not unusual right from the factory on even the brand new trucks. They make the frame rails for various configurations and I believe they patch to preserve the structural integrity. The thing that I would look for is “rust-proofing”. Most places that cut the frame will cover it by undercoating to make the seam undetectable to almost everyone but the most experienced buyer. You have to know what it should look like to be able to tell if it does not look like it should.

    Two: Check the radiator and the reservoir. The coolant should be a solid color. If it appears brackish, murky, and or oily to the touch, or if you see any sediments chances are you are looking at a future problem truck. The reason to look for sediments is to catch someone using something like “Bar’s Leak” which is some sort of metal particles that flow out to the leak and seal it for a time. The reason someone used Bar’s Leak is because they had a problem of loosing coolant either through the exhaust or into the motor. If it leaks through the exhaust the coolant will burn off as a white steam. If it leaks through the motor the oil will be diluted and eventually corrode internal engine parts. If you catch a head gasket breach soon enough the fix is not bad. The problem with buying a truck with this type of problem is that you do not know how long the problem existed so you really cannot tell if there are going to be other maintenance issues.

    I hope this adds to your list and helps make buyers make good purchases.

    Bob
     
  11. que_sera_sera1102

    que_sera_sera1102 New Member

    thanks alot for the information
     
  12. EJprojects

    EJprojects New Member

    insurance cost

    anybody know what the cost is to insure minitrucks in BC canada as opposed to other trucks here
     
  13. EJprojects

    EJprojects New Member

    Is there a post where i can see engine photos to learn whats what
     
  14. john lippy

    john lippy New Member

    Hay guy, just looking to get one. Need help. 4 or 5 speed or auto. RT or LH steering. Does the AC pull down the rpm's. Will the radio play in english. Thanks John
     
  15. Badgerland

    Badgerland Member

    John,

    Here's a quick list of answers to your questions...

    • 4-spds are most commonly available - all depends on your planned uses. If you will be frequently driving at higher speeds, then having the extra gear will be beneficial.
    • The vast majority of trucks you will find are going to be RHD (the norm. on imported trucks). LHD trucks are typically government-owned trucks at one time in their history. A RHD truck will not provide you a problem as it takes most people about 5 minutes to get used to stick shift in the left hand (pedal layout is the same as North American-born vehicles).
    • AC will not dramatically affect the engine performance unless at higher speed.
    • The factory radios are pretty much junk AM radios. Yes, they will receive U.S. stations, but often have difficulty tuning them in. If you plan to want a radio, plan on purchasing a cheap FM radio to install with some decent speakers. There are many posts here to help with that small detail. The radio should not affect your buying decision on a specific truck if everything else is in order.

    As previously mentioned, work with a dealer that wants to help educate you and answer all of your questions to help fit you to the best truck for your needs (before you spend money). If a dealer does not seem to want to help you, they are most likely just after your money and there will be no long-term support.
     
  16. Preacherman

    Preacherman Guest

    milage

    what kind of mileage can I realistically expect if I buy one.
     
  17. MichTrucks

    MichTrucks Moderator Staff Member

    Mileage has been documented at mid 30's to low 40's.
     
  18. Preacherman

    Preacherman Guest

    thanks very much. I am going to pursue this avenue up here in Canada
     
  19. silverbee

    silverbee New Member

    Food for thought

    really liked your post. Im wanting to buy one of these minitrucks but am twisting in the wind as to WHAT to buy. I am in northern canada and there is really no one around with one of these that i can talk to. I am looking for a Lemon Guide for these trucks. Is there a year/model/make that is best, and is there one that is riddled with cancer that i want to steer clear of! Any tips?
     
  20. fujian

    fujian New Member

    Which import company did you end up buying your mini truck through?
     

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