Ground Clearance and Angles

Ground Clearance

Ground clearance is important to a 4x4 SJ, not only under the vehicle but in front of, behind and between the axles as well. The front and rear overhangs, wheelbase in relation to wheel size, and centre of gravity are important factors which affect a vehicle’s off-road ability. These can be translated into the following vehicle angles:-

Approach angle - This is stated as the maximum angle a vehicle can approach an obstacle without any part of the vehicle striking that obstacle.
Departure angle - This is stated as the maximum angle a vehicle can leave anobstacle without any part of the vehicle striking that obstacle.
Break-over angle - This is stated as the maximum angle a vehicle can ride over an obstacle without striking the obstacle between its axles. The longer the wheelbase the larger this angle becomes.
Roll-over angle - This is the angle at which a vehicle will roll when traversing a slope at right angles. This value is a result of the distance of the vehicle’s centre of gravity above the ground.

Under Chassis Clearance

The ground clearance figure supplied for the Suzuki SJ series is 205mm. This is measured from the part of the vehicle, excluding the wheels and tyres, closest to the ground. This measurement is only true when the vehicle is stationary on a flat surface. When the vehicle moves over =uneven ground, this figure will change. This figure does not necessarily represent the vehicle’s ability off-road.

The Suzuki SJ is fitted with solid axles. When a wheel on a solid axle rides over an obstacle and lifts, it lifts the differential (normally the part of the vehicle closest to the ground) with it, thereby increasing ground clearance and clearing the differential over the obstacle. A second advantage of a solid axle is that it keeps the wheels perpendicular to the road surface during the increased roll caused by the high centre of gravity of an off-road vehicle when cornering. This improves road holding and handling.


The choice of wheelbase should be determined by the kind of use the SJ is likely to undertake. Long wheelbase vehicles can carry heavier payloads and have a higher seating capacity. They handle better on tarred roads, on corrugations, and on fast unsurfaced roads.

Short wheelbase SJ’s, however, have the edge when driving off-road. The break-over angle is better and they are lighter to steer and more manoeuverable.

My recommendation to anyone who wants an SJ to try off roading for the first time is buy a good example, with an MOT and around 1989 - E reg for about £500-£600.