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My first Safari: suggestions?

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Triple
I am merely driving my van
I am merely driving my van
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My first Safari: suggestions?

Post by Triple » Sat Oct 01, 2016 5:46 pm

Vans of all makes and models have been in my family for generations. My dad owned two RWD Astros when I was a kid, a white 93 and a red 96. I just picked up my first, this 1995 AWD Safari:

Image

Image

The odometer reads just 103K miles and the truck has spent its entire life in Tennessee, so despite the sun-scorched clearcoat, the metal is remarkably solid. The interior is decent but the floor is pretty stained. It feels [mostly] mechanically sound but it does have a few issues.

I have grand plans of eventually replacing the factory 4.3L/4L60E combo with either an LQ4/9 6.0L or 6.5L TD backed by an NV4500 and a true hi/low transfer case. BUT, for the time being, I just need to confirm the van is reliable as-is. My family is spending the next six months in my Michigan hometown and this van not only has to take us there (about a 700-mile drive), but it will also become my winter ride once we've arrived. What are the typical trouble areas with these vans? What should I check/adjust/change/etc first?

I'm not very familiar with the Astro/Safari AWD system. I believe my 95 uses an oil-driven transfer case that engages the front differential when heat/friction create a certain viscosity in the fluid, unlike the later models that use Auto-Trak style servos. I've read cases where a simple change of old TC fluid made immediate improvements in AWD performance. Are there any simple methods for diagnosing the condition/performance of these transfer cases?

Do the front and rear differentials use the same type of oil?

The transmission is supposedly a recently-installed, remanufactured unit and it shifts smoothly. The engine makes good power, keeps its cool, and I see no evidence of coolant in the oil. It does occasionally shudder at idle speeds and especially upon start-up. I do not have an OBD1 scanner, unfortunately.

I will occasionally hear/feel a "clunk" when pulling off the line or coming to a stop which I assume is coming from the driveline. Is this common?

Lastly, the steering doesn't feel quite right. The power assist feels like it cuts in/out through the same turn, which would normally indicate pump failure or a leak in the system, but fluid level never changes and there are no visible leaks. I've read that the AWD steering feel is different and just something you have to get used to, so I don't know if this is normal or not. The wheel does not right itself after completing a turn.

Any and all suggestions appreciated!

Astrophysics
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Re: My first Safari: suggestions?

Post by Astrophysics » Sun Oct 02, 2016 6:54 pm

Nice Astro,
Welcome to forum.
For OBD 1, you can make a simple code reader from a metal paper clip. All you need to do is jumper pins A and B of the diagnostic D shape connector.

Code 12 12 12. Means all OK,
Code 34 34 34. Means faulty MAF mass air flow sensors, etc.
The simple yellow light illuminated as Check Engine acts kinda like Morse code. It simply flashes blink , pause, blink, blink for example to give code 12.

Captn. Crunch
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Re: My first Safari: suggestions?

Post by Captn. Crunch » Mon Oct 03, 2016 5:39 pm

Hello and welcome. Nice van-congratulations.
Start with Changing all your fluids including coolant. Check your owners manual for particular needs.
Check your tires for identical size and air pressure.
Your transfer case does indeed use a viscous coupling. The coupling is a sealed unit. The dextron fluid is required for the bearings and chain lubrication. These couplings usually fail due to difference in tire size where the sheering is constant and after time the material looses its ability to return to a liquid state. When this happens you will feel it binding in the front end during low speed turns.
To check the coupling raise all four wheels off the ground. With the van in neutral engine off rotate a rear wheel. The front wheels should not move because you shouldn't be able to generate enough heat due to sheering when spinning by hand. Now start the van and put it in gear. The front wheels should start rotating.
If the fronts do turn when rotating the rears by hand your coupling is most likely bad. They can be exchanged though I've never done one as I have the electronic tc.
I've never had any steering issues other than the fact that the steering sucks at idle and your trying to crank it around to get out of a parking spot. Normal for these vans. I have taken to putting it in neutral and blipping the throttle in such situations.
Captn. Crunch
"I don't beat my rig-I use it to it's maximum potential"
1994 Safari conversion (sold) and miss'n it!
1999 Safari SLE AWD junked
2003 GMC Safari AWD SLT
cast iron Torsen equipped front diff
S-10 leafs-G80 rear w/3.73’s
2” body lift w/Falken Wildpeak AT’s

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Mmusicman
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Re: My first Safari: suggestions?

Post by Mmusicman » Tue Oct 04, 2016 1:28 pm

Triple wrote:I will occasionally hear/feel a "clunk" when pulling off the line or coming to a stop which I assume is coming from the driveline. Is this common?
It might be "somewhat" common... I've had numerous different "clunks".. in numerous vans, for numerous reasons.
I had a pretty serious clunk (sometimes binding) from the rear drum brakes on my 2000 cargo. Sometimes it would lock (after a stop).. a lot of times it would clunk. The first time it ever happened to me.. I thought someone had rear-ended me!

Front end clunks are quite common, like I said, for any number of reasons. I've had clunks from ball-joints binding, as well as from steering components (idler arms).. that would clunk under different circumstances. Clunks while driving more commonly include worn shock bushings, worn control arm bushings, and worn sway bar bushings.

The only AWD related clunk might be a bad CV joint, although rest of drivetrain can't be ruled out.
The odometer reads just 103K miles and the truck has spent its entire life in Tennessee...
It's practically a baby! The 4.3L engines in these vans are some of the best ever built, and can go stock well beyond 300K! My 92 made it to 282K. Transmissions can hold up quite well also.

Lastly, the steering doesn't feel quite right...[/quote]
They all use the same gear-box, but Gen II (not sure if all) use the hydro-boost system. You could have internal issues.. or maybe you just need an alignment. I'd probably start there.

Congrats on the "new" van... Welcome to the club!
-
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2000 Chevy Astro LS AWD | 31" LT265/70R17 Tires | 8" LIFT | 10" TOTAL
92 Chevy Astro Shorty | V8-350
http://www.CruisinSouthFlorida.com

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Re: My first Safari: suggestions?

Post by ihatemybike » Sat Oct 08, 2016 11:42 pm

Note: It's common for the fuel OEM pumps to last around 100k. I'd swap in a fresh one and call it done for the next 100k miles. Be advised, cheap aftermarket pumps are just that. Cheap and have been know to need replacing in as little as 15k miles.
Aaron

2005 Astro (Gandalf) - AWD, 4.3L, 3.42, 130k+ miles
1997 Astro (Grumpy - $250 Rally Van) - AWD, 4.3L, 3.42, LSD, 2" lift, 31" tires, 335k+ orig engine, $30 eBay fuel pump
Prev Astros:99,97,00,94,87,86

Triple
I am merely driving my van
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Re: My first Safari: suggestions?

Post by Triple » Wed Oct 26, 2016 4:16 am

Astrophysics wrote:Nice Astro,
Welcome to forum.
For OBD 1, you can make a simple code reader from a metal paper clip. All you need to do is jumper pins A and B of the diagnostic D shape connector.

Code 12 12 12. Means all OK,
Code 34 34 34. Means faulty MAF mass air flow sensors, etc.
The simple yellow light illuminated as Check Engine acts kinda like Morse code. It simply flashes blink , pause, blink, blink for example to give code 12.
Finally tried this today. Watched a Youtube tutorial just to make sure I got it right. No flashing of anything, not even the 12 12 12 all-clear.

Astrophysics
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Re: My first Safari: suggestions?

Post by Astrophysics » Wed Oct 26, 2016 1:43 pm

Hi,
As far as the OBD,
When you first turn the key to On position, the dash does the lamp rest. At that time do you see a yellow bulb illuminated?

The OBD circuit lamp could be bad, or also there is a fuse for the OBD.
You could just have Midas or Auto zone guys hook up a OBD I store bought code reader.

AP

Triple
I am merely driving my van
I am merely driving my van
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How many wheels are on an Astro van? (4): 4

Re: My first Safari: suggestions?

Post by Triple » Wed Oct 26, 2016 7:49 pm

Astrophysics wrote:You could just have Midas or Auto zone guys hook up a OBD I store bought code reader.
None of my local Autozone, Advance, etc-type places keep OBD1 scanners. Just OBD2.

Only place I could find with a true OBD1/1.5 scanner was the Chevy dealership, and they refuse to scan the vehicle without writing a service ticket and leaving the van in line at their shop for days. Not happening.

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