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GMC Safari/Chevy Astro Transmission Problem

gmaster62gmaster62 Posts: 5
GM does not back there products and have the worst warranty in the buisiness. Before buying a Chevy Astro, look at the consumer complaint posts on the National Highway Transportation Safety Board for models 1996 and later. http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/index.html

Myself and several other consumers had the exact same same problem. Conveniently, at 48124 miles, just 12000 miles and 5 months after the warranty expired my transmission went out and I was charged 1800 dollars for a new transmission. You will notice a and abrubt gear shift from first to second after about 30-45 minutes of driving. Do you want a vehicle that has a transmission go bad at less than 50000 miles? Maybe, maybe not. But if you do, I bet you sure want the company that sold you this defective product to back it up and pay for the fix. Well, folks, Chevy (GM) will not. After several letters, e-mails and phone calls, I finally got a response. I'm sorry but since the warranty expired there is nothing we can do. Well, I'M SORRY TOO CHEVY, SINCE YOU MANUFACTURER INFERIOR PRODUCTS, YOU HAVE LOST A CUSTOMER FOR LIFE AND GAINED NEGATIVE PR FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.

If there are any Chevy managment folks viewing this post, please feel to e-mail me. I will be glad to provide details.

If you are a prospective buyer, I most strongly suggest that you buy a like vehicle from one of the other manufacturers who produces a more reliable product or offers a better warranty than Chevy (Not hard since Chevy has one of the worst).

If you insist on buying a GM product, I strongly urge that you get yourself the extended warranty.

BETTER YET! DO NOT BUY A CHEVY UNLESS YOU LIKE GETTING TAKEN TO THE CLEANERS. THEY DO NO DESERVE YOUR BUISINESS!
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Comments

  • September 23, 2000

    Chevrolet Motor Division
    Customer Assistance Center
    PO BOX 7047
    Troy, MI 48007-7047

    RE: 1997 CHEVROLET ASTRO VIN# 1GDM19W9VB228729
    Dear Sir or Madam:
    On August 1, 1997 I bought the above vehicle from you through Bob Stall Chevrolet, La Mesa, California. On September 6, 2000, it developed the serious defect of abruptly shifting from 1st to 2nd gear after approximately 30 minutes or 17 to 20 miles of driving.
    Upon, taking it to the dealer, I was informed that I needed a transmission replacement at a cost of an estimated $1800 dollars, which I was forced to pay $1823.99 to get my car back in a drivable condition. Dealer service invoice is attached.
    The warranty has recently expired but I believe I am still entitled to a free repair because the existence of such a serious defect in a car, which has only done just over 48,000 miles, indicates it was not of acceptable quality when I bought it. Several independent transmission shops have confirmed this opinion. It is obvious that if the public knew that this vehicle’s transmission had a tendency to fail at 48,000 mile, Chevrolet would not be able to sell this Van.
    Ordinary wear and tear could not account for this problem so soon in the life of the vehicle. I am a careful and conscientious owner as the general condition of the car shows. I also have ensured that all periodic servicing has taken place as listed in the owner’s manual. I have not done anything to the car to cause this defect.
    After, returning from the dealer, I did research and found this exact problem had visibility though several different entries on the Department of Transportation’s NHTSA web site database, (http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/complain/compmmy2.cfm) for both the 1997 Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari. I also have reason to believe that Chevrolet has issued a technical service bulletin on this problem for the installed transmission.
    I am a loyal customer of Chevrolet. As a result of this experience, I would definitely not buy a Chevrolet product again unless the company made good on this situation. I definitely will tell people about this matter. I believe that this kind of service will have a negative impact on Chevy's business.
    I'm sure that Chevy wishes to correct this situation as quickly as possible, so I am asking for a full refund of $1823.99 for my costs. I will, then, consider this situation fully resolved.
    I currently have a Chevy unresolved customer service number of C01642150.
  • I have a 1999 GMC Safari with only 3300 miles (not a typo). After coming home last evening from a 1-1/2 hour drive, after a stop sign, the transmission had an abrupt shift from 1-2 gear.
    It happened all the way home from off the freeway to driveway (approx 4 miles). Was all prepared to rush it over to GMC dealer this morning, but no symptoms and couldn't repeat problem to dealer when I got there??!!?? Anybody have this similar problem with their Safari/Astros???
    Also is your luggage rack missing screws on the cross bars? (front & back, better check)
  • cormiercormier Posts: 8
    We had similar problems on some of our 97 Astros, but usually around 50k - 60k. I mention this because that symptom sets up a soft code (one that disappears when the vehicle is turned off). If this problem recurs, I suggest you drive the van directly to a GMC dealer (do not turn off the engine) and have them experience the "hard shift" and pull the code. That's probably what you will need for GM warranty. (I can't guess at a cause, but your problem is probably related to incorrect internal pressure, causing the transmission to switch into "limp mode." The "hard shift" does not cause damage, but it indicates that there is a problem.) Note: unless the '99 transmission is programmed differently from the '97, you won't have Over Drive while in "limp mode." The cause of the problem is not likely to correct itself, but the problem should be easy to confirm and document via the code and a GM tech experiencing "limp mode" symptoms. It's too bad you have the problem, but you shouldn't have trouble getting GM to address it.

    As for the roof rack, it is installed at the dealership. The missing screws are not an uncommon problem, but the service manager should recognize it as inattentive and sloppy work by one of his low-level technicians and take care of it for you.

    Good luck.
  • Went to have the oil changed on my van today
    And found the trans fluid 3/4 qt low
    Brake fluid 3/4 reservoir low
    1 pint of anti-freeze low
    I should've checked it out better since it was a 1999 model still new at dealer in oct00
    and mfg date of 11/98
    Will take your advice on leaving the van running when I get to the dealer
    Was wondering if when the shifting starts to act up if I shut off ignition and restart will the problem go away for that moment.
    Hate to take the van on a short trip and it starts up//Don't like being stranded on side of road//Thanks again for your advice
    I'll let you know if it starts up again after a short drive like last time
  • In Update to messages 71/72
    I contacted cac@gmc.com
    They have totally ignored my e-mails
    So I take it there is a known problem with the
    transmissions in these vans. And in not responding to the e-mails, they can use the excuse
    "oh, I never got it"
    So buy the extended warranty on this van and get ready to use it
    I also contacted regional offices but another deaf ears and also
    waiting to hear from them (yeah, right)
  • cormiercormier Posts: 8
    Regarding a "known problem" with these transmissions: I'm not sure I can go that far. I own 75 Astros now, and have had more than 100 others. (We routinely run them to 125-150k.) We experienced those "symptoms" in 3 of our 22 '97 Astros, and perhaps one of the '98 Astros. The problem occurred around 55k miles, and only after driving for a minimum of 45 minutes. So your situation is far from identical. However, I think my advice is still relevant. Go to the dealer when the problem is occurring (when you are in "limp mode") and have them pull the code (probably P1830: transmission component slipping) and experience the symptoms. I believe that will initiate a response for you, and I doubt that anything else will. This is a $500-1500 repair, depending on the cause. They won't commit to that based on an e-mail. They'll have to document it in the manner I described.

    On the positive side, this won't leave you stranded (it's probably harder to get the symptom to recur). "Limp mode" is a designed response that protects the transmission from damage. The "hard shift" feels bad, but it's not harmful to the transmission. Just the opposite; the slippage that makes the shift smooth is harmful when it is excessive.

    So, talk with the service manager about the problem and tell him you will bring it in when it's happening. A friendly, realistic attitude usually works best. After all, it's not his fault that the transmission is giving you trouble. And likewise, the cost of repair isn't coming out of his pocket. His job is to respond effectively to the customer's legitimate complaint, but he needs to document why he authorized the expenditure. That's why having them pull the code and experience the symptoms is so important. If you do this, I really don't think you will have a problem.

    My only concern for you is that the 3 year warranty will expire before you can document the problem. That's another reason to be talking with the service manager. If you're getting close to the three years, ask him to document your complaint via an entry into the GM service computer. Remember, the warranty is a contract. 3/36 doesn't mean 4/46. My experience is that they are "a little" generous if it's close and if it's documented. But if it's neither of those, you can save your breath.

    Bye-the-way, has the problem ever happened a second time?

    In any case, don't be afraid to use the van; and don't resign yourself to a bad outcome. Follow my advice and it will work out o.k. It will be a bit of a hassle, but life's that way.
  • mauryrmauryr Posts: 3
    We have an 89 Safari with 215,000 that is running strong except for a curious problem that no one seems able to diagnose. When the van shifts from one gear to the next it has a very noticeable hesitation. It never does this for the first few minutes after it has been started. I've replaced fuel filters, fuel pump, had transmission checked and run a couple of cans of fuel injector cleaner through it. Anyone have any ideas? We're confused!
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 40,992
    Since no one has posted in here yet, try scanning or reposting in Transmission Traumas? in the Maintenance & Repair Board. Good Luck.

    Steve
    Host
    Vans, SUVs and Aftermarket & Accessories Message Boards

    Moderator
    Need help navigating? stever@edmunds.com - or send a private message by clicking on my name.

  • roma60roma60 Posts: 1
    I had been having this problem for the last two years and getting worse . Went to the dealer
    and was told it possibly was the switch interlock and the cost of repair would be about $100.
    I had learned how to by-pass that switch by starting the engine and slowly turning the ignition key switch a little forward and could shift out of park that way as going to the GMC neutral start procedure was not always working .
    I got fed up , got a flash light and located the switch (white plastic) attached to the steering post, this switch has a vacuum hose attached to it .
    While pressing on the brake pedal I notice that there should be a pin of some sort which should be released from the switch when the brake pedal stop plate was depressed .
    I pulled out the vacuum hose attached to the back of the switch and depressed the pedal again and the switch pin (red plastic ) came out when released by the stop (contact plate). I noticed that the pin was streaked with black and possibly dirty .
    I used some electronic cleaning spray fluid in the hose input and on the pin and activated the brake pedal while observing the pin going in and out with no apparent stickiness .
    I reconnected the hose and repeated the brake pedal action and all is working well now .
    As I had a new brake job done three years ago the brake pedal was high, I surmise that dirt entering the plunger pin made it sticky and could not be released out far enough when the brake was applied , this stickiness combined with a residual vacuum pressure is strong enought to prevent the inner spring from pushing the pin out when the brake is applied .
  • wasabi3wasabi3 Posts: 1
    Have been reading here about shifting problems with different model years of the Safari vans. I have a 1997 AWD that I have had pretty good luck with until recently. At around 83K I started experiencing a quick shifting thud between 1st and 2nd gear, and to a lesser degree between 2nd and 3rd. This would only happen after the van had been driven for at least an hour. For several days it was happen like clockwork. If I stopped somewhere and shut it off, it would go away for the rest of my ride home. Coincidently, I remember the "service engine soon" light was on, but I paid no attention to it because at other times the light would go on and off for no reason. My mechanic said that the first thing to do would be to do a fluid and filter change, and see what happens. He did that, and the problem went away, until one day after 1 1/2 hours on the highway, it returned, as did the service light. After a few days, before I could call the tranny shop, the light went off and shifting has been ok.I suppose I should take it in and have the codes read, but I was wondering if this sounds familiar to anyone. Other than an intermittent no-start condition after 4k the van has been a keeper.
  • danjk2danjk2 Posts: 2
    Sounds very familiar. The exact same thing was happening to my 1997 AWD Astro earlier this year and after a couple of tries by the dealer to "fix" the problem, I ended up paying $2,500 for a new (GM-certified rebuilt) transmission at 78K miles. It seams like a lot of us are stuck in the same boat (pun intended). I've checked out several message boards and always find people who own 1997 Astros and Safaris telling the same story.

    Chevrolet's Customer Assistance Center was useless -- saying they couldn't do anything because there was not an official recall or service campaign in effect for the problems. To add insult to injury, a couple of weeks after paying for a new transmission, I received a recall notice because the warning beep for the seat belts was not staying on long enough to meet the Federal standard.

    I'm glad somebody is watching out for the big things.
  • paulc4paulc4 Posts: 1
    I own a 97 Chevy Astro and have expirenced the same hard shifting between 1st and 2nd gear.

    On a trip last spring, the majority of the transmission oil blew out the vent hole while driving down the freeway. This was the first time I realized it had a problem. I too had the fluid/filter changed and the service code reset after that incident. Everything worked fine for about 2 weeks, then the problem re-occurred.

    Has anyone seen any posting on other web sites about this problem?
  • ej99ej99 Posts: 1
    This proves my theory that American cars and trucks should have an extended warranty.
    I have a 1997 Chevy Astro Van with 45K miles. Just like the other responses posted here, when I get off the freeway, and after a stop sign, the transmission had an adrupt shift from 1-2 gear. This is the clue the tranny starts to go bad. I took my van to the dealer and they confirmed it needed to be replaced with a new(rebuild) one.
    Lucky for me, it was under warranty.$2,300 repair.
    I like the interior room & overall shape of this vehicle but wish the quality was better.

    p.s does anyone know how to disengage the daytime running lights?
    Everyone honks at me when I go to
    a drive-in movie.
  • We've experienced this problem (hard shift from 1st to 2nd) many times on our 97 and 98 Astros (which have interchangeable transmissions). Sadly, we had the same problem on one of our 99's, which are just beginning to reach the 60k range. The bad news is that the problem is very common. The better news is that there is a $350 fix. (I didn't say it was good news, but it's a lot better than the options you mentioned.) I don't know exactly what the "fix" consists of, but I understand it involves drilling and perhaps sleeving the hole that the "shuttle pin" (my word) travels through when the shift solenoid activates. Sorry I can't be more specific. Mike (our head mechanic)would be more eloquent. Perhaps one of the GM techs can provide more detail. But if you want more info from me, please let me know.
  • jlflemmonsjlflemmons Posts: 2,240
    add an external transmission cooler. You can get a good one for less than $50, takes less than an hour to install, and makes a big difference in the life of the tranny, especially when towing.
  • The General specifications for the Astro is that it is equipped with heavy duty engine and transmission cooling. They do not offer any additional cooling. I wanted to add an additional tranny cooler but was advised that the transmission needs to reach operating temperature for optimal life and that additional cooling is not a good idea. I don't know, but for now I'm sticking to GM recommendations, other than semi synthetic transmission fluid, and wish that I had used Mobil 1 a full synthetic fluid. The synthetic having a higher breakdown or degradation temperature than the regular Dexron III.

    The General does recommend tow in 4th or overdrive to reduce the torque converter heating of the transmission. I assume the 99 has the tow mode button on the transmission, 97 does not have this. But if the transmission is doing a lot of hunting and dropping in and out of lockup then you need to bite the bullet and lock it out by down shifting.

    That's all I know or maybe more.
  • jlflemmonsjlflemmons Posts: 2,240
    The external tranny cooler does not take the place of the internal radiator cooler. It is added after the radiator cooler so that the quick warm up is only slightly affected, but additional cooling is available when the engine cooling system is working overtime, such as towing during the summer. When I bought my '95 Safari, the service manager at the dealer suggested adding the external cooler for any vehicle towing in Texas. At the time, they did not sell the coolers, but would show how to put one on for the do-it-yourselfers. I have almost 70K on the van and have had -0- problems with the tranny. Maybe would have been okay regardless, but for $50 I decided that here in central Texas there was a much greater chance of the tranny running hot than cold. y'all have a good weekend.

    Jim
  • ahelmahelm Posts: 14
    JL, Did you plumb the cooler using the short hose section going to the bottom of the radiator? Or cut the hard line from the top? I believe it is recommended to install the cooler downstream of the radiator in the return line, but it appears it is the return line that is all rigid and the supply line with the little section of hose.

    Coonhound, just something about transferring loads from grade 8 bolts to spot welds I don't like. BTW the metric grade 10.9 exceeds SAE grade 8.
    Thanks again- Andy
  • jlflemmonsjlflemmons Posts: 2,240
    I didn't use the included hose, I used power steering hose instead. Tends to last a LOT longer. Didn't cut any lines, I pushed the hose over the bevel and clamped it down. Used a nipple fitting on the radiator side.

    The '95 was the extended with the 190HP engine, the aero nose (well, as aero as it could be) but did not have the new dash configuration. The 190HP was available as an option in '94, possibly earlier. As I have said before, don't run premium in these CPI engines unless you just like replacing injectors...

    Jim
  • Jim; After some discussion on this site I visited the local dealer parts department and now think I'm an expert. I looked at the computer parts display and came up with the following. The CPI engine stands for central port injection, and there is an injector at each cylinder, but I believe there is only one poppet valve and it sends fuel to every injector for each firing pulse the same as most systems did in early to mid 90s. The sequential port sends fuel to each cylinder on the intake stroke. The injection still has the central fuel distributor and I don't have a clue as to how the individual distribution is accomplished. Making another assumption, I believe there are 6 poppets in the central port assembly. Modern sequential port injection has a solenoid type injector at each cylinder intake.

    I asked the parts man what is the weak link in the system and he said it is the fuel pressure regulator mounted on the central port assembly.

    And I believe what you say about premium fuel, I assume it eats up the plastic injectors. I had one injector replaced under warranty just after purchasing the van with some 27000 miles on it. And have read on this post where there are more injector problems with California blended fuels.
  • timyaktimyak Posts: 2
    We currently have 32,000 miles on our 2000 Astro and it has had to have the 3rd and 4th gears replaced twice already. We put a lot of highway miles on this vehicle and occasionally tow an 1800 lb pop-up camper. I always use the tow-haul mode and 3rd gear when under 50 miles per hour. Has anyone else out there had problems with the transmissions? Other than alot of little nit noid quality issues (the driver side mirror whistles terribly, needed underside painted due to peeling paint after only 2 months) my wife actually likes the vehicle. We're thinking about trading it in already because of the transmission problems. Would like to hear back. thanks Timyak
  • coonhoundcoonhound Posts: 174
    I'm sorry to hear that GM has transmission problems again. I have a 97 Astro before the Tow haul mode, but have not towed my 4500# Award very much but have not had a problem either. My owners manual says to tow in overdrive to prevent torque converter heating, paraphrased.

    If GM builds the best automatic then there must be some real junk out there.

    You probably have covered this site where this one guy post about a fleet of these things with minimal problems. Two or three transmission problems on 97 models.
  • I have a '98 astro 2WD that with 48,200 miles on it started shifting abruptly from 1st to 2nd gear after 30 minutes of driving. It was preceeded by the check engine light coming on. We drove it only on short trips for about 3 weeks and the check engine light had gone off after 2 days. Then, yesterday, we took it on a 85 mile trip and the check engine light came on after we exited the interstate. then it started the abrupt shifting again. Does anybody know if the check engine light is related to the transmission problem? How serious is this transmission problem? I would also like to know how to diagnose the code set by the check engine light. Where is the terminal box located and which terminals do I short together?
    I also have another issue with the Astro. There is a clunking noise coming from the front pass. side suspension. During hard braking and turning left I get the noise. The harder the turn, the more different clunking sounds it makes. I took it to the dealer with 35000 miles on it and they said my front shocks were bad with leaks and replaced them but nothing else wrong. Now the noise is much more frequent and louder with 48000 miles on it. Is my ball joint going to come apart, and shouldn't the warranty cover this if it is a problem, since I reported it while still under warranty?
  • danjk3danjk3 Posts: 2
    Your problem is not an uncommon one ... and not a good one. You'll see serveral posts earlier on this message board -- as well as other boards -- from people who've had the same problem with hard 1st-to-2nd shifts. In most every one that I recall, people had to replace their transmissions. It seems to be a defect that's mostly on 1997 models -- a few '98s, too. Mine happend at 78K.

    For me, it was the most costly in a long line of out-of-warranty repairs on my 1997 AWD Astro. All totaled, I've had more than $5,000 in post-warranty repair bills. Needless to say, I'm not much of an Astro advocate. Good luck.
  • Hi! I have a 2000 model 2WD Astro which (until now) has run like a top. Just had the transmission fluid changed out, and now the "Service Engine Soon" light stays on all the time (have tried unhooking battery overnight to reset) and I seem to have little or no torque in both forward and reverse from a full stop. No other noticable problems. I've read every message here and in other forums, and have seen peripheral reference to such conditions, but nothing which seems likely to help. I see reference to two TSB's here at Edmond's (01070036 and 010730038, NHSTA #'s 627912 and 628934) which seem to apply, but have no way to find out what they actually say. I tried to get help at the nearest dealer (~75 miles away) but they can't even look at it for over two weeks and want $137 just to hook up the computer and pull the code. Would GREATLY appreciate any insight or direction regarding what seems to be a relatively common ailment. Thanks in advance, Scott
  • #1 If you have an Auto Zone in your area they will check the codes for free.

    #2 Are your sure the tranny is filled to the proper level?

    #3 Did they fill unit with the proper Dexron III?

    Disconnecting the battery for 10 minutes or so will reset the code memory. So I am sure that it takes a little while after startup for the code to return.

    I always worry about whether or not the replacement filter is completely plugged in and seated.
  • coonhoundcoonhound Posts: 174
    I finally broke down and ordered a Hayden 404 transmission oil cooler for my 97
    Astro. GM does not offer an aux. cooler for this van and says that it has a heavy duty cooler.????
    Most of the duty for the van is to tow a 30' Award travel trailer, and if I am out on a 110 degree day with the air on I probably need some additional cooling. Even with the semi-synthetic transmission fluid.

    Windshield wiper recall. Took the dealer about 10 minutes or less to replace the circuit board.

    I have Mobil 1 gear lube in the differential.

    I agree with info. in post like #356, 357, & 359.
  • This is an informational post.

    I have a 2000 Astro van with 48800 miles on it. I would not have expected to have a transmission problem at this year and mileage.

    Last week I had a “check engine light’ activate. The computer was scanned for codes and it showed P1870. This code indicates the transmission is slipping. After researching the code and problem I found that this is a common code for General Motors 4L60E transmissions. This transmission is used in most if not all Astros and Safari vans. It is also used in many of GMs pickup trucks. I found that most, if not all of the 4L60E transmissions have a problem with a spring-loaded valve located in the valve body, which is inside the transmission housing. This is most likely a defect in the transmission, but GM will not admit it because of an expensive recall that GM would have to pay for.

    The spring-loaded valve in the valve body wears in its round hole causing it to stick and causes the transmission to slip and the P1870 code to appear in a computer scan. The valve can be replaced by reaming out the hole and placing a superior after market valve and spring in the new hole. This generally corrects the problem. The cost for this valve replacement is about $400.00. If you take the vehicle to GM they will replace the entire valve body, which contains the same old valve and spring. The cost for this is about $800.00 and you can look forward to the P1870 code in the future.

    Well, my transmission was destroyed by this slippage. The transmission shop pulled the pan and the oil was like molasses. It needs a bunch more than a new valve. At this time my van is still in the shop. They will need to pull the entire transmission and rebuild, or possibly replace it. The cost for this can be about $2000.00. Fortunately I purchased an extended warrantee when I purchased the van. Hopefully, all I will need to pay is the $200.00 deductible.

    The spring-loaded valve only activates at speeds above 45-50 MPH. If you are climbing a hill above this speed and the valve fails to function, a check engine light is likely.

    I hope this will alert others to the problem.
  • boxdinboxdin Posts: 2
    Old Van Nut wants to shift..looking for Astro w 4.3 and manual trans... whats out there ??
    Thanks
    Rick
  • I don't think the Astro ever came with a manual transmission, but the 4.3 has always been the sole engine available.
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