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Chevy Express/GMC Savana

I own a '99 Chevy Express and am interested in
finding out what repairs to expect at it gets
older. I'm very interested in hearing from anyone
with a '96 or newer full size GM van.

I recently replaced a bad alternator (5.7L engine)
under warranty at 16,500 miles- my only non
maintenance repair to date.


  • We have a '99 GMC Savana with about 13,700 miles on it - so far no major problems - the van runs and handles great! We took it for a 7500-mile trip over the summer and it was a pleasure in all sorts of weather, and on all kinds of roads.

    The only defects so far have been: a blown cigarette-lighter fuse (apparently caused by a defective 12V coffeemaker), a sticky power window switch, and poor workmanship with all the velcro tabs for both the shoulder belts and the carpet flaps covering where the removable bench seats lock/unlock to the floor.

    Sorry to hear about your alternator - we have the same engine, so I hope we don't have the same problem - at least not after our warranty runs out! We did purchase an extended warranty, which was really out-of-character for us (we're generally not fans of extended warranties, and we didn't get one for our Subaru), but we had no idea how reliable the van was going to be, and decided that an extended warranty gave us a bit more piece of mind.
  • Midas Gold,

    I noticed your post that you are a relatively new owner of a 12-passenger Savana. Are
    the benches removable, and if so how? Do they pop with the push of a lever (like most
    minivans) or do you have to undo those allen-wrench-looking bolts?? A friend with a
    Ford Club Wagon says his just pop out. But I like the Savana better, but the ability to
    quickly create more space with 6 kids will affect my purchasing decision.
    Thanks if you have a chance to respond.
    Donn Ghaile
  • Yes, the benches are removable. The carpeting has little flaps (with some really *useless* velcro tabs - see my comment under "Full Size Vans"). Lift the flap, and there's a gap in the padding at that location. There are strong metal L-shaped locking pins with rubberized grips. We just sort of wiggle the locking pin while pulling it out and it (usually) comes right out. Then comes the fun part - getting the benches out of the van - my husband can do it in just a couple of minutes. They make a nice sitting area in our garage - add a coffee table and we'd be all set! ;-)

    Why they don't apply all the marvels of miraculous seat-folding from minivan-land to these full-sized vans is beyond me!

    We have 6 kids, too! :-)

    BTW, just curious - why do you like the Savana over the Ford?
  • MG,
    Thanks for taking the time to respond. The answer to the Ford v. GM? Purely looks. My better half thinks -- and I can't disagree -- that the Ford, despite the windows on the sides, still looks like work van no matter what. We like the spiffy look of the GM.
  • Yeah, I agree about the looks. Speaking of windows, the GM's look like one continuous expanse of glass (even though it isn't from the inside), while the Ford's are divided into segments on both the inside *and* the outside - the GM looks neater. Another reason we went with GM over Ford is that our mechanic *hates* Fords (though he admits they're good for his business)... hope no Ford people are reading this. ;-)
  • av8drav8dr Posts: 2
    I have a 99 Express. Does anyone know how to turn off the daytime running lights? Thanks.
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioPosts: 804
    Av8dr, what does the owner's manual say?

    Community Leader/Vans Conference
  • hardestyhardesty Posts: 166
    By federal law, the manufacturer can not provide an off switch for DRLs. If you have automatic headlights, pulling the DRL fuse will probably disable those too. There is a way to make the DRL module think that the headlights are on, but it requires some re-wiring. It is legal for you to disable the DRLs, but not for someone to do it for you (dealer or mechanic).
  • I appreciate the postings here on the GM Savana reliability. My wife and I are looking at new vans now and she really likes the look of the Savana.
    We have had both a Ford Aerostar and Econoline 250 and I will not buy another Ford due to the terrible reliability of both.

    By the way, we also have 6 kids... must be in the water...
  • Glad to be of service. If you'd like to read more of what I've written about our Savana, look under the topics "Full Sized Vans" (#18) and "Minivan vs. Suburban" (#858).

    Yup, six kids... and with a 12-seater, nobody has to sit next to anyone else. ;-)
  • The daytime running lights turn off when the parking brake is pressed (even 1 notch) Therefore you can drive with the park brake set 1 notch (this is fine for short distances) or for a permanant "off", just bypass the switch at the park brake.
  • We have 37,000 on our 1997 Savanna SLE. We are very dissatisfied with the brakes. Just replaced the front pads for the third time along with the rotors. Rear brakes also replaced. Seems the front pads need replacing every 12,000 miles. GMC failed to stand behind their product when at, 20,000 miles the right front brake pad wore down due to a sticky caliper. The dealer wanted to charge me $40 just to inspect the caliper which was under warranty. I went to a private shop and don't intend to go back to the dealer again. The interior is cheap and as it gets older tends to squeek and rattle alot. The van looks great and is roomy and easy to drive however, the bad experience with the dealer over such a minor problem has caused us to look at Fords before another problem appears. As a note, we tried several GMC & Chevy dealers regarding the caliper problem and all wanted to charge to inspect it. When will GM learn that customer satisfaction should be their first concern. I wish Honda made a large enough vehicle to pull a trailor because I would buy it immediately. For those of you looking...beware!!
  • We have just purchased a 99 express conversion, and it has this automatic battery disconnect after 40 seconds, to prevent the battery from running down. it is only supposed to engage when something is left on ( I believe). however, intermittently the remote entry will not work after you have left and lock the van, then come back and everything is dead... you have to unlock by key, and then even the power door locks are inop? you have to turn the key on and off to reset everything, the radio loses the time etc... something is wrong and this power interlock is completely disconnecting the vans electrical.. any related problems out there
  • mrd1mrd1 Posts: 1
    I own a 96 conversion and have had similar problems. I have 46,000 and have had front and rear brakes done plus I think I will have to do the fronts again soon. I thought it was just because I pull a trailer with it. I have also had the alternator replaced. I also had a complete rebuild of my rear end but it was very early and probably a factory defect even though I had seals redone since. I do like the ride and with the conversion the interior is very comfortable. I do worry about keeping the van after the warranty is done.
  • joker1joker1 Posts: 3
    I also had the rear seals replaced due to a leak. Fortunately the seals were under warranty. We drove a Ford conversion and found it less roomy and my wife couldn't reach the gas pedals!! We are going to try another Ford converter.
  • Sorry to hear about the problems you've been having with your Savana - I would also be very upset if that happened with our van. Our Savana 2500 SLE just hit the 15,000 mile mark, and your post made me so paranoid that, today, when I took it to the dealer to have the front wheel bearings re-packed (as per the owner's manual), I asked them have a look at the brakes (I also had them look at the rear brakes because the parking brake pedal seemed to be traveling too close to the floor - see discussion in "Full Sized Vans" topic #18).

    To my relief, our Savana still has 60% on both the fronts and the rears, and the dealer assured me that its brakes are wearing at a normal rate. The parking brake cable was a adjusted, and all is well.

    I sure hope yours is an isolated problem... but I'm sure it doesn't feel that way when you're the one having the problem.
  • I have a 1998 Savana conversion van. It has 25,000 miles on it and I didn't have a problem until a couple of weeks ago. Suddenly there was oil leaks on the driveway. There was a transmission leak, rear main bearing seal leak, oil pan gasket leak and an engine coolant leak!! While they were repairing these leaks, they also replaced the power steering pump. I don't know why they did that. They COULD NOT tell me why these leaks all came at the same time.
    It seems that all vehicles have their share of major problems. The makers will not make them better as long as we cosntantly pay big bucks for them and accept the inferior workmanship.
  • I`ve read all the things about chev/gmc vans at this site and I wanted to leave a comment. I have a 1990 Beauville with 240,000 miles. The only thing I replaced is the trans... The engine (350) has the same power it had when it was new, lots. I`m thinking about a new one but the only reason is because of old door hardware (handles, electric windows....) and a little rust. I`ve got more than my moneys worth.....
  • I have a 97 Express eclipse conversion. Have'nt had any brake trouble. Troublesome Driver power window. Sqeeky Drive belt when wet. Fuel gauge repaired under warranty. Velour interior does'nt wear well. "dents" easy. Nice to drive, have 35000 miles with no trouble w/engine. Tow a 6500lb trailer, no sweat. get 17-18mpg on the highway, 12-13 in the city. Great road feel and handling. Nice on a long trip. Would buy another. Much better than Ford. Question? e-mail me at [email protected]
  • av8drav8dr Posts: 2
    Does anyone know how to turn off the the annoying buzzer when the driver door is open? I have a 99 Express.

    Thanks, RoadRanger for the info on DRL.
  • I'll help as much as I can with the info about the oil leaks.
    The van is an Imperial Conversion mid level value.
    It has a Vortec 5000 engine.
    I do not tow anything and I live out in the country SW of Chicago, Ill.
    I use 10W30 oil and it is serviced by a GM dealer every 3,000 to 3,500 miles.
    The van is used for normal every day driving and we take 3 or 4 2,000 miles trips every year.
    The thing that really puzzles me is that all of the leaks started at the same time. Bummer!!
  • solarisolari Posts: 1
    I have a 99 GMC Savanna and at 19,000 miles I started to have a shimmy in the steering wheel when braking. The dealership turned the rotors.
    My questions are:
    1. Is replacement o fmy brake far
    2. Is this going to happen
    every 19,000
    3. Any GM recalls?
  • There is no way for me (or anyone else) to determine EXACTLY what caused your rotor problems. The bottom line is, your rotors were warped. Warpage is caused from 2 things...

    1. overheating (i.e. riding brakes, not downshifting on long steep downhill grades, towing with inadequate trailer brakes, frequent hard stops, especially with heavy loads, etc.)

    2. Rapid cooling of hot rotors. This is caused when hot rotors (not necessarily overheated) are splashed or submerged in water puddles.

    Of course there is also the possability that the rotors were defective in some way.

    The only thing that would cause your brake pads to wear would be the scenerios described in #1. If you typically brake "normally", brake pads should last between 20K-40K miles, depending on driving environment (city vs. hwy. mountains vs plains, etc.)
  • I just picked up my van from the dealer last week. It was one of those affairs where nothing seemed to go well.

    I was having some warranty issues looked at. I carefully checking off the box to have it LUBED. I didn't check off the other boxes for "oil change", "filter", etc. I called to see if the warranty work was done. The service writer proudly said, "No but we've changed the oil!".

    When I picked up the van, I checked the dipstick. (a previous experience at a Honda dealer had trained me to check to see if they put any oil in). This time the dipstick showed they had overfilled it with too much oil. After idling for a few minutes. It still had too much oil. I drained 2 quarts out before I got the oil level into the acceptable range on the stick.

    If I were to have driven enough with too much oil, I might have ended up with your situation. Others can fill in the technical explanation. For now my basic description is that with too much oil, the oil gets whipped up into a foam. That foam takes up more volume than can be contained. The result is you end up with oil leaking from all sorts of places.

    Just one of the possibilities for you to consider.

  • I just found this WONDERFUL forum! We are in the process of choosing between the Express or the Savana. I have just about made my self crazy researching these two vans over the last two weeks.We are a growing family that enjoys traveling. I'm not a big one for "fluff", rather must have durability. In the TX heat, I was wondering how the A/C's hold out while the vans are parked & running? I have also looked for used in both . . . basically unheard of (could be frustrating if I can't get a good deal on a "new"). We would appreciate some words of wisdom ASAP. Thank you
  • I can promise you there is NO mechanical difference between chevy & GMC. You can literally take any part from one line & install it on the other. The only difference between comperable GMC & Chevy, is the trim packages. You will notice things like grill, door panels, upholstery, etc. Yes there are a couple exceptions like the yukon denal, but when you consider the details, fenders are just really big trim pieces.
  • The Express and Savana are equivalent as mentioned by Roadranger.

    As for fluff, neither has fluff. Both are fairly plain even at the upper trim group level.

    For durability, I suggest you investigate the power and drive train combinations. The 1/2 ton or 1500 series has a softer ride but has lighter weight features. Consider the 3/4 ton or 2500 series you may find that you get larger brakes, larger transmission, and larger differential.

    So far, after 6 months, I am enjoying mine. I hope you find a van that works well for you.
  • Regarding the TX heat, last August we drove our '99 GMC Savana 2500 SLE 12-passenger - loaded with 8 people and *way* too much luggage - 'cross country for 7500 miles, including through much of the Great State of Tejas. The front'n'rear A/C kept us all cool as cucumbers... :-)

    PS - Our van is a beeyootiful shade of plumber's white (well, GM calls it "Summit White"). ;-)
  • Any comments from folks on the difference in ride between a Savana 1500 and a 2500? We need the seating for 12 the 2500 provides (6 kids), but I am anxious about having too bumpy a ride when we don't have a lot in the van ...
  • We have a 2500 12-seater. I think the ride is very nice up front, however it definitely feels more bouncy to the rearmost passengers (I guess because it has old-fashioned leaf springs in the rear) - but they're usually kids so they can take it right? ;-)

    Theoretically, the more heavily-loaded the vehicle, the better the ride. (I've been keeping a couple of cases of bottled water in the cargo area for added weight over the drive wheels for winter driving.)

    I've never driven or ridden in a 1500, but last summer we did meet some fellow "Edmunds" Savana owners (Hi, Ariel, if you're reading this!) on our cross-country trip. Theirs was a 1500 8-seater with 60/40 swing-out side doors; our 2500 has a sliding side door. The first thing we noticed when we parked our vans side-by-side was how much taller our 2500 is - that's because of the heavier-duty suspension and larger wheels.

    Another point that may interest you was that the step-in height in our van was further increased by having the sliding door: the inside tread is raised because the sliding-door track goes below it. So if you want a 2500 but wish to minimize the climbing-in height for the kiddies, you might prefer to get 60/40 doors (we preferred the slider because there are no visible hinges and we wanted easy enter/exit when parked close to other vehicles). Alternatively, you might consider adding a running board.

    Anyway, I'm very pleased with the ride in our 2500, at least up front! :-)
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