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Chevy Express/GMC Savana



  • Wow, I'm starting a business and need a cargo van and after reading about all of the problems with the Chevy/GMC vans, transmissions, rear ends, etc, I think I'm going to spend the money on the Freightliner Sprinter. I figure it costs $5000 more but from the look of it, I'll save that in the first 50k miles in fuel and warranty costs. Fed Ex and UPS just ordered 12000 of these vans and now I see why. Many thanks to everyone for their honest assessments and help, I think you've saved me a lot of time, money and aggravation.
  • shortyshorty Posts: 1
    I'm having my third transmission installed at about 80,000 miles. No towing of anything. Love the engine, the ride (custom van), and the shift, but this sudden loss of a transmission with no warning has me very upset. Does anyone have an answer as to what might be causing the problem?
  • Responding to ehoefs posting. We just bought a Dual Fuel (CNG) Chevy Express 3500 Van last week. We too found no Owner's Manual Supplement regarding the Compressed Natural Gas system and how to use it. I've talked to Chevy, to Helm Publications (they say they are out of stock of the $10 item - although I'm still wondering if there even is such a thing) and to three supposed AFV (Alternative Fuel Vehicle) dealers in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. None of them seemed to have any experience with AFVs even though their names were given to me by Chevy. No one can come up with any directions on how to use the CNG system. I bought the van with 2400 miles on it and it too was registered to Ford out of Michigan as a test vehicle. We didn't want CNG but got a great price on the van. We're taking it in this week to get an estimate on removing the CNG so we can put in a towing hitch. We're also adding the jack back in and will carry a spare inside the van (hitch, tire, and jack are available on the 2003 CNG vans but not on the 2002s). I'd love to get information from anyone that knows anything about this this CNG Bi-Fuel Express Van. Direct Email can go to Thanks!
  • The Van Cranks over fine and it does not have to be driven in the rain just be out in the rain.
    I am leaving for Florida tomorrow I will let you know if it happenens again.
  • I pick up my 2004 2500 Savanna on Sunday. Would like to add custom wheels (preferable 18" or larger), anyone have any recomendations?
  • I started this topic back in Nov'99. I have a 99 Chevy Express and needed to know what to expect in terms of future repairs.

    What I've learned is that this is a very reliablel vehicle. You can search for my posts to see what repairs I've made to the vehicle since any time I did have a problem not related to build quality I posted it. I believe my issues were a bad alternator replaced under warranty (I'm at 88K now and the replacement has been going strong) and perhaps I may have commented about lingering issues with the tailights/dashboard lights that would go out occassionally when driving down the road. Also, I had trouble with the driver side window which every 6-12 months decides not to work on a consistent basis but somehow gets better. Other than that our expenses have been oil, tires, and things the kids broke.

    As far as transmission troubles that permeatted this board in the early days-- nothing. My brother did replace the tranny in his '97-98 and I believe a defect does exist, at least in those years, but these are actually very reliable vehicles.

    What I'm trying to say is that this discussion topic is going to have more people complaining as than praising. I was worried about the tranny going out by 35K or even 60K at the latest, as well as other issues. In the end I have an alternator, a window, and a chronic dimmer/headlight switch issue that I have learned to deal with.

    This vehicle has truly exceeded my expectations and has been the most utilitarean vehicle I have ever owned. This is actually a conversion van but I remove the seats to convert it into a cargo van when needed. I've hauled 1 ton of cypress mulch in it, a pallet of sod, plywood, sheetrock, and anything else you can thing of to finish a basement including toilets, cabinets, trim, doors, etc. Really, Really, a dependable and great vehicle.

    I saw a post back one or two pages ago that said that they wouldn't purchase a GM van based on the comments on this page. I think that's a mistake-- at least at this moment in time based on my 54 month of owning the vehicle.

    For those whose experience has not been as good, please keep posting as it is helpful for all of us.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Nice summary and it's great to have the originator around still contributing. Thanks!

    Steve, Host
  • Like mrh3108, I am quite satisfied with the
    Savana SLE 1500 year 2000, now at 70K miles.
    Only minor problems, not important to dwell into.
    But my next vehicle will be a smaller one if only
    to reduce the fuel consumption and have better
    braking performance. Fortunately I do not really
    need all the space the Savana provided.
  • I just watched a Eaton Corporation Video at Braeger Chevy in Milwaukee. It showed how the Eaton G 80 Diff. is a locking diff. Once there is a difference of 100 RPM the non-rotating wheel recieves 50% of the torque. Great video.
  • I just traded in my '97 Chevy Express Van on a new '03 Express. I also own a '97 GMC Sierra. Both '97 trucks had the same powertrains. Both had the transmission failures described throughout this board. Both caused me lots of frustration trying to figure out why these problems were occurring.

    It turned out to be two problems: One is in the valve body, the other is a stamped metal part referred to as the "sun shell" that carries torque in 4th, 2nd, and reverse.

    In 1993, the 4L60 transmission was introduced as the 4L60E (E=electronic controlled) with a new aluminum valve body. Previous versions of the transmissions used cast iron valve bodys that were absolutely bullet-proof. I don't know all the reasons for the change, but have to think it was to save weight. In any event, the Torque Converter Clutch Valve (TCC) had a tendency in the 96-98 transmissions to wear the bore it slides back and forth in. The round hole would become slightly oblong, allowing trans fluid to leak past the valve resulting in loss of pressure to the Torque Converter lock-up circuit. What happens next is that the PCM, sensing slippage commands maximum line pressure, which results in the hard shift many here complain of.

    Interestingly, the hard shift is actually a good thing. It helps prevent the clutches from slipping as they engage by applying the extra fluid pressure so that they engage quicker with less slip. However, if not corrected, the slippage will lead to burning up the torque converter.

    The fix is to resleeve the TCC bore and install a new TCC valve. Sonnax makes a kit and sells a special reamer to do this. The kit costs $40-65, and the reamer around $75. The whole job can be done in a few hours. Sonnax has a web site, and are good about providing information on their kits. There are also some good technical papers available at the site as well.

    The other problem happened to my pick-up truck at around 68K miles, and to my Van at 72k miles. What happens is you lose 2nd, 4th and Reverse gears, probably experience a big "Clunk" sound. The problem is a basket shaped sheet metal stamping that carries load in 4th, 2nd, and Reverse. There's a splined flange that is spin welded onto the bottom of the basket that transfers torque from the sun shell into the output shaft. After 60000 miles or so, the flange fatigues and the spin-weld fails.

    The sun shell has been a marginal part of the 4L60E, as well as it's predecessor models, the 4L60 and the 700R transmissions for a long time. It just became a chronic problem when the company started mating the 4L60E to the higher output Vortec engines beginning in 1996.

    Hope this helps.
  • If you experience the sun shell failure as described above, have your trans rebuilt with a beefier aftermarket part. One that is available is called the "Beast". I've seen them sold at Transmission parts dealers. They're much heavier-duty than the OEM ones.
  • bobputbobput Posts: 22
    I just bt 99 Savana Hi-top after 4 yrs leased (58K miles)-Agree with gd reliability (replacement tires-Dunlops had 4/4 failures! tread sep-only major problem) Are you still on OE battery? What mileage on front(repl @ 30k)/rear brakes? About to do major maintenance (2 yr) -any particular suggestions from your experience?? Thanks BOBPUT in Tampa
  • Im researching buying a 2001 Express cargo van with the v6 engine...ive found little in the way of reviews, but JD Power gives it some low ratings. I was hoping for some specific feedback to help me make my decision...any comments are appreciated...thanks.

  • ssackssack Posts: 6
    I have a 2001 Savana that has 18xxx miles on it and I have not had any real problems to be concerned about. We took it on vacation this summer and travelled about 4000 miles problem free. I also use it to haul all kinds of stuff from the kids to building supplies and have found it to be one of the most reliable vehicles I have ever owned. I absolutely love it. Don't judge the vehicle by the negative complaints, there are a multitude of positives you just dont hear about.
  • I've a 98 savana with 4L60E transmission. Can I replace the 4L60E with the 4L80 without any major modification to the van? Thanks
  • Fought similar problem for months in '91 Chevy Suburban, w/ several tows and only speculative problems found at shop. I found that pulling up the engine harness as it runs across firewall was a temporary fix - was shorting when wet in hidden area between bellhousing and body sheetmetal. (No need for a hard short - just a water path alone apparently conducts enough to confuse engine control electronics). I removed harness and found insulation breaks from rubbing against edge; split into 2 smaller cables and retaped. No problems since. Water short could be somewhere else in your case, probably away from direct engine heat. While cranking, and avoiding personal injury, try moving cable in various places with a wooden stick, or go along the cabling with compressed air to locate bad insulation.
  • I'm looking at purchasing a new 2003 Express conversion van and wondered what experiences - pro and con that others have had with this van.It has the 6 cyl engine.

    Any comments - suggestions - caveats etc would be appreciated.

  • This Chevy has 100,000 miles and no unscheduled maintenance. While driving on a dirt road about 35 mph, the brake pedal went to the floor and the ABS alarm light came on, then the BRAKE light on the dashboard came on. The brakes were soft but held sufficiently to get a dealer's opinion that it was an ABS valve failure with a large price tag. Has anyone had this type of brake failure on this van?
  • I'm considering a full size coversion van but I can't seem to find much info regarding safety, reliability. Neither Consumer Reports nor NHTSA have any information, but here on Edmunds haven't found advice regarding aftermarket production quality and pricing seems all over the board.

  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Check in Full-size conversion vans and Pricing (costing) conversion vans too, but there's not a lot of info about them on the boards.

    Steve, Host
  • Frank the V6 is a great engine,my 96 Safari has 150k and runs good. However a fullsize conversion is a lot of weight for the V6. Trade in with a V6 would also be affected. {THIS IS JUST MY OPINION } Good Luck
  • quacknitquacknit Posts: 1
    i was wondering if you have a tow/haul button? did you find out what was causing the problem yet?
  • The Savana has been a rock solid asset for our family. Also, the layout of the controls and seating is superior to the Ford/Dodge counterparts.
    *** Question *** I bought an 8 passenger 2001 Savana SLE. Anyone know if it's possible to add a rear 4 passenger seat? Has anyone done this after purchasing their van?
  • awmcleodawmcleod Posts: 1
    The blower control on my van does not have a low speed. Is this control a stand alone item or is it a componet of a larger part. Can I as a DIY able to replace that control?
  • jamz66jamz66 Posts: 2
    I own a '04 Express 1500 AWD that was only able to have 8 pass seating but HUGE amount of cargo room. After calling and searching I found a E-tailer from CA (Discount Van and Truck) that has OEM seats. I ordered the 4 pass seat for the back of my Express, now it's a twelve passenger. They ship out the seats and the brackets to bold it to the floor. These are "Take-out" seats. Seats from vehicles in accidents or upgraded to custom seats. Mine came in A/1 shape. One recommendation, get the OEM seatbelts. The aftermarket belt they carry are CRAP! Here's were to go.
  • jamz66jamz66 Posts: 2
    From my understanding concerning the AWD system in the '04 Express 1500, it's a "Tried and True" system. It's been around and perfected and works NEAR perfectly. I have the AWD Express and used it last winter in the snow. We had roughly 20 snow storms this past year and I only got stuck once (because I wanted to see if I could go through the DEEP stuff). Only needed a few hand fulls of salt and I was back in the saddle. HIGHLY Recomend the AWD Express.
  • thong24kthong24k Posts: 23
    I just bought Chevy Express'98 1500 V6. Does anyone know how it perform in the winter time?
  • I just printed out the Edmunds pricing on a 2005 GMC Savana passenger van. My sources tell me that GMC will not offer this van in 2005. Also the GMC web sight only shows the 1500 and 3500. Will the real truth please stand up. Thanks to all. jkelly
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Anyone go full size for the holidays?


    Steve, Host
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