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Chevy Express/GMC Savana



  • Sixisenough,
    I concur with Midasgold that the ride up front is rather pleasant for these vans. I have the longer wheelbase and that seems to help smooth out the ride.

    The ride/handling out back is different from the front. I know you aren't shopping for the 3500 but to give you a reference point: The rear of my beast doesn't seem to budge when I step my 180 lbs onto it.

    When I carry 12 people, the ride/handling is super and I have better confidence in the drive trains of the 2500 and 3500's.

    I suppose it all comes down to how you plan to use the van and your priorities. You will need to weigh the priorities of a softer ride against the versatility of the 2500.

    PS. I was amused by Midasgold's post about the water--because I too carry a case of bottled water in the back! When I don't tow or haul a load and to get a better car "feel", I believe I really need about 800lbs of water!
  • A 3500 Extend-O, huh? Wish I could see the smirk on your face when you pull up to a traffic light next to a Ford Excur$ion....
  • You have good intuition. Try as we might not to, when we pull up alongside a 'burb or an Excursion the kids, wife, and I do get a bit smug! After all we could have bought another new car with the money we saved and we are still noticeably BIGGER.

    I believe I found the greatest accessory for these vans. I am in the midst of installing this incredibly simple ultrasonic distance detector (Poron). After I saw it demonstrated, I thought this beats those unsightly frensel lenses. Now when backing up, I can tell within 1" how far away the wall is behind me! The device has passed the masking tape temporary install test so I'll spend a bit more time routing the wires this weekend. I'll be able to give a better opinion after I have more than 1 afternoon trying it.

    P.S. I prefer your spelling of Excur$ion.
  • Having trouble finding any comparative data about reliabilty of Ford 250HD versus the Chevy Express 2500 ( with the 8600 lb gross vehicle weight) and the Comparative Dodge van, I guess the Do9dge Ram 250 Heavy Duty? I need a payload over 3000pounds. I just totaled a 97 Ford Econoline 250 Heavy Duty van which had spent about close to 10 days back at the dealers for repairs in its first 2 years so I would like to know if Chevy or Dodge makes a more relible van.
  • I dunno, Bob - all I know is our independent mechanic practically *begged* us not to get a Ford (can't imagine why - he could've made lots of money fixing it after the warranty expired), and loves to ooh and aah over our GM van whenever I drive it onto his lot to check on work he's doing on our old car. The Dodge is a much older design than either GM's or Ford's - but may be tried and true. If your Ford van was troublesome it would make sense to try something else this time around.
  • The master cylinder on my 99 Express started leaking and was replaced under warranty at 22K. So far I've had two warranty repairs, the alternator at around 17K and the master cylinder.

    My brakes were checked at 24K and appear to be wearing fine, with plenty of pad left.
  • I own a 1996 Chevy 1500 Express Full Conversion Van. I purchased this new in April 1997 and have had many problems with it, including electrical (which the Chevrolet Dealer never fixed), loss of engine power, side doors not shutting tight and rattling, sensors, brakes, rear air conditioning, window frames cracking, and just before Christmas had to replace the transmission, all not covered under warranty due to the mileage. I have less than 65,000 miles on this Van, have never towed anything with this Van. I have never had to replace a transmission, especially with less than 65,000 miles!
    I am very disgusted with the poor quality of my Van, the unreliability of it, the poor Chevrolet Dealership Service provided to me, and the poor Chevrolet Customer Service Complaint System. They will be happy to take your complaint, but will they stand behind their product? I would never recommend anyone to purchase a similar Van, much less a Chevrolet.
  • Susan,
    Sorry about your troubles. Makes me want to go out and get an extended warranty right away.

    I am curious about some of the details of your problems. In particular:
    Electrical: what is wrong?
    Loss of power was temporary or chronic?
    Sensors: which ones went bad?
    Rear air conditioning: What went wrong?
    Brakes: What kind of problem?

  • I too purchased a 1996 Chevrolet 1500 Express Full conversion conversion van in early 1997 and folks let me tell ya it SUCKS! I have had more problems with this vehicle than any I have owned in my whole lifetime and I am 40.

    Electrical problems - battery cable, battery plus other problems.
    Noisy fuel pump - Which Chevy won't replace
    Fuel Injector problems
    Dead cylinder
    Rear passenger door hinge (recall)
    Must change front brake pads every year
    Leaks oil and something else.
    Door panels coming alose
    Rattles and sqeeks
    My 35 gallon gas tank (sticker) only seems to hold 29 gallons (wonder were the other 7 gals are at?).
    Starting to idle poorly now (here we go again)

    Now this vehicle gets routine maintance and oil changes. Never has towed anything, has 66,000 miles and is used as a daily transporter of the family with a bi-annual trip to one coast or another. The Chevy dealer never seems to fix the problems correctly the first time so we must often return it several times to get the problems resolved. If it were not for the warranty and extended warranty I would have spent well over $5,000.00 in repair work. Even with the extended warranty I was often stuck with bills exceeding $500.00. The Chevy dealer will listen to your problems but getting them to properly fix them is another story.

    This lifelong GM consumer is currently searching for a new van and trust me it won't be a GM product.
  • Gee, srehme and faninbigd, what can I say?

    Not that this is any consolation, but '96 *is* the first model year of the van's new design, and GM is notorious for lots of bugs in their first-year models.

    I also have long been concerned with the fact that many conversion companies use 1500 vans instead of 2500 or higher. The conversion stuff adds a lot of weight to the van, which has to take its toll somehow or other.

    Our 31-gal tank also appears empty and will then take only about 24 gallons. That may be intentional on the part of the manufacturer to prevent running out of gas. Last summer, we were on a long cross-country trip, and stupidly left a town without refilling our tank. We found ourselves out in the middle of nowhere, with the needle on empty, praying that maybe the next tiny dot on the map would have a gas station, then the next one. We kept going like that for something like 40 miles, I think, until we were finally relieved to find a gas station. So I think there's plenty of reserve in the tank.
  • I picked up a Savana 1500 SLE 2 weeks ago. Forgot
    to bargain for a full gas of tank and had to fill
    up right away. I ended up putting in 29 gallons
    after the 15 mile trip home.
    There was a coolant leak due to a hose not being tightened properly. When ABS kicks in, the steering wheel ( and van ) goes left.
    The ride and noise level are very satisfactory. If
    the mechanic can eventually repair the brakes , I'll be satisfied.
    Could the person posting about the distance detector, please keep us up to date about his installation.
    A nice security system is the GM VSS-150. It works
    with original GM remote control.
  • The device I installed just over 10 days ago is a Poron. At the moment I believe the model is a Mini 3LV (ref.

    I was leery about buying sight unseen and fortunately work near their Gardena California office. The poron rep offered to visit me at my work and demonstrated the unit in his car.

    I was impressed, temporarily installed it with masking tape, and then plunged in for the clean installation.

    I have been actually ENJOYING backing up ever since.

    Unlike the $700 BMW option, this unit actually displays the distance in feet and tenths of feet (metric if you flip the switch). Accuracy is excellent.

    The installation was a fun project. Anyone who can install a fog lamp can do this.

    Installation. 2 wires get spliced onto the wires going to the back up light. 1 power and 1 ground. I had previously located these wires behind the interior trim panel (which just pops off) at the back right corner of the van. I opted to solder splice the wires to avoid potential with the quick splice connectors that were supplied.

    The control unit is about the size of a cigar. I used the supplied double stick tape and attached it onto the rear post (underneath the trim panel).

    The three detectors mounted to supplied brackets and then under the bumper with supplied double stick tape. It seems possible that in this position, they may one day be knocked off by rocks. So next time I will use pieces of angle aluminum instead of the plastic brackets to give them greater protection.

    I overachieved at routing the detector wires. Instead of routing them the easy way--up into the doorway and under the black trim along the back bottom of the van, I removed the drain plug from the back right post and installed a grommet. Through this entry I ran a coat hanger down and then taped the detector connectors (modular phone plugs) to the coat hanger. I pulled the wires up and connected them to the control unit.

    One glitch was having to get an extension for the far left detector so it would reach the control unit. My van is w i d e.

    I ran the cord for the display up the post. I used the supplied bracket to suspend the display from the headliner/back trim piece by just wedging into place. (The install manual shows the display under the rear view mirror but I prefer the mounting to be where I can see it when I am looking backwards)

    All my friends think its great. They get out the tape measure, check the distance and are amazed.

    Because of the additional secure feeling, I don't want a van/truck without one.
  • GM will pay to align the vehicle if it shows signs of pulling within the 1st 6-8000 miles. Not sure of the exact amount.

    The dealers want $180 to do the first alignment as they must pull and replace a ring. I've been told by the converter who mfg my van to have it done. Most alignment shops will only do a light duty alignment and will not pull the ring.

    If you feel that your van is pulling and you are within the GM warranty coverage for alignments take it in and ask them to align it under warranty.

    I was told by a tire dealer to do that but never did because I was not experiencing the problem. I now have a slight pull and must pay the big $$. Once the ring is replaced regular alignments are all that are needed.
  • Vandalybay1... for those of use who lack the "testicular fortitude" to install this thingy ourselves, what do you recommend? I'm afraid the dealer wouldn't do a decent job. Should I take it to an installer of car audio accessories? Or are the instructions clear enough that even a DIY neophyte can accomplish the installation?
  • Yes, that's the right kind of talent! An Auto Stereo Installer would have no problem installing the unit. All parts are there including connectors and double stick tape.

    I agree and I would NOT take it to a dealer--this is out of their specialty.

    KEY TO SUCCESS: find a person who can take their time (even a talented teen). If it takes as long as 2 hours, then the installer took lunch or was REALLY careful.

    The job is really easy if you just run the sensor wires up into the door and under the "threshold" piece.

    clean mounting surfaces with rubbing alcohol and let dry before using double stick tape.

    order a sensor cable extension when you buy the kit.

    PS: Anyone with power steering or brake fluid wetting the outside of the clear/beige colored reservoir?
  • The chevy express 1500 is rated to tow 6000 lbs,(12100 lb GCVW), don't believe it. The standard axle is a puny 8 3/4 inch ring gear model and will not hold up, I found out the hard way. While towing at 12000 lbs GCVW over Snoqualmie pass in Wa. the rear axle wore out (burned out)and had to be completely rebuilt in Spokane. The dealer was great but as I found out more about this problem I discovered that in the 1500 van and pickups there are 3 different rear axles that can be had in them, make sure you do not take the small one, it won't stand up to towing what chevy says it will tow.
  • jackm40jackm40 Posts: 1



  • I don't blame you for looking elsewhere after all of those problems. I hope your new choice works out as well as the old GM vans did.

    Please let us know:
    1) What model years gave you the most trouble?

    2) What model number vans have given you the brake trouble (1500, 2500, or 3500)?

    3) What model gave you the transmission trouble?

    4) What hinges gave you trouble (front driver/passenger, side cargo, rear cargo?

  • I'll strongly agree ANY vehicle SHOULD be able to tow up to its rating without mechanical problems. Gunsnroses1 problems as described just aren't right. I have had problems with other vehicles being damaged by towing.

    We all know that towing takes a toll on the drivetrain components. For what it is worth and to minimize towing related damage, I use the following formula to determine my "no worries" tow capacity:

    Manufacturer's rated capability divided by 2.

    Under no circumstances would I suggest anyone exceed 80% of the listed capacity.

    If you plan to tow, I recommended we carefully seek out the 3/4 ton or greater vans. In those vans, the brakes and drivetrains are larger than with the 1/2 ton models.

    How we drive also significantly impacts the towing load upon the drivetrain. For what it is worth, I believe you cannot accelerate at too slow a rate when towing.

    I'll be careful to heed gunsnroses1's good tip to check out what axle is supplied.
  • Can anyone tell me what the EPA is on the 2500
    3/4th ton passenger express van, 135 inch wheel
    base with the Vortec 5.7 V8, automatic, using the
    3.73 axle as opposed to the 3.42?
  • rsmmacrsmmac Posts: 22
    I own a 1997 1500 conversion van with the 5.7 liter(350). I love driving it - it has lots of power, handles great(the 255 70R's don't hurt) and the captains' chairs keep the kids far enough apart to avoid any fights. The high top makes the interior cavernous - I get claustrophobic in an Expedition after being in my van. However, there is a dark side...
    The transmission had to be replaced at 57,000 miles. Then at 67,000 miles. The dealer also replaced the ring & pinion gears and all the differential bearings that time.
    The battery gave up the ghost at 70,000 miles.
    The brakes must be done religiously every 25,000 miles. (I have never towed anything).
    The 35 gallon tank runs dry at 29.7 gallons. (Thank you again to the friendly AAA tow truck driver for the spare gas).
    I get 12-13 MPG city, highway, uphill, downhill, loaded, empty. (some of you seem to do better - any suggestions?)
    I am extremely thankful that I spent the extra $$ on the 100,000 mile extended warranty. I will trade it in before it expires. I was thinking of getting a Ford next time, but it appears that they aren't any better.

    Does anyone know if GM is going to put the new engines (found in the suburbans and pickups)in the vans any time soon?
  • midasgoldmidasgold Posts: 65
    > The 35 gallon tank runs dry at 29.7 gallons.

    35 gallons? I thought it was 31 gallons - do they use a larger tank for conversions? When our non-conversion 2500's fuel guage points to "E", it only takes about 24 gallons or so - but one time we tested it (not on purpose) and managed to drive for quite a distance on an "empty" tank.

    > I am extremely thankful that I spent the extra
    > $$ on the 100,000 mile extended warranty.

    Yes - even though we have a genetic predisposition against getting extended warranties for *anything*, we went against our grain and bought one for this vehicle - mainly because we were unable to find any reliability data and felt we were basically dealing with an unknown (and GM "unknowns" haven't had the best reputations, unfortunately).

    > Does anyone know if GM is going to put the new
    > engines (found in the suburbans and pickups)in
    > the vans any time soon?

    I've asked that in the past and haven't heard anything. Have you checked with Chevy/GMC lately?
  • rsmmacrsmmac Posts: 22
    TANK: I apologize, you are right - the tank is 31 gallons. Mine gets to "E" at 24 - 25 gallons, like yours; I look at the mileage instead of the gauge (as I mentioned, it is rock steady at 12-13 MPG, so I don't push it past 360 miles per tank.)When I ran it dry, the needle was 2-3mm below the "E" mark! It is the worst fuel gauge I've ever had. Full means 7/8, 3/4 means 1/2, 1/2 means 1/3, E means 3/4, or something like that.

    EXTENDED WARRANTY: Like you, I usually know better, but my gut overrode my "good sense". I'm glad.

    ENGINES: I asked at the L.A. Auto Show, and no-one had a clue. I also sent an e-mail a while back through a GMC Web Site link, but never got a reply.

    I think I'll trade it in at 100K miles for a 2500 or 3500 long-wheelbase conversion. I heard the "heavy duty" transmission is better.

    I've also been dreaming of getting the 4x4 Quigley conversion (for now the $$$ get in the way). I wonder if anyone out there has a 4x4 GMC and could share their experiences? I'm especially worried about maintenance (reliability) and ride comfort.
    I haven't looked at all the conferences yet, maybe there are some comments elsewhere?
  • midasgoldmidasgold Posts: 65
    rsmmac wrote:

    > I think I'll trade it in at 100K miles for a
    > 2500 or 3500 long-wheelbase conversion.

    Check out Custom Craft. They do those, and use factory windows too - they have a unique relationship w/ GM that allows them to get unfinished "window vans."

    > I've also been dreaming of getting the 4x4
    > Quigley conversion (for now the $$$ get in the
    > way).

    Gotta website for that?

    > I wonder if anyone out there has a 4x4 GMC and
    > could share their experiences?

    No, but one of the car mags had an article a couple years back about an experimental 4x4 conversion. It was actually done by GM as a "concept" thing. Basically, they took an Express/Savana body and transplanted it onto a Suburban chassis. They had fun with it, but said it would probably never make production. :-(

    I sure would've liked having a 4x4 on a recent trip we took with our Savana. Let's just say it didn't take too well to a couple of inches of snow. Even our optional locking rear differential didn't help. Only took 4 or 5 people to help push it out - sure made me miss our Subaru that was sitting in our garage back home. ;-)
  • You may wish to check out the automobile magazines from the last 4-5 months. If you haven't seen it already, I believe Road and Track did a run out to the Death Valley area with a 4X4 Quigley GM G-van

    I recall they favorably rated the 4X4 performance and got astonished looks while offroad.
  • rsmmacrsmmac Posts: 22
    > Check out Custom Craft. They do those, and use
    > factory windows too - they have a unique
    > relationship w/ GM that allows them to get
    > unfinished "window vans."

    Best tip I've gotten in a while! You read my mind: I specifically want to get the factory windows (and the sliding side door). I read earlier (I think in this conference) that no one did these conversions, or if they did you had to pay more because their interiors are made for the big windows. I'm glad you told me otherwise. Thanks!

    > Gotta website for that?

    The web site is They do Ford & GM 4x4 conversions. It adds about $8,000 to the sticker price.

    You can also check out Sterling Vans @ They are marketing a 9 passenger, 4x4 conversion van (using the long wheelbase van) which is almost exactly what I want, except that they use the normal conversion windows rather than the factory windows.

    If anyone knows which issue of Road & Track, please let me know. Full size vans get little press; 4x4 full size vans even less. I'd love to read more about them before I someday take the plunge. Every time I see a 4x4 van on the road, I want one. Soon...

    > it didn't take too well to a couple of inches
    > of snow

    Yes - I too found out the hard way. (and I don't have a locking diff.)It is a lot of weight to try to get unstuck!

    Oh, since this is the "reliability" discussion group, I forgot to mention another big ticket item (luckily also covered under the 100,000 mile extended warranty) I just dealt with: leaking coolant due to a warped aluminum intake manifold. I thought GM had dropped this asinine aluminum intake manifold idea. I'm sure it saves some weight, but I always hear of problems with warping.

    Does anyone know if the 2500's or 3500's with the 350 use the same intake manifolds? Does the 454 have an aluminum manifold too?

    I'm afraid of getting the 454. A commercial truck dealer told me point blank that "it's a pig" (real bad mileage) and it overheats - "not enough room for air to get through the engine bay effectively". Any experiences out there with the 454?
  • mrh3108mrh3108 Posts: 41
    I can vouch for the 29.7 gallon fuel tank. I ran out but luckily was able to coast a mile to the next exit. I stopped sideways between two pumps and the gas hose reached with an inch to spare!

    The Costco near me had a conversion with the 10 or 12" LCD screen and factory windows, leather, and otherwise loaded for $35,000. I believe it was a Sherrod conversion.
  • You may wish to check out Motor Trend Dec 99 page 113. This is not the article that I has in mind re a 4X4 full sized van getting astonished looks. This Motor Trend "article" is more a adverstisement than a review.
  • I might be the only guy left that likes the "rat" motor. I have a '97 3500 all window cargo van and had a custom conversion installed by "Advantage"
    I tow a 7000 # trailer with the 3:42 rear axle and live in the desert. Anyone that knows the southwest will appreciate the fact that this truck can pull Indio hill in So. Cal. on cruise, at the legal limit (70) with both front and rear air units running full tilt, towing the trailer, WITHOUT overheating. It now has 44K on it and so far has cost me sixty bucks in repairs. New brake pads up front at 42K and a new fan belt at 40K. Both owner installed. Would I buy another one of these? You bet.
  • rsmmacrsmmac Posts: 22
    Excellent! You are not the only one who likes the 454; I would have spent the extra $$ and waited for a special order to get one were it not for a dealer warning me against it. He must have really wanted to get his current inventory (all 350's) off the lot. My opinion (yes, I know, everyone's got one) is that the 350 has to work too hard to pull a big truck like my conversion van and six people in it; it is probably why I've had the problems I've had. I would have been better off with a 454 and the HD transmission. Oh well, next time.
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