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Chevy Express/GMC Savana



  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Posts: 872
    The 4800 in the 3/4 ton models?! Sounds really wrong to me, you can't get that eninge trans combo anywhere else in the GM lineup why would they do it for a 3/4 ton van?!!! If you are buying a HD Van you should be getting the towing and cargo towing ability that you need, the 4800 is under powered for the demands of the 3/4 ton buyers, and I would figure that the 5.3 would be the smallest engine I would want. The base engine in all 3/4 ton trucks and suvs is the Vortec 6.0L why deviate. I have never heard of the 4L80E as a base trans in a 1500 either.

    Torque converter is NOT a major upgrade. It is a simple slip in part that couples the motor to the trans. It just slides into the front of the trans. They had to upgrade the thing because they were eating themselves up. In 2002 the truck and suv transmissions got upgraded, and I can't see why they would not continue to use the beefier trans in the vans. Like I said before the new designations are 4L65E, and 4L85E. These replaced the older models with stronger intermediate sprag, and re-calibrated valve body.
  • xfilesxfiles Posts: 132
    As the motortrend article showed....the 4L80E remains the tranny in the 2500/2500 full size van line for 2003. Your comment ..."Like I said before the new designations are 4L65E, and 4L85E. These replaced the older models with stronger intermediate sprag, and re-calibrated valve body." I guess the trucks will always stay one step ahead of the vans unfortunatley. I am only telling you what I read in motortrend and other articles. The new designations may be 4L65E/85E, but unfortunately the full size vans will stay behind the trucks for the latest in improvements (and were going to still see the older 4L80E).

    Referring to the tranny as a major upgrade....I meant in comparison to any other upgrades they did on the vans since 1996 (fuel injection, door handles, ignition switch, longer lasting brakes for 2001, etc).

    Oh well, guess we will know the truth when they come off the line. It will be interesting to see one. But looking at the photos, they haven't changed much in looks from the previous generation (still the funny rear lights). I think I will wait till the next generation before I sell my far I love it!
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Posts: 872
    Did they change the brakes for 2001? Are they that much better than the older ones, or did they just change the brake pad material to get them to last longer?

    What did they do to the door handles? I know they have added screws to the inside door handle trim panels to keep them from popping off. Is that what you are talking about?

    I have also found articles in Motor Trend and other mags like that print what they speculate, not what is actually going to happen. For the most part they are correct, but sometimes even the auto maker does not know what they are going to do until it's go time. I am not saying that you are wrong, just amazed that GM would keep building a different trans while they can save money by standardizing the parts/transmissions.
  • I purchased Michelin LTX reinforced sidewall tires for my 1997 GMC Savanna 1500 van. What a difference. No longer do semis shake me when they pass and road handling around curves improved dramatically. If you need tires look at these, they cost more but the safety and security you get are worth it.
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Posts: 872
    Looks like they are changing more than we thought. You can check it out here.

  • We are currently considering trading our Toyota minivan in for a full size van. Any suggestions out there would be great since we can't decide between the Savana and the Econoline Wagon.

  • My detailed experience is with the GMC full sized van. Reliability for me has been very good or better. Service has been excellent for even the most picky of concerns. I'd consider the 3/4 or 1 ton (2500 or 3500) with a 6.0 liter engine because I like something that is sturdy and adequately powered. I would choose the driver side passenger doors because it is cool and I mostly carry passengers. And if I were in Vermont, I would certainly look into the all wheel drive. Interior trim on the Ford seemed a better quality a few years ago.
  • Hello Express folks,

    I'm writing with some concern to see if anyone else has had this problem --

    I own a 2000 Express 3500, bought in Oct 2000. I took the 3 year bumper to bumper warranty.

    In June 2001, at about 6000 miles, the right rear axle boot started leaking. The dealer fixed it under warranty, and had to re-do the brakes too, as they got corrupted by the oil spray.

    In July 2001, the LEFT rear axle boot went. Same deal -- dealer replaces boot, and brakes.

    At the time, I figured/hoped I'd gotten a "bad lot" of axle boots installed on my van in production. But...

    Fast forward to yesterday, July 2002 -- the RIGHT rear axle boot just went again, at 14000 miles (or, only 7000 mile of wear on this replacement).

    Okay, so I've got until Oct 2003 for free axle boot replacements -- ha ha. The van has been fine otherwise, but GAWD, I do not expect to have to change axle boots every year -- it's painful enough under warranty! It's probably $300-500 worth of work for boots/brakes each time.

    Have other folks had axle boot problems? Is the boot design flawed? Or do I have a lemon rear suspension that kills boots prematurely?

    Speaking of which, I'd appreciate any LEMON LAW info folks may have. Come summer 2003, when I expect another failure or two, I need to know if I have any legal recourse to get a new van, or some agreement from Chevy to replace the boots, etc. Or, if I should buy an extended warranty and cut my losses, etc.

    I'd appreciate any advice/similiar experiences you can share. Thanks! -- bob k
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Posts: 872
    It sounds like you have a bad set of axle bearings, and if those are bad the seal will wear out prematurely. I have changed several rear end seals and those that repeated within a year got a new bearing installed in the axle tube and the problem never came back. Some of them were cars, and not all GM either. Ask the dealer to try that if it happens again. They may argue that the truck is being used for sever duty and claim abuse, but don't let them give you that line, just push for the bearing replacement.
  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271
    I really like the looks of this, but I couldn't convince myself to buy a first year Ford, Dodge, or GM anything.
  • xfilesxfiles Posts: 132
    I thought with your last post there would be a link to some pictures or something else, what happened? Talking about looks of the 2003 GMC....yuk for the dashboard. All the components from air vents, heater dials, light switches, instrumentation area are identical to the previous generation. It looks like they just cut some holes out on the side of a box and screwed them into place. It lacks curved lines, the top part is straight across. Oh well, I own the previous model, so call it bias, but I do have tastes and to me I think they went backwards with the styling. The rest of the vehicle looks fine, and the longer hood probably will make it a little easier to access things.

    Yup, I agree with not buying a first year model of anything when you have a choice, especially if it's from chrysler.
  • Help,

    We just bought a new universal remote for our Express and cannot program it to the VCR.

    Does anyone know who is the manufacturer of the entertainment system (Audiovox, Goldstar)? No matter what code I put in to the RCA remote, it doesn't work.

  • I wrote in June about my transmission. Short story: I took the van back to the dealership, they did a more extensive diagnostic, and said that basically the tranny was disintegrating inside. I know my terminology is not very technical, but the tranny had to be replaced. Cost: $2200, GM paid half.
  • Did they replace it or just rebuild your original? What year is your van?
  • Message #242. "I have a '99 Savana 1500, 5.7 liter engine, 43,000 miles, never towed anything, no extended warranty. The tranny is slipping, and when cold, does't want to shift out of 1st gear."

    Because it is in a 1/2 ton van (1500), the tranny is the lighter duty model. It was not too far out of the 36000 mile warranty. I suppose the upshot is that the tranny in it now is new.
  • I am looking at buying a 95 Passenger Astro Van and taking the seats out and using it as a Cargo Van. Is there any difference between the Passenger and Cargo Astro Van in terms of suspension etc????
  • It's a 1999. They did not rebuild mine, they replaced it with a rebuilt transmission. So it's not my original, and it's not new, either.

    They gave me a verbal warranty - 36,000 miles for the rebuilt tranny, which is the same warranty the original tranny had when the van was new. They refused to give me anything in writing.
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Posts: 872
    I have seen a few new model vans, 1 cargo and one striped down passenger. I am still waiting to see the new up level grille. The dash looks really really plain and way to flat for my taste.
  • I have seen a 2500 LS Express. The interior is disappointing. They are still using the same fabric and the dash is bland. But my Honda is also bland. I am excited about the 6.0L which bumps up the towing capacity to 7900lbs. I am not sure about AWD. We have a 97 Savanna and never needed AWD. Looking to test drive one soon.
  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271
    I saw a 1500 with the driver's side doors today. The interior is very plain. Seems like they may have bumped the second and third row seats forward. Very little leg room, but tons of cargo space in the back, like 5 feet worth!

    I wasn't real impressed that the front leg room was improved. Don't get me wrong, it's still the best in the segment. However, it didn't seem a lot more than the previous year.
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Posts: 872
    I hope they figured out the door mirrors that after time just flop around and become useless. It is a new mirror design, and I wonder if the new mirrors will hook up to the older model van wires. If they actually got the problem licked it would be worth upgrading.
  • If anyone here has replaced their ignition switch themselves I'd like to know the steps and the price of the switch. This is on a 99 Savanna, 55K miles.
    Thanks for the help.
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Posts: 872
    Is it the switch or just the key cylinder? I can email you instructions if you email me. Tell me if it's just the cyl. or the switch.
  • I have a 99 express with a 350. The intake manifold was removed to repair a leaky intake gasket. Looks like they pulled and then replaced the distributor and just marked the old location with a crayon mark. And really never used a timing gun to time accurately. My gas mileage has got a little worse sense then. I am a weekend mechanic and know how to time older chevy's. Not to sure about how and what to disconnect on the 99. Can anyone help?
  • Bring cylinder number 1 to Top Dead Center(TDC) on Compression stroke. Remove the distributor cap. Align the rotor so it points to the number 8 that is cast into the distributor base. Re install the distributor cap and your done. The computer takes care of the rest. The manual stresses that the rotor must be pointed at the "8" for the computer to get things set correctly. Let us know how it goes.

    It's not that much different than the old Chevy's, the nice thing is that you don't really need a timing light, or have to fine tune any more.
  • I didn't know it was going to be that easy. The hardest part will be removing the engine cover. But if I can remember the rotor will not turn unless the distributor is removed. Most likely the mechanic probably pointed the rotor in the right direction already.. but will recheck thank again
  • You can't move the rotor itself but you can move the distributor body so that the rotor points to the correct position, just loosen the hold down clamp and twist.. If you can't move the distributor body then you have to remove the distributor and re align the oil pump drive shaft to move the rotor. Sometimes if you only have to move it one or two teeth you don't need to worry about the oil pump, but if you move it too far the distributor will not drop all the way in.
  • I have a 2000 2500 12 passenger. Mostly hall kids and our stuff. (6 kids= lots of stuff on a trip)
    I have about 22000 miles on it now and have noticed recently that it is sort of bouncy. I have tried to find Monroe Reflex shocks and apparently they do not make them for the 8600 GVW vans. I called Monroe and they told me that the only one they make for it is the Gas Magnum. I tried to order some from my local NAPA store and they did not show the Magnum and could not pull up the part number but they did have the Sensatracks listed. I have them ordered at this date. Has anyone had any experience with new heavy duty shock and good results??? I want a good ride but a little more control.
  • xfilesxfiles Posts: 132
    Unless the GMC shocks are very expensive, I would stay with them. I have found in the past that aftermarket shocks do not give as a good a ride. I bought shocks before (can't remember off hand the name of them) at Pep Boys and loved the lifetime warranty. Then I got fed up and purchased some from Toyota because I got tired of the rough ride whenever temperatures dropped. Went through 2 sets of Pep Boy shocks and the problem stayed.

    Maybe there are nice shocks out there, but I still believe in factory originals. After all they are concerned about ride more then some after market company trying to whip out cheap junk. Also you won't know what you get for a ride until it's installed, and by then it will be too late. I have the 2001 Savana extended 2500 passenger van, and I don't think your going to get a better ride, the ride in my opinion is great.

    I don't know what you mean by better control, I got a feeling you had a defective shock from teh beginning. I don't experience any control problems.

  • akjimakjim Posts: 1
    I think you'll be fine with the Monroe shocks. They probably made the OEM shocks too. In my experience (over 30 years of owning/operating vans..) you'll need new shocks about every 20-30K miles, depending upon the load and road surfaces you operate on. Just plan on it... and if you're going to keep the van longer than one shock wear-out interal... best to buy them only once. Older technology shocks did get pretty stiff due to the fluid getting cold and more viscus. Newer designs are not as temperature sensitive.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    My Edmunds Vans newsletter arrived this morning with this tidbit:

    Chevy Express Updated for '03
    Change comes slowly to the full-size van market, but for 2003 Chevrolet has updated the Express van with a new look, better access and better powertrains. For the first time, the Express comes with a 60/40 left-hand-side hinged door -- a big concession to the minivan crowd that allows pass-through access to the middle row of seats. The front end has been restyled and reinforced for better crash protection, and a new range of Vortec V8 engines bumps horsepower on most models; a 4.3-liter V-6 is the base motor. All-wheel drive remains an option.

    Steve, Host
  • I have a chance to purchase 1 0f 2 2001 leftover conversions at a really good deal. 29,000? The only problem with going through this is that I already have an Astro which I'm trading in. The problem with that is it really stinks in the snow. I'm wondering how the Express is in the snow I live in New England where this year has been terrible but I really like my van other than sometimes I feel a little timid about driving it in the snow.The dealer says it goes great(but anything to sell a car) My children play travel hockey and I just don't want to get stuck. Any help or experiences you can give me would be great.
  • kenavokenavo Posts: 1
    I like my Savana van; I would like it more if it were a TDI engine (Turbo Diesel Injected). I drove 3 different passenger cars last March year in France. They were all quiet, fast and very powerful - and they got tremendeous milage. They don't smell.

    Open your eyes out there!

    The GMC Duramax engine offered in the 4X4 sucks: it is loud (it sounds like a rock crusher).

    The preconceived notions of EVERYONE that I talk to about this subject boggle the mind. The auto industry here is behind the eight ball-as usual. Every SUV on the road here should have a diesel TDI option.
  • wsc9ttwsc9tt Posts: 3
    I just bought an Extended Express 3500 so that
    is bigger than the conversion you are considering, but I have to say that the snow traction is horrible. I got stuck in the middle of a snow covered road on a mild incline. The rear just spins and can't get traction. Extra weight helps, so now I have an extra 400 pounds of softener salt store behind the back seat and that helps.

    I suspect a limited slip differential would help alot. I have considered adding one, it seems you can do it aftermarket for ~$400-500.
  • xfilesxfiles Posts: 132
    No limited slip differential. I haven't had my 2500 Savana extended passenger van (with limited slip) in heavy deep snow, but it handled itself well on snowy roads. Two wheel drive gives twice the traction over one wheel drive.It's a lot of weight to push (3 tons) with only one wheel in snow or sand to do the work, traction has to give way.
  • The term you are looking for is a locking differential. You have a limited slip differential if only one tire spins. Locking differential spins both tires so if one slips the power don't go all to that side, the path of least resistance.

    If you are running the factory tires that is another slip factor. What tires came on the van Tombstone Steeltex? I had those on my 2500 4WD Yukon XL, they really performed poorly even in 4 WD they slid all over the place.
  • xfilesxfiles Posts: 132
    Your right, locking differential is the correct term (confirmed it at the GM site). It makes a BIG difference in snow. The term limited slip was used in the article previous to mine, guess I got confused.
  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271

    Open differential is the standard diff. If one rear tire loses traction, you're not going anywhere.

    Limited slip an option on most trucks and vans. Limited slip will send SOME torque--like 1/4 to 1/3-- to the other tire when one tire slips. For some reason, GM calls its limited slip a "locking differential." It is not, but it sounds better I suppose. Your factory limited slip will wear out within 30-40,000 miles or so and will need to be rebuild (clutch packs). Also, make sure that any grease put in your rear axle has the limited slip additive.

    Locked diffs are not available from the factory anymore (but they used to be available on serious 4wds-- landcruiser etc). They are available for most fullsize vans and trucks, from aftermarket sources, but make some noise when engaging and disengaging. The normal state of affairs is that both tires are spinning with equal torque while the vehicle is driving straight ahead. If the vehicle makes then the differential must unlock, making the noise I mentioned. Most modern ones aren't very noticeable.

    Differential info is here:
  • Yep mrnimmo is correct, GM does label it wrong as far as "locking" term goes. What you are talking about is the famous Detroit locker, GM stopped putting that in because of noise complaints, then deemed the "posi-trac" a "locking" differential. The lockers are still available aftermarket through companies like DTS or Power Trax.

    As far as mileage goes I have 47K on my YXL and still get both tires going on ice/snow/water, I guess it depends on how often you need the extra traction.
  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271
    >What you are talking about is the famous Detroit locker, GM stopped putting that in because of noise complaints,

    Funny, I've been in trucks with these and I never thought the sound was obtrusive or that the locking and unlocking was noticeable. Of course, maybe I'm just getting old.
  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271
    >As far as mileage goes I have 47K on my YXL and still get both tires going on ice/snow/water, I guess it depends on how often you need the extra traction.

    I don't think you will notice if the LSD wears out, unless you test it in low traction situations. I don't know, off-hand, how to safely do this. (Jacking up one rear wheel and putting the vehicle in drive would be an UNSAFE example of how to do it.)
  • When cornering and the differential unlocks to allow the wheels to turn at different speeds while cornering it clicks loudly. In a truck you probably wouldn't notice it but in an SUV where the cab is over the differential it would be heard. In the old muscle cars with the Detroit Locker you can for sure hear it clicking around corners.
  • If you properly maintain the thing it will last a long time. I changed the original fluid at 15K to synth, and then again at 40K just to play it safe. Most people don't mess with the rear end unless it gives them trouble, that's where the big mistake is. Treat the rear end to regular oil changes like your engine and it will give you a long long service life, posi or no posi.
  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271
    The clutch type limited slip differential is the most common traction enhancing device. It is the cheapest, but also the least capable. It uses a clutch or clutch pack to couple the axle shafts when the speed becomes too different between the two sides. The clutch does not transmit all the available torque when new and becomes less effective with time, eventually becoming effectively an open differential. The clutch must be replaced periodically. Special lubricants must be used in these differentials to increase the friction on the clutch.


    Changing the gear oil is great, so long as you add a gear oil formulated for a LSD. But the clutch packs will still wear out a long, long time before the rear end fails.
  • I am in the market for a larger Van. I currently have a 98 Astro and other than the "old fuel injector problem", I am happy with it.

    I was leaning towards the E-350 and the 6.8 V-10 due to more power. It seems after reading both the E-350 and 3500 Discussion Boards the 3500 has more problems then the E-350.

    BUT I like the wider wheel base the 3500 has for towing and it has slightly more total cargo/ pass. room but (again) it only comes with the 6 liter ie: 366 cu. in. I will be pulling a 7k TT. so I don't think the 6 liter can match the 6.8 liter ie: 414 cu. in. V-10. on the hills out west.

    Open for suggestions ??????????????????
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    Some members were talking about towing (with an SUV) and the "consensus" was that there was no replacement for displacement, even if the torque curves for 2 motors is similar. That's a big trailer you're pulling....

    Steve, Host
  • I e-mailed Chevy about only 1 engine for the 3500 ie: 6 liter. Their reply could be taken to imply they will have a new engine for 2004. Does anybody have more info on this or was I reading something into the e-mail that doesn't exist ???
  • They have changed the frame design for the '03 models to fit in the new V8 engines, now they have to reverse engineer the thing to make the 8.1L fit in the van again. If you are lucky enough you might be able to find an '02 model with the 8.1L. I am sure they are working on a way to get the larger 8.1L in the van, but I think they might be running into problems with the AWD set up.
  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271
    They have changed the frame design for the '03 models to fit in the new V8 engines, now they have to reverse engineer the thing to make the 8.1L fit in the van again.

    Wouldn't it be easier if the engineers just talked to each other ahead of time?
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