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GMC Safari/Chevy Astro Transmission Problem



  • mhsheamhshea Posts: 1
    In theory they offered the little Borg Warner T5 back in 1986. One of those things with an asterisk by it saying it would be available in January so who know for sure if they ever really sold one. But it's in the brochure.
  • mmcnamarammcnamara Posts: 27
    I've seen several Astros with 5-speeds over the years, almost always base models with the (2.5 liter?) 4 cylinder engine. I don't think I've ever seen one that was newer than an '89 or so model year, and I don't think they were offered with the 4.3 V6, although I'm no expert. A 1990 van and truck buyer's guide shows that the auto was the only choice available, but that the 2.5 was the base engine. Hope this helps.
  • dadoftaydadoftay Posts: 136
    I have never seen an Astro with a 5spd or a 4cyl. As much as these things weigh, could the 4 even get the van going? Where did they put the shifter for the tranny in the manual? I bet one of those would be fun with a 5spd and a V8 crate motor. Of course, there would be the little matter of making it stay together... oh well, it's just money. Do you have some I could borrow?;)
  • mmcnamarammcnamara Posts: 27
    As you mentioned, I'm sure the 4 cylinder was no stoplight terror, manual tranny or not. As for the shifter, it was floor-mounted between the buckets. My buddy even had a chance to buy a 5 speed conversion van on one occassion, which I thought was really unusual, given the typical buyer of such vehicles. With regards to the money lending, I'll need to find out where the wife's keeping it hidden.:)
  • The Astro/Safari did have an available manual tranny in its early years, and also a 4 cylinder option. There's at least one manual 4 banger still out there that I know of.
  • gl0650gl0650 Posts: 1
    I happen to own an 1988 astro w/ a 4.3 V6 and a 5 speed. I bought it w/ 100,000 miles on it back in 1991, it has plenty of power, plus it has given me 24.8 miles per gallon on several trips hauling my family of 6. I still own it, it now has over 260,000 miles on it and still gets me about 20 miles per gallon.
  • n977lln977ll Posts: 4
    I own a 1999 Chevy Astro AWD with 77,000 Miles. In hot weather after long drive, trans will shift hard from 1st to 2nd gear. After cooling down the problem dissapears.I have been reading some posts on this. Some say that it is normal. Some say that this headed for trans repair.Is there any fix for this?I would like to go on a long trip but I dont want to take a chance.Any body out there have some advice? Otherwise I am very happy with the Astros. I had a 1994 2WD and I was very pleased.
  • Seen this same question on here and I have the identical problem havent seen any replies.
    On a hot day and long drive tranny shifts hard from 1st to 2nd (real hard) once van has cooled problem goes away.Recently had a tranner service down on it (new gasket and fluid) problem didnt go awayAnything I can do to prevent a major tranny repair.
  • '97 Safari Rough Shift (83K miles)

    Identical problem here. It has been hot outside and tranny rough shifts in low gears. Wife took it to Mechanic today and got estimate of $1050 to $1850 depending on parts (plus fluid). Says it may crap out soon, or last another 15K before failure. (Sorry that flush and fluid replacement didn't help. I was going to do the same thing.)
  • dwayne2dwayne2 Posts: 1
    Have you had the catalytic converter checked? If not try a muffler shop to pressure check it. My 1998 gave me fits about the same way and after $300 for a tune up and then a $600 estimate for some "transmission work" I was finally diagnosed successfully as a converter being clogged. It is cheap and easy to have checked. Good Luck, Dwayne
  • n977lln977ll Posts: 4
    I had the same problem with my 99 Astro AWD.(post 965)I did the trans service(new fluid) and the problem disapeared.I hope yours goes away too.
  • just to let u know had problem fixed for$350.00.Could have been alot worse my neighbour is a tranny specialist and said that 1.I caught it early.2 that not the entire tranny needs to be rebuilt.3.most tranny shops wont tell you the easy fix which is the first & second gear and i think it was the gear housing needed replace that was it.I too had it to proshops and got the Hi estimates then talked to my neighbour for the truth.I will find my bill and get back to you asap.
  • garyvolgaryvol Posts: 15
    Hello Cob,
    I’ve started a new thread for the Aux Tranny cooler for ’98 Safari. I’m curious what size you installed, light, medium or heavy duty (this being the largest in size). Is it placed infront of the Air conditioning coil of the radiator and does it compromise radiator cooling capabilities.
    1- When you say easy install, that typically means for me it will take 3X as long to install it.
    2- This could be a stupid question, Does the radiator have piping coming into it to cool both the tranny and the engine oil.
    3- Can the tube connection be removed from the radiator without kinking the tubing.
    4- Will the extra tubing correctly dress snug against the frame or will it dangle and get damaged.
    Thx for any info.
  • cobcob Posts: 210

    The cooler I used is the medium duty, I pull a 4000# camper. It attaches to the front of the a/c coil. I don't notice any cooling problems but, I installed a 180 deg thermostat a couple of years ago when I had to replace the leaking intake manifold gaskets. My temp never goes above 190 even in 90 deg weather unless I draft a semi. I usually drive 70-75 in 3rd to eliminate the downshift to 2nd. The trans will not downshift until the speed drops to around 55 but, it will do it at every incline on the freeway. If you keep it at 70 it never does. The trans cooler lines are on the passenger side of the van, the oil cooler lines are on the drivers side. You take the upper trans cooler hose off from the radiator(this is the return line to the trans)and you attach one of the rubber tubes from the new cooler to that line. It will rest against the frame without any damage. The other line from the new cooler will attach to the radiator where the upper line from the trans used to connect. You will need an adapter piece that is sold seperatly from the cooler kit to screw into the hole on the radiator. This setup allows the hot trans fluid to go thru the bottom line into the radiator cooler than it goes out the upper line into the new external cooler and back to the trans in the upper line that is now attached to the new cooler. You get double the cooling and the fluid will be the coolest after it leaves the new external cooler. Mine has been on for 3 years now without any problems. Let me know if you have anymore questions or if this makes it more confusing?

  • garyvolgaryvol Posts: 15
    Thx. It sounds doable. I’ll check into it. BTW, I’m curious why you had to change the intake manifold gasket
    1- What were the symptoms, radiator exhaust (white smoke)
    2- An idling problem.
    Did you do the job, an if so how much work was it to do it. Probably for starters was removing
    the inside (over the motor) hood. Looks like a bear to remove.
  • cobcob Posts: 210
    The coolent was leaking down the back of the engine and puddling in the garage. Because it is red and was leaving a puddle under the front of the trans I thought it was a trans problem. I also noticed the coolent level going down in the overflow tank. I drove the van around without the doghouse(inside cover) and watched as the coolent started leaking at the back of the intake. If you have a leak it will either show up on the outside of the engine or go into the oil. The kids car was leaking for a while and when I checked it the oil fill cap was milky white on the bottom and the pvc filter was coated with an oil water mix. Check you oil if you are losing coolent. Anyway I did the job myself. It took about 14 hours of which 2 are spent removing and replacing the covers on the inside of the van. Independent shop quoted $750 based on parts and 7 hours of labor(takes me twice as long of course I don't have a lift or air tools). I paid $75.00 for gasket set, oil, filter, and dexcool but, I gave up a Friday night and Saturday it just depends on whether or not you have the time. The kids 96 cutlass only took 12 hours but its all under the hood. GM has a massive problem for about a 10 year period that the intake gaskets leak from around 1995 to present due to the gaskets being made out of plastic.
  • garyvolgaryvol Posts: 15
    hi Cob,
    okay, back to the tranny cooler. The A/C radiator has a cross tube infront of extending across left to right. I'm wondering if you mounted the tranny cooler above or below this front tube.
    2nd. ? is what is involved in removing the front grill to allow access for mounting of the t cooler in front of and onto the A/C radiator.
    thx for any help. -gary
  • cobcob Posts: 210
    I mounted the cooler directly onto the A/C radiator on the passengers side in the middle of the grill opening to get air flow through it. The kit comes with push pins that go through both radiators and there is a clip that pushes on the back to tighten it and the excess plastic can be cut off so the fan blade won't hit it. To remove the grill is easy just remember that it is one complete unit including the marker/turn signal lights. The headlights will remain on the van when the grill assembly is removed. Just a lot of wrenching on 9mm bolts.
  • garyvolgaryvol Posts: 15
    wow, you are a wealth of info on this stuff. Your the man.
    I appreciate the help. Hopefully my ? aren't a nuisance. :) -gary
  • cobcob Posts: 210
    I only have expericence with the things I have had to fix on this van. Heater core is not one of them yet so no much help for post 1262.
  • I had the right rear brake lock up on my 99 astro cargo van. I got that fixed and now the transmission will not go into reverse it has the proper fluid level and it goes forward. I am good with everything but chevy automatic trannys does anyone have any suggestions, also the engine light is off.
  • I Have a 1993 GMC Safari, with the 4.3 liter "z" type engine with an automatic tranmission. I have just finished replacing the tranny coolant lines, tranny filter, and tranny fluid. It has not been driven is 6 months. The problems comes when I try and drive the car forward. It takes alot of RPM to get it moving and it does not move very fast. Also, I can floor the throttle and the car will just creep along, and the engine will bog down and want to die. The weird part is that when i put it in reverse, it will move just fine and it spins the tires no problem, but the engine isn't affected. Since I got this van I have replaced a Power Steering pump, brake boost hose, Rear brake lines,calipers,pads, rotors,tranny cooler lines, plugs, fluids filters...
    Any Help on this situation would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank You
  • fardeleanfardelean Posts: 3
    Has anybody experienced this. My 98 Astro Jerks and hesitates constantly. Doesnt matter if im going 5mph or 75 mph. Ive replaced plugs, wires, cap, rotor, pick up coil, coil,. After all this was done about 3 months later started again. changed cap and rotor and was fine for another 3-4 months. Changed cap and rotor again and fine again for 3-4 months. Im getting tired of doing this. Does anybody know why I have to do this so often. Ive had it a dealership and they say its the transmission, I took to a transmission specialist and he says no its not. Any help would be appreciated. Oh after I replaced the pick up coil check engine light came on read the code and it was telling me bad pick up coil. Replaced again and same result. Thanks
  • jim0043jim0043 Posts: 2
    Yes. Mine did the same. It was a leaking head gasket--serious. If your engine "consumes" antifreeze then you have this problem. Check your oil dipstick for traces of coolant. Oil and water don't mix, so you will notice higher levels of fluid above the "add oil" line. The bottom of your dip stick will show dirty oil and crud; the top will be clearer and orange colored (I use orange coolant). Wipe with a white paper towel.

    I've decided to trash the vehicle rather than have some mechanic put in a new engine.
  • hwy70hwy70 Posts: 2
    :) I have a 99 Astro and which had a problem in which you describe.
    After trying a lot of things and ended up being a bad 4 prong plug which plugs in front(as you look at it) of the dist.
    You see the plug fits tight to the rear cowling when install and causes it to malfuntion.
    My suggestion would be to wiggle and slightly pull on the wire harness (4prong) going into the rear (facing to the back of van) and see if you notice and chage.
    I have seen 3 other astro in around the same year have the same problem. I replace the plug at a cost of 10 bucks and all my problems have been gone for about 6 months. I hope this helps you and others.
  • Just stumbled on to this forum while trying to find info on my transmission- hoping for some good advice.
    My 91 Astro has 180,000 + miles, and still runs good ... up till now. I started having problems with the transmission shifting into the next gear, usually 1st to 2nd or 2nd to 3rd, with erratic shift action up through the gears. A Haynes repair manual suggested adjusting the throttle valve cable. Adjusting the cable helped the problem somewhat, but not completely. Accelerating from a stop must be done slowly, or the transmission will not upshift, causing overreving of the motor. This makes highway entrance ramps and steep hills difficult to drive Once in top gear, the van will run all day, with no slipping or problems. I am thinking it would be worthwhile to try replacing the throttle valve cable, but am realistic enough to realize this could be an early sign of a new transmission in the near future. Any help or advice in this area would be appreciated. :sick:
  • lblylbly Posts: 2
    Just discovered this site and have signed in. Have been informed via early message that trans cooler can be $50 and installed in 1 hour. Tell me how? Safari repair manual says "remove grille." Top screws are visible, side screws under headlight bezels. Bottom screws coming up from below, unaccessable? Help? Would like to install myself if possible. Apparently some controversy over routing of lines. Cooler before or after radiator? Which line from trans is in, and which line is out? Bottom line is, I believe I am capable of installing, if I can conveniently remove the grille. Don't want to purchase the cooler, then be embarassed by taking it to a shop.
  • cobcob Posts: 210
    Assuming you have a 1995 or newer I removed the grill on my 1997 Astro. It comes off in one piece with the turn signal light assemblies attached so all that is left on the van is the head light assembly when grill is removed. Fluid goes to the new cooler after it goes thru the existing one on the radiator to get the maximum benefit. You will have to find out by following the instructions but, I believe the bottom line going into the cooler on the radiator is the hot line. You want the fluid to go into the cooler on the radiator then tap into the return line to go thru the new cooler and then back to the return line to the trans. You can find out which line is going into the radiator by taking the van from cold state and starting it up and running for about 1-2 minutes with it in gear. Turn it off and check the lines. The warm (warmer) one will be the line coming from the trans. There will be a fitting you need to get for GM vehicles that is not included in the kit, it has the proper threads to screw into the radiator because the fitting that is on the line you need to remove will not come off since the end of the line is flaired.
  • lblylbly Posts: 2
    I can't believe after checking that message over that I left out "1992!" Have no idea what difference there may be. I have noticed screws showing from the bottom of the grille. Those are the ones that look unaccessable. Maybe I will try per the book, "remove headlight bezels, and remove grille." An earlier suggestion that I read was to install the cooler before the radiator because the trans should have some heat to be efficient. Interesting conflicting information. Will research that one a little further. The official repair manual circuit diagram shows the inlet at the bottom and outlet at top. That's contrary to normal radiator operation. "Feel the temp difference." That's a good idea! Thanks.

    Ended up reading most all of the 1463 messages! Hard to believe that after 132000 miles, all we have done other than normal tune-up and custom stainless exhaust, is replace tires and front brakes! No idler arms, wiper motors, transmissions, window motors! Everything works! Must have bought an orange instead of a lemon. (Trans clunks some from 2 to 3 (depending on throttle position), which it's done since new.) We are preparing to tow a 3000# travel trailer, hence the cooler.
  • have a 99 astro with same problem but on the dict. there is only one plug ??? keep getting miss fire as a code just tuned it up ran fine for a few days then started doing same thing . but what i notice is the problem come and goes . one day its fine next it misses agian
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