Buying a Used Safari

jodivanjodivan Member Posts: 11
edited April 2014 in GMC
Went w/daughter to test drive 2000Safari at used car lot off Bristol here in flint. They need van with 8 seats for their family to fit. Guy said he bought it at auction and selling for 4500. drove okay, looked okay. Then checked out here and looks like it may be "lemon" category, and we have no mechanics in the family and cant afford big repairs either. Is this van to avoid, and what else can they look for to fit their size family? kajern55


  • spike99spike99 Member Posts: 239
    I had a previous '95 4.3L RWD Safari van and drove it for over 6 years. During that time, it needed an alternator replacement, vacuum hose replacement, oil lines and ilder arm. Each of these items are known "weak parts" on the Safari/Astro brand. Overall, the repair costs were low on this 2WD vehicle.

    Now, I have a 2001 AWD Safari 4.3L Vortec van. This vehicle has been loaded with more mechanical problems then a bright yellow lemon. As I write this, she's "back in the shop" (again). GGGGRRRRR. Most of its problems are AWD design related. Stuff like tranny, transfer case, idler arms (which are different design then its 2WD version) and rear axle problems. Also had its share of ABS sensors blowing, Cruise Control blowing, etc. etc. problems as well. I'm now doing research to "trade her in".

    If I wanted another Safari/Astro van again, I'd only get the 2WD 4.3L Vortec engine version. One may still have problems with a 2WD version but being 2WD, it will get much better MPG gas savings. Thus, taking the "sting" (sort of speaking) out of the unexpected repairs. And being 2WD, much lower risk of drive system problems. To me, the AWD systems are too weak on the Safari/Astro models.

    When our Safari vans run, they run great. Great for tent trailer/boat/small TT towing machines. Safari/Astro vans are great for cargo hauling (or lots of people hauling) vehicles. We use our "run about" vehicle for local village driving (due to MPG gas savings) and our Safari van for "long haul" family trips. Safari/Astro is definately a great "long haul or mild towing" vehicle. But, she does have a lower then average mechanical repair rating. If you do decide on a Safari/Astro, go with the 2wd (RWD) version. AWD has too many problems - due to its weak design. Wish I learned this lesson 3 years ago. (so sad).

    BTW: For towing/hauling lots of people, internal cargo or an attached trailer, install the 3rd party Timbren SES units. They are like "air bags without internal air". Best rear suspension upgrade product I installed on my Safari Van. For more info on this product, surf:

    Hope this helps...

  • eriefishingeriefishing Member Posts: 13
    As stated by spike99, there are 2wd and awd options. The 2wd is rear wheel drive, which means add weight or buy snow tires for the van in the winter. If your concerned about the cars history, try a carfax report. You'll need to get the Vin number for that. Carfax is not free, but may save you a lot of money in the long hall.
  • spike99spike99 Member Posts: 239
    For more details about design "weak spots" (sort of speaking) on the Astor/Safari brand, surf the Astro/Safari contents within:


    GENERAL MOTORS Chevrolet Astro, GMC Safari

    If you intend to keep the vehicle for a long time, replace the unreliable steering and suspension parts with the more durable Moog parts that come with a lifetime warranty.

    It is possible to modify the rear differential to increase durability in intensive usage: Install a bigger oil pan and fill with a high grade oil: 85W140 for standard (non-locking) differentials, and for antislip differentials use 70W90 synthetic oil. For rear cover installation call 514.522.7775 in the Montreal area.

    Transmission failure is possible between 100,000 and 150,000 km under severe usage. Lock out the overdrive function when the vehicle is heavily loaded. If you don’t, trouble code 1810—signaling serious internal damage—may appear on your mechanic’s scanning tool. Under severe usage, change the transmission fluid every 40,000 km and use a suitable additive. These steps will reduce deterioration of the bands and clutches, which can clog the internal passages of the transmission and lead to failure. In the Montreal area contact Vimont Transmission at 450.663.0330.

    There have been some reports of fuel pump failures. The replacement can cost from $800 to $900 (parts and labor), and GM rarely pays for the repair after the third year. Replacement pump assemblies supplied by GM are no better than the originals. To extend the life of the pump, do not let the fuel tank fall below one-quarter full. A used pump from a scrapyard can be installed for $250–$300, parts and labor included.

    When renewing rear drum brakes, use shoes with riveted brake linings. Rear brake shoe life varies from 50,000 to 100,000 km, depending on who is driving and the load carried.

    Premature wear of the cargo-door weather seals can lead to water leaks. Check their condition before buying the vehicle, as their replacement costs around $500.


    On my 2001 AWD Safari, its had the following "non wear/tear" problems:

    - Blown tranny - complete rebuild 120,000 kms.
    - Front Brake ABS sensor gone / was replaced.
    - Other front ABS sensor is now gone. (ABS fuse is now pulled and it brakes are better then its factory ABS system).
    - 2 x Idler arms replaced. Today, she's getting another set of idler arms (Moog brand) installed. Next time around, only get Moog idler arm replacement parts.
    - Cruse control module gone. Replaced.
    - Another Cruise control module gone. Vehicle no longer has Cruise Control.
    - Transfer case seals leaked. Complete gasket replacements.
    - Rear end locked on tight corners. Fluid changed and problem went away. Today, we only use Synthetic 70W90 gear oils (front and back axles).
    - Retainer clips rusted out - complete replacement.
    - Sliding door acting up - track replacement.
    - Vacuum hose (for internal front heater system) replaced.
    - 2 x "new" batteries. Factory battery replaced 7 months ago, another battery replaced last Friday.

    As noted above, most problems were AWD system related. And, a few electrical problems as well. Depite these problems, our van has never left us stranded. She's always been able to "wimper" home or "wimper" to the nearest auto shop.

    Next time around, don't think we'd buy an AWD Astro/Safari van again. Way too many AWD problems and being AWD, subtract 3-4 MPGs from an equal 2WD model. When towing or hauling people around (which adds to its overall vehicle weight), she drinks gas like a starving pig. Almost as bad as my neighbor's V8 4x4 Pickup. Even in my deep snow winters, I should have gotten the 2WD design - and drive it like a 2WD van.

    Hope these details help as well...

  • racefreak64racefreak64 Member Posts: 1
    I have a very nice modified 87 GMC Safari van.If anyone is interested in discussing purchase call [email protected] or look at ad on in Calgary or Edmonton under classic cars
  • taarooontaarooon Member Posts: 1
    I am wheelchair bound and I am interested in buying a modified used van
    what kind of modifications?
    what is the mileage?
    Thank you
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