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GMC Safari/Chevy Astro



  • Are you now certain that the distributor is properly in time and that all the spark plug wirng is in the correct order to the correct spark plugs?
    What you were asking about is the "Remote Starter Switch", It is simple device that has been around for longer that me (and that's a VERY long time). It is a small push button switch with a cord with 2 wires the comes out of it. Each wire is about 3 feet long and has an aligator clip connector on the end. You use it to operate the starter from under the hood (hence, the "remote" operation, remote being away from the ignition key switch). You connect the alligator clips at the starter motor solenoid, one clip to a "hot" wire, the other clip to the solenoid start terminal. You press the button and the stater runs. You can get these at any auto parts house, they have been a common item as long as I can remember. They should run about $10 or less I would think. I havn't bought one lately, since I bought mine in 1965.
    Good Luck,
    E.D. ISF
  • Thanks;
    I. I found a remote starter switch at the auto parts store by Actron for $9.95.
    II. In order to familiarize myself with system I studied the Haynes manual concerning all the topics. You are right they did have a explaination of TDC and cylinder compression and as pictures of the cylinder banks and distributor. If the arrangement of the picture front of engine with fanblades, then cylinders and then distributor( a black solid circle denotes no. 1 tower with an arrangement of hollow circles denoting the other 5 spark plug towers and an arrow which must means the counting direction) are to be followed then at some point (when the spark plugs were replaced I)the nos. 2 and 6 wires wre crossed. This was at most 12 months ago. Did the engine finally get tired of being out of time and could this be the cause of the whole scenario?
    Maybe I am imagining this but it actually seemed like the engine was trying to turn over. I sprayed starter fluid in the TB but still no start. I pulled some spark plugs and no. 1 was very wet yet the color and condition after cleaning seemed normal, no 2 and 4 had little to no wetness around the electrode base and the waer was identical to no. 1. I did not get to no. 3 or 5 yet I am curious as to their condition. I will continue to pull the rest for this info.
    III. Also pertaining to testing the spark by inserting the clean plug into the wire and grounding the shell to the.
    1. Would the threads be considered the shell or on what part of the plug would accomplish this?
    2. Should the ignition be turned on or the remote start set up to apply some voltage...nothing happened when i placed no. 1 in the wire and touched it to the engine. I attempted this on an area that had no rust as I imagine ground would mean the same as when any wire is being grounded ie. needs good contact. Please advise
    Thaks again for your time.
  • The arrow in the distributor pictures shows the direction of rotation of the rotor, which is also the "counting direction" (firing order). Just make sure you have the #1 spark plug and #1 spark plug wire on the correct tower for #1, shown as the dark circle, then be sure that is where the rotor is pointing when the #1 cylinder is near the top of it's compression stroke it's the firing point.

    The shell of the spark plug is the whole metal bottom part of the spark plug that includes the threads and the part the socket fits on, it's all one piece of metal, all the same connection. When testing, ground the metal shell of the spark plug to ground, the threads or the socket drive part, and watch the gap for spark.

    To test the ignition, you must turn the key to "ON", then you can use the remote starter to turn the engine, be sure to stay clear of moving parts, and the spark plugs should spark as the distributor rotor turns and the coil fires. You should get a good strong blue arc at the spark plug gap. If the plugs are wet, it may be because the engine is flooded, or the spark is too weak to fire the plug. You can dry the spark plug electrodes and insulators by spraying them with some starting fluid or Brake Kleen then blowing them dry. If spark is weak, check the distributor cap and also the distributor rotor to be sure it is not shorting to ground. If you have FUEL and AIR, AND you have strong SPARK at the spark plugs at the RIGHT TIME, the next issue to look at is the cylinder compression.

    I particularly like your use of the combination of Roman Numerals and Numbers in your previous post. You're getting a lot better already!
    Good Luck,
    E.D. ISF
  • OK: I have got all the plugs out and only no.1 was really wet as I stated earlier and the rest had a little moist fuel on the insulator(white area that surrounds the inner electrode with a little brown discoloration) but the condition of them all seem the same...minimal wear per the great pictures for comparison in the Haynes manual. The tips almost appear dry and as a stretch a little soot (white-ish and brown that might indicate some carbon buildup)I received this van with over 250K from a source that has a hx. of not taking care of maintenance)so thats not surprising.
    I hooked a remote starter up to the "S" and Battery terminals on the solenoid per the Actron,Haynes,ED instructions with the ignition "ON" but alas it does not crank the engine when I press the switch.The coil is grounded via the instructions with a jumper from the coil to the engine. The primary wire is disconnected from the coil. This has GM HEI ignition with separate coil so its pretty straight forward.
    3. What am I doing wrong here?
    I have been just turning the key to test starting and spark but unless I can get this remote I'll need an assistant.

    I should be able to go ahead and assess the position of the rotor relative to tower no. 1 by doing the cylinder TDC check...I'll just use the key method until I get feedback on this remote starter deal. Might not be possible without an assistant.
    This procedure seems to bring the battery that normal and why there is a need to have a charger hooked up. I have an Optima yellow top in this van for the stereo and it keeps dying which is unusual for these batteries. It does seems to charge back up however. I made the mistake of dosconnecting the charger so right now I am waiting for it to charge back up.
  • OK we are back in business. These vans are really tight and at 6'2" sometimes my hands can't get where they need to but a few cuts later and the "S" terminals stayed connected this time. Yah!

    The spark on all plugs is there. A blue flame is the hottest yet all of them have a little yellow even with the new wires and plugs. It is there however. Would it makea difference at this point to go all new.As I said the condition of the plugs looks OK. These appear to be original AC Delco wires so I think I'll just go ahead and change them out. As I understand it higher priced plugs may only give more reliability but is there a chance I need a better spark.I remember you stated that the plug may be wet because the spark is not enough to burn the fuel.
    I realize I need to go ahead and check the compression now for more info. Disregard earlier post.
  • Ok, you have fuel and you have spark, but is the spark in the right place at the right time? Did you check to be sure the distributor is timed correctly as outlined in the previous posts? Is the Rotor pointing at #1 tower when #1 cylinder is ready to fire? Is the spark plug wire from #1 tower going to #1 plug? Are the rest of the wires in the proper firing order and going to the proper plugs. If all this is fine (be sure it is) then the skies look a little darker, as this means the only thing left to check is compression and valve train. You are going to have to leave that battery charger on the battery, because you are going to need a strong battery for the compression test. You may have to let it charge between cylinders if it gets tired.
    You don't have to sweat the plugs right now, as long as they are clean and dry and sparking good, they should work. They just need to get the engine running, we'll worry about which ones are the best later. If you are sure that you have checked everything correctly and have not overlooked anything, then it's time to proceed to the compression testing. You can try cleaning and drying the plugs and putting them back in, not too tight, and try to see if the engine will start now. If no start, then pull them all out and check the compression on each cylinder.
    Good Luck,
    E.D. ISF
  • I. TDC verification:
    1.Located TDC and lined up #1 tower with rotor on the compression stroke.
    2. All wires are in the right locations(and always have been while the van has beeb running)

    II. Cylinder compression
    Van specs indicate that..." lowest cylinder must be within 70% of highest reading cylinder. (100 psi minimum)" Four cranking turns were done per the instructions.Only one cylinder showed anything close to the minimum on the first stroke but it built up quickly to to the 135-150psi mark.
    #1 100-110-120-145/150psi #2 120-140-150-150psi
    #3 120-120-145-145psi #4 115-130-135-140psi
    #5 130-130-145-145psi #6 110-120-130-145psi
    All built up quickly and are within 20% of each other. I am confident that these numbers are Ok. I retested a min of twice on each cylinder removing and reattaching the hoses not just releasing the pressure. Unless you see some problem here it appears that compression is OK.

    III. Fuel injectors?
    1.From another post it was stated that the injectors might not be firing into the cylinders. From the wet plug at no. 1 it would appear that fuel is getting there and all of the other plugs had some moisture of fuel on them. (I spoke with a mechanic I happen to run into at the auto parts store and he said that maybe the injectors are "over injecting somewhere and flooding). At this point should I put the plugs back in and see if it turns over at all and if not try the starter fluid again.
    2. This van has the CMFI system and apparently it is not servicable and must be replaced if faulty and the Haynes does not give any method of checking anything but what I already have checked(i.e. fuel pressure)UNless I missed something and the noid test are indicated could you rehash the noid procedure if its indicated. I could not understand if the light should come on or come on and flash. I would appreciate that. It appears that the only thing to do is to get at the fuel injection unit by removing the intake manifold and look at it. Any thoughts would be appreciated. In the meantime I am hooking everything back up to see what happens?
  • Your compression test results were:
    #1 = 150
    #2 = 150
    #3 = 145
    #4 = 140
    #5 = 145
    #6 = 145
    They are within 7% of each other, though the numbers seem a little low to me, the amount of compression will vary from engine to engine according to the compression ratio. I was hoping to see at least 160, however there is certainly enough compression for it to start. When I do the compression tests, I spin the engine untll the compression guage reaches the maximum amount it will climb to, usually spin for about 2 or 3 seconds, maybe about 6 compressions. Maybe that is why I am used to seeing higher numbers, around 180 to 200. It is good that the numbers are so close, especially with such high milage.
    With compression that good, I would think the valve train timing should be good, but I would not rule it totally out yet.
    Back to the fuel, It would not run with starting fluid or gasoline sprayed in the intake while cranking, right? And the spark plugs were not wet except for one, right? SO you cleaned and dried the spark plugs, put them back in, and it still would not start, right? It should have started when you sprayed fuel in the intake while cranking. About the only things left is that the fuel injectors are out of time somehow, or the spark is too weak. You should pull off a spark plug wire, put a short piece of wire or metal in the end of the boot to create a short exposed electrode, hold the spark plug wire carefully with a well insulated screwdriver, and hold it near a gorunded surface while cranking the engine, and observe the spark. Move the wire away from the grounded object and see how long of an arc you can draw. A strong spark will jump over 1/2 inch, up to 3/4 of an inch. Color should be bright blue with maybe some orange around it, but NOT pale looking, or short. If spark is not strong, that may be the problem. If spark is good, check the manual to see how the fuel injection system is timed. If fuel timing is ok, then you can check the injectors with the noid light, but I am not sure how that works on your setup, because they are embedded in the manifold. I think there may be a cover that comes off to get to them. The injectors that I worked on were injectors that were visible and had a two wire plug plugged into the side of them. I would simply unplug the electrical connector and plug the noid light into it, but your setup might be a lot different than that.
    Look into that and see what you find. I hope you find the problem soon.
    Good Luck,
    E.D. ISF
  • Actually as I got more confident in using this test method I did a couple of runs greater than 4 compressions and did get higher ...maybe 160 but did not redo all cylinders so I think you are correct in that this high mileage engine has some pretty good compression.

    Yeah this "spider" fuel injection setup is a little strange. It will require that I pull the intake off and see how the input feed is to it...if there is (and from the pictures in Haynes there is an electrical connector leading to it but only a two wire). This feeds all six cylinders so maybe a noid light can be set up on just that one.

    The spark intensity/length test seems reasonable. Is aspark tester capable of giving similar information? I like your DIY techniques however.

    What information should tell me about "fuel timing"?I searched the manual specs on the fuel system and did not see anything called that.

    If a resistance value should read 10,000 and it reads OFL(infinity) is that bad or good. This means no ground right between the test points. My explorer went to the dealer for a fuel injector service and ever since has been idling high like crazy...sometimes it surges to 2200rpm and frquently is at 1100rpm. Tested the TPS and IAC and checked all hoses.
    Only indication questionable was that the voltage climb with the accelerator pedal was 3.9V vs. manually opening the throttle it was 4.67V. Shouldn't both reading be very close?

    Not real happy with that right now. Next time I'll clean them myself.
  • I have a '94 Safari with mucho miles. I've recently replaced the plugs, wires, and air filter. Now that it's running a little smoother, I notice that if I accelerate with light pedal pressure, or I'm applying steady pressure at speed, the van lunges and hesitates. Any ideas?
  • Yes, the compressions seem good, 160 sounds better.

    I'd save fooling with the fuel injectors until the last resort, because you sprayed fuel in the intake and it did not start, so that seems to me to eliminate the "no fuel" problem. On the other hand, if the injectors flooded the engine, I would think it would have started or tried to start after you put the dried spark plugs back in. You might go back to the fuel pressure and see if it holds pressure, to be sure the injectors are not leaking down. With ignition ON and motor not running, the fuel pressure should build up to specs, then turn off ignition, the pressure should remain constant for several minutes before a drop in pressure.

    Doing the Spark/Length test like I described is the easiest and quickest way to check the voltage on the ignition system. A spark tester would not be able to do it any better, a scope just gives you a visual display on the screen, but looking at the length of the spark gives you a direct indication of the relative available voltage. The higher the voltage, the longer the arc can be. You start with the gap almost closed and slowly increase the gap, Longer Gap means Higher Voltage. I would suggest you check the spark Intensity and Length to be sure it is strong enough.

    Fuel injector timing should be set by the distributor timing. As long as the distributor is in time, the engine computer should know which cylinder is ready to fire and fire the injector at the right time. I was just checking to see if this might be an issue and if anything in your manual addressed it. I think this is more of an issue on cars that use the Coil Packs and Coil On Plugs, as they don't have distributors and have to have camshaft sensors to signal the computer and injectors when to fire. I would assume for now that your injectors are in time.

    In summary, I would suggest you check the spark intensity/length and be sure it is strong enough.

    About the Explorer, I don't know what resistance you were measuring, but if a given circuit is supposed to read 10,000 ohms and you read infinity, then it is an open circuit and it is bad or out of spec. I don't know what they did to the injectors, I never had any trouble with them on any of my 4 Explorers over the last 10 years. I pour a can of fuel system cleaner into the gas tank at each oil change. My idle is smooth at about 600-650 rpm when warm. It runs about 1100 rpm when first started, and slows down to 650 rpm in a couple of minutes.
    Good Luck,
    E.D. ISF
  • I found this great site on fuel injections and there is technical service bulletin about the problems with these systems. the article is "underhood pattern failures of cpi injection system." and so many of the things you and I have been focusing on are addresssed here. They discuss the need for the leakdown test you suggested and also to look at the intake manifold tuning valve.Check it out?
  • How do you get the door opened first if it is jammed in the first place? I also have a 94 Astro and the back (top left) appears stuck.
  • The haynes manual gives several checks for hesitation...check them out. Check out the fuel pressure cold/warm. You probably have TBI fuel injection but I hope its not that.
  • the link is in the engine compartment on the fire wall and goes from the point where the positive mounts is split into 4 fuseable links that control a part of the fuse block when i hook up the test light to ground it wont light but when i hook it up to positive the fuel pump relay clicks rapidly
  • Do you happen to know what the resolution was???? New Torque converter? Something else?

  • Both the front left and right wheel bearings on a 2003 Astro (<30 K miles) went out a few months after a dealer replaced both front left and right ball joints. The ball joint work was done under warranty but the bearing work was done out of warranty. The dealership refused to admit it was related to their work but only charged half the standard repair fee.

    My Questions:
    1) When replacing the ball joint is loosing the wheel bearing nut or adjusting the wheel bearing in any way standard practice?
    2) Does the Astro shop manual list any steps that would affect the wheel bearing?

    Thanks for your help.
  • dtreetdtreet Posts: 5
    my gauge will have four gallons left and read 3/4 full.
    It also will drop completly to the left and then switch back to above full in the course of a few seconds.
    It also seems to vibrate at times.
    Any ideas?
  • jodivanjodivan Posts: 11
    i am wondering about the Safari myself. test drove a 2000 with my daughter cause they need 8 seats, and it seemed ok. but when i started doing some checking, found out it is on the 'LEMON' list, problems with heat being cold in rear, transmission problems, electrical, etc. Have you found anything else that has 8 seats and is roomy? :confuse:
  • jodivanjodivan Posts: 11
    Did you get another Safari? if so, was it a good one? just went and test drove a 2000 Safari with my daughter who needs 8 seats for 4500 here in flint, had been sold at auctin to used car dealer. Checking out on this site, i am kinda concerned now, since they are talking about transmission problems, etc. We have no family mechanic and they cant afford big repairs either. it has just under hundred thousand miles on it. is there a way to find out more about that particular vehicle? :confuse:
  • Go to Google and type in "2000 GMC Safari" and you will find all kinds of information.
  • My Haynes manual does not cover the replacement of front wheel bearing on an AWD Safarai or Astro. It looks pretty simple but I thought I would ask if anyone has any simple steps to follow or tips. Anything special about removing the big nut? Should I brek it free before I jack it up?


  • I have a '97 Astro. When I am driving in the upper speeds (55 mph) and when we start going up a incline or the motor requires a little more power, the climate control will switch to windshield defrost from vent or floor. When the motor goes back to normal speed, it switches back to wherever I have the climate control set at on the dash. Just replaced water pump and heat temp control valve on the motor. Possible vaccum leak or ? Any helpful advice needed.
  • cobcob Posts: 210
    I don't know of anything special. The AWD don't have wheel bearings that can be repacked at brake job intervals. There is a sealed bearing/hub assembly just like 99% of the rest of the vehicles on the road. Should be able to remove in one piece.
  • cobcob Posts: 210
    Could be vacuum leak which is what usually happens but in your case when the engine increases speed the vacuum pressure would also increase. The default setting when there is no vacuum is to the defrost mode. Your system is running opposite. Usually the slower the engine RPMs the less vacuum pressure which means your system should be running at defrost on the level surface and switch to the actual setting upon acceleration. Check the small vacuum line that runs across the front of the engine around the goose neck for the upper radiator hose.
  • My dad thinks someone tried to steal his 2004 astro van because when he tried to start the van his key will not move the ignition at all. He also tried his spare key with the same outcome. I also tried and cannot move the ignition at all. The key hole doesnt look messed up, but it obviously doesnt work. Does anyone know how to replace it, or can link me to a download for the service manual?
  • Sometimes it can be the following
    1- flip the key over and then insert to start.
    2- wiggle the steering wheel as you turn the ignition key.
    I've had that occurrance in the past.
    -gary :shades:
  • n5445n5445 Posts: 28
    The problem is the pins inside the cylinder are stuck in one position.

    A little time consuming, but to fix this problem:
    Get some rags, flashlight, toothpicks, anything small enough to fit inside the key slot(i use small hex keys)and some lubricant(wd-40, oil)

    What your trying to do is release the stuck key pin inside the cylinder.

    The pins are toward the bottom of the cylinder
    Just keep lubricating the small piece(hex key,toothpick) and apply pressure towards the bottom of the cylinder as you pull back.

    push the piece in and pull out putting downward pressure as you remove it.
    Continue this for however long it takes. It make take a while.

    Also spray the ignition key and slip that in and out several times.
    Wipe any debris from the piece or key as you see it being removed from the cylinder.
    usually takes somewhere between 15-30 min of this to release the sticking pin in the cylinder.

    One the cylinder is working continue the process for another 5 min or so to remove any debris left inside the cylinder.

    Ive done this several times on differnt vehicles.
    Well worth the time!!!!
    keep flipping the key over each time you lubricate it.
    Dont break off the toothpicks if you use those to get inside the cylinder.

    Hope this helps

    If it doesn't, you may have an out of place spring inside there and it's not pushing the pins up, thus making the cylinder think the wrong key is being inserted.

    With the flashlight you should be able to see which pin is not all the way up, usually(my luck) its toward the back of the cylinder.
  • fortee9erfortee9er Houston, TXPosts: 128
    The a/c fan on my 1998 Safari will not work on the hi speed position. Has anyone encountered this problem and what is the fix?
  • fortee9erfortee9er Houston, TXPosts: 128
    I bought a 1998 GMC Safari with 49k miles on January 2001 for #12K. It is a 2wd model and it is fully loaded. It now has 109k miles and during this time I've had the following major problems:
    1- paint peeled off in sheets from the roof and hood.
    2- a/c system had to be replaced twice (leaky compressor).
    3- a/c still leaks but a lower rate.
    There have other smaller problems like having to replace tires at an alarming rate but this is due to the tires themselves and replacement has been under warranty. The leather on the dirver's seat and the front passenger have cracked and ripped. Looks like cheap quality leather not up to its intended use. I will probably have the two front seats re-upholstered soon. Last year the van was in a small fender bender and I had the body shop repaint the hood and the roof while they were repairing the accident damage.
    Overall the van has provided good service and has been reliable but at a price. Had I gone with a Honda or a Toyota my upfront cost would have been at least 50% more.
    I am now considering replacing the Safari but I am not sure what is available that would offer as much room, the amenities and better reliability.
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