Piston Slap: This Group Must Somehow Form a Family!

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap this group must somehow form a family

Josh writes:

Around fall of last year, my girlfriend and I learned we were going to have a baby. I already have two girls and she has three boys. With the existing brood, we were already traveling places in convoy as her Nissan Maxima and my Honda Accord Coupe V6 could not fit everyone together. We threw our money together to get a third vehicle that could carry the entire family and our future baby.

After much research on my end and exploring all other alternatives, we concluded that we wanted a good ol’ Chevy Suburban. It has plenty of room for all of us, can be had relatively cheap, it’s simple enough to troubleshoot and work on, yet will be pretty handy for future home improvement projects.

Low and behold, after scouring CraigsList and checking out various Suburbans and even an Excursion, we finally pulled the trigger on a ’99 Suburban 1500 2WD model. It was, by far, the cleanest Suburban I stumbled across within our rather modest budget, not to mention the most pampered by a country mile.

After paying the princely sum of $3,100 in crisp $100 bills (which was, frankly, about $100 more than I wanted to spend, but the maintenance log and overall cleanliness really sold me on it), I brought home a very clean ‘Burban.

There are a few small issues:

  1. The air conditioning system has a leak.
  2. The driver’s side rear door lock doesn’t move. (Actuator, perhaps?)
  3. The passenger rear door window had a mind of its own last time I pushed the switch, which did not occur during the test drive.

My question to you: Should I make those repairs or should I just “wing it”? My girlfriend and I were discussing just adding refrigerant to the system at the beginning of each summer and fixing everything the way it should be. We’ve came to the conclusion that we’re somewhat torn by that question. Further complicating this question is that the Suburban is only driven about once a week and we do plan on keeping it around for a long time.

Your advice is appreciated. Thanks again, my friend.

Sajeev answers:

I’m diggin’ the Brady Bunch vibe you’ve got goin’ on. An older Suburban with an extensive service history is a great choice. I fondly remember jumping into the third row of a friend’s big blue ‘Burb back in the 1980s. So kudos to you, good sir!

  • Definitely fix the power lock issue, that makes loading/unloading your precious cargo much easier. And since this beast is so cherry, you’ll happily do it.
  • The finicky power window issue sounds like a dirty or failed switch, perhaps this video (wrong year, I know) will inspire a free fix? If the switch on the rear door works correctly, maybe the driver’s switch pack needs a good clean-up after all those miles on the road.
  • Pay for an A/C diagnosis before making a decision. Considering the bizarre weather across North America in the last few years, I’d repair it properly. Hell, I’d change the compressor (if it’s original) no matter what! But perhaps that’s the Houston in me, or perhaps I question the sanity of cramming that many people in a single vehicle on a sunny day with no air conditioning.

Congrats on the new rig, I am sure you’ll love it for years to come.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

[Image: GM Heritage Center]
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7 of 120 comments
  • Phxmotor Phxmotor on Aug 02, 2016

    A/C fix: What the heck is going on with all this misleading A/C advice. ? Try this for a simple approach... Test Schrader valve by pushing it with a screwdriver. If the leak is small there will normally be a modest pressure still left. If there is no pressure at all... then yes... take it in to find the leak. If there is only a small leak there will be a modest release of 134A. Assuming that is the case.... just go to WalMart and get a can of 134 that has a hose and gage on it. Add the darn stuff to the low side and call it a day. If it did in fact have a little pressure to begin with its proof that the leak is minor. Once you add enuff 134A to activate the low pressure sensor... the compressor will magically come on. When the low side gets to 25-28lbs you are finished. And yes... It's ok to hold the can upside down. The only test needed to begin with is to determine if the system is completely empty or if there is still some pressure left. If there is..,, the fix is simple. This is why WalMart (or NAPA or whomever) stocks cans of 134A. Because small leaks are common... and the fix is simple. Have fun(!)

    • See 1 previous
    • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Aug 03, 2016

      The GM vehicles use a clutch cycling system so the low side pressure will drop to ~22psi, the clutch will disengage, the pressure rise to ~44psi and the clutch will engage and the process will repeat. The time it takes to cycle vs the ambient temp and load on the system is a better indication of the refrigerant level. I used to have the official chart of acceptable cycle time vs ambient temp.

  • 06V66speed 06V66speed on Aug 03, 2016

    Well gang, OP here. Just wanted to say thank you kindly for all of the sound advice... they don't call you all the Best & Brightest for nothing. :) Since I sent in this submission in late March, the Suburban is still running great and is actually being daily driven. And of course, Baby Joel (born last month) is doing very well. Thanks again, guys.

    • See 2 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on Aug 04, 2016

      @VoGo Nobody ever mentioned "Transit Connect". The suggestion was Transit Wagon.

  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.
  • Cardave5150 I've had 2 different 300's - an '08 300SRT and an '18 300C. Loved them both a LOT, although, by the time I had the second one, I wasn't altogether thrilled with the image of 300's out on the street, as projected by the 3rd or 4th buyers of the cars.I always thought that the car looked a little stubby behind the rear wheels - something that an extra 3-4" in the trunk area would have greatly helped.When the 300 was first launched, there were invitation-only meet-and-greets at the dealerships, reminding me of the old days when new model-year launches were HUGE. At my local dealer, they were all in formalwear (tuxes and elegant dresses) with a nice spread of food. They gave out crystal medallions of the 300 in a sweet little velvet box (I've got mine around the house somewhere). I talked to a sales guy for about 5 minutes before I asked if we could take one of the cars out (a 300C with the 5.7 Hemi). He acted like he'd been waiting all evening for someone to ask that - we jumped in the car and went out - that thing, for the time, seemed to fly.Corey - when it comes time for it, don't forget to mention the slightly-stretched wheelbase 300 (I think it was the 300L??). I've never found one for sale (not that I've looked THAT hard), as they only built them for a couple of years.
  • Jkross22 "I’m doing more for the planet by continuing to drive my vehicle than buying a new one for strictly frivolous reasons."It's not possible to repeat this too much.
  • Jeff S Got to give credit to Chrysler for putting the 300 as a rear wheel drive back on the market. This will be a future classic.
  • Lou_BC How to Fix Auto Media? Stop fixating on soft touch plastics and infotainment systems. I did quite a bit of research on my ZR2. There was no mention of the complexity of putting the transfer case into neutral. (9 step process). They didn't talk about how the exhaust brake works with tow/haul mode. No mention that the exhaust brake does not work with off-road mode. Nannies only stay turned off with the lockers engaged. Only one review mentioned the tail pipe as a vulnerability.