By on August 2, 2016

1999 Chevrolet Suburban K2500 4x4, Image: GM Heritage Center

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 [email protected]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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120 Comments on “Piston Slap: This Group Must Somehow Form a Family!...”


  • avatar

    I own a GMC truck of the same vintage and many of these issues are common.

    If you do not want to spend a lot of money on the air conditioning I would get a can of freon with dye in it for the next time you need to add some then pick up a leak detector kit with glasses and light online for $10 to see if you can trace out where it is coming from. If you can find a leaky line then I would see about replacing the o-ring or possibly the line if necessary. If you are not mechanically inclined, I am sure a local shop would do the same procedure for a couple hundred dollars.

    The rear door lock the actuator has likely failed. You may be tempted to buy the Dorman version for about $30 but there have been many of them that have failed after some time so I recommend spending the $50 to get the ACDelco version.

    I would try to clean the window switch like the video that Sajeev linked mentions and if that fails to fix the issue, I would look to replace it.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Dorman is perhaps the single biggest purveyor of crappy replacement parts known to man. Now, they might have a few parts that they source from decent suppliers, but by and large they are bottom of the barrel junk.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      Shop Amazon. You can often get OEM replacement parts for far less than what a dealer would charge and a little more than a Dorman part.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I have not seen that, for the parts I’ve looked for Amazon was more expensive than my local dealer and way more expensive than the dealer that does the best internet pricing. As an example I changed the transfer case fluid last week. My local dealer it was $7 per qt while at Amazon it was $12. I’m sure I could have found a better price from Tasca but the shipping for a low dollar item would have eaten up the savings.

        • 0 avatar

          Amazon works sometimes. I recently got the Toyota special ATF for the early 5 speeds for 4.50 a quart vs 6 a quart at the local dealer (and free shipping). But other times it was much cheaper locally.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          When I needed to replace the rear air shocks with the electronic dampening on my ’07 Tahoe no one else could match the price That I payed at Amazon. Same with the front struts. I’m sure the don’t give the best price on everything but always worth a look IMHO.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    You could always buy the bus version of the Ford Transit…?

    • 0 avatar
      Frylock350

      Those start at $35000. He spent $3100; less than a tenth the MSRP of the Transit.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        They are expensive, granted; however he starts with a minimum of three years warranty and a brand-new vehicle that will probably give him double the fuel mileage and probably be one heck of a lot more comfortable to drive and to ride in than a worn-out Suburban that will end up drinking away half its savings and parting him the other half.

        Let me add that with that many kids in the house, he simply won’t have time to perform his own repairs.

        • 0 avatar
          87 Morgan

          No, no, and one last no.

          With that many kids, you don’t need a payment nor can you afford one.
          The OP stated it gets driven once a week, FE is not an issue. Period.
          The OP stated that their are 3 young men in the house…perhaps now is a good time to help them learn how to be a grown up man and problem solve, turn a wrench, and fix something.
          A 99′ Suburban that is driven once a week with extensive maintenance records will not break the bank. They are anvil reliable. I know many a burb’ on the road today with 250k + miles. Sure, they have had a tranny replaced. Big deal. Save up for it as you know it is coming at 150k.
          Door actuator replacement does not lead to bankruptcy in most cases.

        • 0 avatar
          brettc

          He has 6 kids, I don’t think a Transit is in his budget. I have 0 kids and a $35000 vehicle isn’t in my budget either.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Definitely a Z3 coupe is needed.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          if you think a Transit van will get 30 mpg, I don’t know what to tell you. I think your math is beyond loony to think that spending 10x what OP did to save a bit of gas money and some maintenance/repairs.

          OP bought about as ideal of a vehicle as he could have given his budget (IMO). A well cared for, common BOF SUV without potentially troublesome 4wd hardware that is known to go multiple hundreds of thousands of miles, with at worst a transmission refurbishment needed, and even that isn’t a financial deathblow on these things. 4L60Es might just be the most ubiquitous and well studied automatics as far as rebuilds go. swapping in a used one is always an option as well. Parts are everywhere and cheap, and any little shop in any little town in the USA knows how to work on it (and the local parts counter will have parts for it) should something need repairs during a road trip.

          Telling someone who probably works hard to balance a family budget to pick up a nice fat car payment for a vehicle he uses only occasionally is incredibly silly (stupid, actually).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Whatchu think of this here Yukon?
            https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/5702471163.html

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Well, at least we can all agree that it was smart of the poster to get all of our advice on what vehicle to buy.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Corey I’d inspect for rust and demand actual documented proof of maintenance. It’s being sold by a used car lot rather than the actual owner who did said maintenance so that’s a minus in my book. Looks like said used car dealer sourced a new driver’s seat to replace the original torn one and is making a big stink about it in the ad for whatever reason.

            If everything checks out then sure it’s a decent deal I suppose. Just be aware that while the mechanical underpinnings are mostly rock solid, there’s still plenty to go wrong on a 15 year old GM product (or any car). T-case solenoids, ABS-related things, the transmission. Definitely would need a thorough test drive and make sure everything checks out (shift it into all different modes of 4wd, etc).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Hmm, are you saying car dealer because of the all caps advert? I asked a few questions in an email, here’s the reply.

            “Everything is good clean non smoking “

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Yeah it’s not just some guy’s driveway, it’s inside of a pertty big shop with other cars there. Likewise yes the ad wording definitely does not jive with the kind of person who buysnew and keeps his Yukon in immaculate condition. I’d put money on it being a used car dealer.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Good points! I’ve asked if he’s actually the owner, and we’ll see if he answers.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            He sez “2nd owner. Friend was first.”

            Ugh, lol. Just admit you’re a dealer.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Sure way to check: “is it a clean title in YOUR name?”

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            He’s curbstoning fo sho.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            It’s so nice when people deign to put words in my mouth, as it were. Please, do show me where I said 30mpg? What I’m saying is that it gets significantly better fuel mileage and in like-for-like driving it could conceivably get up to double the fuel mileage; and you’re lucky, very lucky, if you get 10mpg with a Suburban in the city and maybe, depending on how you drive it, you might get 15mpg on the highway. The Transit is rated to at least 24 on the highway and I believe around 18 in town. The Transit Wagon can be built up to a 15-passenger version, so plenty of room for parents and kids AND their sports gear. And we can be pretty certain that the first five years will be pretty reliable, especially if it’s “lightly used.”

            Yes, I am aware that it’s pricy. But I’ve learned through hard experience over 40+ years of owning vehicles that you simply cannot trust a used vehicle, even if you think you knew the previous owner. Sure, some people get lucky, but how many people can be so consistently UN-lucky that every single pre-owned vehicle ever purchased demanded thousands in repair bills on an annual basis? One of my cars averaged a full half of my pay over the course of a year at a job I really enjoyed but simply could not afford. No pre-owned vehicle ever was a true value to me as I simply could not get away from continual issues. Buying new never gave me those issues. And no, I don’t trade every three or four years either; I keep my cars a minimum of 8 years and my oldest purchased vehicle (vs one I inherited that’s 11 years older) is now 9 years old. I paid nearly $32K for it at the time and the KBB value is still near $15K today.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            You said double the MPG and Suburban will pull down 15 MPG in mixed driving which if my math is right means 30 mpg. Regardless of what the EPA estimates are for the smallest version of the Transit is they get 15-16 mpg in mixed driving.

            The Suburban should last another 5 years with minimal expense and still bring at least $1000. So $400 per year on depreciation and if it does need a new trans you up that cost to $800 per year. No way that a Transit will depreciate only $4000 in 5 years.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Really. You drive that badly? Personally, I’ve never seen a Suburban get 15mpg in city or mixed, especially one that old. And I’m betting I could achieve 17-19 mpg in a transit wagon in my type of daily driving.

            And personally, I don’t even look at depreciation over a mere 5 years. Let’s see how it does in 8 to 10 years, when it’s probably still the family hauler.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Sorry but the Transit is not some magical mini-truck that will get 30mpg. The reports I’ve see for the gas powered versions is 15-16mpg in mixed use. So no better than the Suburban. Plus even if it got 100mpg the savings on fuel driving it once a week when they have all 6 of the kids would take a few centuries to recoup.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            The guy could just weld together 2 Fiat 500’s.

          • 0 avatar
            87 Morgan

            @ Vulpine.
            I am in my 40’s. I bought my first used car at 13. I have had only 4 new cars in my life and well over 40 used.
            I suppose if you feel you can’t trust a used car than buying new is for you. I would add, that perhaps with all respect, you suck at buying used cars. I rarely get burned, when I do it costs me a couple hundred, maybe a grand for something I missed. Either way, I am way ahead of the steep depreciation curve on new.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @87Morgan: So in roughly 25 years of driving (plus or minus) you’ve owned 44 cars. In over 43 years of driving, I’ve owned 13 cars. Of those, five were purchased brand new. I have never put less than 70K miles on any of those new cars and most of them greatly exceeded 100,000 miles. Of cars I purchased with roughly 50K miles on them, each and every one cost me nearly double what I paid in repairs and two of them needed to have their engines swapped within weeks of purchase. I can only tout ONE used car that didn’t eat my lunch and that one got totaled in a T-bone crash when somebody tried to cross the road in front of me out of a left turn lane while the approach was blinded by pickup trucks so she didn’t see me coming and I didn’t see her until she was entering my lane. Centerpunched that Toyota with an 86 Buick LeSabre T-type going 45mph (the speed limit).

            As I’ve stated before, I keep my cars until I no longer trust them. That tends to be 8 to 10 years each for new and about 4 years each for used. That LeSabre only lasted one year. As a result, I’ve realized far more savings by buying new and keeping it up than I have buying used and battling constant repairs.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “two of them needed to have their engines swapped within weeks of purchase.”

            Yeah, I’d say that’s some pretty poor used car buying. Don’t project your own poor PPI skills onto the rest of us.

            Just admit it was just plain silly to randomly recommend buying a $35k+ vehicle to a guy who asked for A/C repair advice on his $3k truck and we’ll be done with it.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            You may think it’s silly, but I don’t. I personally know a family with 8 kids in the same age ranges as the OP and to be quite blunt, they bought a brand-new 15-pac van when the number rose to four because they knew they were going to have a lot of kids. They’re still driving that van even though their eldest are now in college and their youngest is about 8. They thought ahead and bought what they needed up front so they didn’t have to worry about replacing a clunker every two to four years.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            Renting a TC now… getting 21-22 mpg in mixed driving

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        The guy is on a limited budget so the only alternative to a Suburban with that many kids would be a van. Safari’s have seating for 8 and with the 2 sets of seats removed rival any 8 foot box pickup with camper shell.

        But since he already purchased the Suburban, it shouldn’t be too expensive to repair and parts shouldn’t be too costly since there are plenty of them around and share a ton of parts with their pickup brethren.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Or a Prevost RV so long as we seem to not be budget limited here.

      • 0 avatar
        Coopdeville

        Sweet, as long as price is no object I’d go with a Kingsley Coach and convert one of those new Peterbilts or Internationals into an RV.

        http://blogunity.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Original-Kingsley-Coach-1.jpg

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    GM sells a million full size trucks/SUVs a year; there’s plenty in junkyards to pick parts from! Most parts are identical to those used in any GM full size pickup or a Tahoe/Yukon. I’d consider replacing the switch and actuator with junkyard parts.

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      This not a prudent advise. You want him to leave 6 kids at home with his girlfriend so that he can go around a junkyard for a day finding the part, then spending another day installing it, and then doing it again when the used part fails. Just think about the hell you suggested to put him through.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        I bet a couple of the older kids would love to come along to a junk yard with Dad/Mom’s boyfriend and then use youtube to help install your finds.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Of course it depends on how far he has to drive to get to the nearest self serve wrecking yard but it should not take a day to get the part and certainly won’t take a day to install those parts if he has any mechanical ability. The whole thing should be doable in a part of a day assuming it isn’t a 2hr drive to the self serve wrecking yard. He did say that this was a short term vehicle, so there is a very good chance that those used parts will more than last his time with the vehicle as they are not known as common failure points.

        Considering that the $100 over his budget caused concern spending $40 at the wrecking yard and a day doing it is probably much more in his budget than spending $300+ going the DIFM route.

        Of course before he heads to the wrecking yard it would be prudent to do proper diagnosis to ensure that he gets the actual failed parts and doesn’t for example replace the switch when in fact it is the motor that is the problem. So a again he needs a minimum amount of knowledge of how to work on cars.

      • 0 avatar

        Most of the junkyards around me don;t let you pull your own you call em up tell them what you want and it’s on the counter when you get there. Not quite as cheap as Upull but usually much better then new.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Thankfully around here there are lots of self serve yards with several of them following the pricing strategy of every part of a given class is the same price. So $30 for an alternator whether a reman is $50 or $500, which makes for a really good deal if you need the $500 one.

      • 0 avatar
        BobinPgh

        [This is not the type of commentary we expect, condone, support, or allow. —Mark]

      • 0 avatar
        Frylock350

        @Stumpaster,

        Huh? I used to do this with my Dad when I was little. I thought it was cool; not hell. It also taught me to take care of my things and do it myself. Have you ever changed a switch or actuator? They’re pretty simple to change. Given the massive proliferation of GMT400 vehicles there’s plenty of junkyard choices to choose from. I give this experiment half a day and a good learning experience for the kids; both boys AND girls. As scoutdude pointed out $100 was a significant budget overrun in the vehicle purchase for OP so I was simply recommending a very inexpensive way to fix the few issues the truck has. I wouldn’t have been able to afford my first car were it not for a few junkyard parts. I was able to replace lots of worn out interior trim with pieces that looked brand new for cheap.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I agree with Sajeev. First get a diagnosis on the AC system. You could start by checking the pressure of the refrigerant. If it is low or 0, you probably are dealing with a leak. AC shops have expensive instruments to find the leak. You don’t want to start throwing parts at it given the cost of labor.
    If it is not low on R134, then you have an electrical or mechanical issue with the compressor or it’s controls.
    The going rate to replace a compressor and accumulator/dryer around here is $1K. Rebuilt AC compressors go for less than $200.

    • 0 avatar

      AC costs a lot unless you do it your self. I bought a set of gauges on Amazon (the harbor freight ones got bad reviews) and haven’t looked back since. If the leak is really slow (I have one in My durango that takes about 6 months to loose about 10PSI on the low side) you can by R134 cheap at Biglots. Mine leaked a little out of the shrader valves which I replaced but I still seem to loose a little overtime. But so far adding a few ounces every 6 months has been cheaper then another $100 AC diagnosis that turned up no leaks a couple years ago. I may try another round of leak detection myself but it can be tricky when it’s that slow.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Unless you’re on R12 AND you have a Cadillac with expensive and fragile components.

        Then you’re up sh*t creek.

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah R12 is a pain. My ramcharger may get switched over to 134 or get a can of r12 grey market on craigslist. Or you know fill it with some Redtek propane (not really comfortable with that). I have also looked at modifying the system with a newer compressor and parts from classic air.

          • 0 avatar
            Frylock350

            Don’t switch to 134 if you can help it. R12 blows much colder IMO.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            And that lead paint just sticks better to the wall.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Frylock350

            I agree but its just such a hassle to obtain.

            @Corey

            I have heard the argument it does. Don’t know enough to form an opinion.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I think the negatives with how it cracks as it ages and must be scraped (carcinogens) before repainting outweigh the benefits!

            May have found an SUV but he’s gonna have to come down about $1k+
            https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/5713931428.html

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Ehhhhh….. well I guess its at least an MY06.

            Isuzu Trooper, Mitsu Montero, later Nissan Xterra…

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            It’s in a good part of town, I’m thinking older owners – and they’ve got a TL in the garage with it, I see.

            The Trooper had a glass transmission, and was only available to 02. They tend to have rust around here and are not in good condition.
            Montero is a no-go for various reasons – mostly rust and leaks per gtem 4×4 expert.
            I don’t like the Xterra, but for what it is people seem to have too high an opinion of them here cost-wise. The revised gen is $11-22k.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Guy just dropped the price on the ad $800, lol.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Checked out that MDX, for the record. Guy has the big eye because A) it’s just listed and B) I was the first person to check it out and C) he’s getting lots of emails.

            Holy selective photos, Bat Man!

            Six separate rust bubble incidents on the hood, to which he said “Something happened in 06, and they all have that.” The bumper was also warped (?) or missing clips underneath both headlamps, to where it was bulged out on both sides. “The dealer said they could fix that, I never bothered.” Yeah but in seven years of ownership? C’mon man.

            Wear on the seats where the color had worn off the leather – driver, passenger, rear seat from car seat use. Heavy lining on bolsters both front seats.

            Body excellent, really only one little dent. No rust there.

            Drove great. Good brakes, suspension, trans. Quiet engine, very little wind noise. They were still paying for XM Radio. This gen MDX is a very solid feeling car, and I was pleased about that part.

            Offered $6 citing the cosmetic issues aplenty. He said he’d had a couple people offer to buy at purchase price sight unseen (which I don’t believe) and some emails (which I do). And said he wouldn’t come off $6.5 lowest. I had in mind $6.4 if it was in really -great- condition, because he had priced it at KBB excellent price level.

            Told him I was going to keep looking, but didn’t think he would have issue selling it. (To someone who doesn’t care about cosmetics.)

          • 0 avatar

            Up until a few years ago Kirby paint in New Bedford Mass still sold Red lead paint for use in old wooden boats and ships. I know I used plenty of it back in the late 90’s early 2000’s. But it looks like it’s not on their site anymore.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @CoreyDL

            I know its sorta similar but I like RX over MDX. Other than cosmetics doesn’t sound too bad, he needs to come off of what he thinks is extra clean though if its got issues.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            @28

            The rust was the biggie. That hood is going to be showing visible brown rust on white paint in a year or so. I could have lived with the seats. The front floormats were brand new, and in the cargo area – they had towels down over the carpet at the front, wrapped around some rubber mats (LOL?). However, that seat wear is more than what I’ve seen on even higher mileage examples, and older ones to boot. They didn’t maintain the leather with the rest of the car.

            The RX timeline is a bit annoying to me. They kept the ancient looking one for so long that the RX330 examples are out of the price range I want to pay. And the RX300 is so old that it’s hard to find them without 175k on them. And then the owner wants $6 for something that’s fifteen years old. And that’s too much. They also seem to rust much more readily than the MDX, which could have to do with JPN production location.

            While the RX in general is probably slightly more robust, the styling and age gets to me.

            I was quite impressed with how the MDX handles. Didn’t feel its size at all.

      • 0 avatar
        BobinPgh

        Please take the Suburban to a good car AC shop and have the air conditioner professionally refurbished. Even 134a has a global warming potential and is supposed to be recovered ($25,000 fine if a professional does not recover the refrigerant). You are doing much more damage with family planning choices, not expelling refrigerant is the least you could do.

        Why not have 2 cars rather than 1 large Suburban? I was in a family of 5 kids and I hated traveling with the whole family all together all of the time in the same vehicle.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Here comes angry child-less Bob, full of granola and hateful vitriol.

          R134a has 1340 times the heat trapping potential of CO2, who cares? relative to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, even if we all purged our A/C systems right now, I’d be willing to bet that the impact would be negligible. I suspect the real reason might be Honeywell and Dupont wanting that sweet monopoly money from their new Euro-mandated refrigerant.

          I few years ago the rear A/C line burst on my old MPV, the refrigerant hissed out with quite a force, and some of the lubricant dripped out onto the ground. Better report me to the EPA!

          • 0 avatar
            BobinPgh

            The fine would not apply to consumers who had the refrigerant come out in a collision, it is for HVAC professionals who are EPA certified, who are supposed to have the correct equipment to recover the refrigerant whenever the sealed system must be serviced. If you were EPA certified and do not use proper recovery techniques, you could be fined, perhaps even go to jail. I will always use proper techniques because I don’t know how well I can handle Bubba the big guy in jail.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Boldfaced lies! – Honeywell spokesman.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Bob, I don’t think there are penalties on the DIY front for venting R-134a. While I will certainly not venture into the family planning issue but I commend you on showing some concern regarding the careless and unnecessary venting of refrigerant. Identifying the leak and fixing is the proper way to go. Not to mention a constantly leaking system may pick up moisture if the charge gets too low. Unless the leak is so small that it takes two years to lose effectiveness, repair is the right thing to do. Lots of rednecks dump their used oil into the ground but that does not make it right.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        mopar4wd, I agree that there are potential cost savings in DIY air conditioning repair. The parts that leak like o-rings tend to be very inexpensive with most of the cost in labor. I’d start by looking for refrigerant oil near places where tubing and hoses connect together. It might make sense to just replace all the 17 year old rubber parts at the same time. Where I disagree is going out and buying a manifold gauge set or vacuum pump. It’s cheaper to pay someone else with the right equipment to pull a vacuum, check for leaks, and refill the A/C with refrigerant.

        • 0 avatar

          I agree on the vaccum pump. I have a very cheap one and have used it once when I replaced a compressor but overall it took forever and it may be worth just taking it to the shop for the vac and fill when doing major work. On the manifold gauges thou I disagree they give you a very good idea whats going on in the system fairly quickly, and allow for a reliable way to add a quick charge to a system after doing a quick repair.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Proper Gauges are a must for A/C service work. Sight glasses and a cheap gauge on a charging tube is a poor way to determine a correct charge. R-134a systems can be more finicky that the old R-12 systems – the modern systems typically have much smaller charges that the old systems; it is very easy to over/under charge.

          • 0 avatar

            yes and knowing the proper pressure for a system is important too. I had been going by the common rules of thumb. (around 25-30 PSi low side on idle twice ambient on the high side) But I recently found that the service manual for my Durango called out 30-35PSI low side and 180-220 high side at 90 degree ambient. It cooled before but the little boost in pressure now made it much better.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Mopar4wd,
      I have been DIYing automotive AC for over 25 years. I leaned the trade so to speak three jobs back. In our group, we had a few people who serviced chillers and condensers used in R&D. I had access to both the equipment and company paid Freon as a perk from the job. We even had a welder who was skilled at aluminum repairs who I had repair a leaking receiver.
      Every spring, we held a free AC tune up during lunch time for the 40 guys in the group.
      Since leaving that job, I have acquired a charging manifold and vacuum pump from HF. No complaints about either. These tools got plenty of use on my 2000 Taurus, but have not been used for a few years now. My GMs and Hondas haven’t need any AC repairs.

      • 0 avatar
        BobinPgh

        But did you recover the refrigerant? If you did not use a recovery unit, then you better invest in Speedos because sea level rise is coming and you are part of the reason why.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          The refrigerant recovery meme has been used twice now (by you) and is played out. We can discontinue.

        • 0 avatar

          Most of the problems are leaks in the system. If you have a leak big enough there’s nothing to recover. 8 years ago My Subaru had a leak two springs in a row and I topped it off both times (this was my first experience with car AC and really didn’t know anything)and both times it worked all summer, the fall after the 2nd summer I noticed the AC not going on with the defroster, when I opened the hood I found an O-ring leaking on a aluminum connection. It seemed there was enough contraction in cold weather to allow a minute leak. 134 leaks all the time most cars that come in for service have lost a fair percentage of their charge, I agree it’s best to recover what you can but really a surprising amount is allowed to leak on it’s own every day.

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker

        BobinPgh,

        The Taurus AC would leak down to atmospheric pressure in a week so there was nothing to recover. Otherwise, I would have just topped it off with R134.
        In the old R12 days, no one recovered freon from automotive ACs. That came after the phase out of R12 because of the ozone hole.

        • 0 avatar
          BobinPgh

          So then why keep recharging it if you do not repair the leak? It would be kind of like a doctor giving a patient a blood transfusion when they are still bleeding profusely. In health care, you stop the bleeding, so in HVAC you stop the leak.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Cost control issue. Troubleshooting and replacing the leak may cost $XXX to $XXXX, small can of R134 is $XX retail. Unless one needs to charge it daily, or if one is only using the car sparingly, which is wiser?

          • 0 avatar

            Here in CT I can get it at Biglots for like $7.50 a can. $100 minimum to have a pro trace the leak (I did that once he couldn’t find it) vs a can a year well the math takes a while.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Now that is funny that you GM and Honda vehicles haven’t had any problem with AC leaks as they are notorious for leaking service valves. Back when I had my card and did it on a regular basis GM and Honda vehicles were the most profitable vehicles out there.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Yeah…AC looks to be the only bit that may cost any sort of money. If the thing is that clean I’d probably just fix it right as those things will last and even major repairs aren’t the end of the road as mentioned since there are parts aplenty in junk yards.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Fix it up right, enjoy your rig. The Suburban is one of the few vehicles that the General has consistently given a damn about and it shows in the quality of assembly.

  • avatar

    Last version of the gen-1 SBC with Vortec heads.

    4L-60E transmission.

    And as Dan said, one of the few model lines on which GM consistently gave it their best.

    Fix it and drive it. With proper maintenance, 300k isn’t out of the question.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Perhaps the OP can opine here as to their level of mechanical intuitiveness. If *some* exists, the issues at hand are ones that can be tackled one by one when time permits as non of them is a major concern.
    1. Door lock: if I were you, this is the most pressing issue. The item of greatest value left in the vehicle at all times is the car seat(s). Terribly expensive and you are in a real jam if you walk out of Target and find someone needed yours more than you thought you did. If the car seat day were over, I would say meh, not much of value in the thing when it is parked and 2wd 99′ Burban’ thefts have been abating year over year.
    2. AC; it is August now, depending on where you live you could ride this out and deal with it next spring. I am a fan of the suggestion to purchase the kit on line to track the leak. If they are $10, you never know this tool may come in handy for another rig in the future.
    3. Power window: review the video, junkyard parts, RockAuto.com and some youtube time on how to replace things if necessary and you are good to go. I would bet this can be handled for less than $80.

    Otherwise, as one proud Suburban owner to another, well done. They are a great and useful rig and I would bet your will provide years of relatively trouble free service. I am 6.5 years into my used one and my biggest repairs of late were a Cruise control switch on the brake pedal and bank 2 #2 O2 sensor. Both parts combined were $200 and install in my garage was about an hour for each as my 12 year old is very meticulous in his work. I’ll take those repair bills all day long every 6 years….

    • 0 avatar
      gasser

      Your best investment was the time spent with your 12 year old. Teaching a kid to problem solve, not be afraid of mechanicals and give him/her the satisfaction of a job well done are personal lessons that are invaluable.
      This makes a PITA job into a real pleasure experience for you both.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        You are correct. Most people find the CEL on to be a hassle. I secretly love it as it means some fun time in the garage being dudes with my two boys.

        The good news is I also have a 57′ chevy with a SB 327 from a 64′ something or other so we get plenty of practice setting points and finding a new and mysterious leak.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yes teaching your child how to simply use a screw driver and not be affraid to try and fix something is priceless. You would not believe the percentage of students that I see that can’t operate a manual screw driver and don’t know the different between a socket, ratchet or an open end wrench.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      AC is very useful for defogging windows in cooler wet weather. If funds are tight maybe he can see how winter goes without it, but I recommend fixing the AC as fast as finances allow.

      Not having AC will put any vehicle on the fast track to beater status.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    The beauty of these trucks is that due to their popularity you can google a problem and you’ll get your answer on one of the truck forums or a you-tube video. Probably a video showing you exactly how to repair that door lock actuator.

    I had the dash ripped apart pretty good on my ’04 Sierra this spring to fix the driver/passenger electronic temp control actuators (bought OEM from Amazon). They were buried in the dash pretty good but someone was nice enough to post a you-tube video showing where they were and how to take everything apart to get at them. Also pulled the dash cluster at the same time to have someone rebuild it and fix 3 gages that had $hit the bed. A little over $120 to do that, shipped back to me the next day. CHEAP!

  • avatar
    Joe Btfsplk

    I’d go with a used funeral limo. They’re cheap, easy to drive and comfortable to ride in without all of that truckie stuff.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    With gas priced right, this is the ride to have.
    And as mentioned many times, if you can do your own mechanicals, it’s a rig that you can run until all those kids have their own ride.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Yep, the B&B is in fine form today and I will echo what everyone else is saying. Ya done good OP, excellent choice! An inherently durable vehicle with low cost and widely available resources for repairs, and sounds like you’ve found one that’s been looked after, and equally important part of the equation of finding a dependable used vehicle.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “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.”

    I had an issue with the door rear window switch on my Tahoe. And low and behold once I extracted the small piece of Lego that had been jammed into it, worked like a charm again!..LOL

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    On that era GM truck the most likely leak points are the service valves, if they have the old Schrader style replaceable ones, the various o-rings or the condenser. The compressors are usually quite reliable.

    So yeah put some dye in it and see if you can find the leak. It is UV dye and while the special glasses and blue light help you can usually see the dye w/o it. What ever you do do not get the dye with stop leak or the refrigerant with stop leak. It usually doesn’t fix the leak and it does gum up everything and is likely to lead to the need to replace more things when you do go to fix it properly. Chances are it can be fixed properly by a professional for $200.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    In my opinion, it’s worth it in quality of life to budget a bit more for maintenance and fix issues right if at all possible. I expect you can probably fix the lock and window issues yourself if you’re reasonably handy with a socket set and trim pry tool. I’d spend the money to make the A/C system right. A well-maintained Suburban should last a long time; why spend that long time irritated at the things that are wrong rather than enjoying the many things that are right?

    Side comment: THIS is the type of buyer whom I can’t make fun of for wanting a Suburban. It’s a very sensible choice here. Now my sister-in-law (three kids, almost never carrying all three at once) is a different story…

    • 0 avatar
      BobinPgh

      That is why I was saying why not 2 smaller cars? I always found having to travel as a large family embarrassing and uncomfortable. What happens when they are teenagers and are embarrassed to be driving the Suburban? And how often would all of them travel together anyways?

      After all, Greg Brady drove dad’s convertible on a date when Bobby opened the umbrella inside, he was too embarrassed to be driving the Satellite wagon.

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    If a picture could represent the American way of life of days past, this is it.

    Very beautiful, and yes, this is coming from a Mopar guy. Makes me want to go on a road trip. North/South Dakota?

    • 0 avatar

      GM ran a lot of Ads for their trucks in fields like those from 96-99 or so and yes I agree it is very attractive advertising for a truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      And some straight lines on a vehicle body are so nice.

      Was just wondering the other day… where did ancient people ever get the idea that straight lines were even possible? Pulling vines taught? Watching rain on a windless day?

      Everything in their world was curvy. Straight things are a magnificent achievement!

  • avatar
    phxmotor

    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(!)

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Easy way to over/under charge an A/C system.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      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.

  • avatar
    06V66speed

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Great to hear from you – we love when people come back and tell us how things turned out. Congratulations on young Joel and best wishes to your family.

      Hopefully, our digressions into lead paint, planned parenthood, Miatas and Transit Connects weren’t too diverting. If you look hard enough, there are some nuggets of value occasionally.

      • 0 avatar
        06V66speed

        Thanks, Vogo.

        And regarding lead paint, planned parenthood, etc… if I look back over the years at my occasional dumb comments on here on TTAC, I’d call it “a wash”. :)

        It’s all in good fun. And everyone’s advice is appreciated.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Nobody ever mentioned “Transit Connect”. The suggestion was Transit Wagon.


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