By on November 24, 2017


2009 Chevrolet TrailBlazer

Roland writes:

Hey Sajeev,

A few years ago I was looking for a midsized SUV for my business (kitchen renovations) and ended up with a ’07 4Runner Sport — which my son (and business partner) decided was for him. Not wanting to derail a business and personal relationship, I stuck with my ’01 Silverado pickup.

Recently I’ve been looking at midsized SUVs again (this time for myself), but don’t want anything new, being a firm believer in used vehicles. One option is the Saab 9-7X (here comes the derision!). I like the size, styling, don’t need seven seats, and if I can interpret various articles — it was the best GM SUV of its time, but Saab fans hated it for that reason. I can pick up an ’06 model for about a $1,000 (CDN, with 104K miles) with a blown 5.3-liter engine, no rust, etc. Question: Would this be an opportunity to drop a 6.0-liter into a 9-7X without the harsh ride of a TrailBlazer SS?

Or just find a 5.3-liter replacement engine and keep things as is?

Or am I nuts?

Sajeev answers:

Well, of course getting MOAR LSX-FTW is a great idea. But the smart move for a businessman is to wimp out and get a replacement 5.3. Those aren’t the cheapest 5.3s around (i.e. all-aluminum LM4) but they are still cheaper than a 6.0 and might have less tuning/programming headaches. But maybe this isn’t being a wimp. Why, I reckon you can slap a mild cam, a set of headers, full exhaust, tune, etc, to a replacement 5.3 for less cash and be quite happy with your work truck!

I quite like this idea, but I brought in our very own Chris Tonn for some personal feedback. Read on:

Chris writes:

Bozi says: LS motor makes all things great. Chris, the ’06 Trailblazer owner, says: RUN.

I’d choose a rusted ’88 Tercel rolling on three wheels and the left rear drum dragging on the ground over another GMT360. Though one of my biggest gripes with my Trailblazer — the flaky ignition switch that requires yearly replacement — is solved by the Saab’s console-mounted key switch.

Nothing is easy to repair on the GMT360. In salt-laden climates, the power steering lines and cooler will rust through, requiring the flexibility of a gymnast combined with the strength of a powerlifter to replace without pulling the engine. The front struts wear quickly and can be a bear to DIY. Fuel economy is dismal even with the six-cylinder.

If you want to stay with a GM product, consider a Tahoe. It’s a proper truck beneath, with a bit more interior space, better ride quality, and better ease of maintenance.

[Image: Chevrolet]

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.

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20 Comments on “Piston Slap: How Much GMT 360 Can You Handle?...”

  • avatar

    How do you kill a GM V8 at just over 100,000 miles.
    Abuse. Thats how.
    The rest of the truck is SUSPECT dude.
    Sand jeev is right. Get a tahoe.

  • avatar

    The GMT360 had the distinction of representing some of the worst that GM had to offer at the time of its manufacture.

    Cynical rebadging where everybody except Pontiac and Cadillac got a variation? – Check

    Cheapest lowest bidder quality be damned interior components? – Check

    Annoying little pi$$-ant issues that will drive you batty? – Check (see Chris’ comment about ignition switches.)

    Two sweet engine choices that will try to make you forget about all the stuff above during a 10 min test drive? – Check

    Mr. Metha says “get a Tahoe” – I agree with him. Heck I’d feel better about picking up a Tahoe at a police auction than a 360 with a blown motor.

  • avatar

    It’s only $1000 and considering that you are talking about engine swaps I’d assume your mechanical aptitude and tool collection are both on the advanced side.

    I’d offer $750 and go for it.

  • avatar

    “and if I can interpret various articles — it was the best GM SUV of its time”

    Don’t forget that the Chevy Vega was also highly praised. Look how that turned out.

    Anyway, just going by what still comes in for service, we’ve been seeing fewer and fewer Trailblazer’s & Envoy’s over the past three years while we still have a fairly strong following of Tahoe’s and Yukon’s coming in; even going back to the late 1990’s models and a good number of them are over 400k KM. By comparison, the TB/Envoy’s seem to duck out around 250-300K. Just my own observation, though. YMMV.

  • avatar

    I’m from Southern Ontario. Around here 2006 Trail Blazers with a blown engines, sell by the pound. If.. and thats a big” if”…Has the truck been rust proofed ? Will the Truck pass the stringent Ontario safety check regulations ? How about passing the E test after the engine swap.?

    If can’t answer yes to all three questions, walk away from it.

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      This is reality. No point dreaming of engine swaps if you can’t get the vehicle’s provincial safety and etest. This is why it’s getting impossible to drive older vehicles here. If rust doesn’t get you, be prepared for this thing not to pass the etest.
      My dad has a 06’ Silverado 4×4 reg cab that he uses at the cottage in Quebec and driven 5000kms per year over that last 3yrs to put the boat in the water, etc…
      To renew his Ontario plate he has to fix all the service lights to pass an emissions test. There are like 5 lights on that don’t effect how the truck drives but need to be corrected for the etest. That means replace hubs and wheel speed sensors for the ABS light, replace sensors in bumpers for the intermittent air bag lights, fix the parking brake light that comes on sometimes. Plus address the original check engine light issues.
      Older vehicles are being legislated off the roads by driving maintenance costs higher than an older vehicles value. Keep the economy going! Everyone just lease or trade-in your 3yr old financed vehicle and bury the negative equity in their new vehicle that doesn’t need to be etested

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve driven/owned quite a few high mileage vehicles and have had few dash lights come on. I can’t stand looking at one, let alone five. BTW, an ABS light sure has an effect on how it drives, or should I say stops. Your post is one more reminder to me that inspections force owners to be responsible to those around you. I’d mandate inspections in all states starting at year five.

        5000Kms a year is a lot….

  • avatar

    Absolute garbage. I never understood why anyone likes these things.

    Front end problems. Transmission line problems (which causes transmission problems, of course). HORRIBLE interior. Slow. Crappy mileage.

    And all of that on top of a horrible driving experience.

    GM at it’s worst.

    • 0 avatar

      The only person I knew who owned one (executive assistant, male, worked for one of the big wigs at central office) needed 4×4 because of a long commute and a contract that said he’d be there regardless of conditions. He once said he bought it because “he liked the way the engine sounded.” – didn’t even know it was a I-6.

      Traded it on a 1st gen Nissan Rogue.

    • 0 avatar

      Our 2003 Envoy 5.3 is still going after 130k miles of mostly towing and hauling. I really like driving it, actually – the steering is communicative and it’s reasonably well-balanced. It’s more comfortable than the GMT900 Yukon we just bought to replace it, so much so that I’ve been procrastinating on putting the Envoy up for sale.

      I’ll admit that it’s had its fair share of GMT360 issues: Ignition switch, front suspension end links, and a series of busted alternators. But parts are dirt cheap and nothing has been difficult to fix DIY.

      I find it an endearing and surprisingly fun pack mule.

  • avatar

    The answer is get another 4Runner, even one with 350,000KM.

  • avatar

    5.3Ls are dime a dozen, people want a lot more for iron 6.0Ls, let alone aluminum ones. Find yourself a deal on a 5.3L and spend the difference on gnarly texas speed cam, some tight chambered factory heads and a decent intake.

    Just do it. We’re talking about a $1,000 vehicle here with a couple grand investment.

  • avatar

    As a 9-7x owner, I’d recommend buying it as long as there aren’t rust issues on the frame/cooler lines. I’m a big fan of mine! As far as the 6.0 ls conversion, I’d recommend not doing it and going mild with any hop up choices. While the suspension, steering, and brakes are identical on all 9-7x’s to a TBSS, the transfer case is not. It’s a different awd t-case. It might stand up to it, it might not.

  • avatar

    My overall impression of the GMT360 is a gem of an engine bolted to a heap of garbage.

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