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Old 05-23-2012, 10:39 AM   #1
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Thoughts on 15 yr. old diesel Suburban?

Yes, worrisome human I am, still looking for just the right tow truck.

How do we feel about a 15 year old diesel suburban with 153,000 miles on it?
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Old 05-23-2012, 11:01 AM   #2
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I just sold a 1996 gas 350 Suburban that I had owned since 1997 with 200,000 on it. The transmission went out at 197,000, and I had just replaced a leaky gas tank. It needed tires and was on it's 4th set of brakes. The underside including the gas line and brake lines were all so rusty if you moved them they would leak. Even if a diesel engine lasts for 300,000 miles the rest of the vehicle will be worn out by 200,000. If it is from the south and not at all rusty, then it may be worth rebuilding everything else. Remember even the seats get flattened out by 150,000 and all the rattles and steering box, front end and brake parts, springs etc need replacing. Personally I would never buy a tow vehicle with over 100,000 miles on it. Just my opinion, take it for what it's worth.
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Old 05-23-2012, 11:23 AM   #3
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I would say that ventport hit it right. In the "old days" at 100k most vehicles were pretty tired in most ways. Now I put the number at 150k, and slowly going up. And any vehicle can be repaired usually, but the cost of repairs is roughly the same, new vehicle or old (that is parts and labor rates). You can put a great deal of money and time into an older rig. Not to mention break downs on the road.
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Old 05-23-2012, 11:31 AM   #4
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I don't know much about the older Chevrolet diesels, but 153K doesn't seem like much to me. How the vehicle was used is of more importance. The numbers you list imply that this vehicle was not used much (10,200 miles/year avg). So unless it was used as a seasonal snow plow, or as a full time farm truck I'd consider it.

We have two TV's with 210,000, and 316,000 miles on them so 153,000 is low mileage from where I sit.
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Old 05-23-2012, 01:05 PM   #5
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Do you have a lot of cargo or passengers? Your Agro is an easy tow, lightweight. Why get into an old, probably troublesome, expensive to fix TV??

So many other better choices (at least in my mind).
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Old 05-23-2012, 01:32 PM   #6
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It isn't the miles, in main, it is the age. In the 1950's electrical woes were the reason 80% of vehicles were out-of-services, waiting for a mechanic. Ironically, that percentage hasn't changed. And, as one who has kept 30+ year old cars as daily drivers, it is this which causes more aggravation than the bigger dollar stuff.

I'd not use a vehicle past fifteen years for a DD except that it had been rewired. Generally, three harnesses underhood, and another one or two for the dash. Then the body. More trouble than it is worth, frankly. The cost is near-prohibitive for OEM harnesses.

And spare us the stories of how reliable were the od ones ones owned by self or others. There is a good reason the dealerships and parts chains divest themselves of parts for vehicles of this age, and electrical reliability is highest among them. They have served, and are now best relegated to the status of toys short of complete re-wiring for reliability.

Up to about ten years of age one can find good used vehicles that can carry one across this reliability threshold when the original owner has been a good caretaker, but there comes a point it no longer is economical of time or money when a DD. And a tow vehicle has stresses no grocery getter experiences.

I'd go with an alternative TV over an old truck. Road Ruler is correct, in this (as usual), for a TT of this size and intended use. Trucks are already at the bottom of the list for all performance indicators short of cargo capacity (in which a van is even better by comparison).

A Honda Odyssey would be first on my list of alternatives to explore.

.
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Old 05-23-2012, 04:37 PM   #7
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Got rid of our 95 Burb 2500 454, 168000mi, not cuz it wuz worn out...just old.

Running gear still pretty good, all the silly stuff started too nickel & $500.00 dollar bill 'ya 'ta death.

There are some 8.1 2500 Burbs on ebay right now.
We did find our's there, didn't sell...bought it directly from PO.

Good Luck in your quest....

Bob
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Old 05-23-2012, 04:52 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by REDNAX View Post
It isn't the miles, in main, it is the age.
.
Take it from someone who makes his living repairing and maintaining cars. The words spoken by Rednax are spot on!!!
"it's the age" baby....
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Old 05-23-2012, 05:20 PM   #9
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our transmission on our '86 diesel suburban went while towing in idaho. we bought a 2005 V8 jeep grand cherokee (this was in 2010) on the road - in the middle of our cross country road trip. our friend lost their vintage tow vehicle the same way.

lesson learned; NO VINTAGE TOW VEHICLES.

we just upgraded our 05 jeep to a 2011 F150 since we are going to be going from a 19ft to 28ft. plus after 100k miles, it's anyone's guess what will go next.

If you dont plan to tow far from home, go for it! if you dont want to get stuck towing your suburban and trailer fifty or 100's of miles to the next city... UPGRADE.
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Old 05-23-2012, 05:55 PM   #10
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Hi Eaglemate

I have a 1997 Chevrolet pickup of the same vintage and can offer some advice based on my experiences with that. I also have a somewhat newer 'burb that I use for towing.

But first, much depends on your motives.

If you like Suburbans and you just have to have a diesel one, well, your sort of stuck, because the last ones rolled off the line in 1998. In that case you probably have your mind made up, but keep reading so you know what you're getting into.

If your situation requires an SUV and diesel is your thing you're probably better off looking at Excursions because even though you will have to modify the rear suspension for it to tow well you will have a newer vehicle.

If your situation requires an SUV and are trying to make a rational decision based on dollars and cents and facts and things like that, then don't drink the diesel-flavored kool-aid, get an 8.1 'burb instead.

The problem with a 'burb from the 1990s isn't necessarily going to be the engine or driveline. Though expensive, you can replace the transmission, overhaul the engine, overhaul the transfer case, and so on. The problem is instead that the body and interior will deteriorate. Availability of minor body and interior parts from GM is now spotty for these years and the aftermarket and good recycled parts are starting to dry up on some cases. I have rust in several problematic areas, and really would like to replace the seats, and had to perform some very involved air conditioning work that almost required removal of the evaporator core which in and of itself would have taken a day.

I have had to replace pretty much all the rubber components, brakes, headlamps, brake lines, parking brake cables, at one time or another.

I spent several evenings last week replacing spark plugs, because they were rusted into the head and had to be pulled out with screw extractors and WD40. Sure, you won't have that in a diesel, but that's the kind of maintenance headache unique to older vehicles.

So, if you decide to go through with this, be sure your candidate vehicle has a solid body and interior. Be sure the A/C works unless you're willing to live without it. Look around or get maintenance records to see how much has already been done. Consider that a set of tires is almost $1000 and that the rims may also be due for replacement.

I do electrical fixes in my sleep and have not found that to be a problem area on these although other people's experiences may differ.
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Old 05-23-2012, 06:57 PM   #11
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We have a 1996 Chevy 3500 box van with the 6.5L diesel at work. I've driven it quite often since it was new and really has only had 3 or 4 regular drivers in it's life. Right now it only has ~150K on it and other than a couple of injection pump control modules, the engine and trans have been absolutely flawless. In fact, the last time I was in it a few months ago, I couldn't believe how well it still runs.

With that said, we used to run it out of the state and region. The last few years, it has been used as a short trip runner between our buildings. It just isn't relaible enough for all the reasons listed above to trust more than a few miles. We have had difficulty with everything from electrical systems, to brake faliures, to the driver's seat back not staying up anymore. Trust me, the truck is well used, but is far beyond being useful. From what I understand, our company just ordered a 2012 to replace it.
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Old 05-27-2012, 10:33 AM   #12
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I did it anyway. For $4,200 couldn't pass it up. It has been maintained by a Chevy mechanic family, and was the luxury model in 1996. We'll give it a shot and post updates.
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Old 05-27-2012, 09:06 PM   #13
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Let us know how it turns out.
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Old 05-28-2012, 06:37 AM   #14
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The 6.5L is not exactly known for towing prowess. There is a dedicated group online with maintenance and upgrade advice.
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