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Old 03-05-2006, 05:40 PM   #1
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'96 Tahoe with 5300 Vortec

My son has a purchase pending on the referenced vehicle - due to consumate this coming Tuesday, 3/7. I've expressed some concern about the Vortec engine in the '96 vehicles since I recall there was a problem; however, I don't remember what it was??? He presently has a small (19') SOB - but I'm trying to talk him into an antique Airstream in the under 4,500 lb range. I've been unable to find the towing capacity for the Tahoe - however I believe that it ranges from 5,500 to 6,500, depending on model. The one he's got his eye on is a '96 LT 4x4. Any comments on the Tahoe as a tow vehicle - and specifically the '96 models - would be sincerely appreciated. I've tried to talk him into a Burb - but unless someone can provide meaningful reinforcement - I'll probably lose the battle!

Many thanks in advance,
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Old 03-05-2006, 06:57 PM   #2
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My wife's '97 Yukon SLT 4x4 with a 5.7 liter did not have a "tow-haul" button, and towed trailers poorly. Luckily, I never had to tow the Airstream with it.

The motor should have been up to the challenge, but the tranny's shift points were not.

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Old 03-05-2006, 07:08 PM   #3
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The 5.7 should in most cases be more than up to the task of a 19' SOB. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

I have a '96 5.7, and though not a Vortec, it was plenty able to tow our 19' Bambi without any issues. There was no tow/haul and if the PCM was not modified to lock sooner than later, towing in 3rd would be a must. Now a larger coach might be a problem, but the 19' SOB should be no problem for the 5.7.
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Old 03-05-2006, 10:12 PM   #4
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Cracker -

I had a '97 Tahoe with 5.7 liter engine. It did well towing my '72 27' Overlander (weight 4570) but was frighteningly inadequate towing my current '92 Excella 29' (weight 5600). The Tahoe was a great fishing car, but it's short wheelbase and engine/transmission were not adequate for my current trailer. A 3/4 ton pickup would be much more comfortable for towing, and more versatile for other recreations, I have discovered.

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Old 03-05-2006, 11:40 PM   #5
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I tow with a 97 5.7l Vortech Suburban. I don't know if the 96 is similar or not. My Suburban did a fine job of towing a 1971 TradeWind. I always tow in 3rd, and have a 3:73 axle ratio with the factory tow package.
I think the tow package and min. 3:73 axle is key.
What ratio does the Tahoe have? If it has no tow package, and a ratio smaller than 3:73, then I'd pass on it. The wheel base should be fine for shorter trailers.
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Old 03-06-2006, 06:30 AM   #6
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Just so you know, if the truck is indeed a 1996 model, it did not come with a 5.3, that was in a much later model truck. If you can find a Suburban, and get your son to drive it, he may well be able to be swayed (no pun intended) into buying one. The Suburban and Tahoe share most chassis components, with one important exception... The Frame. It is much longer on the 'burb, and will tend to hold the road better while towing, as well as ride much more smoothly. The shorter, somewhat lighter Tahoe will tend to bounce more while driving, even while not towing.
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Old 03-06-2006, 07:30 AM   #7
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Carfax says the '96 has the 5.7 liter Vortec and the seller says that it's a 5.4 liter??? Am I all wet here or doesn't the last of the 350's equate to a 5.4 liter? My reference to the 5300 Vortec is apparently erroneous. I would personally prefer the older 350 engine - in spite of the lower horsepower - but no one has reported anything bad on the Vortec. I really appreciate all of the comments. If anyone has access to the actual tow ratings I sure would like to have them for reference. I've told my son to stick to no more than 80% of whatever GM says. The reinforcement for the Suburban is also appreciated!
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Old 03-06-2006, 12:27 PM   #8
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Big Difference was with Vortec

The big change at GM was putting in the Vortec in '96, which offered an additional 50hp (+25%) over pre-Vortec V-8. Both were 5.7 liter displacements, but Vortec offered improved head design and exhaust flow to get the extra power. Torque not increased so much, but towing capacity improved at mid range RPM's.. We just sold our '94 SUburban with the wheezy 200hp 5.7L V-8, still rated to tow 7200# per mfr window sticker specs.

Only other major difference is wheelbase, which will make Tahoe somewhat less stable pulling in breeze or when passing trucks. Be sure anti-sway is part of hitch setup. Upside is shorter wheelbase means tighter turning radius, more aggressive turns backing up, etc. Tahoe might fit in garage as well. Chevy manual demands towing in lower drive that locks out overdrive, which was solution before "Tow" button added to dash for same function.

John McG
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Old 03-06-2006, 09:46 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cracker
Carfax says the '96 has the 5.7 liter Vortec and the seller says that it's a 5.4 liter??? Am I all wet here or doesn't the last of the 350's equate to a 5.4 liter? My reference to the 5300 Vortec is apparently erroneous. I would personally prefer the older 350 engine - in spite of the lower horsepower - but no one has reported anything bad on the Vortec. I really appreciate all of the comments. If anyone has access to the actual tow ratings I sure would like to have them for reference. I've told my son to stick to no more than 80% of whatever GM says. The reinforcement for the Suburban is also appreciated!
The seller is confusing the 5.7 litre (350 cubic inch) engine with the Ford 5.4 Triton engine (or even possibly with the 5.3 litre GM engine). 5.3 is right around 327 cu. in. I would look at the vin # and check Chevy for the correct engine. As far as problems with the Vortec engine, if memory serves me right, the intake manifold was a 2 piece design that is prone to antifreeze leaks. At the first sign of a leak I would dump the manifold and buy a one piece Edelbrock aluminum manifold.
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Old 03-07-2006, 08:40 AM   #10
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Thanks for the comments Craig. I'm beginning to believe that, with right at 100,000 miles on the odometer, the engine has proven to be a fairly reliable performer. It's definitely a 5.7 liter Vortec. The only thing I have not been able to do - aside from talking my son into a Suburban - is to determine the actual towing capacity. Anything over 5,500 lbs is satisfactory for the present - and I'm fairly certain it has at least that capacity. As for the potential manifold problem it's nice to know there's a quick fix. Is this the exact same block as the old 350 - or a new design with the same displacement?
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Old 03-07-2006, 10:33 PM   #11
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Cracker,
Same block but different/more effective heads.
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Old 03-07-2006, 11:21 PM   #12
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Yep, thats the problem with the 5.7 vortec.... intake manifold gasket leak.. mine just failed in January and cost just about 500 parts and labor the estimates ranged from 400 to 700 with the higher being the dealership... I do like the vehicle and enjoy towing my 20 ft. argosy and have had no difficulties with it ... I do drop down to 3 when not on level ground...
I may get into trouble for saying this but I have not found it necessary to use a weight distribution hitch either... it handles the trailer with ease...like its not there.. ( as long as the trailer brakes are working ) also I think that in 96 the brakes are front disc. and rear drum and @ 99 or 2000 they have rear disc. something to think about ...
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Old 03-07-2006, 11:23 PM   #13
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Old 03-18-2006, 05:54 PM   #14
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To wrap up - my son bought the Tahoe and I drove it out to my camp and back yesterday. I think that he lucked out and got a terrific buy! The car drives like new - tight as can be - no rattles - great sounding engine - and excellent interior and body. Now if I can just get him into a vintage airstream in the same condition life will be good!
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