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Old 11-06-2003, 11:48 PM   #1
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Towing Vehicle Performance Modifications

I have a 2003 Chevy Suburban 5.3L 4WD with a 4.10 axle ratio. I'm trying to increase it's performance for towing a 2004 A/S Safari 28 W. Want to maximize it's use for the next few years until we get a 3/4 ton Suburban. What do you all suggest?

So far, I've upgraded the stock P-rated Firestone Wilderness LEs to Bridgestone Dueller A/T Revos (LT 245/75/R16, 10 ply). Also have a set of CIPA slip-on mirrors. The dealer installed a Tekonsha Voyager brake controller. Planning on installing a transmission temperature guage but haven't decided which one yet.

Heard about mods such as a K&N Air Filter kit, Banks performance system upgrades, Granatelli Mass Airflow Sensors.

You, guys with the big diesel 3/4 ton engines and heavy duty transmissions have it made already. How about us "little 1/2 ton guys?" What do you recommend?

Thanks
Abe
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Old 11-07-2003, 12:15 AM   #2
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The only way to dramaticaly increase yr power is a Whipple Supercharger


www.whipplesuperchargers.com


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Old 11-07-2003, 12:34 AM   #3
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The transmission guage is a good move. An even better move might be to go with a Prodigy controller - performance works both ways, accelerating and stopping!

Frankly, if it was mine, other than that I'd leave it alone. Save the money for that new 'Burb.

Mark
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Old 11-07-2003, 07:36 AM   #4
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Abe,

Blow off the Gran MAF....it's a waste of cash....I know cause I blew the $$$ on one. You could go with a different one and get better throttle response, but either way you go, you won't get that much HP.

The K & N is a good idea...small HP gain, but better throttle response.

I would not place a supercharger or turbo on that engine. It was never designed for the pressure that these devices deliver. Can it be done, yes, but there is more to science to it than just slapping one on from what I've been told.

If your Burb has a 4L60E, I'd add the deep pan trans kit that the Silverado used in 2000 (not sure if it still does). I did this on my Impala SS (that tows a Bambi and will tow a 25' Safari soon). The thought behind this mod is simply to reduce flash heat. If there are 2-3 more quarts of oil in the pan, it might take a bit more to heat the extra volume. So far, it seems to work well for me towing up hills, etc.

Another thought to consider is installing a slightly cooler thermostat. This will bring the entire engine/trans temps down a bit. In the Impala SS, I went from a 180 degree down to a 160 degree. All temps across the board dropped by about 10-15 degrees while towing.

I would place a performance exhaust on the truck. There are many out there. Folks swear by the Banks system, but frankly, if you have an motorhome, I see that as the best option. For everything else, there are tons of options that are either meet or exceed the banks exhaust at a FAR less cost.

I went fully synthetic for engine oil and for the trans as I feel it does a better job and take a bit more beating than conventional oil. Although I do also have it in my differential, the jury is still out on that one. I belive the 1/2 ton has the same 10 bolt rear end the Impala SS has, but possible a different gear. I wold when the time comes upgrade to an Eaton posi from the Auburn unit that the truck might have. Not sure really what it has, but if GM is consistant here as well, perhaps your 10 bolt also has an Auburn posi unit....all I can say is that the Eaton 400# unit is much better unit.

Last suggestion would be to find someone that can re-program your PCM for better performance and bring you secondary cooling fans on a bit earlier. The only guy I know for this is Bryan Herter who runs PCMforless.com He is an expert in the LT1 and LS1 PCMs which control many aspects of the vehicle. Bryan's performance tuning yielded me about 12HP gain. Also since the Impala SS does not have a tow/haul feature, Bryan programmed my PCM to lock the torque converter at 52MPH.

Regards,

Eric
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Old 11-07-2003, 11:50 AM   #5
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Running a cooler thermostat is almost certain to screw up the computer on a late model. It will try and compenstate the fuel flow for a cold engine.

Mark
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Old 11-07-2003, 11:55 AM   #6
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Yes, however we're talking about a 1996 LT1 that has been specifically tuned at the PCM level for it and Abe has a 2003 5.3L. That should be a non issue in both cases since one has been tuned for it and the other is not a late model car.....

Besides the main issue, even on a late model car that wouldn't have the programming I have, is to make sure the car goes into closed loop. On my car closed loop begins at 140 degrees. I would assume other GM cars would fall under the same range of closed loop. In Abe's case a simple OBD2 scan converter would tell what temp the unit goes into closed loop. On an OBD1 managed machine, a good programmer could tell and/or set when it goes into closed loop.

Eric
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Old 11-07-2003, 03:34 PM   #7
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half ton

Abe,

I wouldn't do anything to the tow vehicle. Anything you do will affect the trade in value and not appreciably increase the performance. Besides which, I tow a 2001 30' AS with my half ton and am pleased with the performance. We even pulled some of your 10,000 ft passes in NM a couple of years ago. Yes, things were slow at the top, but I out pulled an old Winnebago. Going up has never been a problem for me, it's coming down where I get a severe case of butt pucker.

If you want to talk to someone who has put the Banks system on a vehicle, talk to John Irwin, aka Pahaska. He put it on a half ton pickup 3:73 before he traded for a Duramax.

I've got 77,000 miles on my 5.3L and about 20,000 of that is towing. I'm starting to burn a little oil, half quart every 3000 miles and I'm not pleased. Every other GM engine I've had has gone over 200,000 without burning oil. I also have developed a case of cold engine piston slap.

If you want to pull in the mountains like you were on the flatlands, get the Duramax and don't look at a gasser. I don't think there is anything like a turbo diesel for the mileage and towing power. As soon as I can get my son off to college and off the dole, I see a Duramax in my future.
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Old 11-07-2003, 03:48 PM   #8
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Quote:
I went from a 180 degree down to a 160 degree
The engine heat and swirling the mixture atomize the charge for a more complete and even burn. Also, in a cold engine the cylinder walls run dryer, more gas on them to dilute the oil film that lubricates the rings. I would keep within the proper operating range.

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Old 11-07-2003, 03:52 PM   #9
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Markjoandall,

Read all about the piston slap at:

www.chevytalk.org

go to 99 and newer truck section and read the sad reality of the new GM engines (Ihave one with the knock )

Hart
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Old 11-07-2003, 04:06 PM   #10
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Possibly, however, the laws of physics being what they are, more dense air (cooler) going into the engine, deliver more horsepower.

Now these cars in paricular have heated throttle bodies. Yup, you heard right, the air going into the intake is heated with coolant.

Although I agree in part with you John, the fact is that lowering the car 20 degrees is not going to cause any adverse effects (and actually that 20 degree difference is even a bit less when towing). If you were to drop the car to the point where it stays into open loop, sure, I totally agree (and/or you don't have proper engine tuning), however if it goes into closed loop at about 140 degrees, you won't hurt anything as the car's PCM when correctly programmed, will compensate for the engine temp as it monitors the temp of the air going in, the amount of air going in, the engine temp, etc and calculates the right fuel mixture for the situation which can vary and the PCM is more than up to the challenge of doing the dance so to speak to avoid the situation you describe.

Now while towing I offer the following documented temps with the 180 degree thermostat and the 160 and offer these observations:

180

Normal driving, no towing, outdoor temp 70 degrees. Engine temp between 199-201 A/C off

Towing (fully loaded Bambi), same outdoor temp 207-210 A/C off


160

Normal driving, no towing, outdoor temp 70 degrees. Enging temp betwen 170-174. A/C off

Towing (fully loaded Bambi), same outdoor temo 178-192. A/C off.

All temps slightly higher with A/C on.

As you can see even with the 160 thermostat, the car still gets within 10 degrees of the old thermostat opening, however while towing, it keeps the car cooler. As a bi-product, in my car I have an oil to water then oil to air trans cooling system (factory). Lower coolant temps also help keep the trans at 200 degree or in most cases far less with the 160 thermostat.

Now granted in colder climates, you have to be careful as when it gets real cold, you might need to place some front grille air blocking materials. However, here in Chicago (where it can get BITTERLY cold, the LT1 still got to closed loop (140 degrees) and got to an operating temp (non towing) of 168 degrees without any air blocking material with an outdoor temp of -10.

BTW...I am 110% for the Duramax/Allison combo...it's the best tow rig on the road, bar none IMHO. One day.......

Now I am fully in agreement that you should not spend thousands of dollars on a car or truck, but if you can spend about $1000.00 to make the car more roadworthy and you are going to keep the car/truck, I say go for it. In the end your piece of mind and your wallet will dictate what you should do.....I do love that darn Duramax/Allision combo very much though....

Eric
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Old 11-07-2003, 05:50 PM   #11
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FWIW,
TBI 350 engine came with 195F T-stat, I played with 180 and 160 and in the end kept 195F for better mileage. With lower T-stats, you do have to reprogram the PCM. It is a really popular performance mod. Basically, you want your engine to run as hot as possible but not too hot for best mileage.

I think that LT1 came with 180 as default but it has an entirely different cooling system. I don't know anything about that 5.3L.

I don't tow with that vehicle anyway very much and when I do, it is not in the A/S class.

I don't know what T-stat is in my tow vehicle, but whatever it is, I am satisfied with it.
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Old 11-07-2003, 06:17 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by qqq
Markjoandall,

Read all about the piston slap at:

www.chevytalk.org

go to 99 and newer truck section and read the sad reality of the new GM engines (Ihave one with the knock )

Hart


hart,
not mine!

just rolled 40 K on my 6.0 no knock.

you aren't using a fram oil filter are you? they don't have drain back valves that work. many folks confuse a dry valve train with csk.

try a ac delco filter, from a dealer. there are ac delco knock offs from the south pacific floating around large chain stores here in the midwest....same result as fram filters. tic tic tic...

john
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Old 11-08-2003, 03:42 AM   #13
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Harley John,

It will....it's just a matter of time & mileage
It is a GM recognised flaw & only the engines produced late this year are modified.
Mine started at 60000
Engine knock/piston slap is not cold start noises...& the oil filter won't help.
Did you read all posts & go to the sites related to this serious problem?

Hart
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Old 11-08-2003, 07:22 AM   #14
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hart

i did not check all the links you provided, i post on pickuptruck.com once in a while.

the subject has been covered quite well there.

seems that chev. has been repairing some of them if you are persistant enough.

we use chevys excusivley at the power company, i have not heard any of the ones at work develop this problem either. those trucks get used and abused on a daily basis. many run at idle for extended periods after we arrive at a jobsite to power lights, inverters, radios etc. in the winter they are never shut down all day, every day.

the one 2000 on our crew is approaching 10000 hours with no problems.

hopefully mine will do the same! i'll keep my fingers crossed and not lose the extended engine warrenty paperwork!!!

but none the less, i tried a fram oil filter once because i couldn't get a delco. you guessed it....knock on startup!

good luck with yours!

john
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