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Old 01-24-2011, 07:31 PM   #1
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1999 3/4 Ton Suburban and Expensive Repairs

Need some other people's thoughts on a subject. We have a 1999 3/4 ton Suburban with a 454 engine that is used mainly for towing the A/S. We just lost the rear seal to our transfer case last weekend and lost all the fluid and it was making noise. I replaced the seal and it is running fine (no noise from case) but I know the transfer case is compromised and won't trust it towing the A/S. A rebuilt case, installed, is $2100. Used cases are hard to find at a wrecking yard (I found one for $900 + labor for the install. I am better off with remanned case). From what I have found out from wrecking yards is the Cash For Clunkers program resulted in older vehicles being crushed and thus they were not parted out, causing a shortage of this kind of part. So here is the question. How much is too much to put into a vehicle for repairs? This one has 120,000 miles on it and has been a great tow vehicle, other than fuel mileage. Between the transfer case, the need for new tires, and some door rust work, I am looking at investing $4000 dollars in a 1999 vehicle. I doubt it is worth $4000 on the market (pre-trashed transfer case). However, I know the history of this vehicle since I have had essentially since it was new. While $4000 is a lot of money it would equal, I would guess, a years worth of truck payments. I figure if I invest the $4000 and drive it a year I come out even. If I keep it another 80,000 miles/8 years I am way ahead, assuming that I have no more huge repairs.
Am I crazy for investing $4000 in a 1999 tow vehicle?
Thanks,
Tom
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Old 01-24-2011, 07:59 PM   #2
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I have a 99 Tahoe so I'm familiar with the vintage. I don't think I would spend $4K. If it were mine, I'd just drive it. Drive it locally for a while and see what happens. May be OK. If you check the prices of new 3/4 ton trucks, $4k won't make many payments.
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Old 01-24-2011, 08:04 PM   #3
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$4k a year, for 15 years will pay for a new one at 0%...oh wait...they don't offer 15 year financing?

Seriously...years ago one of my college Profs decided to do a break-even analysis to see when the cost of repairs justified a new vehicle...in the early 1980's he decide he had enough data to show it never made sense to trade in his 1963 corvair...That's when his wife said she had enough... its a new car or she was gone...so much for math...
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Old 01-24-2011, 08:08 PM   #4
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I would be surprised if the transfer case would fail without advance warning. A fact to consider is that the transfer case doesn't really do anything except serve as a big heavy hanger bearing when it's in 2wd mode. So I would just drive it. If it gets loud again then you can make your choices.

I just bought a 2004 big block, 4x4, 3/4 ton 'burb. I think if you check prices, you'll find that a $4000 repair is still worth doing, if the 'burb is otherwise in good shape. In fact, I just did a $4000 transmission repair on my 1997 3/4 ton pickup.
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Old 01-24-2011, 08:49 PM   #5
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My son drove the truck from where we live in Ohio to New Hampshire and back a few weekends ago. There was no indication of anything wrong until he got about 3 miles from home and slowed down. Then this low rumble noise along with some very noticeable vibration occurred. Took it to a very trusted mechanic who put it on a lift and started it up and put it in gear. The transfer case rumbled like a freight train. We opened the drain plug and nothing came out...the plug smelled like burned metal. There was fluid all over the drive shaft from when the seal let loose and all the fluid blew out. Put fluid back in and noise went away. It is also shifting in and out of 4 wheel drive with no problem. Even though there is no noise I am afraid that any bearings would have been burned fairly quick. Sure, I can drive it locally for a while and see what happens, but my concern is the transfer case failing in Utah or someplace with the trailer leaving us in a bad position. So, yeah, I can drive it locally for a few months but don't really feel I can trust it on a trip with the family. I understand that "how much is too much" is going to be different with each person. Just curious Jammer, does the newer big block Suburbans do any better on fuel than the older ones?
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Old 01-24-2011, 09:02 PM   #6
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I get 8 mpg towing and 12-13 mpg otherwise.

I hope that's not an improvement over anything.
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Old 01-24-2011, 09:15 PM   #7
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Hi, a $4,000.00 repair/repairs is a lot cheaper than a new vehicle. And sometimes near a half way point on a used vehicle. Have you considered removing the transfer case and front drive shaft and make it a two wheel drive truck until you are ready for a new or newer truck?
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Old 01-24-2011, 09:25 PM   #8
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You still have YEARS of towing life left with the 4k repair 'investment'. I would drive it a while first. Perhaps it didn't drive dry long enough to do much if any damage.
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Old 01-24-2011, 09:53 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiHoAgRV View Post
...
Seriously...years ago one of my college Profs decided to do a break-even analysis to see when the cost of repairs justified a new vehicle...in the early 1980's he decide he had enough data to show it never made sense to trade in his 1963 corvair...That's when his wife said she had enough... its a new car or she was gone...so much for math...
Did he run the numbers on which he should keep?

Which one did he keep?

If you like it, I don't necessary have a problem with fixing the running gear. You did mention body rust, though. That may make a difference. If you don't have a body, you don't have a vehicle.
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Old 01-24-2011, 10:09 PM   #10
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I have an 87 Chevy 1/2 ton pickup I'd put $4,000 in without any problem. I don't care what somebody else would pay for it. I may be atypical.
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Old 01-25-2011, 05:33 AM   #11
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I have an 87 Chevy 1/2 ton pickup I'd put $4,000 in without any problem. I don't care what somebody else would pay for it. I may be atypical.
I agree. Plus its paid for. Sal.
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Old 01-25-2011, 06:16 AM   #12
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Old 01-25-2011, 07:08 AM   #13
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I would get a repair manual pull out the transfer case myself and repair it as it is simpler than an auto tranny. If you have the time and place to do that it wont cost much, it may not need anything but seals now.
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Old 01-25-2011, 08:21 AM   #14
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Jammer...I don't think they have improved any. I can drive that truck 55 or 75 MPH, towing or not towing and I will always get 10MPG +/- 1 MPG.

Silverfoxrae...no, not a diesel.

I appreciate all the input. I am going to put in the seal and see what happens over the next few months. I don't think it would take much to rebuild it but I can't find any shop that wants to do that...they just want to sell me a remanned one. It is my understanding that they are fairly simple inside.
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Old 01-25-2011, 08:45 AM   #15
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You could try craigslist for a mechanic to do it in his spare time...
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Old 01-25-2011, 09:23 AM   #16
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the carrier bearings in those transfer cases are MASSIVE, and hard to brake. Since you cought the fluild lose quickly, you shouldnthave any problems
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Old 01-25-2011, 09:54 AM   #17
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Driv it locallly for a while till you feel it's safe to take out on the road again. Put the $4000 in a sock somewhere in the AS. Then once a month add $200 to the sock. If you're ever on the road when it goes, you'll have repair cash handy. If it lasts another 5 years, you'll have a nice down payment on a new vehicle. Or maybe take that extended vacation across the country that you always wanted.

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Old 01-25-2011, 07:32 PM   #18
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Did he run the numbers on which he should keep?

Which one did he keep?

If you like it, I don't necessary have a problem with fixing the running gear. You did mention body rust, though. That may make a difference. If you don't have a body, you don't have a vehicle.

I agree with this. $4k only seems a lot compared to buying a new loaded wagon for that price (1966). In these days of $40k vehicles -- and given that you know the use, plus have a projected lifespan -- no, the mileage is not too high. A new timing chain and water pump, some interior doodads to make it nicer, that sort of thing is just a good excuse to renovate.

Were it me I'd lose the 4WD componentry. A swap to 2WD just can't be too bad. Ought to be less than the price projected.

Body integrity (and wiring harness problems) are a different matter, IMO.
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Old 01-27-2011, 09:45 AM   #19
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Had the seal replaced in the transfer case and still have a noise. Now I need to figure out whether it is worth the money for a re-manned transfer case or an unknown one from the wrecking yard. It looks like I would only save about $800 to get one (installed) from the wrecking yard. But then I worry about how long it sat in the yard, how many times it has been thrown off a truck into a pile, was it damaged in whatever accident that brought it to a wrecking yard. I also wonder about the quality of a re-manned transfer case. They seem to all have a one year/12,000 warranty. Anyone have a bad experience with a re-manned transfer case or transmission?
Tom
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Old 01-27-2011, 07:49 PM   #20
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Had the seal replaced in the transfer case and still have a noise. Now I need to figure out whether it is worth the money for a re-manned transfer case or an unknown one from the wrecking yard. It looks like I would only save about $800 to get one (installed) from the wrecking yard. But then I worry about how long it sat in the yard, how many times it has been thrown off a truck into a pile, was it damaged in whatever accident that brought it to a wrecking yard. I also wonder about the quality of a re-manned transfer case. They seem to all have a one year/12,000 warranty. Anyone have a bad experience with a re-manned transfer case or transmission?
Tom
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