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Old 06-18-2011, 11:04 PM   #1
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Questions for Suburban TV owners

Howdy Burbanites!

Seriously looking at an older burb to tow with. Several advantages, Cheap to purchase, repair and we can camp in it when we are off off road. The Burban will be a tow vehicle and an overlander so 4x4 and oversize tires are a must for our desert travels. For low purchase and parts I'd like to stay pre 1998 model year.

But there are many questions.

Do the 80's and 90/91 Suburban 4x4 with the 350 cid have enough power to tow a 25 FB up a mountain or do I need to go post 1991 and get the 454 cid?

Do barn doors and tailgates open when hooked up?

1/2 or 3/4 ton and why?

Please let me know what year your Suburban and trailer are. The weight of your trailer. Wether you have 4x4 or not and your overall experience and opinion.
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Old 06-18-2011, 11:42 PM   #2
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I have pulled with an 80 3/4 ton 454 and obviously it has power. It was hard on starters. They didn't have enough shielding for the starter and it would get hot and not start. I probably went through 4 or 5 starters with it. I then had a 1/2 ton 350 4x4 that was a 1984 It was one of the best riding I have ever owned. It will also handle your trailer but will be a slower on steep grades. Then the next was a fuel injected I think it was a 1989 350 cu. in. It was about as good as the older 454 cu in. The thing I liked is you had the power close to the larger engine but were not burning all the extra fuel in daily trips.
On the tailgates opening the doors on mine opened but my tailgate didn't have quite enough room but that all depends on the mounting of the hitch. You can get extended shanks and be able to easily access the rear.
As for as ton vehicle you can find the trailer and suburban data and calculate the load.

At the time of these experiences I was pulling a 31' Excella 500 and also I pulled an 18' utility trailer in my business that was loaded with around 10,000 lbs of glass on a trip of around 600 miles through the hill country of Texas to the Coastal area in the 84 4x4 350 cu. in.
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Old 06-19-2011, 06:10 AM   #3
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Thumbs up Burb'n it



First Burb....95 2500 454 Throttle body injection. Our first dedicated TV.
As Mr Smith said the 350 could do it but might be a little short on extended mountain trips.
Our 95 had 180000 mi on it when sold, a good portion towing, never left us stranded but did have two 4wd actuator solenoids go bad.
Two battery's, alternator, h2o pump, and other assorted maint work.
NO major mechanical breakdowns.
Our "barn doors" would open...IF the rig was straight. Could always get at least one open though.

We live up north, wouldn't be without 4wd, has gotten us out of some slippery campsites. Our combined weight with the Classic...15960lbs no problem's at all. What do we think of the Burb as a TV...check our current rig!!!

Good Luck in your search...Keep us posted.
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Old 06-19-2011, 06:26 AM   #4
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Our Suburban is newer - 2008/46K miles - than you are looking for, but our experiences to date have been great. No issues whatsoever. I would suggest however that you consider a 2500. We recently replaced our 28' International. Based on our experiences with both the 28 and the current 30' FC, it is obvious that we will need at least, the "grunt" of the 2500/6L to be able to reasonably tow through any hilly conditions.
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Old 06-19-2011, 06:39 AM   #5
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I bought a 99 1500 LS recently with 111,000 miles to tow in Colorado. I tow a 67 Globetrotter that has a dry weight of 2640 - so a very manageable weight. I had to buy a weight distribution hitch which has worked very well and without it, the TV feels unbalanced.

My experience has been ok. The vehicle has left me stranded a few times - two fuel pumps on one trip. But those maintenance issues are bound to happen at a certain mileage. Towing on grade is slow as the engine wants to hunt gears but I have learned I need to keep my rpm's lower and go slower. I was towing with an F-250 so there was quite a difference between gas and diesel. But on the flats, it tows very well and its a comfortable ride with plenty of room for storage.

I have tested it on Wolf Creek Pass which is at 7-8% percent grade at times and it towed comfortably around 40 mph but anything more and I had to make it work for it. With the difference in weight of our trailers, your experience will be different.

Overall, they are nice tow vehicles. My recommendation is to purchase one that has been well maintained and expect certain repairs to be made as for any older vehicle.

Good luck.
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Old 06-19-2011, 07:04 AM   #6
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We have had four Suburbans all with different engines and axle ratios and can definitely suggest some over others. Never had a 91 and earlier body however had two in the next body style. A 93 3/4 ton 4wd 350 with 3.73s, great truck which gave good mileage when not towing and was good on all but crazy grades towing. Next a 99 k1500 350 with 3.42s, motor was fantastic, light years over the 93 however the 3.42s robbed any power. Even here in Texas it struggled to pull up hills. Moved into a 2001 3/4 ton with 3.73s and it was the one we put the most miles on, 127k when I sold it. Towed awesome, the 6.0 needed more revs to stay in the torque zone. Great mileage when not towing (well close to 16). Lastly now have a 06 3/4 ton 4wd with 8.1 liter and 4.10s. This is a tow monster, it pulls my safari 30 like a empty John boat. It gets 11 towing, and 12 when not. Luckily I only have 59k on this as it is my dedicated tow vehicle, and it tows in all terrain so much better than the 6.0 I will keep this till it is done and maybe repower it as they are not offering the variety of rear ends and engines they used to.

Can't go wrong with a suburban!
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Old 06-19-2011, 07:25 AM   #7
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Our 1987 Suburban was a great tow vehicle. It also had great thirst, as in 8mpg on a good day, not towing. It had the 454 with TBI, I would hate to think what a non injected model would have done to our fuel budget. As long as you don't mind writing the checks for gas, they're great.
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Old 06-19-2011, 07:59 AM   #8
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Howdy- I tow a 4,400 lb. 27-footer with my '99 2500 4x4, with the smaller 350 engine and 4.11 rear end. This combination works well, though I have to settle for 2nd or 3rd gear going up mt. passes, depending on the grade and elevation. I get around 12 mpg here in the west, it would be better all on the flats. The barn doors open just fine, plenty of clearance when hooked up, and I'd recommend them. These 2500's also have bigger brakes, beefier suspension, and transmission coolers on them, making them a better choice for towing longer, heavier trailers than the 1500's. I've got around $10k into it, with 90-something k miles. I haven't used the 4x4 feature other than to get the trailer out of my steep, twisty driveway where we used to live, but it's nice to know you have it if you need it. I have never felt the "tail wagging the dog" while passing semis, even in very windy conditions; the Burb seems to have plenty of weight and wheelbase to easily manage the trailer. So: thumbs up! Go get one!
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Old 06-19-2011, 08:00 AM   #9
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POI on our 95 Burb....

The mention of MPG jogged my memory, it had the 3:73 gears and stock got around 9mpg's towing. We did buy it new and at about 5k I did $1800.00 in mpg upgrades. Gale Banks Power-pac, MSD Ign, Computer programer etc. Ended up at 11.5mpg towing. What made it worthwhile, we kept it long enough for the up-grades to pay for themselves, had I waited til 15k it never would have.

The 06 with the 8.1 and 4:10's gets better mpg's stone stock.
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Old 06-19-2011, 08:59 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander63 View Post
Our 1987 Suburban was a great tow vehicle. It also had great thirst, as in 8mpg on a good day, not towing. It had the 454 with TBI, I would hate to think what a non injected model would have done to our fuel budget. As long as you don't mind writing the checks for gas, they're great.
This is what my folks used for over a dozen years. Sold with about 190k on it. 7-8 mpg towing a 27' 8k Silver Streak. Might be a decent candidate if your state exempts vehicles 25-years and older as this model year 454 was waaay down on power and economy (versus a more modern build). While a 454 won't ever be an Impala, highway solo and towing mileage could be increased (and with an OD transmission).
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Old 06-19-2011, 11:44 PM   #11
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We've been using a 1985 Suburban K-20 (3/4 ton) to tow both our 1986 32' Excella and 1966 20' Globe Trotter. I get about 9 mpg. It has the 454 with 3.73 rear end. 1985 was the last year Chevy used a Quadrajet carb with the 454. We've towed the Excella up grades exceeding 8 percent at about 35mph. Less than 8 percent grade we can go at 45 mph. The 454 has more low end torque than the 6 liter diesel from the same era. It tows the Globe Trotter (3500 lbs loaded) almost like it's not there, but the Excella (7200 lbs loaded) makes itself known. Can't lower the tailgate when hooked up with either but I suppose I could lengthen the shank. At lower elevations the engine runs much better. It runs rich at elevations over 4000 feet. The Quadrajet is difficult to adjust for altitude. I'm thinking of switching to a different carb or doing something to get more air into it.

Ours is 2 wheel drive only. I've never felt the need for 4 wheel drive. When I was working I often drove a Suburban but only needed 4 wheel a few times when I was off road in soft sand.

The photo is with the Excella at the top of Dead Indian Hill Summit (8,000 ft.) I think it was the steepest climb with a trailer I'v ever made.
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Old 06-20-2011, 05:05 AM   #12
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Forgot to mention that our 2008 2500 has a 4.10 rear end and 2 wheel drive. We experience 10 mpg towing and running around town; and 17-18 without on the highway. It has a lift gate which can't be opened while hookup. The rear window can however.
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Old 06-20-2011, 05:38 AM   #13
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Barn doors will open all the way but moving around the hitch can be dangerous to your shins!
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Old 06-20-2011, 09:01 AM   #14
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You might also consider a used Ford Excursion with the V-10 if you can find one. They are based on the F-350 frame and are a great TV.

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Old 06-20-2011, 11:43 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Goin camping View Post
Seriously looking at an older burb to tow with. Several advantages, Cheap to purchase, repair and we can camp in it when we are off off road. The Burban will be a tow vehicle and an overlander so 4x4 and oversize tires are a must for our desert travels. For low purchase and parts I'd like to stay pre 1998 model year.
The problem you'll run into is that so many of the older burbs were scrapped in the cash for klunkers program, which has driven up the prices both for complete burbs of that era and for used parts, since the klunkers program didn't allow for any parts to be pulled. Consider somewhat newer burbs instead on the GMT800 platform (1999 up) which will have better used parts availability going forward unless the government starts another "klunkers" program.

Quote:
Do the 80's and 90/91 Suburban 4x4 with the 350 cid have enough power to tow a 25 FB up a mountain or do I need to go post 1991 and get the 454 cid?
I used to drive a 1979 burb with a 350 and it was quite sufficient without a trailer. I would think it would be too small for towing. They switched from a carb to TBI in 1987 which was supposed to help a little but I never drove one of that era. I do have a 1997 chevrolet pickup with a 350. By that time they had EFI and the horsepower and torque were much improved, and so that would be sufficient for a 25' trailer. I tow my 30' occasionally with that truck and it works out ok but not as nice as the 496.

Quote:
Do barn doors and tailgates open when hooked up?
In my 2004 I have the rear hatch that swings up and out of the way, also with a window that can be swung up separately. Both work without hitting anything on the trailer although I have a Propride hitch which adds about a foot of extension between the receiver and the trailer. Barn doors should work too but are overall more in the way and more fiddly to maintain. With an old-style flop down tailgate it will depend on spacing but will probably hit the tongue jack with a standard ball carrier in the receiver, with the pickup I can do it but again I have the propride so it's extended back a little.

Quote:
1/2 or 3/4 ton and why?
3/4 ton. The thing to realize is that many, many parts are upgraded as a part of this. Transmission, transfer case, rear axle, all four brakes, in addition to the wheel hubs and springs. While 1/2 ton trucks have been beefed up a little for towing in the last 10 years or so, the older ones were not.
Quote:
Please let me know what year your Suburban and trailer are. The weight of your trailer. Wether you have 4x4 or not and your overall experience and opinion.
2004 burb, 4x4, 3/4 ton, 8.1 liter (496 cid) engine. I am extremely pleased with everything but gas mileage but it's well worth the tradeoff for a conservative engine design with little to go wrong.
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Old 06-20-2011, 11:48 AM   #16
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Oh, my trailer is a 2010 30' classic. It typically goes over the scales at 8000 pounds.
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Old 06-20-2011, 02:31 PM   #17
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Thanks all for your thoughts and opinions. Please keep them coming.

Fyi and in response, 454's were not available in pre 1992 4x4's and as stated a 4x4 is required for this trucks dual purpose. Once you get into the late 1990's and newer models. The low purchase and parts prices go away.

Fortunately out here in the west $3,000.00 is the median price for good shape pre 92 4x4 suburbans. The newer ones with the 454 ci. engines from 92 to 97ish are around $3,500 for a rare diesel add another $1,500.

Since this rig will be a limited use vehicle the MPG of a 454 is not an issue.

So far it looks like a 92,93,94 4x4 burb with a 454 may be the way to go.
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Old 06-20-2011, 05:09 PM   #18
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Go with the 1994 as I think it was the first yr for 134a refrigerant and they put an I beam in the doors.
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Old 07-05-2011, 06:11 PM   #19
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Can you place a 12 to 14' aluminum fishing boat atop the AS
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Old 07-05-2011, 06:16 PM   #20
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Thumbs up Welcome Aboard....

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NO.....it goes here.
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