best road-tripping setup

Discussion in 'Chevy Suburban Forum (GMC Yukon XL)' started by roadtripster, Oct 1, 2011.

  1. roadtripster

    roadtripster New Member

    hi all,

    in the near future i'm planning on buying a 10th generation suburban for this intended use:
    my girlfriend and i are going on a 6 month road trip throughout the usa. we are planning on sleeping in the vehicle most of the time (well, at night that is).

    we are going to take out all but the 2 front seats and we are not hauling much load - just minimalistic camping gear.
    we are planning on getting some a/t 33's on and don't go over 65mph.

    -with that in mind, what would be the best (lightest) model, best (fuel efficient) engine and the best gearing to look for?
    ...yes, i know - "light" and "fuel efficient" are not the usual terms for a suburban - but you get the idea.
    - as we want to camp quite a bit in national forests etc, we want a 4 wheel drive (no hardcore wheeling - we just don't want to get stuck on a forest road). now, is that correct that there are awd and 4x4 options available? how can i make sure i get a 4x4 with a hi-lo range?
    - also - is there room for a 2nd/house battery in the motor compartment?

    thanks a ton!!
  2. 4theluvofgold

    4theluvofgold New Member

    I like the diesel for the longer drives. Without towing you get more mileage per gallon. But it would need to be in good mechanical order to trust cause diesel always costs more to repair on the road. I have my 89 with a 350. It gets good mileage I get around 16-18 on hwy. Stop and go 13. It is big enough to have power to go when needed and small enough not to just drink the fuel like a 454.

    I would advise the barn door style though. The tailgate is ok but makes it difficult getting in and out the back. And the rear window involved can be a hassle if you have problems. I had my problems with it in -10. Where the switch went bad and it wouldn't go back up. Had to drive 35 miles with snow blowing inside and cold wind to get stuff to fix it. Luckily so cold snow didn't melt and I vacuumed the snow out so interior didn't get wet.
    I like the roof rack as well. You can add extra fuel cans for when you are going those off routes on rural roads and forest service roads and won't have the access to fuel. I also put a tool box on there with basic tools to fix any just in case stuff and check on it.

    I would also do an Oil Bypass to it and get the longevity of oil change duration with it. I changed my oil 8 times on my road trip.
    I did my 22,000 mile road trip back in 2001 after my graduation and had a blast. I did in in a Suzuki sidekick. Wish I had the Suburban for it then though. I'm now fixing stuff being prepared to go to North Dakota from Alaska. So I should be on a trip myself soon as well.

    Also get an extra battery in the back. Keep it charged its priceless. It is separate from the Jump starter you should have as well. Extra power is always a good thing to have. Get some truck stop 12 volt tools as well. There is some good stuff like the oven lunch box. I will put some food in and plug it in it warms it up and gets it good and hot. Then when I stop to rest it is there for my dinner ready.
  3. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis New Member

    P1010202.JPG P1010201.JPG Suburbans make great "sleep in your car road trip vehicles."
    We sleep in our 1998 Suburban-2wd 217,000 miles bought used 4.5 yeara ago 195,000 miles-$2900).
    We drive from New Orleans to Flagstaff AZ-1500 MILES ON WAY- when we have the $$.
    We stop at a rest stop-770 miles at Childress TX- and sleep.
    With a futon queen size mattress in the back it is like sleeping in a bed at home- except for the dog- greyhound- we have to share the futon with.

    With the 5.7-3.42 gears 235/75 15 all seanson tires- 65 mph- we average 21mpg over the 3000 miles.

    With the better FE 5.3 and the 6 speed at all terrain tires 33" and 4x4 you should be able to get 21mpg at 65 mph.
    I think you can gearing as tall as 3.07 or so.
    Your HY FE would be about the same with the 3.07,3.42 or 3.7(whatever) with those slightly taller tires(I'm guessing stock tires are about 31-32").
    The 3.07 would probably be maybe .5-1 mpg better in pure hy driving but the shorter gearing will be a little more versatile-towing etc.FE in city driving would be about the same with any of the gearing.

    The 5.3 should be perfect for your purpose- you don't need the bigger engine-no one does really-the 5.3 makes about 320HP maybe 375 lb ft- plenty.It gets better mpg than tbe bigger small blocks.

    We pull the 3rd row-and the single seat in the 2nd row. The older Suburbans second row would lie flat-so we don't have to pull the entire second row.
    I fill in the missing seat with a plywood "shelf".We use the area under the shelf for storage-and we sleep on the shelf.
    You could also make a plywood shelf-so you have a flat area to sleep on-and storage underneath. I put legs on the front of the shelf, but support the rear on the lip with the flap from the second row would normally lay.
    Here is a picture just to give you an idea.

  4. roadtripster

    roadtripster New Member

    hi 4theluvofgold,
    thanks for the tips. i'm planning on getting the 10th generation and i think there is no diesel available. if i find a nice 9th generation with a diesel, i'd sure consider it.
    i have to say i love the lift gate tho as it keeps the (light) rain out when you are messing around in the back cooking and there like. we are planning on getting in and out trough the rear passenger doors. although we are planning on traveling where the weather is rather nice (not to hot and not to cold) - let's hope the lift gate window will not cause us problems. we are considering a roof rack and basic tools are always in my rigs. a oil bypass filter is a good thought.
    sidekicks rock - but not for 2 people for 6 month :)
    yeah, spare batterie. do you think an extra one fits into the engine compartment?
  5. janikphoto

    janikphoto New Member

    The obvious way to increase fuel efficiency is to carry less weight. If you are OK without a spare tire, ditch it. If you feel like you won't be pulled over for missing a front and rear bumper, ditch it. Are you going to use the center console? Ditch it! You said you'd be pulling the extra rows of seats... that's a weight savings! If you don't plan to use the roof racks, pull them off to reduce drag. You could also pull off the antenna and the passenger side mirror. Then wash and wax the car real well. This may not increase the fuel economy by leaps and bounds, but it WILL improve it some... which is good over such a long trip.
  6. roadtripster

    roadtripster New Member

    hi Charlie,
    thanks as well for your reply.
    yeah, that's what i'm thinking - great "sleep in your car road trip vehicles." until recently we where tripping and hitting the mountains in a 1997 toyota land cruiser, but that was only for weekend trips.
    so the 5.3 is your recommendation. low 20's - that sounds great! and basically you are saying - gearing doesn't really matter (as i'm not planning on towing anything), right?
    i'm planning on taking all the rear seats completely out and build a storage/sleeping platform there in the back.

    nice to find some road trippers here :)

    ---------- Post added at 02:12 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:02 PM ----------

    hi janikphoto,

    i completely agree with you on the weight issue. with my land cruiser i followed the same concept. get rid of all unnecessary weight - instead of adding all that heavy armor bling. try to stay light and nimble off-road.
    get rid of spare tire - not sure. if i'd stay exclusively on paved roads - yes, but we are planning on getting trough a couple deserts as well and if a sidewall blows, we are in trouble.
    yeah, maybe replacing rear bumper with a lightweight tubed one is a consideration. we want to keep that thing stealth tho.
    as we are planning on not exceeding 65mph, the drag is not such a big factor - so antenna and mirrors stay on :)
  7. 4theluvofgold

    4theluvofgold New Member

    I've heard mixed opinions on adding the second battery to the main cab. I just carry it to switch out if needed. It only happened once but was good as my jumper didn't have enough power to turn the suburban over cause it was too drained. I use the 12 volt adapter to charge the jumper when driving. And I have a float charger as well I charge the extra with as needed.

    My buddy has the bypass that I looked at on this forum. It was awesome setup. He doesn't do oil changes for 20,000 miles. It has paid for itself already. I'm planning on one soon. His oil looked clean and he was due for one at over 21,000 miles. I couldn't believe it. He drives 120 miles round trip to work and weekends always goes fishing somewhere in Alaska. So he lays the miles on with zero problems oil wise.

    I liked the tailgate originally when I got it. I thought it was awesome. But my problem was a hassle. It would be in Rain as well. But the roof rack is priceless. It saves lugging things in and out and making space. Tools up there in the box locked. I always carry extra fuel with these rigs. And it goes up there as well. The 5.3 does sound pretty good. I don't think it is too much different from my 350 5.7. But I can never go without 4wd. I have too many times gone with a friend without it and I had to pull them out over, and over, and over. I like going up the desert roads through Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. If you get to go through the back road up by Telluride in Colorado. An awesome back road without any tough terrain besides an occasional pothole. Get a CB as well. I go gold mining a lot and it has helped when in a pinch, or let me come to the rescue.
  8. roadtripster

    roadtripster New Member

    the 2nd battery wanna put into the engine compartment if possible. i haven't mentioned it because i thought it might distract from my main questions but - i'm planning on putting a solar panel on top of the vehicle to charge the 2nd battery for (led) lights, cooler etc while doing the occasional dry camping.
    yes, the 4 corners area is on of our major destinations. with the cruiser i explored quite a bit of the colorado rockies so far. been around telluroid/ouray a s well. love it.

    so, does anyone know if all (2000 - 2006) 4wd burbs have a hi-lo selection?
  9. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis New Member

    The gearing matters- but as long as you don't go too short-4.11 or so- it won't matter too much.The 307 might be 1- mpg better than the 3.78 in pure hy traveling- if you ever tow the 3.78 or 3.42 would be much better than the 3.07. I think all the 5.3 come with the 6 speed at now-so no choice to be made there.

    If you are concerned with FE- NEVER NEVER use a roof rack or roof basket. Yes they are convenient, but carrying anything on the roof KILLS FE.
    The best way to carry extra gear is with a hitch basket.
    Almost anything you put on the basket with be in the aero "shadow" of the truck.
    We get great mpg-21.2) with a hitch basket. Not sure how much it hurts FE- but it must be very minimal.

    I learned the roof basket/rack lesson with a Honda Pilot we had.
    On the same 3000 mile round trip-NOLA to Flagstaff- we got 15.9MPG- YEAH 15.9MPG with a 4400 lb V6 on two trips.
    Finally I got smart with the Pilot- put a hitch basket on-and got 22.3 mpg the next two trips.
    When we sold it and got the ancient Suburban we used the hitch basket again- 21.3mpg!!
    I was VERY SURPRISED the Suburban was just 1 mpg dow vs the Pilot- but I was driving the Suburban maybe 7 mph more slowly.
    Driven the same speed the Pilot would be maybe 3-4 mpg hy better than the Suburban.
    Considering how comfortable the Suburban is-and considering the HUGE interior volume(which is why it is so comfortable) 3-4 mpg isn't much to give up.
    Until I got one,I would have never guessed a 13 year old, 217,000 mile 5200 lb V-8 could get 21mpg under any circumstances.

    On long pure hy trips actual weight doesn't make much difference-mpg wise. Drag and tire rolling resistance(keep the pressure about 43 psi-the ride pretty soft even with the increased pressure-especially with the extra weight of the travel load)

    Weight does matter in city driving. I might remove the crossbars on the roof rack-but you won't be able to measure a mpg increase from that. I wouldn't remove the actual rack- not worth the effort, and you might spring a leak.The OEM engineers designed the rack with mpg in mind.Besides, you might ocasionally use the rack-extra fuel if you do any remote camping.
    Now my Suburban has a 44 gallon tank-900 mile hy range-so probably not going to run out of gas. Current Suburban have slightly smaller tanks, but they get better FE- so they have very long ranges-even with a heavy foot they will go 600 miles on the hy.Current 5.3 Suburbans will probably get 15+ mpg at 75-78- over 20 mpg at 62-65 mpg.

    Usually we put a big ice chest a bike or two and other stuff in the hitch basket.We keep a much smaller ice chest in the vehicle to get drinks, fruit, sandwiches on the fly.Saves $$ to buy food groceries at a big grocery store- not eat fast food enroute-it is usually junk, and expensive.

    Get a hitch basket-keep the tire pressure up to 42 psi or so-and the speed a 65mph or less and you will get >20 mpg hy- not bad for a HUGE comfortable vehicle.Don't get too aggressive with the tread pattern-no big lugs etc- makes them noisy and hurts mpg.A reasonable all terrain-probably offered stock with the 4X4- should get decent mpg.
    You will be effectively making your gearing a bit taller if your 33" are taller than the OEM tires- I would guess the stockers are a bit- maybe 1-1.5" shorter.Like making a 3.78 rear end a 3.6 rear end when the tires are 1.5" taller
    31.5" to 33" is like 3.78 changed to 3.6.
    Probably not a great idea to go with the really tall 3.07 since the taller tires will make it a 2.9

  10. roadtripster

    roadtripster New Member

    thanks charlie,
    i gotta see if i even need extra storage room, i never liked the hitch baskets and boxes but i will now consider them over a roof mounted solution - if more room is needed.
    funny thing is - i'm a bit of a hyper-miler and we drive a 2006 vw jetta tdi that gets me 40+mpg all the time because i use mild hypermiling techniques.
    i think i leave the roof rack the way it is. not worth the hassle.
    if the 5.3 only came with one gearing, then that is taken care of as well.
    no, not planning on eating fast food. that's why i bring a decent cooler to stock up on healthy snacks.
  11. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis New Member

    I'm a bit of a hypermiler also- hence the Prius which I rarely get to drive.
    I spend time on clean mpg-a good site.
    The GM trucks do mild hypermiling very well because when you lift off the gas THERE IS ZERO engine braking at city speeds.
    When I lift at 35 mph it will gilde in D just as if it is in N, and won't downshift until maybe 23 mph.
    It makes it great for city hypermiling. A 35 to 28 mph cycle will be about 1/4 mile and 30 seconds or so.
    One or two cycles is the usual distance between stop lights/signs.
    I never do motor off glides- not with a 217,000 13 year old vehicle. Besides it strikes me as a bit DANGEROUS.
    I was never a huge fan of hitch baskets-it makes the rear doors hatch trickier to get to, but the side doors are so big and access so good- especially with second row gone- that we live with it.
    On the pilot I actually suspended a home made basket from a 4 bike swing out bike rack just so we coyuld open the back hatch relatively easily.
    It took a bit of doing to suspend the basket(it actually sat on the back bumper/ledge) but it worked ok.
    On the plus side with a plywood shelf you will have soooooo much storage space you might not really need a hitch basket.
    In any case carrying stuff on the roof is absolute poison for FE-15.9mpg vs 22 mpg on that Pilot- it would have been the same with the Suburban.

    At reasonable speeds the Suburbans do pretty well.
    I think there is just one transmission available-the 6 speed auto- but I think there are several "rear ends" available-maybe 3.07- to 4.11 with the 3.78 being the most popular.I could be wrong about the availability of the rear ends- maybe GM has narrowed the choices now that they have the 6 speed AT- LOTTA GEARS MEANS YOU DON'T REALLY NEED SO MANY DIFFERENT REAR ENDS.

    PS The annoying caps aren't for emphasis- my crummy keyboard doesn't have a caps locked LED- duh!!
  12. Boonduff

    Boonduff New Member

    All 10th Gen. [2000-2006] 4WD Suburbans came with a hi-low 2 speed Auto-Trac transfercase. The only transmission was the 4 speed 4l60-65e. I think if you are going to put on 33 inch tires I'd go for 3.73 gears. Higher gears [3.07 or 3.42] with the bigger tires will throw the engine out of its powerband, it will work harder to push that heavy truck, probably resulting in lower fuel mileage. You will really appreciate the lower gearing on the highway in hilly or mountainous areas.
  13. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis New Member

    Ahh- so 10th generation is 2000-2006- I thought that was the current ones.

    Yeah, I would prefer the 10th since apparently you can't fold the 2nd row flat on the 2007 on models- not sure why GM did that?
    Easier to carry material and more pleasant to sleep on a flat surface.
    Yeah no 6 speed on the older models.They do get pretty good mpg-2004- 2006 2wd 5.3 are rated 14/18 4x4 probably 1 mpg down.
    my 1998 5.7 was rated 12/17- so a 4x4 should do at least as well as my 2wd 1998 which gets 20-21 hy at 65 mph.
    By 2004 on they probably have fewer problems with that funny piston slap like noise that the early 5.3's had/have.
    Yeah,I would love to have a 2004-when I become more flush I'll get a 2004.
  14. ahm1127

    ahm1127 New Member

    This sounds like a great idea, wish I could do it. I would just look for a clean truck with average mileage, they are reliable trucks. Just check to see if all recalls have been done including the new resistors for the heat/A/C fan.
    Remove anything your not gonna use inside of truck to save wait & create storage & bedding. I think using the second row for storage, clothes on one side & food on the other with walk way through middle. Bed in back with storage below. I would prefer barn doors, just need small piece of plywood to create roof.
    I would get E rated (better gas, little harder ride) tires in a 265/75-16, should be fine for any factory gearing, a selectable rear locker would be wise investment & compressor would come in handy! Check out what others think of tires before you make choice, I like Firestone.
    A truck with less options (LS), less things to go bad. Leave roof rack, may come in handy.
    There is plenty of room to add battery under hood, purchase a battery selector from a boat supply place. Solar panel on roof is good idea for other battery. Might be good to add one in back, can set up to charge off of trailer wiring when needed & solar. Switch interior lights to LED & LED if you add any.
    I would add remote oil fiter with 2 filters, Amsoil for longevity in everything. I would add tranny cooler and a remote filter for tranny.
  15. roadtripster

    roadtripster New Member

    Thanks a lot ahm1127,

    Good tip about checking if the recalls are taken care of.
    I take all the seating other than the driver seat and the passenger seat out entirely. I might even take the seat belts out.
    I had an 80 series land cruiser for some years and I totally appreciated the fold down, lift up hatch situation.
    Yes on the e-rated tires.
    Any suggestions on where to find and adequate locker for the rear?
    LS is a good tip. The less stuff you have, the less you have to take care of stuff.
    Good that there is plenty of room for the battery under the hood. Could I even go with 2 house batteries then?
    I love solar power but I might not go with it for this setup for 2 reasons..: 1st, I think the initial cost is relatively high and 2nd it's not that stealthy. I'd prefer to go with a bigger alternator. Any suggestions on adequate alternators here?
    A big yes to LED's as well. They are so bright while using so little energy.
    By remote oil filter you mean a bypass filter?
    Any tips for the tranny cooler?
    Does anyone know where i might find some sort of a floor plan (for the 10th gen that is)?

    Thanks again everybody,
  16. Boonduff

    Boonduff New Member

    I recommend looking for a Suburban with the factory towing package which will have a transmission cooler. It'll be more then enough as long as you don't do any heavy towing. For a locker I say go for a selectable locker over the automatics which can cause handling problems on slick roads. There are several selectable lockers on the market. The ARB Air locker is very good but complex because it requires an air compreesor, solenoids, and air lines which means more things to go wrong. The Eaton E-locker is electric with only two wires running to the diff. When its on its locked and when off its open. My choice would be the Auburn ECTED which is like the E-locker but when off it's a limited slip and locks when on.
  17. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis New Member

    I must have mentioned that once you remove the middle row-we removed 3rd row and the single seat of the middle-
    You don't need to build a full length sleeping platform-you just have to span the "Hole" where the middle row and your feet were.
    I just use plywood with some 2x2 feet on the front end.The rear you can support on the lip of the back deck-where the little drop dow flap on the back of the middle row sits- it is the flap you put down when you fold up the second row.
    There is a fair amount of strorage room under the plywood-where feet normally are.
    When you remove the second row you get another 10" of useful length(98" vs 108")-and the wheel wells are about 50" wide-so plenty of width/length-probably same on 2000-2006 as on 98.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2011
  18. ahm1127

    ahm1127 New Member

    I hope this helps!

  19. wildmans92

    wildmans92 New Member

    Air lockers are nices, but if your looking to save weight/ and electrical load, id go with a detroit true-trac, ignore your parts guy that tell you it wont fit, because it does with special bearings, i put one in and love it. The true trac is a worm gear set up , no clutches to burn up or wwheel hop when on hot dry pavement. Basically it works like a normal open diff when both heel have equal traction but when you lose traction on one wheel it sends full power to the wheel with traction, works awesome. I live in iowa and works awesome in the winter. Air lockers are nice but dont always work at -25. True trac works at any temp. and no extra compressor to find room for. Thats just my opinion.
  20. roadtripster

    roadtripster New Member

    thanks wildmans

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