Need to get a used truck, what to look for?

Discussion in 'Chevy Silverado Forum (GMC Sierra)' started by bcms6, Dec 6, 2011.

  1. bcms6

    bcms6 Member


    Just joined this forum looking for help to find a reliable, used pickup to tow 10K lb loadedtrailer (24x8 enclosed race car trailer). I've narrowed my search down to 2500 HD extended cab short bed, don't need 4x4. I want all towing options (trani and engine coolers). Since i have equalizer hitch, I think class 3 hitch should be OK. My price range is as close to $10K as possible.

    What do you guys think about 100K mi trucks? What years are best/worst? What should I look for when I test drive one of these bad boys? Do you know any good places to look for a deal? Are there any good threads/reads you recommend?

  2. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member ROTM Winner 1000 Posts

    100k mile trucks are fine. There's lots of life left them at that mileage as these guys will run to the 300k mile range with proper maintenance. There will of course, be minor failures along the way -- bulbs burning out, wires for the tow haul switch breaking, axle shaft seals needing to be replaced, hose wear requiring hose replacement, etc ... that kind of thing.

    Look for maintenance records; you want to see them all and you want to go through them with a fine toothed comb to make sure oil, fluid, and filter changes were done as required. You should also look under the truck thoroughly to ascertain if you have (or might have) a rust issue, ESPECIALLY if you're somewhere up north. (Obviously rust is something to avoid, if possible.)

    For what you're towing you need to be looking at 2500HD's as the capacity on non-HD's and 1500 HD's falls short. Check the GVWR rating of trucks you look at to make sure they can handle your towed load. At your pricepoint you're likely looking at an older truck (99-02, perhaps?) with higher mileage (130-150k). Ask if it was used for towing (the previous owner likely bought it for that purpose, too!) and inspect the suspension system closely to see if you might need to sink some money into it. Avoid vehicles used for commercial purposes. Avoid vehicles with idiot lights (check engine, ABS, airbag, parking brake light) that remain on when they shouldn't; it could be a sensor issue but more than likely it's something much more costly and the seller doesn't want to deal with it.

    After you've done YOUR inspection ask if you can take it to a mechanic of your choosing (at your cost) for an inspection. If the seller says no or takes issuse with it -- walk away. When you visit the mechanic make sure the mechanic is aware of anything you've already spotted and ALSO make sure you use a mechanic that is willing to plug into the computer and check out what IT has to say about the truck. (This very thing saved me from one truck that was perfect except for its dead computer when buying my 2004, used.)
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2011
    1 person likes this.
  3. bcms6

    bcms6 Member

    Wow thanks for the thorough response. How can I verify the truck has the extra tranni and engine coolers? I worry someone will throw a hitch on it and call it towing package

    So far I've seen 2004s with 60-100k mi for $11-13k. Is this good?
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2011
  4. aloxdaddy99

    aloxdaddy99 Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    To see if it has the coolers they are located in front of the radiator. As far as what you have found if the body/interior/ and maint. records look good than I would say it is a fair price.
    One other thing to look at when checking out a truck like what you are looking for is to check the tranny fluid. Make sure it is red, doesn't smell like it is burnt. These are signs of tranny issues.
  5. murdog94

    murdog94 Epic Member 5+ Years 5000 Posts

    Take a close look at the RPO codes (there are several threads here on the form discussing this) they will tell you how the truck was equipped from the factory. You will want at least a Gt4 rear end (3.73 gear ratio) pulling that much weight. And with the 6.0L yes they are good for AT least 300K miles if properly cared for. I agree 100% with surrealone on the tranny part. Luckly GM trucks are fairly simple and straight forward, and doing the homework that he covers above will more than help with a purchase. As to the extra coolers. GM didnt always equip the trucks with them when they put on the towing package. You can get even larger tranny coolers, as well as engine coolers from the aftermarket that will also help the longevity. 99'Heartbeat has recently done a very good write up with pictures to cover his new tranny cooler install. he has said it makes a HUGE difference!

    99'HEARTBEAT MODERATOR Staff Member 5+ Years ROTM Winner 1000 Posts Platinum Contributor

    As mentioned above by Murdog, looking/checking the RPO Codes will tell you what a Truck came with from the Factory.

    For the Trucks and SUV's Inside the Glove Box's is a White Sticker, which is your.....Service Parts ID Tag.....and on it you will see your Trucks Vin Number # and Series of Letters and Numbers those are RPO Codes stands for.....Regular Production Options.....In short what your Truck came with from the Factory.

    ......To know if a Truck has and/or came with the Factory Tow Package.......your going to be looking for RPO Code......Z82.....which is the Factory Tow Package and it comes with the Following..........Z82 : TRAILERING EQUIPMENT.....Heavy-duty, includes trailering hitch platform and 2.5-inch receiver with 2" adapter, 7-wire harness (harness includes wires for: park lamps, backup lamps, right turn, left turn, electric brake lead, battery and ground) with independent fused trailering circuits mated to a 7-way sealed connector, wiring harness for after-market trailer brake controller (located in the instrument panel harness), (JL1) integrated trailer brake controller,Transmission Cooler and single wire for center high-mounted stop lamp.

    ......Once again as mentioned by Murdog.........I went with an Aftermarket Transmission Cooler to help with reducing my transmission temps when towing, below is the Thread on the install of that aftermarket transmission cooler,

    Trans. Cooler Thread,
  7. bcms6

    bcms6 Member

    Great stuff, thanks guys. I'm going to ask sellers to send those codes to me before I go check out the trucks. And I'm making a list of things to check. One of the sellers said he removed the hitch for aesthetics, but the truck has the towing package. I'll see if he still has the original hitch, otherwise, there's a trailer place nearby that can install a new one. The trailer place said class III would be sufficient if use an equalizer, which I plan to do.

    Most of my towing will be pretty flat so I probably don't need after market trans cooler now. But I will be driving I-5 north in the summer (up to Thunderhill raceway), which can be 105+, and I've got a pretty beefy hill to climb at Laguna Seca, although it's short. Do the trucks have a factory temp guage for the trans or should I add an aftermarket?

    99'HEARTBEAT MODERATOR Staff Member 5+ Years ROTM Winner 1000 Posts Platinum Contributor

    Regarding the RPO Codes, if you do receive them from the owner, go to the link below and you should be able a decode.....find out what the truck and/or trucks came with from the factory.....from the Engine size to the color of the interior,

    Regarding a Transmission Temp Gauge........the only trucks that had a Transmission Temp Gauge in the Dash Cluster from the factory, were the 3/4 Ton' route you could go with and that is going with a Escalade or Denali Dash Cluster's, as they also came with the Transmission Temp Gauge from the Factory.......which is what I installed in my Truck(Pictured Below) the Trans. Temp Gauge which on the Escalade Dash Cluster is located at the bottom right in the picture.......other than having the Current mileage of my truck programmed into the Cluster, it was a Plug-n-Play Mod.

    Edit:......I would just mentioned that going with a Larger Aftermarket Trans. Cooler......has been the Best Upgrade/Mod I have Done with keeping my Trans. Temp Down when Towing my Boat during the summer........I would say that anybody that Tow's.......this is one Upgrade/mod to keep in mind and/or do....

    Escalade Dash Cluster,

    Link to RPO Code,
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2011
  9. bcms6

    bcms6 Member

    Alright, I'[ll consider the cooler upgrade then. So can I get a truck without towing package and add the trans cooler? I saw you upgraded from factory cooler. What a big difference it made! How much did it cost?

    I had a trans go out on me in a 2001 Mazda Tribute. $2500 for a rebuild, no fun.
  10. 99'HEARTBEAT

    99'HEARTBEAT MODERATOR Staff Member 5+ Years ROTM Winner 1000 Posts Platinum Contributor

    Yes......if you buy a Truck without the factory Trans. Cooler, you can installed a Aftermarket Trans Cooler......the True Cool 40K Trans. Cooler I installed......along with a EAD Trans. Mounting Bracket kit for it.......Total Cost......was around $190.00.....IMO Was and Has Been the Best Money I have Spent.

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