Restoring 1999 Suburban - Good idea or am I making a mistake?

Discussion in 'Chevy Suburban Forum (GMC Yukon XL)' started by kingkong5, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. kingkong5

    kingkong5 New Member

    Hi All,

    37, M from SoCal here. I've been mostly into Lexus cars prior to this, and my wife and I had a 2003 Honda Odyssey along with two kids age 5 and 2. Wife was interested in the 2011 Odyssey so I sold my 2003. When we finally looked at the new Odyssey, we decided that it was nice, but it wasn't $44,000+tax/title/license nice.

    So I searched craigslist and found a 1999 Suburban for sale. Burgundy, decent shape, asking $3100. I got it down to $2500, $2800 after tax and reg transfers. But then the fun began as I found out all the problems with it: Suspension is messed up, all four tires are bad (each one was a different brand, and one was a different size!), radiator was rusted, all brakes need to be redone including new front rotors due to warpage, major service incl. changing all filters and fluids, etc. So I'm investing about $3400 to get it back into tip-top shape, which means my total cost for the Suburban will be $6200 but that includes having replaced just about everything in the car that would cause a break-down with new parts.

    The vehicle has 157,000 miles on it. I'm told that after I replace all these parts, it should run for another 157,000 miles. It is the LT version, 2WD, with towing package.

    Good idea? Bad idea? Will this come back to bite me as a big mistake? I think that $6200 is better spent than the $44,000+ since I'm using the vehicles the same way, and I think the Suburban runs nice enough for us. Obviously, my regret is that I should have bought a vehicle that needed less work, but then again, I'm pretty happy that my Suburban will have mostly all new parts.

    After I get it back, it's going to get detailed, and then I'm looking to buy seat covers for the front and Nerf bars for the sides - do you recommend nerf bars as opposed to say running boards? It seems like they're half the price ($200 for a pair vs close to $400 for running boards). Any other mods or ideas?

    This is my first post, I'll have pictures of it when I get it back from the mechanic, and I'm glad to be a part of this organization. Looking forward to some help from all you.

  2. murdog94

    murdog94 Epic Member 5+ Years 5000 Posts

    Well if you are paying a shop to do the work $3400 isnt to bad depending on what all is being done, as to keep it yeah those trucks will go 250K miles or more with out missing a beat if you take care of them. And for less than $7K you have a truck that should last for a long time to come. The burban will use a bit more fuel than a minivan, but you have more room.
  3. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    I have a 1998 Suburban-2wd- bought it with 195,000 on it 3.5 years ago.It has 215,000 miles now.
    I replaced
    water pump-$150
    Brake booster $135
    Shocks $210
    Radiator $155
    Belt tensioner $40
    Intake manifold gaskets-$450(only job I farmed out- if I had done it myself it would have been about $110-gaskets+ coolant)
    It has been very reliable- gets 20+ mpg on long trips.

    You should do OK with your Suburban. The work you had to do is fairly typical.
    Yes, it is always better to pay more and buy the best maintained/lowest mile vehicle you can find-But it frequently doesn't work out that way.I have often bought less than ideal vehicles-it usually works out OK.
  4. 2COR517

    2COR517 Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    The 99 Sub is one of the best years in my opinion. With the exception of dual climate zones, you get virtually all the creature comforts of the new ones. I like the interiors better than the newer ones, and you can get burgundy leather heated seats too. While the money you have invested in the vehicle might make sense to us, make sure you can get your money back if it burns up tomorrow.

    I presume it has the 350. If the intake gasket age/condition is unknown, have it replaced. Those gaskets have the potential for a catastrophic failure destroying your engine. If you can swing the money, have the spider replaced at the same time. It won't cost you any extra labor in the intake gasket job.
  5. stephan

    stephan Rockstar 4 Years 5000 Posts

    Welcome to the GM truck club King.

    I don't think that's too much to spend. Like you said you could have bought something newer, but then you would have had to pay a LOT more for it, so if you like the burban, I think you are money ahead in this game.
  6. tbplus10

    tbplus10 Epic Member Staff Member 5+ Years 5000 Posts Platinum Contributor

    Suburbans are great trucks that have very few equals in completing the tasks they were designed for, If you decide to fix this truck up I guarrantee it'll grow on you.
    Try looking at recycling yards for a set of running boards, they should be available for alot cheaper than $400.
  7. kingkong5

    kingkong5 New Member

    Thanks for all the support guys! I appreciate it. I picked it up today. It runs SO much better than before. 4 new tires, 4 shocks, brakes all around incl new front rotors, various light bulbs, a new radiator, new oil coolant line installed, and other stuff I can't remember right now, but lots of work replacing things with new parts. Yay!

    Problem: The stock radio is now in Loc mode. and I don't have the reset code or the manual. Am I SOL or is there a way to retrieve the code from GM? Otherwise I guess I have to replace the radio head unit too LOL!

    Also, I found these running boards on eBay for $102 + $30 shipping for the pair including mounting hardware. Any thoughts on this particular product?
  8. ntbush83

    ntbush83 Epic Member 5+ Years ROTM Winner 1000 Posts

    For the money you will have in this truck I think you have got a pretty good deal! The nice part will be you will have the comfort of know you have all new parts and know what was all done to it.
  9. KidHauler

    KidHauler Epic Member 5+ Years 500 Posts

    Welcome to the Club, and the 'Burb world!

    That's a lot of work into that truck, but you'll be happy.
    For your radio, do a search for "99 Suburban radio unlock code" and that'll give you the process to reset your radio. (When they unhooked your battery, it 'LOC ked' the radio - easy fix). If you had Lexus before, you probably won't be too impressed with the Suburban stereo system, so you might have an upgrade in your future.

    I never liked running boards/nerf bars, so I'm no help there...

    Good luck with it, and enjoy
  10. Kraziken

    Kraziken Rockstar 100 Posts

    Having older cars, you are constantly chasing after something. It is a minor annoyance, but the total cost of ownership almost always pays off. The difference is the possible cost of platform parts. I have a Subaru at 160k. My 2002 Lexus is at 121k, and my Suburban is at 104k.

    I just spent about $3k on the Suburban on a new intake manifold gaskets (that I did myself), troubleshooting an electrical short, subsequant HVAC, 4x4 controls, PCM, starter, and relays that I believe were related to the electrical short. It's been painful. But not nearly as painful as going out and buying a 2010 Suburban.

    I'm hoping the next 100k go problem free. I'm thinking the next thing to go is probably the transmission.

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