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Bad buy on a 96 suburban

2779 Views 10 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  TexasT
Just bought a 96 suburban with a 5.7 auto and 87k. Clean on the inside and carfax looked ok, no milage rollbacks or accidents. Paint is not to great but I wanted a mechanically sound one not pretty. Spent some money right after buying it to just be safe. Coolant flush, tranny flush, rear end fluid changed and a good looking over. They found a leaking heater control valve and that was no big deal. Drove about a 100 miles and noticed a coolant leak. Took it back to the shop and the dreaded lower intake gasket is leaking. Well now I am getting worried. This was a 700 dollar fix or there abouts so I say go ahead. A few days later I notice more coolant under it. Maybe a hose is loose or what else is there. Well how about a head gasket leak now. About a grand and that is a deal I guess after throwing a fit at 1300 plus parts. I bet someone had overheating issues at some point and put a leak fixer in and sold it to me and I had it flushed and now it is puking coolant on a regular basis.
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:sign0016:Yes, doesn't sound like it was such a bargain. Just one of the hazards of buying a used vehicle. For such occasions, I always hold cash in reserve just in case a new chevy engine or tranny are needed. In the end the truck is paid for and you don't have a $400/mth truck payment. Even if you borrow $3000 for an engine job you'll be rightside up in a few months instead of being stuck with 60 months of truck payments. So cheer up. :glasses: If you hang around here you'll learn lots about your truck and your experience will help others too.
The manifold and head gaskets are standard replacement parts on all GM products. Although they normally go around 100K. I've replaced 5 of them in my driveway. Doesn't seem to matter if it was a 4, 6, or 8 cyl...they all go.
Transmission also is something you should be looking at, mine went around 110K, 3 tranny guys said I got my money's worth out of it since they normally go before that.

You didn't say how much you paid for the truck. I just picked up a '97 burban with 104 for 7K...and I didn't think that was too bad a deal. I already put shocks on it, and it needs tires asap. The gaskets were already changed out, as was the front brakes (another common problem, along with the brake booster), and it had true dual exhaust. Mine is the LT version and 4X4

Chevy Parts
I paid 6k out the door. I think my rear brakes are sticking causing a thump from the rear sometimes. People have said that is a common problem with these also. I hope my chevy transmission is not next, I figured they would go 150k before any trouble.
I feel for you-crossed fingers on my 196000 mile suburban

tvrc-I feel for you.Used vehicles are always a crap shoot-even when you look them over carefully,and problem can be hidden, or it can just pop up.
I bought my very high mile 1998 Suburban-195,545 miles-about 3 months ago,and I have put just 1300 miles on it.No problems yet, but with this many miles, it is just a matter of time.On the bright side the PO had had the trans rebuilt at 185000 miles,and the manifold gasket,AC belts etc at 155000 miles,so maybe I'll get lucky.
I'm broke-which is why I bought an extremely high mileage vehicle, but when I get me hands on some $$,I plan to put a new Goorwrench motor in it-should be under $3000 installed(by me in the driveway-(it will take me a few weekends at least) with gaskets,fluid and misc parts.The new motor is just about $2500 on your doorstep-I buy or rent a hoist etc.
When I was flush with $$ I always bought new-which is just great if you have the $$-new is a lot more reliable than used, but used is a lot cheaper.Your $6000 1996 was probably close to $30000 new-and it would cost maybe $35000 to buy a 2007 Suburban.You can do a heck of a lot of repairs for $30000.You will probably end up putting maybe $5000 in it, but it should be good for a long time after that.Sucks right now, of course.
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That crate motor idea is a good one. I wish I had known I would have bought a crate engine before having the intake and head gaskets changed out. If my tranny goes I might try a goodwrench transmission.

Chevy Crate engine
The Goodwrench-NEW-Trans is $1700.

TVRC-the Goodwrench trans-new, not rebuilt is just $1700-pretty good when you consider it is usually over $2000 to get your trans rebuilt(of course a lot of the $2000 is labor-removing and installing).If you have the time,energy,tools to DIY you just can't beat the $5000 that a new Goodwrench motor and trans would cost.
I sometimes dream about getting the GM 383 E stroker motor(about $4500 delivered).It claims 340 hp and over 400lb-ft.Unfortunately the torque is more than the standard trans(380 lb-ft) is rated for.Now you can buy stronger aftermarket rebuilt trans for about $1300 delivered on Ebay.I have no idea how good they actually are.They sure talk a great game-probably ok.
The 383e probably wouldn't cost any mpg to speak of,and if you had the time and $$,you could go for taller gearing(I think GM made ~3.08 gears for some 90's pickups),and maybe even get better mpg!
Well,I can dream.
Good luck,
PS I'm really pleasantly puzzled by my Suburban's motor.It hasn't used a drop of oil(via dipstick) in 1300 miles despite my using Mobil 1 5W30-thin oil.I could have used Mobil 1 10w30 "HIGH MILEAGE" oil but I went with the 5w30 because I do a lot of short trips with the motor cold.I also wanted better mpg.I figure the motor must have plenty of wear, but the good mpg,and no oil use sure indicates that the ring seal, valve guide seal etc is excellent.Lotta ways for a motor to break of course.
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This is one of the reasons I always recommend anyone looking at a vehicle, truck, or car.

Take it to a Good Reputable mechanic in your area and have them give it the once over, pay them their hourly rate for it and you will thank me for it.

Sorry you got one that has some problems, but remember what Charlie said,

When I was flush with $$ I always bought new-which is just great if you have the $$-new is a lot more reliable than used, but used is a lot cheaper. Your $6000 1996 was probably close to $30000 new-and it would cost maybe $35000 to buy a 2007 Suburban. You can do a heck of a lot of repairs for $30000.You will probably end up putting maybe $5000 in it, but it should be good for a long time after that. Sucks right now, of course.

My 94 Burb has got 210,000 + miles and going strong, but I have put a new gas tank, fuel pump, head gaskets in her in the last 4 years I have owned her.

So we all have to think about it this way.

Buy new payments from 500 buck a month or more for the next 5 or 6 years, and that is with a good chunk of change down.


Used, pay cash, and every once in a while pay a few hundred or more for repairs.
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TVRC-the Goodwrench trans-new, not rebuilt is just $1700...
Got my goodwrench tranny installed for $2k...hell of a hookup! It was all done thru the dealership as well, got the 3 year 50K warrenty with it! My buddy doesn't work there anymore; hell, he's in Florida; so no more is a sad day. He did tell me about when they tried to order a bed cover for a customer's truck and had one part number wrong. They got a 572 crate motor instead! I tried to talk him out of it, but I didn't have the $17K they wanted for it! And that was at his cost...he did say it was supposed to make around 550-600 hp!! That would be a nice crate motor to drop in...might have to build the tranny a bit stronger though...

And yeah, brakes suck on the obs trucks...that was the first thing they changed on the nbs ones...many, many complaints.
Still, for $6k, it doesn't sound like you got that bad of a deal...even if you have to put a couple more bucks into it to get it straight!
tvrc18, don't sweat it (unless you like doing that kind of worrying). It is unfortunate but as unplugged said buying new can be much worse if you can't afford new but do it anyway. I made an error just this weekend when removing the motor in my '87 (see here for more details) and I just look at it as an potentially expensive mistake that I will not make again. Just starting to do more work on my Suburbans and pay much more attention to previous owners maintenance records but as skivhere mentioned it does seem the ~100K mark is about right for the intake manifold gasket and/or head gasket replacement.
I don't think you took too bad of a beating. You never said how much you paid to begin with.

My '94 went 250k before the trans started slipping more than I want it to. I put in a used unit from the 'recycler' that was pulled from a wreck that showed 103k on the odo. Had nice red fluid and came with the TC. It has had an alternator or two, waterpump, starter, fuel pump as well as a bunch of oil/filter changes.

Maintenance is way cheaper than truck payments.
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