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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey there folks,

I wasn't planning on starting this build thread until I really started working on the van but I have a few questions that I wanted to drop in here.
It wont get super exciting for another couple weeks, I apologize for that.

Here it is: my 2000 Astro AWD
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The first thing I did to it was remove the rear seats and interior panels to get a sense of how much room is available.
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The plan is to build a modular sleep system half of which can turn into a table or stow underneath the other half, with the mattress section becoming a backrest for the fixed half.
More on this later.

At just under 200,000 miles the van definitely has some issues. I have already ordered parts to completely refresh the steering, suspension and brakes, including a 2" lift from Journeys Offroad. drivetrain-wise I ordered stuff to do the timing chain, plugs and wires, waterpump and a B&M trans cooler. The van has already had the radiator replaced.

I went to a friend's shop the other night as a lift was available, I needed to put the new rear shocks in as the upper bushing on the passenger's side had disintegrated and the shock was making a horrible noise.
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I also compression tested the motor and didn't receive a single reading under 185psi (testing each cyl 2-3 times) with most readings over 200.
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^ the lowest reading

unfortunately the windshield has a pretty big leak which I found when I went to the self service car wash today
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there is also some rust bubbling under the seal
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Im crossing my fingers that the rust isnt terrible and I can just grind it down and convert it and get the windshield replaced (it has a big crack anyway)

A couple of questions:
1) At how many miles do the timing chains on the 4.3L usually perish? I ordered a new timing set but I want to make sure its fairly safe to drive it in the mean time.

2) the engine shakes a bit at idle and sounds like the timing is slightly off. It also does the strange bucking and shuddering thing at part throttle on the fwy that is apparently caused by a worn distributor gear. How do you guys feel about this distributor? https://www.amazon.com/Top-Street-Performance-JM6671BK-Distributor/dp/B006CUUWIM
I was looking for the model recommended on this site. Astro-Safari-Info - Pancake Distributor Disease

3) I am leaving the rear heat in just because it works and the bed fits around it, but the rear AC is in the way. The AC leaks and isn't working right now anyway.
I wanted to confirm that the rear AC does not have its own compressor and therefore will not work unless the engine is running. Is that accurate? If so, I am going to remove the whole system as I wont be using it.

I've ordered a ton of parts for the van, just waiting for them to arrive and I can get to work
Mitch
 

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For starters your van looks great. I would never remove my rear ac. Living in Kentucky I use my rear ac often. Having said that I replaced my distributor with a stock car quest and have been happy. They are not cheap, but nation wide warranty. On your shimmery check your motor mounts. Don’t hear much about timing problems so I think your safe for a while on that.
 

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Nice van, I hope you'll follow up on the rust issue, I'm interested in seeing how you end up dealing with it. Do you expect you'll need to remove the windshield to address it? I'd have to agree on not totally removing the AC even if you nix the rear. FWIW, I kept both the rear heater and AC in my van when I converted it. Between the two, I found the heater to be more of a hindrance than the AC to build around, but YMMV. Also, consider a diesel heater install. IMHO, a must have for a camper/sleeper conversion. If you do decide to install one, deside where you'll put it before any major interior built-ins, Not a lot of places in our vans to mount them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Nice van, I hope you'll follow up on the rust issue, I'm interested in seeing how you end up dealing with it. Do you expect you'll need to remove the windshield to address it? I'd have to agree on not totally removing the AC even if you nix the rear. FWIW, I kept both the rear heater and AC in my van when I converted it. Between the two, I found the heater to be more of a hindrance than the AC to build around, but YMMV. Also, consider a diesel heater install. IMHO, a must have for a camper/sleeper conversion. If you do decide to install one, deside where you'll put it before any major interior built-ins, Not a lot of places in our vans to mount them.
thanks man.
I have a buddy who had the same leak in his yukon i think we are going to try his method for fixing it assuming it hasnt rusted through anyway. just grind it down and the treat it with converter, primer and paint.
have to remove and replace the glass.
keeping the front AC for sure. have to find the leak though. i think the rear's gotta go. I would love to add a diesel or propane heater is there an option thats less than $1000? all the ones ive seen are expensive kits

Mitch
 

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Welcome! I am in Corte Madera, right next door.

The rust definitely has to be addressed, but I will also recommend a local glass place…. Not only are they reasonably priced, they have a couple Astros that they use as service vans…

Let me look for their contact info and I’ll post it.

On edit;
Reyes Auto Glass
(415) 261-0802

It’s right next door to Safelite, but a local shop.
 

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As for the timing gear, the 4.3 does not seem to have the problems other motors have… maybe it’s because the cam is one set of cylinders shorter(?)…


Yes, diesel heat is the way to go IMHO. No moisture issues like propane, and the espar copies for sale now work very well. I just did 12,000 miles around the country and back through Canada and mine made the parts of the trip traveling through the white fluffy stuff very comfortable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
As for the timing gear, the 4.3 does not seem to have the problems other motors have… maybe it’s because the cam is one set of cylinders shorter(?)…


Yes, diesel heat is the way to go IMHO. No moisture issues like propane, and the espar copies for sale now work very well. I just did 12,000 miles around the country and back through Canada and mine made the parts of the trip traveling through the white fluffy stuff very comfortable.
hello neighbor! i am actually in the east bay but my folks are in larkspur now.
that sounds like an amazing trip, id love to get some kind of heat in the cabin that would let me camp at higher elevations. send me a link to the heater you are using?
 

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I actually just ordered a second one yesterday, have an Alaska trip planned and want to bring spare parts with me.

Mine was $129 when I bought it (prices have fallen quite a bit)…. Now $109.

This is a “Velor” brand, one of the better rated designs (although most of them are similar). The 2K version is more then enough heat for our vans.

Happybuy 2KW Diesel Heater 12V 2KW Diesel Air Heater Muffler 2KW Diesel Air Heater with Knob Switch for RV Motorhome Trailer Trucks Boats https://a.co/d/dqlFsSB
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I actually just ordered a second one yesterday, have an Alaska trip planned and want to bring spare parts with me.

Mine was $129 when I bought it (prices have fallen quite a bit)…. Now $109.

This is a “Velor” brand, one of the better rated designs (although most of them are similar). The 2K version is more then enough heat for our vans.

Happybuy 2KW Diesel Heater 12V 2KW Diesel Air Heater Muffler 2KW Diesel Air Heater with Knob Switch for RV Motorhome Trailer Trucks Boats https://a.co/d/dqlFsSB
wow so that worked for you for 12k miles? nice. i had ruled those copies out because the espar is so much more expensive.
Ill definitely be picking something like that up.. maybe i can plumb it into the existing rear heat vents.
 

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I'll second what Sailing_Faith said as to the heaters. Velor is a well known brand, but I'd be surprised if most of the less expensive ones aren't pretty much made alike. Bad thing is support from most companies ends right after delivery. Good thing is there are some good support groups available on FB. Lavaner makes a slightly more expensive one with some upgrade in the parts/features and actually has good customer service that actually WILL respond to problems/issues. Downside is they only seem to make them available in the states about once a year.

You really need to invest in a good instant read carbon monoxide detector, especially if you'll be sleeping in the van with the heater running. The heaters are actually surprisingly safe when installed correctly, but don't take any chances.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I'll second what Sailing_Faith said as to the heaters. Velor is a well known brand, but I'd be surprised if most of the less expensive ones aren't pretty much made alike. Bad thing is support from most companies ends right after delivery. Good thing is there are some good support groups available on FB. Lavaner makes a slightly more expensive one with some upgrade in the parts/features and actually has good customer service that actually WILL respond to problems/issues. Downside is they only seem to make them available in the states about once a year.

You really need to invest in a good instant read carbon monoxide detector, especially if you'll be sleeping in the van with the heater running. The heaters are actually surprisingly safe when installed correctly, but don't take any chances.
I actually just ordered one lol. picked up a mounting plate and a CO detector as well.
What kind of draw are you guys getting from these heaters? I read somewhere it was like 40W
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
hey there folks, this isnt a dead thread, I promise.

I have been working on the van at a friend's place all week
Plant Car Automotive tire Vehicle Hood

Automotive tire Gear Rim Motor vehicle Auto part

Motor vehicle Automotive tire Automotive design Automotive lighting Automotive exterior


i will post more pics and info when i get back home to my computer

I have a couple quick questions, maybe someone can help me:

1) i am replacing the timing chain but I didnt order gears, what is the lifespan on the timing gears, should i replace them? it looks like the gear drive is just for a balance shaft? i cant tell if the chain connects the crank and cam or balance shaft.

2 the timing kit I ordered caming with the retrofit guide/tensioner assembly. do you just install this under the new timing cover? would it not interfere with the new cover seal? any info on fitting the guide is appreciated

it looks like it will rain all day tomorrow here in santa cruz. I put a plastic sheet over the timing gear and crank case. im going to try and pull the front suspension off tomorrow and wrap the engine work up friday.

Mitch
 
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