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2000 Astro AWD camping van build - 2" lift, solar, etc.

4559 Views 59 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  Mwood
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

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.

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.

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.
^ the lowest reading

unfortunately the windshield has a pretty big leak which I found when I went to the self service car wash today
there is also some rust bubbling under the seal
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?
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
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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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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
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Yes, if it does not list the G80 it is an open diff. (Unless someone has swapped it in the past).

If you are going to change out the gear
Oil you will see then.
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Fwiw, I deleted my oil cooler also. I did it after my new AC Delco lines started to leak…

The oil cooler is not needed, but these lines are a liability.
So much great work this van is going to last you a long time…. IMHO You are wise not to risk it for an oil cooler you don’t need.
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