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

4500 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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Nice job Mitch, I like your metalwork.
What have you done under the rug in back? What I did in my '93 was 1/4" strips of PVC "azek" in between the ribs of the floor to smooth the carpet and put the jute and original carpet back down, much more comfortable on my knees. You could use the same moving blankets I see in your pics or get underlayment from a rug store. Use spray adhesive to stick it to the carpet you have already cut.
You can see what I did somewhere in the first few pages of my build thread below.
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