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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there-
I'm currently looking for an awd astro in Southern California under 7k- Ideally I would love to find one that has more of a conversion interior (captains chairs and higher roof) I found a great interior on a '97 that is an AWD but the posting says the Front Differential is gone so is currently RWD only.

My thoughts are that I could purchase at a lower price and either fix or eventually upgrade to a 4x4 conversion. 4x4 conversions for the AWD seem much more affordable than 2wd. Would this still be the case if there is no longer a working front differential or would I still be looking at a massive cost and be better off buying something else.
Does it cause issues to drive the vehicle w/o the front differential.

Also curious about thoughts on the high mileage/rust shown in the photos. 196,000 miles.
Am I signing up for a world of hurt with this.
I don't have space or skills to do maintenance or conversions myself
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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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If you won't be doing any work on it yourself, I'd look for something pristine... I have a 97 with 150k and am constantly fixing it. If you have to pay someone to do it, well you may as well buy a new car tbh.

A really nice condition van may avoid some problems, but these vans are still old and things just go bad with time.

Regarding the front diff being missing, you would need a new front diff, new cv axles, and new front driveshaft. I'm not sure if it's bad for the van to drive it like that, but if it was, it would be bad for the transfer case - which is what you'd be replacing with a 4x4 swap.

Also, that rust is nothing! Surface rust is nbd, you should see cars with real rust up north!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
If you won't be doing any work on it yourself, I'd look for something pristine... I have a 97 with 150k and am constantly fixing it. If you have to pay someone to do it, well you may as well buy a new car tbh.

A really nice condition van may avoid some problems, but these vans are still old and things just go bad with time.

Regarding the front diff being missing, you would need a new front diff, new cv axles, and new front driveshaft. I'm not sure if it's bad for the van to drive it like that, but if it was, it would be bad for the transfer case - which is what you'd be replacing with a 4x4 swap.

Also, that rust is nothing! Surface rust is nbd, you should see cars with real rust up north!
Thanks! I appreciate this! Is your van a proper 4x4? If so do you mind me asking what a conversion ran you? And yes I am glad to be living in CA now- I grew up in Wyoming, completely different story buying older cars there!
 

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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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Nope, mine is just normal AWD - people who do the conversion themselves only spend a few hundred bucks on parts though.
 

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Well if you can get it cheap enough then hot pick n pull and find a front diff the same gear ratio as the rear then why not? But to swap it to a 4x4 you will have to buy the front and rear driveshafts from a 99 and newer Astro/Safari AWD, then buy a transfer, then figure out the shifter or buy the kit from Journeys off road. Oh and the cv Axles will heed to be bought too.
 

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She said she won't be doing the work herself, so the price of paying to have this stuff done won't be cheap. Upside is she'll need a new front driveshaft anyways, so she can just get a 99 or newer one right off the bat for the 4x4 conversion!
 

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2004 Safari RWD, 2002 Astro AWD
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It is best to find a low as possible mileage van that is complete either RWD or AWD.
These vans do break as they are getting older like SportsBoy said.
Look at different used item sites across the country and sometime dealers get trade ins and just want to rid of the van fast.

On the side question How does a person highlight another persons quote.?
 

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1998 LS AWD Forest Green metallic
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Wow! That would be a large project, but certainly possible.
One question: Are you wanting a true 4x4 conversion from an AWD, or are you wanting a AWD conversion van? It is just a small bit of semantics, bit it does make a difference in the end result, and in what you parts will have to locate.

I was somewhat surprised the front diff is actually "gone", but I do not see a front diff in the pictures, nor do I see an axle.
How are the hubs held together, ...just the axle stub and the big nut?
Something in the translation does not ad up for me.
I just went out to look at mine( 1998) , to refresh my memory about what I thought I should see in the pictures.
I would definitely want somebody a bit more knowledgeable to look it over, to see just what is, (or is not), there.
Is the transfer case still there? If so, it is probably no good either.
It would take almost no time to see how the front hubs are held together, if one knew what they were looking at.
All the necessary parts can be had from local yards, but the labor to install everything will be quite expensive.
I am guessing in, California, the labor would run at least a couple of thousand dollars just to put stock pieces back in place.
Depending upon the source, a set of necessary used parts ( Diiff, Transfer case, drive shaft, and some misc hardware) and a pair of new axles ( you should spend the money on new axles, because used ones are a gamble, and you do not want to have to pay labor to immediately replace them again) could probably be found for less than $1000, but it could run much more.
Replacing everything is not technically difficult work, but is time consuming and requires a fair amount of tools and significant physical effort.
Rod J
 

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If $7k is your budget I won’t spend more than $2k on the van purchase, because other $5k will easily go towards parts. In California you will spend just $500 on registration alone.
It took me 6 months to find awd in good body and decent interior condition. Good body condition was a must, after I got my dinged up cargo with bondo surprises, my agenda was to get my next Astro in mint body condition. I found one listed at $4K with 220k miles and talked them down to $2800, which still ended up being too much. The problems are endless, but if you have a mediocre set of tolls you can save yourself decent amount. So far I spent about 3k on the parts alone. It doesn’t sound encouraging, but it’s fun vehicle to work on
 

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2000 Lifted 4x4 Astro 92 V8-350 Shorty
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Have you ever pulled suspension parts off a van at a junkyard?
How about driveline? An engine? An entire sub-frame?
Heck, have you ever pulled any parts off at a junkyard?
Have you ever been to a junkyard?

I would avoid this van like the plague.
The fact it wasn't repaired correctly is a RED FLAG!
Who knows what else was "rigged".

That's a lot of money for a faulty broken van.
And it will be a money pit with loads of needed work.

Replacing the entire AWD system would be a nightmare.
Beside the ridiculous amount of work and expense, do you have your own shop?

I say.. don't walk away... RUN AWAY from this one.
 
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Have you ever pulled suspension parts off a van at a junkyard?
How about driveline? An engine? An entire sub-frame?
Heck, have you ever pulled any parts off at a junkyard?
Have you ever been to a junkyard?

I would avoid this van like the plague.
The fact it wasn't repaired correctly is a RED FLAG!
Who knows what else was "rigged".

That's a lot of money for a faulty broken van.
And it will be a money pit with loads of needed work.

Replacing the entire AWD system would be a nightmare.
Beside the ridiculous amount of work and expense, do you have your own shop?

I say.. don't walk away... RUN AWAY from this one.
Hahaha! Ok great I was assuming it wouldn't be an easy fix but thought "mayyyyybe it could somehow be worth it?" thank you for the affirmation that I should let this one go!
 

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When I first read this post, I was very curious as to how the front suspension was bolted up without the axle. But because I am still learning the ins and outs of the AWD system, I bit my tongue so to speak because I don't have the knowledge to speak otherwise. But after reading what everyone else has said I have to agree, run don't walk away from this one! Now if it were me I would probably offer the seller like 500 bucks and fix it myself, but that is kinda what I do for a hobby but I would not recommend it to a non-mechanical person. So I retract my previous statement as it was wrong.
 

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Learning to do your own work on these old vehicles is the only way to go IMO. Things get expensive quick if you are paying someone, but at least there are a ton of great resources like this site :)

People sometimes do some crazy things if they have an issue, could have had a leak which destroyed the front differential and they removed it. Could have had a problem with the AWD case as well.

If it's an awesome price and in great condition, everything else checks out, it could be worth paying a mechanic to install a front differential and shafts. Junk yard front diff and propshaft is not expensive, the other two shafts I would probably buy new. Should be less than ~$300 in used parts depending on what ends up being needed and where you buy, another $100-200 if it needs the transfer case as well, plus installation figure on about ~4hrs or so. If you can budget $1000-1500 for that and still be happy with your purchase price, I think you could find a win there.

Personally I always recommend sticking with AWD for most people, their main usage case is water/slush/snow and only go with the 4wd TC if you really need it.
 
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