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Jims 03 Safari AWD

14153 Views 153 Replies 21 Participants Last post by  NoQuarter
Took a 6 hour road trip to pick up this 2003 AWD Safari with 123k miles.
This trip I got 16.8MPG and afterwards I checked the tire pressures, and they were about 20PSI!

I filled the tires properly and took another 6 hour trip today and netted 17.6 MPG! Pretty happy with that.

After the drive home without incident, we started the cleaning process and general maintenance.

Passenger side headlight was dim and both corner lights were out. Drained the water out of the light housing, dried out the bulb socket, replaced both corner bulbs now all the lights work and the headlight works properly. The water was causing a current draw (I think) thus dimming the headlight bulb.

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The lower body is all rusted out and the plan is to cut them out and weld in replacement panels
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The engine bay was nice and clean with no evidence of oil stains anywhere
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Had a pleasant surprise when I checked the coolant. The cap is pretty skanky, but the coolant looks fresh
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Same with the brake fluid. The reservoir looks like it has some left over smudge, but the fluid looks fresh.
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I had some drips from the rear diff and finally got a good look under there. The pinion seal is leaking, and the oil is slinging all over. Took it on another road trip today despite the leak and it got.... interesting. I now have oil mist all over the rear doors it got so bad. Didn't smell too good with the oil on the exhaust pipe.
Turns out... someone left a hose attached to the fill hole so they could keep the oil topped off :eek:
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I'm going to get it all cleaned up and replace 7, 18, and 19. Clean out the inside of the diff, inspect it and take it from there.
I will also order new drain and fill plugs once I figure out where to find those.

edit: it seems there are no drain plugs on these, but the fill plug I found at AutoZone thanks to @AstroWill Linky!!

Any tips/advice for this project is appreciated :cool:

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Those rockers are going to be the bane of your existence. You can get full length outers on ebay and pray that the inners are still good. Inner panels are NLA anywhere. I had to get cuts from a part out van to get inner panels.

Here are some links for body panels

Mill Supply


National Autobody

Check the body mount area of the radiator core support. Odds are it will show some flaking paint which means it has already started rusting from the inside. I have been almost 2 years trying to find a yard that is willing to cut out a good replacement and ship it.

They are easy to locate on

I still haven't figured out how to get pictures while talking on the phone.
No one seems to know how to text or email pictures.

New door seals are available through
Steele Rubber Products
Thanks so much for the links. Starting from the beginning here and have no idea where to look for things.
Replacing the seal is quite easy, the important part is tightening the pinion nut correctly. You can do it the 'right way' and use a bar type torque wrench and adapters to measure the rotating torque before and add 3-5inlb when re-installing, but requires removing more items. Second choice is you can mark the position of the nut and count the threads and install to the same position after. Both work, one is more accurate than the other.
Good to know.
I have never bothered with the angle indicators. I'll stick with the "close enough" approach.
Just a question? Is the rear end G-80. If not you might think about an up grade at this point. Still laughing at the hose left attached. Nice looking van. So many options on the rockers. Look up UW harrie. Thanks for the photos.
Not the G-80. A locking diff and higher ratio would be nice. Can you suggest a place to look for the parts/DIY?

This pic here shows the underside rust AND the hose coming from the Diff :LOL:. Underneath all that flaky scale seems solid. Went around it with a big heavy screwdriver poking and jabbing and all seems well enough to continue and do some repairs.

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Large pics incoming....

Happy to hear any opinions on what you see

Seems like a new brake line in there but the fuel? lines are gnarly. And the emergency brake cable works!
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Looked over the Rock Slider thread by UWHarrie. Great option vs replacing the rockers THEN trying to decide what to do after that.

I see the welds to the body panels but I didn't see a pic or discussion on what else was welded. Is it welded to the pinch weld, or did he add brackets back to the frame?
Parts starting to show up!

The oil from the diff in the pan below is from less than a week :eek:

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What's going here with the 2 plugs?

The Top one has the fill tube connected to it then the one midway?

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Pinion seal leak is fixed!

So what now? Now I have some rust free doors that I lucked into to.

I expect to use driver and passenger front doors, but I also have slider and rear barn doors!

Let me know if you are interested. I am in Northern Indiana near Chicago, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Indianapolis.
I think my slider is OK. Haven't had a close look yet and my Dutch doors have pretty minor rust.
Got some shop time in today. Started with the "new" hood.

If you are in a drivable distance and these rusted parts are better than yours, you can have them.

Original hood rust
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Original hood rust
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Replacement hood. Looks good.
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Except.... turns out the hinge corner has been creased
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I clamped the angled steel and gave it some good prying
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turned out good. You can see the at the C Clamp things are a lot straighter. It stayed this way pretty well without too much spring back. After I installed it on the van, I gave it some good hand pressure to work it some more. Not a perfect fit but stopping here because the fender may be tweaked a bit so not sure which panel is right or not until I do some work on that.
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Started on the passenger door
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Have a pretty decent speaker upgrade that was already installed
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The replacement is really nice. I have cleaned out the muck from the inside and will do some body wax
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Grr! The replacement door has the hinge/spring thingy cut off (the part that does the half-open/Full-open detents)

Let me know if you have any ideas here. Looks like I may need to cut off mine then use a nut/bolt install?
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My door has electric windows, locks, and mirrors that I want to keep. I will need to drill out all the rivets for the window motor and lock and reinstall with the wire harness
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This is the replacement door. The blue circle shows the te spring detent arm was already cut off this door for some reason. Previously I showed the "rust free" bottom of the door. It turns out, there was a slight bit of paint bubble in the red circle, so I wire wheeled the entire door bottom for fresh sealant and paint.

So, I wondered how the paint bubble was starting. Looking inside both doors shows that the rust is not happening from the inside as I expected. The inside was perfect all the way down into the seam as far as I could tell. I am convinced the rust starts on the exterior lip of that door skin. On this door, there is a small wrinkle in the skin where it crimps (I filled that with sealant). My other door is too far gone to see if it had the same wrinkle.

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All the door parts out
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Replacement door has the spring detent arm welded in, and a couple reinforcement welds to try and prevent any future cracking

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I can take a better pic if needed..

Is this a stock/OEM style wheel? I have three that look great and one that is really corroded.

Are these clear coated aluminum? I'm trying to decide how I will try and polish up the corroded one.

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It looks like a stock wheel, but it's really hard to tell. And my center caps have the plastic nut covers - older 5-lug wheels have the solid center cap.
Thanks. Got the wheel off and found the code stamped on the inside telling me it is this wheel here - GMC YUKON 1500 wheels rims wheel rim stock factory oem used replacement 5193 MACHINED GRAY ( Looks like I can get one for about $150 that wouldn't need any work.
Going to have to get real creative on the front. The front body mounts aren't really mounted any more. Well, I suppose they are, but the body is no longer mounted to the body mounts (blue circles).

What is the pipe in the red circle? Is this the trans cooler?

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It's a shame the radiator supports aren't available anymore. The googles are tantalizing but they all go to discontinued parts :confused:
Nothing in my area will be any better at the junk yards and they don't seem to allow much in the way of cutting tools anyway. Looks like will have to try and replace the bottom of it.

Did some work on the rear... lost a few pounds and gained some MPG!

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Check out the gap between the oil pan and front shafts
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So, I took a good look at the motor mounts. Something seems to be missing o_O
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Got the axle out. Going to have to cut some bolts then the exhaust is next then the fuel tank. I am expecting to put a G80 Eaton MLocker in it. I thought those were LSDs, didn't realize they were legit lockers! I have no plans to work under the junk yard cars in the mud here so will look for something on Ebay.
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Got it. Thanks.

Is the space there correct where it looks like it is pulled up from the frame?
I cleaned up all the oil to track down all the leaks. The engine has not been started and have this drip.
Would the rear main seal leak without the engine running?

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No hammer and punch for this. Seems like I should try the proper tool.

The Honda version of the J-39765 is a much better buy but still an annoying cost for something like this.

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Tabs are just bending down into the tank. Thinking a more even distribution and long breaker bar?

Just trying to avoid having to find another tank when I rip the mounting ring loose 😪
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