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2004 Astro AWD, 2004 Safari 2WD
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603 Posts
I'm impressed!!!
You saved thousands doing it yourself!
And you caught and fixed some tricky problems!
 

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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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800 Posts
Discussion Starter · #202 ·
It's been quite a bit - have been working on the van somewhat consistently though.
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I of course forgot to take measurements beforehand, so I got them after.
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Then I moved on to the roof rack.
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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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800 Posts
Discussion Starter · #203 ·
Curtains came next - a good winter project for sure.

First, we made cardboard template for each window, then cut out reflectix to size, and also wool from cheap wool blankets from Harbor Freight. Glued those together with spray glue Next we took some cheap black cordura fabric (amazon) and glued the wool side to the cordura. We made sure that we would have a reflective side, and a blackout side - so we can use the curtains for heat retention or blocking, or to black out the windows if we are trying to be stealthy. I made sure the curtains could all be in reflective or blackout mode at the same time (have to glue the wood on the right side of the reflectix, since it would be on different sides of the front window cutouts for example.
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So now we have some custome curtains! It was not a fast process - it took weeks of on and off work. But, like I said, it was a good winter project when it's freezing and dark out.
And they ended up fitting pretty nicely - I would say that we should have taken off ~1/4 around the edges on the curtains that we made to fit the window exactly and be held in by the edges. The process of making the border made them bigger than measured, so they need a bit more work to fit in. Other than they, they are pretty great! And they definitely are going to be moderately durable (and any reflectix issues can just be fixed with foil tape. Plus, they are pretty thick and I'm very optimistic about how well they will work keeping the hot or cold out.
 

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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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800 Posts
Discussion Starter · #204 ·
I also made a bed platform for the "2nd floor" we will have with the poptop.
I had several ideas on the best way to do this and struggled to choose the best one, but this is what I ended up with.
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I don't think I have shared about the change I made to the latches - I don't think I have any pictures either. Hmm. I'll get some sometime and do a quick update on those.
 

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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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800 Posts
Discussion Starter · #205 ·
A couple of little things...

The radio has been too far recessed since I did it, so it's not easy to turn the volume knob, so I adjusted it outwards a little and now it fits perfectly - yes! Such a small thing, but it's sooooo much nicer now.
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Another little random thing was that I added deer whistles to my cars - might be a gimmick, but for $10 I'll try it. Way cheaper than hitting a deer.
I stuck them to either side of the grill.
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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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800 Posts
Discussion Starter · #206 ·
Efan Project

Been spending lots of time learning about 12v wiring through this efan project.

I got a fan and relay and wiring from a Volvo 850 I think at the jy. Make sure you get the ground wire/connectors for a cleaner install. I also went back to get two 4 pin volvo relays to use since I used the plastic shroud relay holder thing that came with the fan and the volvo 4 pin relays fit right in.
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I grabbed some pins form the jy and did the maxi fuse mod that WinnieVan did to power his efan - https://www.astrosafari.com/viewtopic.php?f=76&t=143562
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Looking good! I suggest you rotate your temp sensor so it is to the side or bottom of the coolant hose/fitting. That way you know for sure that the temp sensor is getting a bath in the coolant.
 

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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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800 Posts
Discussion Starter · #208 ·
The fan I wanted to make easily removable - I didn't really care what that looked like though. I also wanted to try to use factory holes.
I ended up using the nuts on the rad support that were originally for the fan shroud, and some mystery holes on the piece of subframe under the radiator. I hand bent some aluminum to fit the strange contours - it is bolted on all 4 corners now and is sturdy, yet easily removable. It looks jank as anything, but whatever.
I also reused the screws from the fan shroud for this.
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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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Discussion Starter · #210 ·
I have also been working on aux lights.
I added wiring for fog lights that are to-be-added eventually, and put in two 12 inch lightbars behind the grill.
I was going to do one 20 inch, but I didn't realize that people were removing the center brace over their a/c condenser to fit their light bars in - I don't want to do that. I'd rather have whatever small amount of extra sturdiness it will offer if I hit a deer or something.
So, that meant I had to spend a decent amount of time bending aluminum pieces to diy some mounting brackets for the lights.
Here is the final product.
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I also drew up some diagrams that are likely to change, one for this project and one for the camper build electrical overall.
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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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Discussion Starter · #211 ·
So when I took off the front bumper cover for wiring stuff I was reminded how badly rusted my front bumper was (pretty much only 50% left). and since I was in there, it seemed like a fine time to do my 2" puck lift.

So I ordered a new bumper for 75$ on ebay, and ordered prothane body bushings (I already have the lift pucks and bolts).

I had seen that on the driver side above the front body mount, the rust was far worse than the passenger side. I didn't realize how bad it was though...
The body mount bolt captive nut spun and wouldn't untighten, and when I was jacking up the van by the front, it was collapsing a decent amount.
I had to cut a hole to hold the nut to undo the body bolt.
The other side went fine fortunately.
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Later I found that the passenger side rear body mount also has a loose nut in it that needs to be secured, and there is a rusty spot on the unibody by the passenger side middle body mount that I should fix. So. This sucks.
But, fortunately I got a welder recently! After a bit more practice, these are to be my first (doomed to be crappy) repairs using the machine.
I'm just mad that a few hour job turned into a multi-day job of cutting and trying to undo things and cleaning up rust and learning how to weld and now welding. Ugh. I can't wait to just get to the camper build already.
 

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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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Discussion Starter · #212 ·
Sparkydog said:
Looking good! I suggest you rotate your temp sensor so it is to the side or bottom of the coolant hose/fitting. That way you know for sure that the temp sensor is getting a bath in the coolant.
Yes sir, that is in the works (eventually - just did it this way to get it together mostly) :thumbup:
 

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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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Discussion Starter · #213 ·
Well, as expected, the rust and fixing the bolts took a long time and sucked bigtime.

Thank Jesus it is done now.

I cut a hole next to the captive nut for the rear passenger side body mount to weld the nut in place there. I also cut out a chunk of rust next to the passenger side middle body mount. But, before I welded it together, I checked that the nut there was ok - and it was messed up too! It was cross-threaded somehow. Maybe from all my issues getting the driver's front bolt undone while the other bolts were loose all around? idk.

Anyways, so I had to cut and weld more there, which was in a very confined space, so it was not easy and was just really really unpleasant.

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Finally, I rebuilt the area around the front driver's body mount with scrap essentially and made it sturdy again. I'm not planning on this rad support lasting forever - I am somewhat resigned to having to replace it with a rust-free one someday, so it doesn't have to be perfect (or even good tbh) - just functional.
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After I finished welding, I was in a big rush to finish things, and my hands were usually way too dirty to use my phone, so I actually don't have any pics of the middle body mount area welded, or the front driver's mount painted. Both got multiple coats of primer and paint, and interior frame paint, and then fluid film for good measure. I also fluid filmed the cavities around the entire van while I was at it.

I was able to use the front driver's corner to jack the van up and install the bushing and puck! I got all the bolts installed and torqued to 114 in the middle, 66 front and rear. Man, is 114 a tough number to reach on these without and impact gun - whew! NI had no idea it would take so long, and every time I thought I'd get the gun, I told myself it would be the next pull that the torque wrench would click.

So, all that for the 2" lift. I may have set a record for how long it took, with all the repairs I had to make.
 

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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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Discussion Starter · #214 ·
So, like I mentioned a few posts ago, I got a new bumper since mine was rotted, and that's how I got into doing the lift in the first place.

Since the bumpers come with a sh** coat of paint that rusts instantly, I spent some time trying to make mine last a bit longer.

I scuffed, cleaned, then primed it fully. Then painted it with a couple coats of 2 part epoxy paint. Hopefully that will keep the rust away for a while!!!!

As I mentioned in the last post, I was in a rush to get things back together, so I didn't get a shot of the bumper on :/

But I got the cover and grill back on, and thankfully the lights fit with no modifications to the grill!!!
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I also got my electrical cleaned up and got the battery in so it was back to being driveable.
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The airbox sits fine, but I need to secure it a bit, since it moves more than I thought it would.

The only crappy thing that happened was that the nut in the battery tray that you screw the battery hold down into managed to break when I was trying to get the battery secured. Took lots of anger and some blind maneuvering with visegrips to grab the nut and undo the bolt for the hold down that was mostly screwed into it before it snapped.

So, now I have a bit more welding to do on that front. Could be worse though
 

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1998 LS AWD Forest Green metallic
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That rut repair has been a lot of work, but hopefully well worth the effort. Thank for all the pictures.
Good choice on the relays and breakers. They are well made and very reliable. I have used several of those in other applications.
Rod J
 

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1992 Astro - Silver / Gray / 4 Wheels
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Wow - that was some tough repair work on the frame.
We see a great plan came together.

But... about that Battery Tray... whaaat ?
 

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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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Discussion Starter · #217 ·
Time for a mega update.
You've been wondering about the battery tray for a long while sixsix, here is what I did.
Chin Helmet Sculpture Wood Statue

The nut at the front of the front of the tray fell off, so the battery hold down couldn't be screwed into anything, so I welded it back on.
Also supported the other nut in the corner a bit since it seemed like it was about to fall off too - but I welded on to the stud, so if I ever have to take it off some day it will be a pain. Oh well.
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During this time I was also working on wiring for the overhead console switches.
I took the original overhead console and shortened it (since I have the roof cut behind the b pillar and it sticks out past that) and modified the compartments for switches. I added a fuse block and lotsa wiring.
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Fuse block secured with doublesided tape
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Had to do lots of precision work with a razor knife and multitool

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And figuring out wiring
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Wiring traveled from its various locations up the b pillar to the overhead console
Motor vehicle Vehicle Water Hood Mode of transport
 

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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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Discussion Starter · #218 ·
Made sure it was clean
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While I was in the area I covered these old holes from the ac/heater setup this van used to have. I had just covered them in flextape previously, but I cleaned them up and put grommets on them this time.
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It's kind of a spaghetti mess, but I grabbed some connectors from the junkyard and wired them in so that all the wires are disconnectable like it was originally.
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I got a dash cam/backup cam (now I have 2 backup cams lol) and had to mod the 12v plug - I couldn't just cut the wire to hardwire it in, I had to keep the plug because it had some smart circuit stuff in it, but I basically made it part of the hardwired assembly. It was a pain figuring it out, but it works fine.
Dash cam was a moderately nice "Van Top" cam that was like $200 on Amazon - had to get a 128gb micro sd to go with it too.
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I think these are the switches I got - I had them customized in some cases - High quality OTRATTW Contura V laser-etched upper independent LED rocker switches
And this is the wiring explanation that came with them.
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I don't really know what this wire on the rear lift strut does, but it was broken, so I fixed it too.
 

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1997 AWD GMC Safari
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Discussion Starter · #219 ·
Wheel Tire Car Land vehicle Cloud

In June my wife and I took the van to a whitewater kayaking festival in Franklin NH - after some fun, we were on our way home when I realized the battery voltage was at ~9v and the dash lights were starting to dim. Crap.
We turned around and barely made it to this Autozone we had passed a few minutes earlier.
Battery tested bad, so it was replaced - still wasn't charging. Hmm.
They warrantied the alternator which is through them and has a lifetime warranty, and when I took the old out I thinkI found the problem - the charging cable on the back of the alt was barely connected to the ring terminal. I shored it up a bit and put the new alt it, and all was well. New alt and battery now (battery probably would have lasted a bit longer, but I have killed it so many times in the past few years that I was figuring it would go bad soon anyways).

Well, we decided to finish the build and have fun in the van for the summer, so we spent a lot of money on a lot of stuff.
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Solar, electrical, a fridge freezer, etc etc. all the goodies.

But before that I had some other stuff to do.
I did a version of the "big three" to make my alternator charge things better and secure that wire in the back of the alt.
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This is what was happening with the wire - it was disconnecting from the ring terminal.
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I consulted the manual for some help.
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And what I ended up doing was extending the original wire on the back of the alternator, and adding a second wire directly to the battery.
I put a 150 amp anl fuse in line.
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I also put new or beefier grounds at the alternator bracket, battery, and I think somewhere else (can't quite remember atm, this was like 4 months ago)
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I unfortunately did break the alternator bracket when I was taking the alt out, but it seems to be fine still - the broken piece went back in as a spacer for the bolt when I put it back in. I did go to the yard and get a new bracket that I can put on sometime if it becomes and issue or if it is ever convenient.
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Doing these things gave the volt gauge on the dash a boost - sits right at 14 now all the time, where it used to always sit under it a bit. I figure this is good because I now have an efan and house electrical system to power.
 

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Discussion Starter · #220 ·
I also got a welder ( I think I mentioned that somewhere already) and redid the poptop lift arms - which are much sturdier in steel than aluminum.
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Steel
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Cut the arms with a holesaw so they had curved ends
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So they fit like this on the tubes.
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Welded and painted them
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Had to cut up the old arms to get the stud bearings out and reuse them
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The steel tubes were a har larger id than the aluminum, so they had to be worked a little so the bearings would press in tightly
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I got these oiled washers and flanged bearings to make the connections between the arms smoother
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The steel arms were drilled and the oiled hardware went in before the bolt and nut - to keep things moving nicely.
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It came out pretty well, and now I'm no longer worried that the arms are the weak point. That's now reserved for how they are connected to the top.
 
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