96 Astro 5.0

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96 Astro 5.0

Postby PrairieDog [OP] » June 11th 2021, 4:49am

At the risk of being redundant with some of the info in my intro, but also in the interest of starting a build thread from the beginning... recent life changes have necessitated that my wife, Leigh, and I transport a 400 lb powered wheelchair (and perhaps a few dogs ;) ) out of the weather so we recently picked up a 1996 AWD Astro.
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We knew it had a knock and squeal from the bottom end of the 4.3 - hence the trailer in the image above - but it was priced accordingly. Obviously there are a few different methods for removing the engines from these things and each owner has his/her preferred method for their own reasons. I chose the "from underneath" route:
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To get the subframe out from beneath the body with the hoist directly in the way, I removed a wheel and rolled the assembly on the brake disc across some boards placed on the hoist legs:
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and picked it back up with a jack under the "A" arm to put the wheel back on once it was across the hoist:
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Afterwards, I made a leg from some scrap metal to bolt a caster to the transmission mount:
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This way I can roll the whole assembly into the garage (or anywhere I want) to work on it and, when complete, roll the whole assembly back under the van for re-installation.
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About a week later I found what was advertised on Craigslist as a 1996 4x4 Silverado that ran but wouldn't move. I thought "Woohoo! I stepped in it big! Same year! I'm on it!" and the day before yesterday we drove about an hour and a half to go look at it.
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It belonged to the father of the lady selling it and he passed away a few years back. Looking it over while Leigh made friends, I saw it was actually a '97, 5.0
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but we negotiated a $750 price, brought it home,
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and pushed it into the garage for disassembly:
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Last edited by PrairieDog on June 12th 2021, 12:48am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby PrairieDog [OP] » June 11th 2021, 5:18am

Yesterday we starting tearing into it and I will say from an "expected previous maintenance" perspective, it is a fully-neglected ranch truck, used and abused for all it's worth. I was told the engine was replaced about 60,000 miles ago, but we all know how that goes.
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The replacement story may or may not be true, but even if it is; Who knows how many miles were on the donor or the condition of what was put in prior to it's new home?
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I was pretty upset to find the passenger motor mount through bolt was missing it's nut when I went to remove the bolt, but as I mentioned to Leigh, "Somebody was already here, so it probably confirms the replacement engine story." When I moved over to the driver's side expecting more of the same, I was surprised to find there was no bolt at all!
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"Well..." was all I could muster, "that makes my job easier."

* Rest aussured, this is a parts truck. Every piece will get a thorough going through. I only plan on raising the Astro once. *

Undaunted, I pressed on using the other method of engine removal :D
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and by somewhere around 10:30 last night, we had the mechanical parts out:
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Complete with my personal miniature version of the Exxon Valdez:
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This morning I finished removing the entirety of the engine wiring harness, complete with ECM, but spent the rest of the day running errands (and grabbing an ice cream). I work 12hr rotating shifts and am starting a run of nights tomorrow so it'll be the better part of a week before I make more progress or updates.

More as it comes.

Thanks for reading.
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby dcsleeper » June 11th 2021, 10:51am

Seriously, that wheelchair weighs 400 lbs?!?

We are all on the edge of our seats, so hurry back.
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby tungtide » June 11th 2021, 1:17pm

Looking forward to following this one. Hurry back from those 12 hour shifts. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby Mmusicman » June 11th 2021, 1:57pm

All I see is an INSANE amount of work!
Great pics!
Enjoy.. and Welcome!
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby AstroWill » June 11th 2021, 4:14pm

Love watching a project progress! Thanks for bringing us along.

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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby Big_kid » June 11th 2021, 10:25pm

It won't be long before you've got this project up and running I'm sure, you're off to a really good start!
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby PrairieDog [OP] » June 15th 2021, 4:02am

dcsleeper wrote:Seriously, that wheelchair weighs 400 lbs?!?

We are all on the edge of our seats, so hurry back.


Yeppers. The one you see in the very first image of this thread is our regular old manual chair. We keep it in the back of the Jeep and use it when we're out but it's quickly losing it's utility. It doesn't offer near the support of the motorized one with the fit-to-her Recaro-like seat and headrest. Motors for changing seat & leg position may sound luxurious, but when you're confined to the chair for all your waking hours, well...
Then add the motivation motor and the batteries and the suspension, etc and I suppose it all adds up quickly.

Image

Considering the weigh of the chair, it'll be approximately like 4 adults in the van whenever it's just the two of us. I know the 5.0 isn't "all that" as far as SBC's go, but I had a chance to get a deal on an already machined 4.3 block from my trusted machinist today - somebody had the work done and never came back to pay. He made the valid argument about what improvements I'll be getting in return for the swap effort using a 5.0/305 (arguments I'd been having with myself anyway since the day I was looking over the donor truck), but I just couldn't do it.

Leigh and I talked it over and we're moving ahead with the 5.0.
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby PrairieDog [OP] » June 15th 2021, 4:07am

Mmusicman wrote:All I see is an INSANE amount of work!
Great pics!
Enjoy.. and Welcome!


Work is my leisure. :D

As a lurker I've ready many of your posts and your build thread.
' glad you're here.
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby PrairieDog [OP] » June 15th 2021, 4:30am

I came home this morning as the sun was coming up, got about 3hrs sleep due to some scheduled stuff for the day, and by the time we got back it didn't make sense for me to lay down so we went into the garage to try for some progress. I spent some minor and intermittent time getting organized between shifts, so this is what it looked like when we started.
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Anyway, not a lot to post from today. There's no way around it. This thing is just a mess and needs some cleaning before anything else can take place. No sense in complaining about it. Having this stuff in front of me is the result of my decisions and the only thing to do is to keep at it until we're through it.
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I expect to spend the next few days, at least, transferring all that dirt to myself and everything around me until there's little-to-none left. Then I'll be able to start on the fun stuff.
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This is where the transfer case meets the transmission:
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This is where we left it before coming in for dinner and checking in here.
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I appreciate all the responses and look forward to your continued thoughts... whatever they might happen to be as we go along.
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby SportsBoy » June 15th 2021, 7:13pm

Zoinks! That crust of dirt is unbelievable
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby PrairieDog [OP] » June 20th 2021, 2:47am

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I finished disassembling the engine today:
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Everything on the inside looks much better than the outside. ' turns out it's a Jasper rebuild. I found the sticker while cleaning the outside of the block.
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The crank main journals are .010 under and the bores are already .030 over (making it a 5.1/310 woohoo)...
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so I'm checking see which way I'm going to go. So far it looks like I'll be OK with a re-ring kit and new bearings, but I've got a few more holes to check; 3 places ~120 degrees apart each of top, middle, and bottom. Probably finish the rest tomorrow.
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Thanks for checking in.
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More as it comes.
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby MI_GhostMI_Ghost is online! » June 20th 2021, 4:07am

A Jasper reman is a great starting point. You will likely get by with deglazing and a fresh set of rings.
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby WoodButcher » June 20th 2021, 3:47pm

Welcome!
What do you have in mind for hauling the wheelchair? Ramps inside or some sort of hitch mount?
Friends of mine own a custom built Chrysler town and country that I've had a look around. Sadly it is well used and it seems to me over complicated for what it does. Many possible points of failure and now that it is older the machinery often needs repair.
Looks like you have the skills so the only thing I might suggest is keep it simple and enjoy!
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby Ironsides » June 20th 2021, 6:34pm

Welcome PrarieDog!
Man you made quick work of that engine!
Sweet find on the AWD and 5.0 donor.
Crusty indeed. You got all the points covered like Bruce said, I'd only consider adjusting the front suspension for added weight of V8, the AWD is a mystery to me so I'm probably wrong there.
Hope it goes well for you, clearly a labor of love, good luck!
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby PrairieDog [OP] » June 21st 2021, 3:32am

WoodButcher wrote:Welcome!
What do you have in mind for hauling the wheelchair? Ramps inside or some sort of hitch mount?

I'm not a fan of the hitch mount stuff. Obviously it works for a lot of folks, but I recently got rid of a 4WD pickup because I wanted an Astro and it will keep the chair out of the weather without the added hassle of a cover or whatever people do with them when the chair is behind the vehicle.

The quick fix is going to be a set of ramps at the back doors. I'll throw them in the van - secured - with the chair. Ultimately, I'll probably adapt a lift at the side door. At most of the bigger box stores there is usually a long "van" space or two where we'll have space to stick 6'-or-whatever ramps out the rear of the vehicle, but most everywhere else (convenience stores, liquor stores, gun stores, etc.) the accessible space is to the side of the vehicle so a lift would be more accommodating.

Ironsides wrote:Welcome PrarieDog!
Man you made quick work of that engine!
Sweet find on the AWD and 5.0 donor.
Crusty indeed. You got all the points covered like Bruce said, I'd only consider adjusting the front suspension for added weight of V8, the AWD is a mystery to me so I'm probably wrong there.


Thanks for the kind words. I think most would a agree that a 5.7 donor would have been even better, but the 5.0 truck was the right year at the right price at the right time. I have no regrets about the 5.0, even if it is the least-favored of the current small block Chevys. As a matter of fact, the further along I get, the more I like the idea. I think it'll make the Astro more, "if Chevy actually went through with the idea." (They obviously left room for a V8 in the engine compartment and if they had gone through with offering one as an option, it would have been the 5.0.)

You're not at all wrong about adjusting the suspension when swapping a bigger engine into any vehicle. You're thinking things through more than most. It's just that a fully dressed small block only weighs somewhere around 70-100lbs more than a similarly equipped 4.3. It's the equivalent weight of an adolescent passenger, but I'd expect some improvements can be made. Time will tell.

Additionally, the drive mechanism has nothing at all to do with the suspension system as far as your comments are concerned. Yes, there will be different shock and spring locations between the two since a drive axle has to reach the center of each front wheel in AWD, but conceptually you are spot on.

My thinking on the 4L60E vs 4L80E transmission is similar to my thoughts on the 5.0. No argument, 4L80E is bigger, stronger, etc. but both my '96 Astro and the '97 K1500 extended cab donor have the same model trans, the 60. As with anything manmade, improvements can be made. The factory internal planetary gear sets have four pinions [still in the case in the image below]. There are aftermarket versions with five. I'll be going that route.
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There are also well known points of internal failure (the sun housing splines immediately come to mind):
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and although there are no guarantees I'll do what I can within a reasonable budget to be in here just this once. Again, time will tell. ;)
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' looks like some more clean-up and inspection in my not-too-distant future.
Image


"Labor of love"?
You know it! :thumbup: (I must be in the right place.)
Last edited by PrairieDog on June 22nd 2021, 2:54am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby AlpineVan » June 21st 2021, 7:41pm

The amount of dirt on that transmission is shocking. Also props to you for rebuilding it yourself. I've done it once and its actually easier than it people make it seem.
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby markmitchmarkmitch is online! » June 21st 2021, 9:12pm

My granddad used to say Cubic inches is cubic inches. Cool project my friend
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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby PrairieDog [OP] » July 1st 2021, 10:29pm

Recollected from the Intro thread:
PrairieDog wrote:
MI_Ghost wrote:A small suggestion. Get some Eastwood Internal Frame Coating...


I'm really trying to not turn this into a year-and-a-half "project" by breaking everything down to its individual components...


?!

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Re: 96 Astro 5.0

Postby MI_GhostMI_Ghost is online! » July 2nd 2021, 6:10pm

A good cleaning and coat of Rustoleum will be good on the subframe. Use Rust converter and rusty metal primer on the outside and internal frame coating on the inside. My suggestion was more towards the main frame rails on the body that the subframe bolts to and bottom tube section of radiator support (a known rust out area). A good flushing of the rocker panels (There are plastic access plugs) and coating the inside with the internal frame coating will help prolong the life of the body.

Don't be concern with taking to long. That clean fresh subframe will be a pleasure to work on. :D
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