AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switch

AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switch

Postby Realmendrivevans [OP] » December 31st 2016, 2:11am

Hi all, what is the difference in layman's terms between the pre-1999 model AWD system and the one in 1999 models or later? I understand the earlier awd is always on and the later awd is engaged by a computer when needed, does this affect the gas mileage significantly?
Also my ideal would be a switch to toggle between rwd for long highway drives and southern summers and awd for inclement weather and dirt roads. I've seen some that have a 4x4 switch installed but it seemed like a lot of work, is what I am talking about (rwd to awd, not rwd to true 4x4) very expensive or impractical, as I assume it is or else I'd see that set-up more often?
Thanks for the input.
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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby Astro Pop » December 31st 2016, 2:27am

I don't know about the AWD after my '96. Mine has a BW 4476 that has a viscous clutch, fancy name for a silicone clutch, that engages mechanically when the back wheels lose traction. Here in CA that means AWD happens never in normal driving. The only time it engages is when I get up into the hills for some off roading. I hear from other members here that this system works great in snow areas, no worries of having to throw a switch at the wrong time when you forgot at starting in the am in the snow.
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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby Mmusicman » December 31st 2016, 5:42am

Realmendrivevans wrote:my ideal would be a switch to toggle between rwd for long highway drives and southern summers and awd for inclement weather and dirt roads

It won't matter... there is ALWAYS rotational drag from the front wheel drive-line... engaged or not. Unlocking hubs would be the trick.
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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby TurnNburn » December 31st 2016, 8:47am

Just to help put it in perspective, I have a 233 4x4 t case swap which is basically what your are talking about doing. It is capable of running in 2 wheel drive and "4 wheel drive". When I installed this I saw no noticable difference in mpg from what I originally had with the stock AWD t case even though most of its miles are on the dry paved roads in 2 wheel drive. Like musicman said, It literally does not matter whether or not it is being used as AWD, 4x4 or it is in 2 wheel drive, it's the fact that I have all of the extra rotational running gear found in the front of an awd, and that is causing rotational drag which is causing the loss of mpg's.

There is a AWD fuse you can remove which disables AWD. But I guarantee it won't change your mpgs...
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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby AstroWill » December 31st 2016, 11:13pm

TurnNburn wrote:There is a AWD fuse you can remove which disables AWD. But I guarantee it won't change your mpgs...


But it can be fun in the snow :)

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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby Realmendrivevans [OP] » January 2nd 2017, 6:39pm

It sounds like there isn't a major difference in fuel economy between the 98 awd and 99 awd. So what makes the new awd system an "improvement," is it slightly more efficient, or just a case of upselling a new feature?
The Edmunds.com review of the 99 Astro claims: "Speed-sensitive power steering was added to ease parking in 1997, and in 1999, Chevrolet adopted a new all-wheel-drive system that sent power to the front wheels only when the rear wheels began to slip -- thus improving fuel economy." For whatever that's worth.
But this cool PDF official Astro ordering guide, https://www.gmheritagecenter.com/docs/g ... o-Van.pdft,
says the 99 awd get 15 city 19 hwy mpg, same as stated for the 98 awd. But then at some point in the 2000s they either get less fuel efficient in design or the mpg was revised down to 14/18, so go figure.
Aside from all of this being interesting to investigate before settling on a "new" used car, I just wonder if I should place anything of a dollar premium on a 99 awd or later in negotiations.
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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby Lumpy » January 2nd 2017, 7:51pm

"In the future, cars will have computers that control their functions. No human interface needed. A virtual automatove utopia"


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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby Astro Pop » January 2nd 2017, 8:33pm

Wow! You really digging into this. Since the newest astro you can get is 11 yrs old all of the data distributed at the time of sale is no longer valid. Someone has had it in their possession for a minimum of 11 yrs. and who knows what they did in/to it. Best analysis = Find one in good condition with a fair price, buy it and get ready to start doing some work on it. All of the AWD versions will get poor gas mileage, RWD a little better. Just stand in front of one and look at the leading edge of it...a giant cracker box. Not aerodynamic. The real value of these vans lies in their utility and fun factor for what they can do that other "soccer mom" vans can't. You'll be disappointed if you are trying to find one of these in perfect condition that matches up to the original advertised specifications. Hell they didn't even do that new!
Not trying to be a jerk, just cynically realistic. I come from a family of aerospace engineers, rocket scientists, I know all about overthinking everything.
That said if you are looking for a rust free Astro, there are lots of them here in Sacto, CA. I see about 10 - 15 everyday in my normal errands. I saw one two days ago I swear had been in a time bubble. Looked absolutely showroom perfect. No oxidation on the wheels, no dents, even the cladding was all there with no cracks!
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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby Lumpy » January 2nd 2017, 11:59pm

Astro Pop wrote:
...Hell they didn't even do that new!



:rofl:


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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby Realmendrivevans [OP] » January 4th 2017, 1:37am

It goes without saying that a 15-20 year old vehicle won't perform up to factory specs, but the vast majority of owners didn't do mods or add different transfer cases, just maintained the same equipment they got off the lot, or replaced with OEM parts. So the question remains, what is the substantive difference between the old awd system and the new?
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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby Realmendrivevans [OP] » January 4th 2017, 2:09am

It's just that right now in prospective-buyer-mode all possibilities are open, and the more info I have the more enjoyable the search. I don't want to end up with a 98, take it in to my mechanic buddy and have him say "oh, the 99 awd system is really a lot more durable," or vice versa take in a 99 and him say "oh, the earlier system is so much easier to work on."
Actually the leading contender right now is a 97 with the standard trim (that was the most fun thing about those old ordering guides was checking out every option, configuration, trim levels etc, for instance I wanted manual locks and windows but learned Dutch doors only come with power windows) and 160k miles. I am budgeting for about 2.5x the original price to put into getting the van clean, reliable, and customized.
Also thanks guys for the info about how the awd system affects mpg even when not engaged, I have abandoned the toggle switch idea.
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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby Lumpy » January 4th 2017, 2:20am

If your "mechanic buddy" knows and understands these drive trains, wouldn't he be the best one to ask?


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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby AstroWill » January 4th 2017, 5:19am

The Astro was constantly 'improved', however some of the changes may be worth more to you than others.

For example, they upgraded the Airbags in 98, so that might be valuable to you, or maybe when the started putting the latch system for child safety seats.

Anyway, take a look here at some of the changes through the years. https://sites.google.com/site/astrosafa ... enerations

However, I would not use the transfer case as my determining factor for buying an A/S van. Other features, condition, and price would carry a lot more weight in my decision making process.

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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby Realmendrivevans [OP] » January 4th 2017, 6:26am

My conversation with my mechanic buddy Wayne, aka The Son of Ill Repute, is hypothetical. I doubt he knows everything about every year of Astro drive trains off the top of his head, but I am sure he'll figure it out when I drop off my as-of-now hypothetical van and tell him to get to work. Surely this community of Astro enthusiasts and this specific sub-sub category is the best place to find the apparently elusive answer my query.
This is really now just a curiosity for me. I certainly won't wring my hands over whether or not to jump at a clean, low-miles, fair-priced van just because it's the 98 and doesn't have the AWD upgrade that I don't even understand.
That Astro sites.google spread is cool, clean, and easy to navigate. I forgot they made a manual transmission in the 80s, cool! Bookmarked.
Well the question still stands, how are the two awd systems mechanically different from each other? Hopefully someone more knowledgeable than I will stumble across this thread and elucidate, else this post sink into obscurity.
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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby TurnNburn » January 4th 2017, 6:32am

One is made by Borg Warner and the other is made by a completely different company called New Process. Does that count?! Just call it trade secret and unimportant move on.
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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby Astro Pop » January 4th 2017, 7:22am

Later front diff have an electric actuator. The earlier ones don't, they rely on just the transfer case to engage the gears.
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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby Meterpig » March 25th 2017, 3:09pm

Astro Pop wrote:Later front diff have an electric actuator. The earlier ones don't, they rely on just the transfer case to engage the gears.


Um, huh? Are you referring to the s10 of the astro? As far as I know,all Astros have a solid pumpkin all years.
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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby Meterpig » March 25th 2017, 3:12pm

1999 was the changeover year for the finicky new process system. Find a solid van and you can put whatever system you want in it. Depending on your level of expertise, the sky is the limit. If you like the older system, that's a bolt in affair. I like the old borg Warner setup and did the swap.
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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby Rama » April 27th 2017, 6:49am

It's my understanding that the 99-05 vans with the NP136 transfer case make it easier/cheaper to swap in a 4x4 t-case (with lowrange) from a Blazer, S-10 pickup, or other midsize GM vehicle because those trucks are all over the place in junkyards and their NP231, NP233, NP246, etc. t-cases will bolt right in where the NP136 was in the van. I believe the older vans with the BorgWarner t-cases require an adapter (or maybe just a different source 4x4 t-case).

All years seem like great vans that can be built into a great rig. If you already have one in good shape, I don't imagine there's much of a reason to get a different one. If you're shopping, then sure, a '99 or newer (or heck, a '03 or newer for the better brakes) might be worth looking for.
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Re: AWD pre-'1999 vs post, and possible awd-rwd toggle switc

Postby zGerman » September 2nd 2019, 5:36pm

Decide if you want AWD or not, than cargo style or a van with windows. Buy the best you can find within your budget. This site has a lot of info on swapping or changing the van from a basic lift to complex projects. I bought mine for the space and AWD/4x4 option as it will make a great dirt road camper. Those vehicles are not the most fuel efficient regardless of year. Also, the EPA does update or change the testing cycles from time to time. That means an identical build vehicles of 2 different model years can get 2 different ratings.
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