Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

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Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby munchie3409 [OP] » January 4th 2012, 1:58am

Greetings everyone...I'm considering purchasing my first Astro/Safari and had some questions. What appeals to me is the AWD feature of the van and they seem to be very capable when towing. I want to purchase a van/suv/truck for hauling and moving a bunch of gear. I have a wife and a 2.5 yo daughter. These two vans seem to fit my wants/needs.

Questions.

Are there any years I should avoid?
Are they semi simple to repair?
Did these vans come with captain seats...the one I saw for sale had bench seat in the rear and I was hoping for captain chairs since it's easier to use with a car seat, IMO.
Did some of these vans not come with a tow package? One I looked at didn't seem to have a hitch and I really want this van to use with a trailer.
Are there decent aftermarket support for these vans? I'd like to get a brush guard or better front bumper.

I realize that these beasts don't have the best MPGs but I'll be working from home, so MPGs isn't a deal breaker for me.

Any opinions would be appreciated.
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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby Lumpy » January 4th 2012, 5:04am

I think(?) that all of the criteria you list for buying an Astro are
actually a compromise. Full size van would likely give you better
MPG, better tow, more seating room etc.

Don't mean to try and talk you out of it at all. But I think an Astro
takes a back seat to more than one other type/make/style vehicle,
especially in the towing dept.


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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby 93xtmoney » January 4th 2012, 5:05am

Hi there, welcome aboard.
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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby Big_kid » January 4th 2012, 5:26am

Welcome aboard!

Some say that 1995 should be avoided because it is a mix of 1st & 2nd generation parts. I've not had any trouble finding what I need so far.

Easy to repair? Just about the same as any other Chevy.

Captains seats? I believe they did. Mine had something back there at one point before I got it, the steel plate the upfitter mounted their seats to was still there. I used that to install the front seats from a Mercury Villager in the middle of mine(pics in my gallery, IIRC). I used grade 8 hardware & reinforced the floor.

Most of these vans didn't have a factory installed hitch. I got mine at the local Pick N Pull. If your van doesn't already have one, add an auxiliary transmission cooler.

I'm not sure what's out there for brush guards, etc as I've not looked into them. I'm sure a search on this site or even on Google Images will turn up some results for you.

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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby RECox286 » January 4th 2012, 5:45am

I agree with Lumpy. I think you would be better off to look at the "full" size van, especially with the towing needs. Don't get me wrong, these

are great trucks, and by no means are they wimpy, but if you don't want to compromise on travel and trail ability, then go for the real thing.

Bob

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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby Shad0wXCalibur » January 4th 2012, 5:53am

Depending on how heavy the trailer is and how often you're wanting to pull it, an Astro might work. Several class III hitches are available to install. I think they can pull up to 5,000 pounds but definitely not on a regular basis. A full size van would be better for that. The engine is not the easiest thing to work on. Half of it is under the dash but it's doable. Aftermarket support sucks for these vans. Let me put it this way. I have a lift on my van and NONE of it was specifically made for an Astro. Of course that is just the lifted part of it. There's other things like swaybars, load assist products like Timbrens, Monroe coilovers, etc available. There's cosmetic things available like aftermarket headlights, taillights, etc. Not sure what area of aftermarket support you're looking for.
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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby Rolling_Rock » January 4th 2012, 8:53am

..nonsense -- get the ASTRO --- to say the astro van is incapable of towing is nonsense -- there are THOUSANDS of "CARGO ASTOR VANS" out there hauling all sorts of nonsense all over the place for damn damn near 30 years --- thats the magic of the asto --- I have an astrocargo -- it hauls as good as anything....
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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby chevymaher » January 4th 2012, 12:30pm

GM thought they would tow.This is their selling point in the ads.
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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby RECox286 » January 4th 2012, 4:35pm

Well fans, there you have it: Tie score in the top of the ninth !

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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby FLSafari » January 4th 2012, 6:25pm

Have had a 96 Safari SLE for 8 years now and have put on over 100,000 miles to the 120,000 it had on when I bought it. Here's my 5 cents:
My SLE has 4 captains seats and the 3rd row bench. The bench is heavy, but removable in a minute or so. Got a wrench handy and the captains seats will come out in about 5 minutes. An 8 x 4 plywood sheet will then fit in with ease. On carrying capacity here's a nice comparison, which I use a lot to illustrate the 'Tardis' qualities of this van...
Cargo Volume (behind 3rd, middle/front seats) 41.3/104.4/170.4 cu.ft. By comparison the now extinct biggie of all, the Ford Excursion had 48.0/100.7/146.4 cu.ft. With an Excursion you would need your own oil supply!!
In the Automobile Buying guide for 2000 it quotes the Safari has a tow rating of up to 6000 pounds.
As a mechanical piece, it is relatively simple and even crude in places, but it is built strong and if looked after, will last a good while. Replacement parts are relatively easily available for a vehicle that's been out of production for 7 years and comparatively inexpensive. Are some jobs a pain in the *** because of component location? You bet, but show me a vehicle that doesn't have that issue!
It is not the most frugal of vehicles on gas mileage, but just look at what you are driving...a big box to put things in.
The space inside the van is what days out with the family are all about. You can spread out and not sit cheek to jowl.
Is it the last word in a driving experience? Hell no. The front foot wells are cramped especially on the passenger side and has the beauty only a mother would recognize and appreciate. By contrast, floor the pedal and she will pick her skirts and run and it's turning circle is a breeze. It's more manuverable than my wife's Sebring drop top.
BUT if you are willing to make some small compromises, then the van is a great multi-purpose vehicle that won't break the bank.
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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby cowboydan » January 4th 2012, 6:58pm

i think in 2010 or 2011 there is a full size savana that is awd. i guess they call it express...lol
here is a link.
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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby FLSafari » January 4th 2012, 10:20pm

Munchie say it's him, his wife and 2½ year old daughter. Isn't going to a full size Savana overegging the pudding a bit? Why not go the whole hog and get a class A motorhome????
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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby munchie3409 [OP] » January 15th 2012, 4:48am

Thanks for all for all of the replies. I had a Caravan before we had our daughter and I liked it a lot because of how much I could store inside of the van. The Caravan just had too many mechanical issues that cost us so much in repairs that we traded it on when the gobermint had the cash for clunkers deal a couple of years ago.

I don't feel that I need a conversion van...I think the Astro/Safari would fit the bill. I just wanted to make sure that if I do have mechanical issues that it's not going to be a huge money pit for me to repair.
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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby trapper20 » January 15th 2012, 5:40am

These vans are not typically money pits; every once in a while we hear of someone having chronic issues with his van, but I think they are great. If you do your own wrenching, you can find answers to almost any issue with your van right here on the forum.
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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby chevymaher » January 15th 2012, 12:52pm

munchie3409 wrote:Thanks for all for all of the replies. I had a Caravan before we had our daughter and I liked it a lot because of how much I could store inside of the van. The Caravan just had too many mechanical issues that cost us so much in repairs that we traded it on when the gobermint had the cash for clunkers deal a couple of years ago.

I don't feel that I need a conversion van...I think the Astro/Safari would fit the bill. I just wanted to make sure that if I do have mechanical issues that it's not going to be a huge money pit for me to repair.


Parts are cheaper for these things than anything thing else I been working on.transmissions are the only thing I seeing ever expensive.Engines you can get for a couple hundred on craigslist around here.228 or so thousand on mine and biggest thing that went wrong was bad intake gaskets.
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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby redfury » January 16th 2012, 7:31am

The hardest repair the home mechanic will likely face with these vans is replacing spark plugs. Get a good set of Iridiums or double platinums and chances are you won't touch them again for a good long time.

My biggest gripe about the van is simply access to the engine. The doghouse on the 96+ vans requires you to remove 2 screws and 4 bolts, plus figure out the rubiks cube combination of twists and turns to remove it from the vehicle without having to remove a seat. If you find yourself having to get "under the hood (doghouse )" often, you'll grow weary of pulling it and replacing it. Certain things can be difficult to access, but in reality-compared to other vehicles you could choose from, it's really not all that complicated to work on.

As far as things to look for when buying a van, you'll want to find one that steers straight and isn't wandering as the front suspension is the weak link in these vans, especially the AWD versions with two idler arms. Keep an eye out for inner or outer tire wear or sloppy steering if it developes.

Beyond that, they are comfortable to drive, have great heat if you get the rear heat option ( a must if you live in a cold climate ) and the parts are cheap since there were so many made and the same parts were used for a long time on most of them.

The most expensive repairs by a shop are going to be the transmission of course, and the fuel injection system/fuel pump or Intake gaskets. Chances are that if the van was never overheated, you won't have problems with the intake gaskets. The fuel injection system is really good, but there are some components that can leak. The good news is that they aren't all that difficult to replace if you have a little bit of time to spare and a decent set of tools.

I just did front brake pads and rotors on my van and went with ceramic pads, the parts cost me about $90.

The 4L60E transmission is the same one used in the full sized trucks under 3/4ton...used all over GM's fleet. The biggest thing about transmissions is to make sure you use the proper transmission fluid per manufacturer no matter who's vehicle you buy. A transmission cooler is a must if you tow and are easy to install and mount.

You can expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 16mpg with an AWD astro and average 20+ gallon fill up near empty.

Test drive a couple to get a feel for them. You'll want to be able to decern their true power ( poorly maintained vans will seem sluggish while well maintained vans will be quick ) and the stability of the van while driving.

Leather seats are an option in some vans. I seem to run across about a 50/50mix of cloth vs leather.

One thing to consider when looking at seats. My particular van has bench seats but bucket seat style ( center armrests and they recline ) while others have straight bench seats. The one thing about the straight bench seats is that you can lay them completely flat whereas my seats only tilt forward about 45degrees. Standard benches will allow you to fold them down to haul a better variety of things, can be stored in your garage easier and you can fold the middle bench down so that the rear passengers can have a "table" on trips.

The stereo system rates as "okay" stock. You will find a variety of cd players or tape players with a seperate CD player below the main deck. You will get 6 speakers in a 96+ van.
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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby munchie3409 [OP] » January 17th 2012, 2:58am

Some great information on this forum...if I buy this van it will be AWD.
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Re: Considering buying Astro/Safari...need info

Postby cowboydan » February 4th 2012, 1:38am

anything is a money pit wjen you don't care for it. there are some duds that are not worth saving. but if you care for it, it can be rescued. mine was just that case...lol
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UncategorizedAn all-purpose area for Astro/Safari van related discussion. These forums typically contain van-related but ill-assorted topics unfit for any other category. General questions and information relating to Astro and Safari Vans only.
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