Canadian Buying Advice: Astro/Safari

Canadian Buying Advice: Astro/Safari

Postby iLikeToAstroSafari [OP] » May 6th 2020, 11:26am

Bonjourno AstroSafari.com.

Long time browser, first time poster. I need an all around recreational tow rig, and the Astro/Safari is going to be it. (motorcycles, Miata, camping, etc.)

I need some technical advice on Canadian market Astros/Safaris.

I just want to be sure all the info I'm reading regarding model year changes also applies to the Canadian market. I am a car enthusiast and we often have slightly different specs, model year changes, etc. in Canada.

It is my understanding that these got better 6 bolt 4 wheel disc brakes on 2003+ models.

Was there a mid crossover year, for example 2002.5 or 2003.5 or is it just plain and simple all 2003+ vans got the better brakes?

Did all 2003+ recieve the tow package or was it still optional?

Basically, what I'm after, if it exists, is a Canadian 2003+ Astro/Safari with upgraded brakes, dutch doors, and towing package.

What are common problem areas with these year vans? Common rust areas? Anything else I should look out for?

Any reason to get an Astro over a Safari? Or Vice-Versa?

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Canadian Buying Advice: Astro/Safari

Postby Astrofarian » May 6th 2020, 1:13pm

Mostly everything you see applies to both Canada and the USA. The biggest exception that I'm aware of was the Daytime Running Light mandate, which I BELIEVE Canada got before the USA.
What are you planning to tow? There is a bit of misinformation as to "Tow Packages", mostly regarding transmission-related options. DON'T assume you're all set simply because the van you're looking at has a hitch and a trailer-light plug. Does the van have an auxiliary transmission cooler? The true "Tow Package" also includes the "Tow/Haul" selector located on the shifter stalk. Selecting this feature when driving will delay some of the upshifts as well as downshift a bit sooner to keep the trans from hunting or seeking up and down, especially with the 3-4 shift. There's a lot more to it but that's a "Reader's Digest" version.
As far as I know, ALL 03-05 vans got the 6-lug wheels and rear disc upgrade.
As for common rust areas...you're looking at 15-18 yr old vehicles here. Unless you find a 25,000km garage queen, there will be rust somewhere. I would look particularly in/around the wheelhouses, front rad support, rear chassis, and of course the outer body. Pretty much the same as any other vehicle that age.
Whereabouts are you in Canada? I'm in central Manitoba, rust isn't as bad here as it is in the East (Ask "The Drummer"). West Coast vans tend to have spent less time on heavily-salted roads and are usually better preserved. Much like the U.S.
Happy Hunting, and welcome to the forum!
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Re: Canadian Buying Advice: Astro/Safari

Postby sixsix » May 6th 2020, 2:08pm

iLikeToAstroSafari wrote:Any reason to get an Astro over a Safari? Or Vice-Versa?


Like M!ke said... Astros are better, but the Big GMC Logo / Grill makes it look tougher ... more 'trucklike'.
And honestly, the Safari models usually have all you desire. Seems most of them were ordered from Baltimore just like that in a variety of colors, of course. Regional ordering statistics would bear this out - like rear defrost in Fla. showrooms.


Well, the OP started it...
.

Well, after all... what would Banacek say ?... “Everything needs to change except the asshole culture and stupid way of life of the avg. antifa, BLM follower - slobs, cowards, killers w/o any thought that they, IN FACT, are now the Racists.”

.
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Re: Canadian Buying Advice: Astro/Safari

Postby augidog » May 6th 2020, 3:53pm

Good morning and welcome. The link in my signature may help you answer model year questions as you shop for your van. The annual "ordering guides" describe standard and optional equipment, with codes, in detail.
Scanned original Chevrolet-GMC Dealer "Product Information Guides."
Detailed Options w/RPO's. Learn all about your Astro/Safari's first build.
https://www.astrosafari.com/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=142268
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Re: Canadian Buying Advice: Astro/Safari

Postby iLikeToAstroSafari [OP] » May 7th 2020, 3:52pm

Astrofarian wrote:Mostly everything you see applies to both Canada and the USA. The biggest exception that I'm aware of was the Daytime Running Light mandate, which I BELIEVE Canada got before the USA.
What are you planning to tow? There is a bit of misinformation as to "Tow Packages", mostly regarding transmission-related options. DON'T assume you're all set simply because the van you're looking at has a hitch and a trailer-light plug. Does the van have an auxiliary transmission cooler? The true "Tow Package" also includes the "Tow/Haul" selector located on the shifter stalk. Selecting this feature when driving will delay some of the upshifts as well as downshift a bit sooner to keep the trans from hunting or seeking up and down, especially with the 3-4 shift. There's a lot more to it but that's a "Reader's Digest" version.
As far as I know, ALL 03-05 vans got the 6-lug wheels and rear disc upgrade.
As for common rust areas...you're looking at 15-18 yr old vehicles here. Unless you find a 25,000km garage queen, there will be rust somewhere. I would look particularly in/around the wheelhouses, front rad support, rear chassis, and of course the outer body. Pretty much the same as any other vehicle that age.
Whereabouts are you in Canada? I'm in central Manitoba, rust isn't as bad here as it is in the East (Ask "The Drummer"). West Coast vans tend to have spent less time on heavily-salted roads and are usually better preserved. Much like the U.S.
Happy Hunting, and welcome to the forum!
-M!ke-


Good tow know that all the US information is basically the same as the Canadian market. I'm used to imports and I guess that's where the major variances come in for the US and Canadian market vehicles.

Tell me moar about the tow package. That's more important to me than the 03+ brakes. I can always bolt the bigger brakes on later.

From my quick skimming I did assume it was just a transmission oil cooler and hitch, good to know there's more to it.

Anyone have pictures of the factory oil cooler and Tow/Haul selector switch? So I know what to look for when vetting vans over internet pictures and seeing them in person.

I went to go look at an Astro yesterday, have got the general gist of how these things rust. Seems rear rockers are the first to go, then the rear quarters. Unfortunately I am in Toronto, it's hard to find clean older vehicles, but not impossible. I would fly out of province for a clean one and drive it back, or maybe even ride out on my bike and drive it back. Looking for a long term keeper vehicle. I am usually very patient when it comes to vehicle hunting, but I am sort of looking for something ASAP at the same time, it's an annoying pickle to be in. I have a lot of "moving" to do in the coming weeks, and don't feel like giving U-Haul all my money.

I'm not 100% set on a second gen, is there any great advantage to the second gen for towing than the first gens? Other than the 03+ front brakes? Was there really any major changes to the chassis between each generation?

I plan to carry my motorcycles in the back when necessary, and tow small cargo trailers. Will also be towing small Japanese imports such as my Miata (think Civics, Integras, etc.) on a single car trailer when necessary. Not a dedicated tow vehicle, but do want to be able to tow when necessary. The 5000lb tow capacity is plenty adequate for my use. Basically for track use, major break downs, moving furniture, etc. My daily driver is a Miata, an Astro will compliment it nicely.

sixsix wrote:
iLikeToAstroSafari wrote:Any reason to get an Astro over a Safari? Or Vice-Versa?


Like M!ke said... Astros are better


I have to agree, I plan to pretend my van is a spaceship, Safari just doesn't seem appropriate.

augidog wrote:Good morning and welcome. The link in my signature may help you answer model year questions as you shop for your van. The annual "ordering guides" describe standard and optional equipment, with codes, in detail.


Thank you very much, that is an overwhelming amount of information! Downloaded them all in case those links die in the future. Now have many hours of fund reading to do! (not being sarcastic, I enjoy this crap)

Can I bolt on dutch doors to a regular rear door'd van's unibody? I will occasionally find a nice one to go look at and then see it doesn't have the dutch doors, I really want them doors...
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Re: Canadian Buying Advice: Astro/Safari

Postby Leeann_93 » May 8th 2020, 12:30am

Factory oil cooler and trans cooler are built into the radiator; oil cooler in the driver's side tank and trans cooler in the passenger side tank. There's nothing to see except an in and out line on each side. Someone might have added an additional trans cooler, but it's not factory. Factory trailer wiring, if not run out of the vehicle and attached to a plug, is wrapped up in grey tape and shoved under the jack in the passenger rear jack compartment.

Tow/Haul selector switch is a button on the end of the gearshift and it says Tow/Haul in white on the gearshift.


The '03 - '05 "Gen III" vans have dual-piston front calipers and single-piston rear calipers.

I've never had any trouble towing with my '02, single-piston front and drum rear, no matter the load. If installed and maintained properly, there's essentially no difference. I towed my '05 Jeep Liberty 4x4 from MI to MD with my '02; 4200 lbs of Jeep on 2100 lbs of Uhaul car trailer down the OH and PA Tpkes onto I-70 in MD, with pretty good mountains to climb and descend the entire way. I did put a severe duty fan clutch and new Goodyear Gatorback belt and tensioner, along with Monroe load-leveling shocks on the rear, on the '02 before I went, kept it out of overdrive (D=Overdrive, 3=Drive) and used the Tow/Haul button. I didn't wind it up on the hills, either.
'05 Astro AWD vin X
'02 Astro LS AWD vin X
'00 Astro LS AWD - WIP
'99 Safari XLE AWD - broke
'93 AWD EXT vin W - real broke
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Re: Canadian Buying Advice: Astro/Safari

Postby sixsix » May 8th 2020, 2:59am

iLikeToAstroSafari wrote:My daily driver is a Miata ...

Oh...
.

Well, after all... what would Banacek say ?... “Everything needs to change except the asshole culture and stupid way of life of the avg. antifa, BLM follower - slobs, cowards, killers w/o any thought that they, IN FACT, are now the Racists.”

.
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Re: Canadian Buying Advice: Astro/Safari

Postby Rod's Trucks » May 8th 2020, 3:20am

"Can I bolt on dutch doors to a regular rear door'd van's unibody? I will occasionally find a nice one to go look at and then see it doesn't have the dutch doors, I really want them doors..."

There has been some discussion about folks trying it, but I have not seen a successful completion.
Installing the hinges for the upper hatch, in the right place could be a significant issue. I have never looked in a barn door body, to see if the mounts are there in all the bodies. Getting the hinge pins out is a bit tricky, from what I've seen in print, and some have even made 'special' tools for the task.
Do a search on Dutch Door conversion, and see what comes up.

Good Luck
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Re: Canadian Buying Advice: Astro/Safari

Postby MechBob » May 8th 2020, 4:45am

Good stuff, but good people here. As far as "bolting on doors", nope, requires metalwork and fabrication. As far as "towing package",astros are very weak.You do not get "enhanced shocks, suspension or steering", like a truck.You get a wiring harness added on, in the spare tire compartment(most hitches were dealer installed, at an xtra price), some years had an xtra trans cooler, but was just a pipe/tube cooler, like the P/S cooler, BUT, the most important thing, came with 3.73 gears. After all, is only a 6 cylinder. All wheel disc brakes are very nice, unless you ever have to install snow chains, you cannot without doing damage.(usually)
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Re: Canadian Buying Advice: Astro/Safari

Postby sixsix » May 8th 2020, 9:40pm

MechBob wrote:... but
... (usually)


haha
.

Well, after all... what would Banacek say ?... “Everything needs to change except the asshole culture and stupid way of life of the avg. antifa, BLM follower - slobs, cowards, killers w/o any thought that they, IN FACT, are now the Racists.”

.
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Re: Canadian Buying Advice: Astro/Safari

Postby AstroWill » May 9th 2020, 4:51am

iLikeToAstroSafari wrote:I just want to be sure all the info I'm reading regarding model year changes also applies to the Canadian market. I am a car enthusiast and we often have slightly different specs, model year changes, etc. in Canada.

Basically all the same, except the DRLs and the baby car seat latches a little sooner.

iLikeToAstroSafari wrote:Did all 2003+ recieve the tow package or was it still optional?

The 'tow' package is putting on a hitch and installing a connector on the wires that already exist in the tire jack area.

iLikeToAstroSafari wrote:Any reason to get an Astro over a Safari? Or Vice-Versa?

Some GMCs seem to have been painted better than their Chevy counterpart, but that could just be the way the owners treated them as well.

iLikeToAstroSafari wrote:Can I bolt on dutch doors to a regular rear door'd van's unibody? I will occasionally find a nice one to go look at and then see it doesn't have the dutch doors, I really want them doors...

Not a simple bolt on to change, but it could be done. I would wait and purchase exactly what you want, because it's not easy/cheap to change over.
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Re: Canadian Buying Advice: Astro/Safari

Postby iLikeToAstroSafari [OP] » May 22nd 2020, 2:52pm

Sorry been slacking in this thread. After seeing some very very horrible vans I jumped on this one.

1998 Astro LT AWD! The badges are not just for show. :)

OKAY for an Ontario vehicle, I'm scared to pull off the rocker cladding but the pinch rails are good. I don't mind doing rockers if that's all she needs rust wise. Front subframe support is solid. Worst case, I have a doner AWD drivetrain for when I find a mint one (long term manual transmission AWD swap project). One can dream.

Not my usual standard of "clean" or "mint", but I needed a van now, and didn't want to give U-Haul my money.

Am usually a very patient vehicle shopper, and hate that I had to buy in haste.

More pics to come. See the fun I'm already having over here:
https://www.astrosafari.com/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=142538

Image
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