Any mechanics out there? Looking for some advice on this van! (1 Viewer)

Matt Derrick

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Hey folks! Some of you know I've been in the market for a short bus, but due to lack of reasonably-priced options, I'm also considering doing a custom camper van; either a cargo or passenger van (post 2002 GMC savanah or Chevy express preferred) and completely gutting the insides to do a custom setup like you'd see on /r/vandwellers or whatnot.

I've been mostly looking at chevy express vans, but man they are expensive compared to other vans (usually around 5-6k even with 200k+ on the engine). I know this because of their dependability and they are in high demand as work trucks.

I recently found a 2003 GMC savanah on craigslist here in austin, texas that is a passenger van for only 3k (163k on the engine). Best part is that the transmission has recently been replaced so it seems like it will last a while and would be a good deal. It even has a high top roof!


Now I know this is still a 17 year old vehicle, but it's well within my budget and I can have a mechanic look at it with me, so I might go for it (assuming the mechanic gives it a thumbs up), but I'm hoping there's some folks here that know more about automobiles than i do that can give me any advice or point out any potential red flags?

I've gotten burned on a few vehicles in the past so I'm trying really hard to find something of decent quality and will last a few years of full time living/travel. So to the mechanically inclined out there, what do you think of this vehicle?
 
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Matt Derrick

Matt Derrick

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oh i forgot to mention that the 'needs new gas holes' means that the part that feeds the gas from the outside to the tank has been replaced by a DIY-job that dribbles a little bit of gas:

91246799_248360923008501_7549110647192027136_n-1-jpg.55161


so that's something that would have to be fixed but doesn't seem like a huge deal.
 

Odin

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Oh jeeze I have not owned a vehicle in a while now....

Little groggy this morning but off the top of my head I think when getting privately owned used vehicles one of the best indicators is knowing the VEHICLE OWNER HISTORY!

If it's been owned by a little old lady that only used it for groceries and sunday church with regular oil changes, good sign no?

In general I would think even with lots of miles as long as it was maintained and gently used the vehicle is likely to be a winner.

.... a replaced transmission is nice but also might show it was not used gently?? maybe used for a lot of towing stuff... like a boat or trailer... and thats wear and tear.


Anyway good luck.
 
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Matt Derrick

Matt Derrick

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.... a replaced transmission is nice but also might show it was not used gently?? maybe used for a lot of towing stuff... like a boat or trailer... and thats wear and tear.
i'll check to see if it has a tow hitch and ask the owner about that. thanks!
 
D

Deleted member 13433

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That cat who had that crazy I'm on a T-rex trip.... he was/is a mechanic but I've not seen him here in quite sometime.

Matt, are you talking about the filler tube from where the gas cap is to the gas tank, or is this some kind of emissions related line ??

I hope it's not the main fuel line, because fuel injection runs at higher pressures than old school carburated motors, not too mention the new vehicles which you van is [old to me is pre 1980] have the fuel pumps in the tank.
 

Brodiesel710

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oh i forgot to mention that the 'needs new gas holes' means that the part that feeds the gas from the outside to the tank has been replaced by a DIY-job that dribbles a little bit of gas:

View attachment 55161

so that's something that would have to be fixed but doesn't seem like a huge deal.
It's a weird angle, but I don't think thats the actual gas filler neck/tube, it's the overflow line. Very common leak area, the flex hose looks like something from home depot, not an auto part.
 
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Matt Derrick

Matt Derrick

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Also as much as I was looking forward to your short bus conversion I applaud you having the sense to tailor your wishes to what's available in your budget

~sniffling~
They grow up so fast....
haha you say that while i've been juggling the logistics of buying this bus:


it didn't sell (no bids) so i was considering calling with an offer... seems like it's in insanely good condition but it's gonna be a pain to fly out there and drive it back to texas from maine....
 

Faceplant

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Matt, sounds like you’re now leaning towards a van, but, if you go back to the idea of converting a bus: bear in mind some states make it difficult to get a bus re-registered as an RV type vehicle. Bob, over at CheapRVLiving on youtube, has good info about that. I believe that is why you see some hastily purchased/started conversions abandoned and sold at bargain basement prices by overly enthusiastic people. They did not do their homework.
 
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Matt Derrick

Matt Derrick

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Matt, sounds like you’re now leaning towards a van, but, if you go back to the idea of converting a bus: bear in mind some states make it difficult to get a bus re-registered as an RV type vehicle. Bob, over at CheapRVLiving on youtube, has good info about that. I believe that is why you see some hastily purchased/started conversions abandoned and sold at bargain basement prices by overly enthusiastic people. They did not do their homework.
thanks for the tip, but yeah, i've been through the process of rv insurance for a conversion (i'm a previous bus owner) so i know what hurdles to jump through for that :p

probably still leaning towards the van, the bus might be a bit too rusty underneath given the weather conditions up in maine.
 

Faceplant

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At one time, I REALLY wanted to do a bus conversion, wife made it clear in no uncertain terms that no 40 ‘ bus would ever sit in our driveway while I converted it, over who knows how long a timeframe. I ‘ve got no other place I could work on it. Now, hoping to do a stealth hightop extended cargo van conversion, if I can find a diesel one that I can afford. No Sprinters for me, too expensive to maintain.

Or else I might just do a 12 ‘ box van conversion, I’d want a walk-through, one without roll up door, rather the barn-door version, to save weight. That is a hard one to locate. A 10-12’ box gets you in a standard parking spot.
 

Jackthereaper

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Matt,
Having owned a few vans in my life i have a small list of things to look at yourself if you dont plan on getting a ppi @ a dealership. I recommend doing so, but ignoring the total amount “necessary” to bring the van to perfect because they may have a bunch of nickel and dime stuff you can easily do yourself like cabin air filters etc(seriously, dealerships rape on these services). But its worth the money to have a dealership mechanic make sure all the major stuff is in good condition.

If you look yourself
1. Leaf Springs and perches - ive busted a few in my day and if left for long can wear out bushings in driveshaft / rear of transmission
2. Smell the trans fluid when the van is warm, does it smell burnt? Is it red? Is it cloudy or milky? Cloudy, milky, or burnt are all bad ($2k for revuilt trans plus install)
3. Is there enough oil ? Is it cloudy or smell burnt?
4. Is there much corrosion underneath?
5. Is the exhaust still hung on properly? (Easy enough fix but sometimes the exhausts have been hacked to shit and are wired up on vans that look good otherwise).
6. Drive it around for 10 or 20 mins and get under it and smell the trans and rear end while inspecting them for oil leaks.

Most of my issues on these vans have been leaf spring and trans / rear end problems. And of course they fucking eat batteries(compared to small cars), all big trucks seem to in my experience.

Good luck!
 

ByronMc

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Hey Matt, finally in my short bus, but still not running..... did get the engine to start, to find it has a rod knocking.
Will say, going from the van, to the bus & being finally able to stand up, after all this years of living in a regular size , is absolutely amazing!
The filler tube for the gas tank, should be replaced, and if it’s some diy, I’d think twice about the entire vehicle...
Hope my thoughts give you something to think about.
Btw, why does my profile say “newbie”
 

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