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2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

A forum for discussing issues relating to trailers and towing MacGregor sailboats.

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2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby vitger » Thu Jul 26, 2012 4:05 pm

I have recently towed my 26X (1890 kg with trailer) with my 2001 GMC Safari van 4WD (4400 LBS towing capacity) to Vancouver over the Coquihalla pass (which has some pretty steep spots) where I got a bit lost in a very steep subdivision of Van city driving in low gear for quite a long time up and down hill. After this I noticed the van not running as smoothly as it used to... fine trembling especially at low RPMs and when the engine is cold. Being not mechanically inclined, could I have blown a gasket or is it a cooling system/ transmission problem or something else? I also noted the temp gauge climbing quite a bit on the steep uphills, I actually turned the heat on to cool the engine. Also found some water leak around the right front wheel and the coolant level a bit low :o :? , which I have replaced. I m planning to repeat this trip in about a month. Shall I take it to a mechanic beforehand?
Thanks for your input!
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Re: 2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby Divecoz » Thu Jul 26, 2012 4:10 pm

Take it to a Mechanic.. There is an issue.. Dont let small issues become MAJOR $$$$ ISSUES!
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Re: 2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby kevinnem » Thu Jul 26, 2012 4:37 pm

Can't help you too much, but some things I would consider.

1) add a trasnmission cooler. They are super cheap - I got mine for 80 canadian, and that was one of the larger ones. PM me and I can give a few tips on installing it. It is an easy install.

2) you can, as I am sure you are aware, use a lower gear to make your truck act as a engine brake. I would do this with causing - some say it is a bad thing to do - in either case, I would not use it agressively - only lightly if you do it (I do).

3) I think turning the heat on was the right thing to do. being uncomfortable is better then being broken.

4) TAKE YOUR TIME! if your over heating. (either up hill engine - or downhill brakes) pull over and take 5, you will wish you had if you ever brake down. if y our dealing with steep hills, you might want to ensure that you brakes on the trailer are working as intended.
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Re: 2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby Azzarac » Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:09 pm

Your best bet is to take it to a qualified shop. You really can't diagnose an engine problem without getting your hands on it. The vehicle is old enough that there is a good bet your coolant leak is from the intake manifold gasket. They are notorious for failing. If you got it hot enough it is possible the head gasket or other cooling system part has failed. If you have the plastic by-pass tubes on your engine give them a good look also. Have it pressure tested. The onboard computer will "learn" as your driving and may be the issue with your rough idle. In a week or two of normal driving it should "forget" the mountain experience and go back to idling smoothly. If it doesn't you most likely have an ignition problem (i.e. sparkplugs, coil(s), wires) that would require a tuneup.

Good luck and fair winds!
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Re: 2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby NiceAft » Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:36 pm

When all problems are rectified, be sure to put in that transmission cooler. Also, if you have overdrive, be certain to not use it while towing.. The shifting of gears will happen more often with it engaged, and that will make the transmission hotter.

Ray
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Re: 2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby vitger » Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:42 pm

Thanks for all your input. I think the coolant leak due to blown gasket makes the most sense as the coolant got really hot on the first long uphill (before I turned the heat on).
I will take it to a mechanic.

Fair winds and no leaks to you! :P
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Re: 2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby uanhanlouee » Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:43 pm

If it started missing after the run I would take it to a good well known mechanic. You could have burnt a gasket and water could be getting into a cylinder, hence the rough running. If you no fix you pay for new engine.

No matter what overheating up hill means it needs additional cooling. An aftermarket transmission oil cooler and a bigger radiator may be called for. I would definitely increase cooling on both trany and engine if planning to continue trailering with truck. I have a 2500hd which is rated for 12,000# towing and it has never overheated going back and forth on I10 from FL to CA towing all sizes of boats. It has an HD radiator and extra tranny cooling. Make it a point to have the rear axle bellhousing plates removed, magnets inside cleaned of particle and axle gears checked. A new bell gasket and fresh oil will help. Most places suck the oil out the screw and ignore the crap attached to the magnets. I learned that by having to replace a gear inside rear axle bell housing on a van, after towing for 60 k miles and 3 (rear axle services) at a dealership.

Good luck
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Re: 2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby NiceAft » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:02 pm

vitger wrote:Thanks for all your input. I think the coolant leak due to blown gasket makes the most sense as the coolant got really hot on the first long uphill (before I turned the heat on).
I will take it to a mechanic.

Fair winds and no leaks to you! :P


That is all fine, but make certain you look into that transmission cooler, and stay out of overdrive while towing. I don't know if you're Safari has it or not.

Ray
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Re: 2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby RobertB » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:04 pm

The advise on getting this to a good shop is sound. What I would do immediately is go to the local auto parts store and buy an OBDII code reader (the orange Actron testers work fine - you can also get a bluetooth adapter to use a smartphone but these need to be ordered via the web). This will tell you what events are recorded in the engine controller memory. From the shuddering and water leaks and the fact the heater helped, sounds like you definitely lost coolant and that led to overheating. Hopefully, adding coolant solved the problem but I doubt it. The first thing the mechanic should do is a pressure test to find the leak and fix that. He will also read the same codes you can read. He may also need to inspect spark plugs and do a compression test to see if it is an intake or head gasket.

You said you found coolant around the wheel well - this could be as simple as a hole in a hose. How many miles on your van? When did you last change out the cooling hoses? If never, this is a good time to change hoses (all of them) - and even the radiator (aftermarket these can be surprising affordable). Coolant should be drained and replaced every few years. Water pump and thermostat at least every 120,000 miles.

I know this sounds like alot of preventative maintenance but it is really simple and usually inexpensive especially if you do it yourself. An overheated engine can have disasterous effects - I once had a Lincoln Mark VII overheat - the distributer got so hot the gear on it spun and I lost all timing on the engine. If this had been an interference engine where valves and pistons can meet, I could have done really major damage.

Good luck
Last edited by RobertB on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby WASP18 » Thu Jul 26, 2012 11:06 pm

I have a GMC 2003 Savana. Read your owner's manual about coolant while your on the subject of fixing your system. DEX-COOL is the recomended product. You can go 150,000 miles or five years using this coolant. Otherwise, 30,000 miles if you use other brands of coolants. Also, your engine temperature can run higher than 212F degrees without a problem. I think the manual says 265F maximum. The blend of coolant to water is 50/50. The manual says to use "drinking water". :)
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Re: 2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby fishheadbarandgrill » Fri Jul 27, 2012 7:25 am

I'm going to second or third the transmission cooler. Most if not all owners manuals state that if you're going to be doing a lot of towing to add a cooler. And coolers are standard equipment with towing packages. Added on to my old Vovlo 240 wagon years ago to protect the transmission and never had a problem.

Bob
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Re: 2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby Tomfoolery » Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:35 am

fishheadbarandgrill wrote:I'm going to second or third the transmission cooler.

I think you're 5th. Put me down for 6th. Adding a $50 tranny cooler after you've fried a $1000 transmission makes it a $1050 transmission cooler. :?
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Re: 2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby RobertB » Fri Jul 27, 2012 11:00 am

I am all for taking care of a transmission, but the problems with this van were NOT transmission related. We also do not know if his van has a factory towing package in which case he already has an additional cooler.

Tkansler - what do you drive that a transmission is only $1000? I recently repaced my automatic transmission in a Volvo and it was around $3000. I then bought a F-150 :)
Last edited by RobertB on Fri Jul 27, 2012 2:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby vitger » Fri Jul 27, 2012 11:49 am

Just took it to the mechanic. No word form him yet. He said that he thinks a 4WD Safari may have already come with a transmission cooler but he will check. I am almost certain I don't have a towing package, rather a home made hitch only. Will keep you guys posted. Thanks.
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Re: 2001 GMC SAFARI van struggling after long haul

Postby vitger » Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:40 pm

This just in: It was a faulty electronic distributor, causing misfire, rough idle and engine oveheat. The lack of transmission cooler probably also contributed to the engine overheat. Both being rectified today for a meager 700$ plus change... :) :o :(

Thanks for your valuable inputs!
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