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LAST RITES: Our Suburban is Dying

Just after I change out the oil cooler line, change the filter, top off the transmission, transfer case, and rear differential- the transmission creaks, groans, screams, and we lose all our lower gears.

It drives, parks, goes into reverse, and shifts fine- but the days are numbered.

I started calling around trying to find a shop to repair the transmission and Wyoming is big and EMPTY! No double A MCO nearby. The next town over about 30 minutes has a shop that could repair the tranmission to the tune of $3,000! YIKES!

That’s more than we spent on the car to begin with and it about doubles the repair money we’ve invested in the car. The transmission is one of the few things I CAN’T fix. Even if I had one to swap, I don’t have the tools or manpower to remove the old one and install the new one.

Apparently, the 4L80E GMC transmission is hard to find. The closest we could find was a rebuilt transmission shipped from Montana! Even if there was one right here in town, the installation cost would be about $1,000 and the transmission is running about $1,500.

It’s a no win situation. We’re going to have to liquidate the Suburban for salvage. To make matters more complicated, we work Saturday and hit the road for the next show Monday morning at the latest.

It’s a bummer, but we decided that the Suburban has outlived it’s usefulness for us. It’s not doing the job we thought it could pulling the trailer and no point having TWO fuel guzzlers if they are not needed. But I was hoping to get it to Tucson, make some repairs and clean it up and then sell it to recoup some cash.

Now, at best, I think we can get about $1,500 for it because the engine is running strong.

We’re not in a place, financially, where we can run out and trade the suburban in for some other vehicle. Besides, I would rather have the cash and save on the fuel for the rest of the season than no cash and two cars to feed.

I really like a diesel, but we’ve found the fuel cost over gasoline is sometimes staggering. Twenty cents per gallon difference is not uncommon.

The Suburban served it’s purpose. It kept us safe three times across country and a handful of times south of the border to San Carlos. It’s hauled all our worldly possession in our trailer and made it possible for me to start our donut business by being big enough to carry everything in the back of the suburban until we got the trailer.

Now, with the motorhome, I think we’ll take an opposite tack. Get something small with great gas mileage. A small SUV, (cringe) minivan, or station wagon is what Hil would like. I would prefer the SUV or quad cab truck so we can still pull the trailer. It’s a shame they don’t make small diesel SUV’s, I would consider it.

We’ll see. One problem at a time. First on the list- get rid of the hobbled mule!

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3 comments to LAST RITES: Our Suburban is Dying

  • Damon

    For your sanity, it’s not a minivan, it’s a “crossover”.

  • Johnny

    I don’t know why everyone hates minivans. You should love one. Society says they are “soccer mom” vehicles. You can prove them wrong that minivans are cool.

    Who gives a crap about cool anyway when you’re living off the grid such as yourself?

  • big cheese

    Hi Johhny,

    I admit to be blinded by the stereotypical image of a suburban housewife dragging a gaggle of kids to soccer practice in a well worn minivan that is filled with cheereo’s and juice box containers but there’s two practical aspects of why a minivan wouldn’t work for us.

    One, it can’t tow a 3,000 lb trailer. So it wouldn’t help us out during the summer months as we travel with the food booth. My wife prefers that we travel together because she doesn’t like driving the motorhome and it’s a lot of work driving with the two kids crying and complaining alone.

    Two, for our travels down to Mexico, a four wheel drive has proven indispensable. I really prefer a diesel for the reliability (not that it helped with our transmission on the diesel Suburban), although I’m about to give that up for awhile. The price delta between Gas and Diesel on the road is significant enough for us with all the miles that we could save several hundred in the summer.

    Other than that, we had the use of one in Grand Lake it was very convenient to get the kids in and out with two side doors and Hil liked the fact that she didn’t have to lift the baby up into a car seat. Of course, we can’t afford a newer mini van with all the bells and whistles anyways.