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Downsizing to a 2003 3/4 Suburban




This blog will start as a story of how I use to have many jobs but life was passing me by as I was on a constant spiral down from any life whatsoever. Including missing my family and friends it just lost its appeal.  My thought process was work as much as I can while I can because you never know when you just can't anymore.  Well that was nice but all you do is spend more money instead of save the extra money or try to get ahead by possibly paying off the monster debt.  Not me, I apparently have a burning hole in my pocket when I put a dollar in it.  Lot changes with your perspective when you go down to one job, one source of income.

Sooo, the hunt began to try and find ways to save money which started with moving away from Chase Bank which kept increasing interest rate on my credit card even though my credit score was in the high 700's and sometimes would hit 800 something.  Also odd since I've been with the bank forever but I'm learning slowly that I'm more of a credit union kind of guy so I moved 99% of my finances to a Credit Union where there credit card is only 5.9% and they are willing to give me great loan rates.  What?  And they are more than helpful.  I have tried this before but really really didn't like the web/app interface and since we do most of our banking online, it was rough. Chase has a great app and web interface but seriously there rates are way too high and no loyalty to customers that give them our money to hold onto.  So two words for ya Chase, "See ya"!

Now finances moved over to a credit union, a little bit of savings is already working in my favor (wow was I paying a ton in interest with my chase card).  My next big expense is the house, gotta have that and no sense of changing the house payment since interest rates haven't really gone down and I really don't want to start over with closing fee's, reset the 30 year fix mortgage count down back to 30 years..  its okay.  Next would be my RAM truck payment which is no more than $700/month.  I had a 2013 RAM and loved it but it started to rust (which is pretty common in Michigan) but I couldn't take it so with less than a year to pay it off I bought a 2018 RAM 2500 Limited (so fully loaded).  I never really loved the truck but thought I would eventually.  Now its been two years and it tows just as good as my 2013 with that cummins diesel purring but way too many electronics for this guy. Its time to find something else that can tow our 10,500lb RV trailer and occasionally my car hauler trailer and even sometimes my excavator trailer but most often my 25' enclosed car hauler trailer that holds our ATVs and SxS.  I just don't like anything anyone builds today.  It feels and drives like garbage so went to google and started searching for tow vehicles and what is everyone most happiest with and just about every website kept popping up Suburbans with the 8.1L.  Similar torque and horsepower as the Duramax Diesel with a few mpg less in the 8.1L for fuel econonomy but let's be real, Unleaded will always be cheaper than diesel and every mechanic can work on a gasoline engine and probably has the parts at a local store but not the same could be said about a diesel.  Good luck going to anyone but a dealer to work on it, fuel is more expensive probably 90% of the time and repairs are monstorus.  Let's also not forget you have to put cow pee in called DEF unless you delete DEF from your truck but you'll loose any warranty.  So the negative to an 8.1L is crappy fuel economy and that's it.

So I began my search for what year(s) are the best Suburbans and they kept coming back to the 2000-2006 years.  With the 8.1L you can pull 12,500lbs (DANG!).  Sometimes you are lucky and get the Alison Transmission but most of the time you'll end up with the heavy duty 4L80e transmission.

I found a super clean 2003 in California at Affordable Imports Auto Sales so tomorrow I'm flying out of Detroit Metro International Airport and landing in LAX around 10:20am tomorrow and catching a Lyft down to Murrieta to pick up my new/used Suburban.


I will keep adding to this blog as the trip progresses



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It’s Friday morning, got up at 4:50am and took my shower, got dressed and my airport Shuttle was in the driveway right on time at 5:30 and now we are in route to the Detroit Metro Airport.

did I forget anything? Sure feels like it

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Landing now in LAX


now to get off the plane and get a Lyft ride to the dealership.

i believe I might be in trouble. It was a little more than a 5 hour flight and felt like it took forever.  Doesn’t bode well for a 3000 mile drive home Monday.

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got my Lyft. Let me tell ya, it’s kinda difficult at LAX. The all just tells you to go to zone 5,6,7 but no idea where that is. You see advertisements everywhere for Uber but I don’t like Uber. Eventually you discover you have to walk to terminal 1 and there is a place called LAXit which is where all the ride share vehicles are.

my Lyft driver ya your standard Toyota Sedan, clean but was out of gas so first stop is gas station.  He wasn’t too thrilled about the long 2 hour drove he has to do for my destination but it’s not like he’s doing it for free. It’s costing $130 plus a tip if he would stop talking since I don’t know what he’s saying.

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Whoops, got caught up with everything since I've been back.

Left early early on December 9th for the trip back home.  I didn't have a full tank of fuel when I left (not a great plan) but figured I'd have plenty of stops on the way home to refill.  I made it all the way to Las Vegas, NV before I was out of gas.  Don't get far with 12-13mpg but the 40gal tank does help.  TA pump shut off at $75 so had to reinsert card to put the remaining $14 worth in to completely top the tank off (note to self, fill up at 1/4 tank).

Continuing on through Utah, WOW is this a beautiful state.  Cattle are roaming free between the mountain ranges, snow on top of the mountains but dang is it cold.  Looks like ranchers use personal helicopters to watch their stock since so much land to cover.  Really cool.  Filled up Parowan, UT

around 7:10pm I made to Fruita, CO and topped the tank off (22gal) as I head into the mountains.

Now things are UGLY.  Apparently California uses water for washer fluid which doesn't help when you are in the Colorado Mountains and its 11 degrees out.  Water in the tank is frozen solid which means I am unable to clean my windshield.  I tried pouring some of my bottle of water on the window but it froze immediately (except what came in on me as I was pouring).  No where to pull over (not that would do any good), the roads were complete ice.  I'm trying to drive behind trucks thinking the spray from tires would help me clean my windshield (NOPE).  I pulled off in Frisco, CO and found a gas station with windshield washer fluid rated for freezing temps.  I put some in my washer tank (of course its too late since the bottle is a block of ice) but now I have something to pour on my windshield while driving which means also pouring on me.  I imagine I almost died several times still but the suburban didn't awesome with Auto 4x4 enabled and my head out the window I made it safely out of the mountains to the first hotel around midnight at the bottom (candlewood Suites in Golden, CO) for the night.  Definitely got some miles done on my first day

Up and rocking day 2 of my trip I wanted coffee especially since it was just a short distance before it was kinda boring scenary.  Lots and lots of cows but not like it was in utah where they are all roaming around. Colorado cows are all crammed in a tiny area. (note to self, buy my beef from utah).  First stop was in Palestine, AR at 9:25am where I noticed a bunch of 4x4 trucks all coated in mud... oh wait thats not mud...  it smells like..  crap!  Ewww!

Around noon I stopped again in North Platte, NE for a quick bite to eat but dang is it cold.  no way that washer fluid is going to defrost.  Next time, take a southern route.

I quickly found I hate Nebraska.  I got pulled over and my suburban got strip searched.  Carpets pulled up, door seals removed, tires getting hit and sound with a stethoscope, it was crazy.  They were looking for drugs.. apparently if you have California plates and going through Nebraska.. watch out.  All in honesty they were concerned about the Temp California Plate.  The officer was polite but when another officer showed up to assist I was worried they were going to try and plant something.  They let me go and I continued on but oh no, not done. Before I left nebraska another officer turned around and came up on me and I was just waiting for it but he kept going after a minute.  Hoping he saw the suburban was already violated once with an earlier strip search.

around 10:20pm I said to the hell with fast food, I want real food so I pulled over at a Texas Roadhouse in Davenport, IA and had a nice cold beer and some steak. Ahhh, I needed that and then headed over to Staybridge Suites in Davenport and called it a night.  It was snowing so the parking lot was covered.  I was carrying my bags and as I was walking getting within 10 feet of the door, I lifted my right leg to place it on the side walk and my left leg hit ice and I was trying to catch myself my running as fast as I can to get my legs under me to only tackle an air conditioner into the side of the hotel wall.  Just some scraps, bruises and minor blood from where my head hit the brick wall (had to leave my mark in case any questions on who's next in line to owning that hotel).

5:35am on the 11th I was on the road but by 6:34am I decided I needed coffee and some asprin. Pulled into a BP in Geneseo, IL and topped off the tank and picked up some coffee and a bottle of water.  Still snowing pretty good but the suburban doesn't even know it besides the lack of washer fluid working.

1:13pm I was home after a short 2404 mile trip from California.  if the washer bottle didn't freeze, it would of been a nice trip.  I would do it again but with Michigan plates.

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Secretary of State (DMV) at 2:32pm on the 11th (day I drove in) to get that Michigan plate started.  Just in case I go through Nebraska again.

December 16th I picked up the suburban after getting all the standard maintenance for 150,000 miles since not sure what the previous owner did.  I wanted any recalls addressed and have GM look it over.  Yea, that cost me $4600 which didn't include an oil change but I did put Mobile 1 in it a few days later for $82.

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Replaced the headlamps and driving lights and fog lights (fog lights were broken.. I guess common with these) and the driving and headlamps were so faded I could barley get any light out of them.  I got GM OEM stuff too (besides fog lights) which the headlamps came with bulbs (cool) but driving lights didn't so I picked up some LED driving lights, turn signals and side marker lights.  All work with hazards.. no problems but then turn signal I get hyperflash happening since LEDs don't draw the power that standard bulbs do which is why the socket is totally burned.  So ordered a new flash relay from diode dynamics and we'll see if that helps the issue.  My concern is will the new relay break my turn signals when I hook up a trailer since the trailer doesn't have LED's.   I guess one way to find out.

Here is a picture showing the new headlamps installed but old driving lights with passenger new fog light and drivers side is the old fog light (for comparison sake)



This is what happens with the socket with the conventional bulb.  BIG reason why I moved over to LED. The conventional bulb just draws too much power for these GM sockets.



Here its pretty easy to see the difference between the 16 year old driving light on the bottom vs brand new GM OEM driving light on top.



This happens all the time. The bulb gets so hot that it burns off the orange/amber colored paint where you don't really have a turn signal anymore...  yank that out and put in LED amber bulb.


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Switched back from the LED amber bulbs since I got the fast flash because the amount of current is too much.  In short the LED doesn't require that much current but the suburban doesn't know better so it flashes like crazy.  I looked at fixes and they were all way more work than its worth so just switched back to regular amber bulbs and all is good.

Left the LED bulbs in my license plate lights, driving lights and those are working great.  Still would like to replace the taillight and brake bulbs to LED.  Just have to do it.

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Vortec 8.1: Engine Basics

The Vortec 8100 is rather obviously an 8.1L V8. It was designed as a diesel alternative in the GM pickup truck line-up. The Vortec 8100 borrowed much of its design from the 454ci big block we all know and love. The main difference between the 8100 and big blocks of old is the increased stroke. This is what increased the displacement to an impressive 8.1 liters.


You might be wondering, why isn’t this massive engine used in a performance application? The Chevy LS is super popular so why isn’t this engine? Well, there are quite a few things holding the Vortec 8100 back from ever becoming popular:

  1. Iron block and heads, total engine weight is over 750 lbs.
  2. Older big block parts don’t fit on the Vortec 8100.
  3. Chevy LS parts don’t fit on the Vortec 8100.
  4. Limited production makes them harder to find than an LS.

Vortec 8.1: Performance Data

This part gets a little interesting. If the Vortec 8100 is supposed to be an alternative to the Duramax engine, then it must create lots of torque. Torque at low RPM is one of the single most important factors of a heavy-duty engine. So, how does the Vortec 8100 do? For this, we’ll look at the performance data for the GM truck applications.

Vortec 8.1:
330 horsepower @ 4,200 RPM
450 lb-ft @ 3,200 RPM

LB7 Duramax:
300 horsepower @ 3,100 RPM
520 lb-ft @ 1,800 RPM

Raylar Engineering makes a bunch of really cool parts to wake your Vortec 8100 up, but is it worth it? If you’re just towing their towing camshaft ($987) and the 511 stroker kit stage 1 ($8350) will be a killer combo for you

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I have 133,000 miles on my 2003 suburban and I can't even make it to an oil change before Check Oil Level is being displayed on my cluster.  Changing intake manifold gasket, intake bolts and found oil cooler lines with the tiniest of leaks.  While working on the suburban, installed tow mirrors I picked up from BoostAuto.


Researching oil consumption on an 8.1L I have found a lot of articles that all point to:


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do i get a rebuild on the 4l80 trans and possibly add HPtune or Black Bear tune??  Looks like HPtune may run me around $700 and there software doesn't support mac. :(

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SOLD Suburban to a very nice family which was very excited to acquire such a fine ride.  I had to sell it when after my attempt at pulling our RV Trailer.  Its just too big and heavy for the Suburban.

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