2002 Suburban 4x4 "Base Camp"

bald.eagle

Observer
I've lurked/read/posted on ExPo for a few years now, and I've finally decided it's time to start a build thread for my 2002 Suburban (gotta have a build thread for the signature line, right?). I've recently wrestled over the idea of selling the truck and starting with a van build, but have decided to keep the truck since I'm already familiar with it's condition and I have a good idea of what I want out of it. Over the course of the year I will continue to do more upgrades and mods to make it more capable as a "base camp" focused vehicle for my family of 5. The goal is to build this truck to make camping more enjoyable for the wife and kids, while also allowing us to get further off the beaten path than the KOA.

The truck is a 2002 LT 4x4 with near 195K, currently. The list of mods is short for now, but I have a lot planned for the summer. It is lifted 2" with torsion keys and coil spacers. Tires are 285/75 Cooper Discoverer ATP on 16x8 American Racing wheels. I just had these tires swapped over from my stock wheels and the new stance is great- only issue is some minor rubbing on the front air dam while turning, which I will take care of this weekend with some trimming. Turns out my front bumper is tweaked and I just now noticed because of the clearance issue. Part of me wants to chain the front corner of the bumper to see if I can pull it back into alignment- anyone ever done that successfully?

I would like to replace the rear coil and spacer setup with a single coil spring for an additional inch of lift, for 3" overall. As of now the truck sits perfectly level, I want to bring back a slight rake but not near as severe as stock.

Future mods will include:
- rear drawer storage/camp kitchen with an expandable sleeping platform
- a DIY awning and roof rack (80/20 aluminum, possibly?)
- fridge powered by roof rack mounted solar
- roof top tent? awning with room? one huge tent? Need to decide on the best setup for the family.
- on-board air, winch and recovery gear

I have a long list of maintenance items to take care of in the near future- some big, some small. At the top of the list is a suspected head gasket leak which I will address in a month or two when we finish our upcoming move to Virginia. These items will take precedence but my goal is to get the storage/kitchen and awning/roof rack completed by the end of the summer for fall camping.

I'll update this thread as I complete mods, and I'll also note the maintenance/repair items along the way. What good is a vehicle you can't rely on?

Here's some pics to close out this post...

I think the dents, rust, and peeling paint give it character... :sombrero:




Next to a stock height Z71 Tahoe for comparison.
 
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cb69

New member
I will definitely be following your build thread as I am in nearly the same boat (literally and figuratively). I have a 2004 LT 4x4 will slightly more miles. I am close to installing new rear springs, torsion keys and shocks. Keep the updates coming!
 

Burb One

Adventurer
Lookin good and looking forward to your build!

For the front bumper, on each side of the bumper underneath each corner are these what I can best describe as tubular mount arms. Take BFH (big Hammer) and wack them until the bumper is straight. My bumper was tilted forward and that's what I did and it worked!
 

Martinjmpr

Wiffleball Batter
Nice, another one for the GMT800 Suburban Mafia. :sombrero:
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As for springs, I went with Z71 springs in the back which leveled mine out. I would like a bit of a rake since I pull a trailer but I think I'll end up going with air bags. If you haven't changed your shocks you probably should, at 200k I'd bet they're wasted (mine were at 150k.)
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How is your transmission? Mine went out at 149k. Had it rebuilt and it's good as new now.
 

rayra

Expedition Leader
heh that's a Z71 with the torsion bars turned down or worn the hell out. Especially the driver side. Having owned three, I can assure you the normal stance is much more erect. In fact it ought to be much like your vehicle in the side by side picture.

My '02 wasn't quite as bad when I got it, but it was definitely tired. I cranked it up a little bit, before I put the 'leveling' kit in. Then later raised it a bit more and put a 2" spacer in back. The GMT800 Mafia has been talking about all these less-costly options for a while.



After the tweaks -




Anyway, welcome to the club. I've got a topic going with a lot of info on the common mechanical issues for our vehicles, here - http://forum.expeditionportal.com/threads/155266-Hey-Vortec-Guys!-Sierra-pickup-Suburban-Yukon-etc
 
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rayra

Expedition Leader
oh and if your 'suspected head gasket leak' is an untraceable loss of coolant, there's a good bit in my Vortec Guys topic about problematic Castech heads in our vehicles and the factory fix. I've put 3000 hard driven miles on mine since that fix was applied with no further loss of coolant. Stopped the problem dead in its tracks.
 

bald.eagle

Observer
Geronracing, I'll check those supports out this weekend, hopefully I can persuade the bumper back in shape without having to trim anything away.

Martinjumper, how much lift do the Z71 springs give? I'd like 1-2" of lift at the rear in addition to my 2" spacers. I went with cheap Ranchos when I did the lift, I regret cheaping out on shocks. I might replace them down the road. I bought the truck at 140K still on the original transmission, and I haven't had any major issues yet- I did have a shift solenoid stick on me a couple times (hung up when downshifting coming off the highway to a stop, like it was stuck in neutral until I hit the gas and it shifted hard into gear). That was probably 25K miles ago and I haven't had any issues recently. 195K now, I just try and take it easy on the drivetrain in general. Whenever it does come time for a rebuild, I'll add an auxiliary cooler as well.

rayra, I think you're right about the front end of that Z71 seeming squatty. Probably has the torsions cranked down a bit- it did seem to have a more pronounced rake than most. The head gasket is my layman's diagnosis of apparent moisture in the oil- there is yellowish sludge/condensation on the oil cap and my Google Fu says that's a telltale sign of a busted head gasket. I do have a minor loss of coolant over time, but I'm assuming it's going into the heads.

Thanks for the comments folks. I've lurked on many of your builds and have looked to them for a lot of ideas and info. Good to see other folks out there enjoying these trucks too!
 
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Martinjmpr

Wiffleball Batter
Geronracing, I'll check those supports out this weekend, hopefully I can persuade the bumper back in shape without having to trim anything away.

Martinjumper, how much lift do the Z71 springs give? I'd like 1-2" of lift at the rear in addition to my 2" spacers. I went with cheap Ranchos when I did the lift, I regret cheaping out on shocks. I might replace them down the road. I bought the truck at 140K still on the original transmission, and I haven't had any major issues yet- I did have a shift solenoid stick on me a couple times (hung up when downshifting coming off the highway to a stop, like it was stuck in neutral until I hit the gas and it shifted hard into gear). That was probably 25K miles ago and I haven't had any issues recently. 195K now, I just try and take it easy on the drivetrain in general. Whenever it does come time for a rebuild, I'll add an auxiliary cooler as well.

rayra, I think you're right about the front end of that Z71 seeming squatty. Probably has the torsions cranked down a bit- it did seem to have a more pronounced rake than most. The head gasket is my layman's diagnosis of apparent moisture in the oil- there is yellowish sludge/condensation on the oil cap and my Google Fu says that's a telltale sign of a busted head gasket. I do have a minor loss of coolant over time, but I'm assuming it's going into the heads.

Thanks for the comments folks. I've lurked on many of your builds and have looked to them for a lot of ideas and info. Good to see other folks out there enjoying these trucks too!
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Brand new Z71 springs gave me about 2 - 3" over the worn out LT springs. I think if you search you can find my lift thread where I posted the actual measurements taken at the center of the wheel well arch.
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Before lift:
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After rear springs and shocks and front shocks only (couldn't get the keys off to do the front lift):
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Here's a nice side x side comparison of the LT and Z71 springs:
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rayra

Expedition Leader
drbrown I'd immediately check those heads for the 704 Castech markings, drain some coolant to make room and drop those Delco Stop Leak tabs in the overflow tank, fill it with water / coolant and then work your vehicle to full temp without any load on it, then let it cool / ingest the Stop Leak and do a cheap oil change and put it thru another couple heat / cool cycles to get the stop leak where it needs to go. And change the oil before the water in it degrades the lubricity enough to destroy your engine bearings / friction surfaces. And once / if the leak stops, change your oil yet again before you do any heavy driving with it.

Here's where the details begin regarding the stop leak coolant loss fix in our motors - http://forum.expeditionportal.com/threads/155266-Hey-Vortec-Guys!-Sierra-pickup-Suburban-Yukon-etc?p=2151857#post2151857

And I see while looking thru tha ttopic that we were already recently talking there about your plan to rebuild your motor. The Stop Leak is a $5-10 fix that will help you bridge to that rebuild, if you are driving the Suburban much in the interim.
 

bald.eagle

Observer
Appreciate that link, rayra. I'll look into that Stop Leak. I do have to put some more miles on the Suburban this month, I'll have a new vehicle to drive at the end of March but I still have to drive the Suburban from FL to VA when we move. Stop Leak plus a fresh oil change will make me feel more comfortable with doing that. Will be interesting to compare this current batch of oil (about 2,000mi old) to 2,000mi old oil after the Stop Leak.
 

tbisaacs

Adventurer
Welcome! Glad to see another 'burban on Expo. Here's mine. Mostly stock except for 33" Cooper ATPs



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