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Mysterious power loss & shutdown of 2003 Suburban

To: Click and Clack

From: Stranded in the Heat on dusty Texas panhandle roads

My name is Sandy Ault and I currently reside 98 miles from the nearest mall. We are retired and own a 2003 Z71 4WD 1500 Suburban which we purchased new. The only modification we made was to replace the air intake filter with a K&N air filtration system. (We’ve done this to all the vehicles we have owned in the past 10 years.) We get the BURB serviced at all the correct intervals, use full synthetic oil and it now has close to 180,000 miles on it. Now, after 3 years of being stranded beside the road on many, many occasion, you guys are my only hope.

All was well with the Burb until our trip to Fairbanks, Alaska to celebrate our retirement. On route it was 110 degrees in Montana. The Burb suddenly lost ALL power and electronics and coasted to a stop. No gages had shown any problems prior to quiting. We turned off the air conditioner and tried a restart. Nothing. We took the key out, locked and unlocked the doors and put the key back in the ignition to maybe reset the on board computer. Nothing. After 10 minutes my husband tried it again and whaaalaaa…the car started right up like nothing was ever wrong. (My non-mechanic husband is one of those old souls that looked on this breakdown as a great opportunity to stretch his legs and watch the wind rustle through the wheat covered plains.) We traveled the rest of the day in sweltering heat with no air conditioner and I could not wait to get the cooler climes. And we never had the problem again until the next summer. (P.S. the Al Can highway was fabulous!)

But the next summer it was in the high 80’s and I was alone pulling a heavily loaded flat bed trailer and the Burb pulled the same trick. I repeated the same procedure as above and 10 minutes later the vehicle started right up and ran another 10 miles and did it again, then ran another 5 miles and did it again. My type A personality cannot find any beauty in wasting so much time, sitting broken down beside the road.

Against my husband’s advice, I took it to our dealership. They ran diagnostics, replaced 2 oxygen sensors and fuel filter, tested the fuel pump and catalytic converters, ran it around in 90 degree weather for 45 minutes and could not make it die. They called Chevy’s tech hot line to see if anyone else had reported this problem. No luck. Charged me over $600 and the Burb still dies the next time we are pulling a trailer. So we try it without turning on the tow package or using cruise control. No help.

Another year passes and we get to summer traveling and get stranded again and again. (My husband says its a good opportunity to take a short nap, look at the scenery… the high mountain desert near Hoover Dam, Flagstaff, Grants, the Continental Divide, the Sandia Pass outside of Albuquerque, etc.)

So I enlist my son to go with me to the dealership where we bought it. They run diagnostics and again find nothing. I say it must be the computer then and insist they replace it. The dealer tells me since the car had 150,000 miles on it, it would not hurt to change the on-board computer. But it did hurt to the tune of $500 plus labor and because they kept the Burb 3 days, I had to rent a car. Alas, a new computer did not cure a thing…we still get stranded. But wait…we now have added a new step to the procedure and that is to disconnect the battery cable for the 10 minute wait to hard reset the computer.

Even this fall when we were hauling a big load of building supplies and the outside temp was in the low 70’s the Burb stranded us 3 times coming the 98 miles home. (Being stalled downwind from a feedlot did darken my husband’s rosy outlook somewhat…heh…heh!)

This is the third Burb we have owned and it perfectly suits our need for hauling supplies…living so far in the country. Please help us solve this mystery. We listen to your radio show and are hoping you can give us a solution. Give me a call at 361-815-8247 or email me at


Mighty close to becoming a landmark on the road between Amarillo and Briscoe.

Are you satisfied that all the inital,easy,first things to check have been done and done correctly? Are you sure your vehicle belongs in the “we just can’t find the problem” catagory?

If I was dispatched your vehicle and told to “fix it” I would start at the very beginning and not accept anyone elses conclusions about systems checking out good or bad.

You need fresh uncorupted eyes on your “Burb” to get to the bottom of this.

On the money side, you would have to pay me by the hour to work on your Burb,this is not one to “flat rate”.

How could you feel comfortable taking long trips in this Burb? This situation has been going on to long.

I was stuck in traffic (on 40)near where you speak of,I thought the dog had a "accident’ in the truck,then I looked at the “scenery”