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Suburban w/ 175K--how long will it last?

Hello all–

I have a 2003 half ton Suburban, which I bought new and still runs great. No leaks, no elevated oil use etc. etc. I have been meticulous on the maintenance, and have replaced stuff that has worn out like front hubs etc. It has the orig. trans and starter, just replaced the alternator.

I’m wondering how long this thing will last? I sometimes feel like I should get on an aircraft-like maint. sched. and just start replacing parts even if they aren’t broke…

Anyone have any guidance? Thanks

How long do you want it to last?

The Suburban is easy to fix and the parts not too expensive. Those are key items, since on many imports, for instance at some stage a key item, like the transmission goes and it totals the car.

There is no need for aircraft type maintenance, since a failure will not mean you are in danger of dying. Just follow the maintenance schedules and do some additonal things recommended here.

We have many posters who have driven their Detroit Iron vehicle well over 400,000 miles and as long a 25 years. You can do the same with your Suburban, provided you don’t live in the Rust Belt aound the Great Lakes or the North East. In that case, 300,000 miles is the best you can hope for before rust makes it unsafe and unsightly.

My experience with 2 GM full size cars (Impala and Caprice) indicated that you can pretty well keep replacing parts, as they break, economically, and the car will just go on. I kept the Caprice for 19 years and the 1984 Impala was in the family from 1983 till 2004. My son sold it to an apprentice mechanic who is still driving it.

Some PROACTIVE things you can do, that are not in the owner’s manual:

  1. Change oil and filter every 3000 miles in city and 5000 miles in highway driving.

  2. Flush the cooling system every 4 years or 40,000 miles, and fill with fresh anti-freeze

  3. Change the transmission fluid and filter every 4 years or 40,000 miles

  4. Change the brake fluid at every brake job or 40,000 miles

  5. If you live in a very cold area, use a block heater in the winter; it will extend engine life.

The manufacturer basically sells “low maintenance”, not long car life.

With regular maintenance, any vehicle can last indefinitely. As long as you are willing to replace worn parts, and replace them before they lead to major failures, there is no reason that your Suburban should not provide continued service. The problem comes when an owner puts off maintenance until there is a catastrophic failure, e.g. having the transmission serviced regularly with a new filter and fluid vs. waiting until the transmission fails.

Just continue what you’re doing and only replace something if it actually needs to be replaced.

My wife’s 3 brothers are all in the masonry business and use GM/Chevy trucks (have for decades) and those trucks all see around 300-350k miles before they get replaced. And considering the use and abuse the trucks receive, that should speak volumes about how well they hold up.

There’s a few things that could be headed off at the pass; say a fuel pump if that has not ever been done. Something like that is better of changed in advance rather than wait until it leaves you on the side of the road.

Docnick and WinkTimber
thanks for your insights…
I do indeed live in the rustbelt, so that is certainly a consideration. Not much rust visible now but underneath around the hitch etc is getting kind of rusty.
I have been rigorous on my maint. sched. and have done just about everyhing Docnick mentions from day one.
My main concern is the trans…I’ve heard some people with these trucks say they went at 30k and others say they last indef. The only reason I would consider the aircraft style maint. plan is that this is my work truck as well as personal vehicle, so if it strands me workwise I might as well be in danger of dying…Is it possible for an expert to judge the condition of the trans. or other parts to get an idea of their lifespan?
Certainly you can keep replacing parts as they go…at a certain point tho I wonder about how cost effective it is…up till now I have used the bench mark of the monthly payment when I was paying for the truck X 12. Yearly Maint. costs have not reached that (fairly substantial) amount but they’re getting there…

yes good suggestion. Actually did that, was having some “fuel pump like” issues, which were intermittent so went ahead and replaced it not too long ago…

Aircraft maintenance is based on a motor failure in flight is a receipe for disaster. A failure in a car can be inconvienient but is not in the same league as an airplane motor conking out on you. If you need 100% reliability and can’t afford downtime due to business considerations getting new vehicles is more practical than replacing parts before they fail.

Suburbans last a long time and 175K miles on one you’ve owned since day 1 and maintained isn’t nearly ready for the crusher. Have your compression checked to get some idea how your cylinders are holding up. If you start burning oil you might get a motor rebuild or a new short block and go another 200K miles.

You can expect the transmission to fail someday, the radiator to spring a leak, and lots of other stuff could happen. You might as well see what breaks and fix it when it does. As long as the body is tight and you can afford gas you can keep it on the road. This is a truck basically and it was made to hold up to truck type use. Most Sububans are not beat up that much and hold up very well.

The biggest indicator on how long a vehicle will last is how well it’s running NOW. If the vehicle is running well now then it will probably last a lot longer then a car that isn’t running well now.

I agree with the others, no need to start replacing stuff ‘just in case’, you run a big risk of getting a less-than-perfect replacement that fails early, or of the ‘repair’ actually causing problems. The tranny is the big uncertainty, like you said, but you may have one that’ll go the distance, and there’s a big risk of the above 2 problems if you swap it out now. Just start saving up for either the big $$ repair, or (more likely) the down payment on a new one if a major problem crops up.

I have 2011 suburban. Bought this car in 2012 when had only 75k miles, now has over 405k miles and still runs great. But I did change the transmission when had only 180 k miles and I blame to previous owner. And had to change the lifter on engine. I think could driver this car for another 100k miles. Mid and big engine size Chevy are great and last long. That much mileage on your chevy should not be issue as long as take good care of your car.

I get that Suburbans can last a long time… Mine has about 295,000 miles and since we don’t live anywhere rusty it still looks great, runs great… But, when do you quit taking it on out-of-state road trips? My husband isn’t a pie-in-the-sky optimist about everything, but he keeps thinking we can drive this Suburban to a cold-weather (November) collegiate soccer tournament that has so far been held each year in South Dakota, even though his dumb work schedule usually means we are driving through the night AND the shortest driving distance between here and there manages to include hundreds of miles of remote state highway driving rather than interstate highway, where other people are also driving. Worst case scenario: conks out hundreds of miles from the nearest town with a mechanic, at 2 a.m. on a freezing night. I realize that this might seem impossible in this day and age, but there are parts of Wyoming and South Dakota like that! Am I being an unreasonable worrier to think that this is a bad plan and that his optimism is inspired by a desire to avoid squashing his 6’4" body into our Mazda 3 for this twenty-hour-round-roadtrip?

Why not just rent something for the trip. If it breaks you just call an 800 number and they will bring you a replacement.

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I have an o3 Trailblazer, 195k, Still need to do a couple of 1k round trips for boat duty, I am retired so if it dies on the road I trade it in on something newer. A couple of things I have done is changeing the transfer case fluid, and front and rear differential fluid, They did not look too bad, but I felt it was worth it.

The clear lesson here is the decision whether to continue fixing an old vehicle is what it is worth to you. Not to the world or the neighbors, just you and your family. Some of us are likely to nurse along dying machinery until no one else can even get the thing running, let alone put up with all the weird little things you have to do to keep rolling down the road. I had a big lawn tractor like that, and the result was guess who had to do all the mowing? That thing broke down whenever the kids were mowing, and never failed when I was driving. What a PITA! At some point you have to declare victory against the forces of decay and move on.

I’d rent or drive a newer vehicle for that kind of trip.

Delete your question and continue doing what you have been for the past 175K miles and follow the maintenance schedule in your manual. You are doing great and will only get conflicting answers.

??? We’re now answering @CO_KJ ‘s question about using a 295,000 mile Suburban for long trips.

Here’s What I’d do…
Having lived in the rust belt and owning and operating cars there for many decades and knowing that rust has always been the death knell for every vehicle I’ve owned, you will find your answer in corrosion.

I’ve owned GM and Chrysler vehicles (still do), driven for hundreds of thousands of miles each with just basic DIY maintenance. I’ve never had an engine or transmission fail, things that could kill a vehicle, but rust caused each vehicle to become unsafe.

As others have said, keep doing what you’re doing. To get the answer to your question about how long it’ll last, have the car raised now and thoroughly inspected underneath by an experienced, skilled mechanic and have him/her do a safety inspection, assess corrosion damage, and indicate any potential problems. Repeat this inspection periodically.

Eventually, at an ever increasing rate, corrosion will take out fluid lines, including brake and gasoline, and weaken structural and suspension components, stuff that can kill you! Working with your mechanic you’ll know when it’s time to say good-bye to your friend, the Suburban.

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Realizing this is ten years old, when I was driving all around the state of Minnesota, I did pre-emptively have the transmission overhauled at about 300-350,000 (can’t remember). For the same reason that I didn’t want to get stalled in the middle of nowhere at ten below. When they did the transmission they said it really wasn’t that bad. It just depends what kind of miles have been driven. If it’s a lot of highway miles like mine, the trans can last. If a lot of city miles, I’d consider having it seriously looked at before driving through Wyoming in the winter. Sheesh they had snow already and western South Dakota.