After a few local trips, it was time to break the Suburban in for real. A 900 mile trip to Florida from Pennsylvania. What could possibly go wrong? Fairly quickly we found out a previous owner had spliced together the high and low beams at the headlights, which resulted in the wiring overheating and constantly triggering the breaker in the light switch. Since half the drive was at night, it was a pain and we finally gave up and waited for the sun to come up before continuing.
Read about our fix of the problem here. This also eventually ended up melting some paths in the guage cluster before we traced down the exact problem.
Overall the vehicle did very well. There was almost no squeaks and rattles, far less than expected for an older vehicle, and probably only the same amount it came from the factory with. The drivetrain ran perfectly. We recorded a gas mileage of 18 MPG average for the whole trip. The cruise control was intermittantly choosing not to work after a while. We will look at that when we have time. In the meanwhile it sort of works. When it wants to.
This vehicle had a remote start/keyless entry system installed by a previous owner, which adds nice convenience while being basically invisible and preserving the classic look since our Suburban came factory equipped with electric locks. The steering is adjusted properly and tracks well, and drives straight and smooth on the highway.
The next large task for our Suburban was to drive back up to Pennsylvania from Florida, and haul back a trailer load of tools, equipment, and household items. The trip north went fine, but as we reached our destination we realized the damage from the previous light circuit overload had worked its toll on the guage cluster. The internal lights were not operating, making it difficult to drive at night.
We soldered a wire across the gap melted into the trace by the overload so we could get back home again with operating guage cluster lights. We will fix this properly at a later date, and hopefully make some much needed updates to the guages as well while still keeping a period and factory look. In the meantime, we hitched up the trailer and loaded up for the trip back south. We ended up with about 4,000 lbs gross trailer weight and a few hundred in the back of the truck.
It squats a lot when loaded, and we had balanced the tongue weight fairly well. The suspension does not seem to like towing and hauling. We will have to improve the suspension later. We headed out and made our way back south, uneventfully. The Suburban hauled wonderfully (if a little too light on the front), and the gas mileage dropped about 5 MPG, down to 13.
To make hauling and towing more stable, we added lift blocks for the rear springs after determining the spring sag when loaded was normal. The springs checked out ok, but raising the rear of the vehicle just slightly would make it level when hauling. A few loaded trailer runs verified this. Sadly we were in a hurry and did not document this.
Fixing the cruise control proved more difficult. The wiring for the switch where it passed through the steering column from the stalk was worn and was starting to fray into the copper, providing an intermittent effect. Read about our troubleshooting and repair of this system here.
This tow dolly followed us home, and after some repair work seems to match our Suburban quite nicely!
We used it to bring home a 1978 El Camino, which is in need of some TLC. The Suburban towed the El Camino quite nicely and smoothly.
Although we had preserved the orignal headliner in our restoration, it was starting to show too much age. It had begun to sag in spots, and had a few small issues. It was time for a change. We pulled it out and stripped off the fabric and backing, down to the bare backing board.
We purchased headliner material and adhesive, and after carefully preparation applied the headliner to the bare board.
After allowing the adhesive to dry overnight, we trimmed the edges and cut out the holes as necessary
Then we installed both pieces of the new headliner and, and all the associated trim and ceiling fixtures.