1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Making my 1990 Suburban bullet proof. What do I need to do?

Discussion in 'Tech Discussion' started by Giant Rock, Jan 13, 2021.

  1. Giant Rock

    Giant Rock Member

    Posts:
    40
    Likes Received:
    58
    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2020
    Location:
    Joshua Tree, CA
    First Name:
    Cole
    Truck Year:
    1990
    Truck Model:
    Suburban v1500
    Engine Size:
    5.7 V8
    So I bought my Suburban about 4 months ago and I absolutely LOVE it. I'm gonna keep this thing forever. It has 206k miles on it but seems to run great. I've already done quite a bit of deep desert exploring in it, using 4x4 often, but plan on doing even more in the future. This last weekend my wife and I were absolutely in the middle on nowhere, running some mild, rocky jeep trails. The thought occurred that if the Burb broke down or stopped running we would really be screwed. Obviously, you're much better off exploring with a partner and second vehicle but that is not always possible.

    I'm planning on upgrading the suspension with custom Offroad Designs recommended parts (found them thanks to this forum) but I was wondering what else you guys would recommend in order to make the truck, engine and everything included, as bulletproof as possible? Also wondering what you would say is the most typical way it could break down and what I could do about it in the field or how to prepare for that?

    I'm a total noob so any advice, regardless how basic, would be greatly appreciated.

     
    Paladin, 78C10BigTen and Curt like this.
  2. AKguy

    AKguy Full Access Member

    Posts:
    90
    Likes Received:
    71
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2019
    Location:
    Alaska
    First Name:
    Randy
    Truck Year:
    1981
    Truck Model:
    C20 Crew Cab Silverado
    Engine Size:
    454
    I’ll start with making sure you have good load range E tires, two spares, air pump and a plug kit. After I created an access panel in the floor of my Tahoe I carried a spare fuel pump, too. Don’t know if your model has the in-tank pump.
     
    80BrownK10 and Blackbeard44 like this.
  3. Bextreme04

    Bextreme04 Full Access Member

    Posts:
    1,111
    Likes Received:
    1,156
    Joined:
    May 13, 2019
    Location:
    Oregon
    First Name:
    Eric
    Truck Year:
    1980
    Truck Model:
    K25
    Engine Size:
    350-4bbl
    I’ll just say if you are regularly in a place with no cell reception, miles from the nearest person, you should get a satcom that uses the iridium network. I personally use an inreach mini, but that’s mostly because I work for the Garmin Aviation group and get an employee discount. It’s one of the go-to items for trail runners, hikers, and pilots that have a chance of ending up in an emergency outside of cell range. There was a guy a few years ago out here in Eastern Oregon that was wheeling in his jeep with just him and his two dogs and got it stuck waaaaayyy off trail. A guy on a cross-country mountain biking trip found him passed out in the middle of the road and hit his SOS button on his inreach. About 45 minutes later an ambulance rolled on down the dirt road and loaded the guy up and hauled him off. The guy in the mountain bike kept going to finish his bike ride and ended up finding the guys jeep tracks headed off into the desert like 15 miles down the road. He called the sheriff to let him know and they found the guys jeep a few miles off the road with one of his dogs still hanging out around it.
     
  4. shiftpro

    shiftpro Full Access Member

    Posts:
    3,940
    Likes Received:
    4,236
    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2012
    Location:
    BC Canada
    First Name:
    shiftpro
    Truck Year:
    73-87
    Truck Model:
    1500, 2500, 3500
    Engine Size:
    350, 383, 454, 496!
    D60 up front an a 14 bolt 10.5 in the back.
     
  5. Blackbeard44

    Blackbeard44 Full Access Member

    Posts:
    124
    Likes Received:
    127
    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2020
    Location:
    Washington State
    First Name:
    andy
    Truck Year:
    1985
    Truck Model:
    K20
    Engine Size:
    6.0 LS
    make sure proper maintence is done with high quality parts, no cheap belts,hoses and tires, making something bullet proof is a never ending chase.

    if your just poking around driving slowly these rigs are pretty darn stout to begin with, but if your are mad max everywhere and trying to catch air than alot of work is needed.

    spare ignition module or 2 is always a good iea as well as 2 spare tires.

    I would focus on just making sure everything is up to date maintence wise and have spare parts and tools on hand
     
  6. Ricko1966

    Ricko1966 Full Access Member

    Posts:
    1,098
    Likes Received:
    905
    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2017
    Location:
    kansas
    First Name:
    Richard
    Truck Year:
    1975
    Truck Model:
    c20
    Engine Size:
    350
    One of the guys I used to work with use to say,we can make them bulletproof we can't make them idiot proof.
     
    Snoots likes this.
  7. Curt

    Curt Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Posts:
    390
    Likes Received:
    650
    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2017
    Location:
    Carlsbad
    First Name:
    Curtis
    Truck Year:
    1984
    Truck Model:
    K-30
    Engine Size:
    383
    I dig it.Into the same type of wheeling myself.First I would focus on your survival,not unless you want someone else’s driving your ride.

    Water,throw in some protein bars,life straw,warm clothes and a way to start a fire.First aid kit.

    Everyone has mentioned most of the parts to carry.Good set of tools,variety.You can do most front engine work with a 1/2,9/16,and 5/8” wrench.

    I carry extra belts,hose clamps,long spark plug wire,A shovel and a high lift Jack is good.Winch is a great advantage.

    Most importantly,common sense.If you do extreme things,expect extreme results.

    Maintenance is so important.Address known issues or suspected issues before going out.

    I got started by reading a book about Chevy trucks by Jim Allen.
     
    77 K20 and Bextreme04 like this.
  8. Curt

    Curt Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Posts:
    390
    Likes Received:
    650
    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2017
    Location:
    Carlsbad
    First Name:
    Curtis
    Truck Year:
    1984
    Truck Model:
    K-30
    Engine Size:
    383
    I looked at your post again.To answer the 2nd part....there’s not much there to make bullet proof on your engine.Making sure your wiring is nice and tight,not exposed,in good shape.Adding a 2nd battery for more reserve is easy.As Blackbeard said,use quantity parts.I know it’s cold now,but since you have desert I would guess it gets hotter than hell.Make sure you cooling system is tip top.

    Gm made some really heavy duty drivetrain parts.What you have now will survive depending on what you’re doing.Just riding around,exploring with 4 wheel drive is what the truck was made for.Wheel it,see what happens,upgrade as needed.I’d look at driveshafts,ujoints.Especially the front CV joint.Make sure you grease it.You’ll need a needle attachment for grease gun.Factory front locking hubs are weak.

    Might as well start a maintenance schedule or follow manufacture’s schedule.Your blessed to have internet on all kinds of info.

    Frame failure is common around the steering box.You mentioned offroad design,I would get the steering box brace for your truck rather quickly.Until then,take one bolt out at a time,apply blue thread locker and tq to 85 lbs.Check periodically for proper torque.Don’t bang that transfer case on a rock,your day will turn to shit.

    I forgot to mention earlier that a fire extinguisher is important.Watching your truck burn down,you may not recover....
     
    77 K20 and 80BrownK10 like this.
  9. Curt

    Curt Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Posts:
    390
    Likes Received:
    650
    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2017
    Location:
    Carlsbad
    First Name:
    Curtis
    Truck Year:
    1984
    Truck Model:
    K-30
    Engine Size:
    383
  10. gmbellew

    gmbellew Full Access Member

    Posts:
    132
    Likes Received:
    124
    Joined:
    May 27, 2018
    Location:
    Kansas city
    First Name:
    glen
    Truck Year:
    1990
    Truck Model:
    suburban 1500
    Engine Size:
    350
    keeping up on maintenance is key.

    i keep all of this in my well maintained 90 burb at all times - owners manual in the glove box. extra fluids (tranny, oil, coolant, power steering, etc). basic tool set. a spare ICM. spare headlight (1 high and 1 low). spare fuses. spare random bulbs for other lights. jumper cables. tie downs and ratchets. traction boards. tire patch kit. zip ties. army shovel. that is all just for road trips and the bouncing around the farm driving.


    if i were having remote adventures, i would add: spare hoses and a belt. a way to air up tires (onboard air or a small tank). spare fuel. potentially add a front locker or posi. battery jump pack for emergency starts of a dead battery. i already run a spare battery for double cranking amps and extra capacity. but if not, you may consider it.

    and the aforementioned emergency kit and supplies for you.
     
    80BrownK10 and Snoots like this.
  11. Grit dog

    Grit dog Full Access Member

    Posts:
    1,348
    Likes Received:
    1,566
    Joined:
    May 18, 2020
    Location:
    Washington
    First Name:
    Todd
    Truck Year:
    1986
    Truck Model:
    K20
    Engine Size:
    454
    Cost is relative. And this thread isn’t about what repair or survival gear your bring with you. Different topic.

    How much do you want to spend and how old are all the components? Make a list.
    Major components rarely fail suddenly. Engine internals, trans, case, axles if they’re in good order and well maintained that’s about all you can do save for major rebuilds to make them new again.
    All other ancillary components are up to 30 years old depending on when if they’ve been replaced.
    The bulletproof answer is replace all hoses, tune up components, engine accessories/pumps, u joints, brake components.
    But you can pare that back to what’s verified newer or in good condition and also what will leave you stranded vs what you can limp home with.
     
  12. Bextreme04

    Bextreme04 Full Access Member

    Posts:
    1,111
    Likes Received:
    1,156
    Joined:
    May 13, 2019
    Location:
    Oregon
    First Name:
    Eric
    Truck Year:
    1980
    Truck Model:
    K25
    Engine Size:
    350-4bbl
    I was a recovery operator and mechanic in the army and the general method for recovery or battle damage repair in out of the way areas or under fire was to have a lot of generic repair materials. Things like quick cure J-Weld, clamps, a knife and/or leather man, crescent wrench, BFH, hoses of various sizes, all the fluids of various types, 5 gallon jug of water(for drinking or emergency radiator fill).

    The reality is if you do proper maintenance and inspection on your vehicle it is already pretty bulletproof. You can only plan to be able to handle any random emergency and do the best repair possible to get you out to somewhere that you can do more permanent repair. As a kid my family tooled all over the southwestern US in a 1973 Ford F-150, 2wd. To include many trips up and through the back country around Death Valley and up into the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada’s. Just don’t do stupid dukes of hazard stuff and plan to be able to handle emergencies and you should be fine.
     
    DoubleDingo, 80BrownK10 and Curt like this.
  13. rt66paul

    rt66paul Full Access Member

    Posts:
    184
    Likes Received:
    74
    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2016
    Location:
    California
    First Name:
    paul
    Truck Year:
    1991 suburban
    Truck Model:
    2500
    Engine Size:
    7.4
    I am installing an inverter in my 91. I had one that I just clipped to the battery, but someone stole it when they broke in. New cars come with these, you have a couple of cigarette lighter connections, some usb ports and 110v ac plugin(s). If you have a second battery, you don't even have to leave the engine running while you are using power tools or some extra lighting while parked.
     
  14. Salty Crusty

    Salty Crusty Full Access Member

    Posts:
    163
    Likes Received:
    167
    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2020
    Location:
    Texas
    First Name:
    Gary
    Truck Year:
    1986
    Truck Model:
    c1500
    Engine Size:
    565
    ^ sounds like a great idea.
    I'm equipping mine with Milwaukee impact, ratchet, HackZall and Chainsaw, all Fuel. I have an extra charger I'll wire in, double batteries seem almost like a "must do".
     
    80BrownK10 likes this.
  15. Vbb199

    Vbb199 B-rate Hillbilly Customs

    Age:
    26
    Posts:
    6,345
    Likes Received:
    8,873
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2018
    Location:
    Salisbury NC
    First Name:
    Vince
    Truck Year:
    91, 89, 87
    Truck Model:
    91 Blazer V1500- "K5ton", 89 Suburban R1500
    Engine Size:
    502, 350, 350
    Won tons and a SOLID cooling system. :)
     
    80BrownK10 likes this.

Share This Page