2013 Suburban Z71


Hello Forum

I've been browsing and asking a few little questions here and there, trying to pretend my wife's FWD escape was overland so I could come play, and getting out and going camping as much as Houston weather and kids in school would allow. I have a thread here on my trailer, which has been awesome.

We've been eyeing a trip to Big Bend for a while, the Escape transmission was starting to slip, wasn't going to fit 6 people in it, and I knew I didn't want to get all the way there and have to tell the family Nope, can't get down that trail, this minivan just won't cut it.

I posted a what to buy thread on vwvortex, and got the responses I was expecting - Expedition, why can't you fit in a Tahoe, minivan and a trailer, have you considered a 15 year old turbo 5 cylinder Swedish car. Lexus GX has no interior space with the third row seats, LX is older than my wife is comfortable with for the budget, Tahoe actually has less third row than GX, Expedition 3 valve issues unless I can give up interior for a 2015, minivan won't do Black Gap Road (I mean I know it could be done, but not really...). And I wanted a 4x4 again. It's been a long time since I had my 76 Scout and could drive over things.

Last week I picked up a 2013 Suburban. I had been shopping for a couple months, budget under $20k, prefer 2012+. Plenty of 2wd with the locker, a few thrashed 4x4s, a few way out of town that I could have had shipped. I actually had an appointment at Carmax to buy a 14 2wd, the Escape almost left me in the intersection on the way in. On the way home, this one showed up, no pics, other side of town, and a beast of a rain storm was going to meet me there. I got there, got wet shoes, drove it around, put in 4 hi and splashed in all the puddles, and signed the papers. Z71, 85k miles, captains, DVD, $17k and they gave me an extra $3k for the trade. Dent on the drivers side rear, front wheel bearings and brakes need doing, drivers door arm rest is broken like all of them. Exactly what I was looking for to bring the price down to my level.







Plans are

Replace front hubs and brakes
Flush brakes
Check air filters
Make sure the spare tire tools are there and work
Trans filter and fluid
Maybe the transfer case shares fluid, otherwise consider changing it
Look at spark plugs
Consider diff fluid
Power steering fluid
Battery is 2017 and mechanic said it was reading marginal. I haven't put a meter on it.
Fix bockety arm rest with angle aluminum, maybe a leather wrap
Maybe a clear wrap on the sides, not planning on romping through the bushes and it's already got dents, but no need to make it worse if I can easily help it. One neighbor has a sign shop, another has an off road shop, so should be able to get a deal.

Otherwise, this is so much bigger and more capable than the Escape, I don't plan to spend much on mods before our March trip. And I have a turnaround for 5 weeks in between, so I won't have time anyway.


Well-known member
Congrats on your purchase. May it treat you well and take you everywhere you want to go.

I would personally change all the fluids. Just to be on the safe side.


Retired Explorer
Congratulations. I have a 2013 Z71 Tahoe. I have been driving Blazers, Yukons and Tahoes since 1981.
You are going to love the road comforts. I put a second battery (there is a tray on driver,s side by the windshield washer reservoir) and isolator/charging system in. I run BF Goodrich AT KO2 (same as factory size) and have never had a problem getting stuck.
Fluid changes are a great idea. Other than that, I have had no issues (I never should have bothered with the extended warranty) I am about to swap out my 2nd starting battery.
We don’t do a lot of technical routes but have spent a lot of time on FS and BLM trails and beaches. It is far more capable than I require.
Have fun. It’s a great platform


Fluids are all on the list, just working out what to do first. Coolant and power steering and brakes are easiest, diff and transfer case should be straight forward, pending fill method. One truck I remember needing 10 feet of hose to fill.

Transmission, the dealer changed out lines to the cooler, so at least some of the fluid is fresh (not sure how much comes out when doing those lines). I'd like to do the filter, which is a bit more effort.

I did reinforce the door pull/arm rest today. Still a bit flobbery, but it will do.

I pulled the ends off the roof rack rails to take a look, and I'm thinking a square of 1/4" bar, drilled and tapped, will be my method for camp light as well as awning mounts. For now, the lights will probably get cigarette lighter plug and a switch on the wire, and I'll pull them off when we're not camping. This would also make it easier to move to the trailer.

As far as second battery, I need to see how the next few adventures go. I'm thinking 2 camp lights and charging cell phones and radios are the only needs now, and this trip will include day trips most days, so no problem staying charged up.

I can run an air pump with the engine on, but I guess I would need solar and/or second battery if I add a water pump, and almost certainly need some sort of separate battery if I want to have camp lights on more than while I'm pulling out the lantern. I just haven't decided if I'm going to build that on the suburban or on the trailer.

When I had the Escape, the plan was to put power and water on the trailer, but with all this space, and with the 7 pin, I'm thinking I can build it on the suburban, and then feed the trailer power if I want to put a battery and water on there. Being able to drop off the trailer at my moms with lights, charging ports, and water would be great after a hurricane.


Retired Explorer
I installed the second battery primarily to power an ARB 50qt refrigerator which lives in the Tahoe all the time. Easier to justify the price of the fridge to the wife by telling her to use it when we go grocery shopping to get meats and dairy home. It’s nice always having cold drinks and lunch fixings during our adventures. When the factory starting battery failed, I just had to press the “ link” button and was able to start the rig with no problems. That option gives me “piece of mind” when I am out exploring.
Other than that I try to keep it pretty much stock. Aftermarket products have been a little challenging. I may have to swap out the factory roof rack in order to install a platform on the roof. We carry a Road Shower and Thule Pod on the roof when traveling cross country and would like to mount an ARB (or similar) awning which would be much easier than setting up our Kelty Carport.
I look forward to your build. Have fun.


Well-known member
What did the dealer think about the slipping Transmission in the Escape you traded in?


What did the dealer think about the slipping Transmission in the Escape you traded in?

TLDR Carmax appraisal for the win

I took the Escape to Carmax to get a quote to bid against Craigslist. They snap quoted $5300, which was the Clean No Issues price.

I said, So, you're not concerned with the transmission?

Turns out, with Covid, they aren't test driving before you accept the offer, then they modify the offer. Not sure what would happen if you didn't like the modified number.

So I said yes, I accept the $5300. The guy went looking for a test driver, but they had all gone to lunch. In the mean time, I was test driving a different car, and I was making the appointment to buy it the next day.

So, based on no test drivers and thinking he was about to make a sale, the guy signed the appraisal as ready to pay.

I walked out planning to drop it off 24 hours later, and pick up their 2wd 2014. My car was in a different spot and turned around and the display had been changed from trip to lifetime miles, so... the guy is bad at his job and should feel bad?

On the way home, I found this Z71, took the signed Carmax appraisal, bit of back and forth of "yes I know the trans is slipping, but why would I take $2k from you, when I can drop it at Carmax, get a friend to drive me up here, and pick up $3300?" Sales said "yeah I suppose" and went back and forth to manager about 5 times, and I wouldn't be surprised if they dropped it off at Carmax the next day.

I learned a few cars ago, to keep the trade in and the purchase as two separate transactions. They both go on the same paper, and you're probably talking to the same person, but you can break them apart.
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Wiffleball Batter
Z71 means it has low range, yes? That's a nice find, most GMT900 Suburbans have the single speed T-case.


Yes, low range. As I go through it, there are a few more little things that bring it down a little (weather stripping on the drivers door is shredded at the bottom, one of the parking sensors pops loose, one of the cup holders in the back is cracked) but for what I'm doing with it, it's a winner.

I appear to have a block heater. This car was sold out of Wyoming, delivered to Houston a month later, where I expect the block heater sat quietly until I popped the lid off and said "Huh, so that's what that end of a block heater looks like" and will probably not be seen again.


Friday was a pretty blah day. Bit of work, kids ready for school, bit more work.

I had found what looked like some borderline janky bike racks on CL, but I'd been wanting to try tire grabbers to compare to my hitch mount frame hanger type, so off I went with my $30. Turns out they were Thules with the clamps and the locks and the keys and all, sold to me by a delightful New Zealand sounding lady outside a gas station. I am 17% tempted to put these on the top of the Suburban and just see how tall my beach cruiser handle bars get. I will probably actually put them on my trailer.


When I got back I slowly started the maintenance list. I was not really feeling it, but poking around cars is better than working, so I managed.

I pulled some power steering fluid, doesn't look terrible. Turkey baster to pull out a pint or so, mostly to see what it looks like, add new to the fill line.


I'll drain some more out the low pressure line, assuming that's still the method. I had a small unopened bottle, need more for a full drain and refill.

Brake fluid in the reservoir looked decent. I did not make it to pulling any out of a caliper. Maybe tomorrow.


The air filter looked decent on first glance, but knocked a lot of schmutz out (yes I know)


Then I hit it with the air compressor (yes I KNOW they are only $25 and you aren't supposed to use an air compressor to blow out the paper ones I will get a new one), and then I looked in the box. Dude. This is not where you are supposed to keep sand. Or butterflies. I guess it's better than in the engine.


I dropped the spare, since I don't think I've messed with a GM spare since a friends 94 Tahoe in high school. Glad I went through it, so I know all the tools are there and I'll be ready for it on the side of the road in the rain. I need to find the magnetic light I had in the other car. Turning that tiny bottle style jack from 0 to 60 was very tedious. Once it was out from under the axle I went and got a drill and buzzed it back down. All parts are there, spare has 35psi, good to go. I do need to break the lug nuts loose and torque them back on, since I watched the guy at the inspection with his impact gun. Full size spare, how I have missed you (Honda Accord I love you but come on....)




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With all that done, I was getting antsy to go drive in some dirt. Saturday we packed up folding chairs, towels, water, and the dog, and went to Crystal Beach.

Crystal Beach is one of the few in the area you can drive on, and the only one you can actually go for a drive, not just 100 feet and then park. There's a good 100 feet between the dunes and high tide, so plenty of room to camp at the top, rip up and down in your SXS in the middle, and splash about in the shallows. You can also get passed in a lowered Miata while you think you're so cool in your Suburban.

We went to Maceos Spice Co Deli on the way to pick up sandwiches. Nice enough place, reminded me of some amazing delis in Baltimore. Grab and go get in line for the ferry.

Ferry was mostly uneventful. We saw 3 dolphins. We stayed in the car since Covid and it was cold and I wasn't in the mood to keep the kids from jumping off the boat.

Stock photo of Bolivar ferry.


Then we pulled in to Fort Travis. I have enjoyed Fort Travis in the past. I've been camping there with Scouts. I've taken friends there and one of them jumped off the roof and did not break his fool neck. We got our delicious authentic Italian deli sandwiches and toddled off across the lawn for a picnic table. Then my wife got eaten by 10000 mosquitos, so we ran back to the car. Then her veggie sandwich actually had salami and ham on it. So we went to the convenience store near by, got her a cheese pizza and a 4 pack of mini wine for putting up with my harebrained adventure, and went to the beach.

Stock photo of Fort Travis.


The beach was awesome. I pulled off the dirt road on to the sand, made a production of twisting the knob from 2wd to 4hi, and aimed for not quite in the ocean. I drove along. I turned in a circle. I drove around a big dead fish.

Stock photo of a dead fish


I told my wife to hold on to the dog (14yo 9lb mini poodle, she was taking a nap) while I floored it and flung sand about the place. The girls squealed. My wife rolled her eyes. The dog let one rip.

The other reason I wanted to go to Crystal beach was the washouts. You guys know what a washout looks like. There are no good pics on the google, and I was driving, but I will take a picture next time. Pretty much flat at the water line, about 3 foot drop at the dunes, we crossed 4 of them. I went for ~6 inches to ~2 feet. 4hi did its thing no problem.

After the first one, the girls were eager to go splash around, so I found a good spot with an exposed sand bar (30 min before low tide) and parked. One of the bottles of wine was missing.




After all this, I drove through a couple more washouts, then time to head home. There is a new bathroom building with outdoor cold showers and recycling and picnic tables. It's pretty nice.

Any trip to Galveston seems to require a stop at La Kings Confectionery. My wife likes the saltwater taffy. I know a guy who knows a Jehovahs Witness who makes the taffy. He's a nice guy. He's pretty old, but I don't think he's 1920s original. It's a neat spot, with an ice cream parlor section and an old school soda fountain and some great coffee. I didn't get coffee. It was like 730 pm.


And that was the end of our first off road adventure in the Suburban. I washed the sand off this morning.

Todd n Natalie

We don’t do a lot of technical routes but have spent a lot of time on FS and BLM trails and beaches. It is far more capable than I require.
Have fun. It’s a great platform

Yep, my old LT took me anywhere I wanted to go with it.

Z71 means it has low range, yes? That's a nice find, most GMT900 Suburbans have the single speed T-case.

Oh really? I don't think I've ever seen a GMT900 with a single speed? Must be a regional thing?


Retired Explorer
I also had to replace the weatherstripping around the driver’s door. It fell apart at the sill. Its a common issue with this series.


Has anyone got a picture of the trunk/cargo space without the carpet (not sure what to call it when it's not separate from the cabin)?

I'm thinking about drawers, and tying them down. There are tie downs at the very back of the space (rear of vehicle) and I could probably rig up some webbing or cable to the third row seat points, or a bit of 1x1/8 bar to give anchor point, but if there are holes there that I would just have to cut the carpet and put 2 more of those factory points, I'd prefer it.


Well I went back out and poked around.

I know plenty of people just pull the third row and maybe even half of the second to build a bunch of storage, but the whole point of the Suburban for me is to take 4 of us plus my parents plus possibly a friend, and we have a trailer, so this needs to work with the seats in. I also want it to stay where I put it.

3rd row seat.


3rd row anchor area.


The anchors where the seats latch have a bit of extra space. The marker goes up to the edge of the latch.


The carpet covers most of this, and the carpet sits on the bolt head. I am reluctant to put anything else on this bolt.


I'm thinking of a piece of metal like a road bike handlebar, hooking under this edge and the one for the other seat (my dad's a blacksmith, so we can make whatever shape we want).




There isn't a lot of space, but I think it would be strong enough made of 3/8 mild.


Then as I was looking at these pictures, I saw there's a child seat latch anchor there anyway. So I'll just use that when the 3rd row seats are in.


If I make a box to drop in when it's 4 or less of us, it can clamp to the 3rd row anchors more directly, and the drawer box can clamp/bolt to it.

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