Car Corner
Follow Ups

July 1, 2000
By Scott Lewis

This is a month to do a couple of follow-ups on previous columns. So that “I’ll keep you posted” at the end of an article is happening now.

Idiot Lights

A couple of months ago I told you about my “Service Engine Soon” warning light. I was sure it was due to the car reaching a little over 50K miles. It came on less than two weeks after an oil change.

With 50K miles, I am sure my Camaro Z28 could use a little servicing, but that is no excuse for a warning light to abuse my view of the dash everyday. Why must I view it until I go to a dealer to have the fluids topped off and the belts and hoses check at an unrealistic amount of money?

I decided to look in my Hayes manual for my car. That too has a story. For a long time I looked for a book on my Camaro. And for a long time I never found one. But then a friend told me that Hayes has a decent line of books. Sure enough a search of their web site uncovered the “part” number for the book on my car.

I am a little disappointed with the book. I prefer the Chilton series of manuals. Alas Chilton does not print a book for 93 to present Camaros. The Hayes book glosses over topics more than I would prefer. But I can live with it. It is at least helpful.

Back to the point, I looked in the Hayes manual to see if I could find any information on the Service Engine Soon light. What I found was a full chapter on the codes that can be read from the on-board computer. However, to read the codes requires a device that costs more than it would to take the car to a dealer. A conspiracy if ever there was one.

The chapter described a lot of possible codes, and their remedies. It also refers you to a professional for a lot of the codes. This is reasonable since some things are better left to someone with that level of experience.

The Hayes book did not mention the Service Engine Soon light. However, it did mention a couple of codes that were essentially irrelevant. The solution to some of those was to disconnect the battery for at least 10 seconds.

I have heard that disconnecting the battery for a long enough period of time was a good way to clear the memory of the on board computer. So, sure enough I gave it a try. No Luck!

Finally I went to a GM dealer to have the light turned off. They assure me that it must be on for a reason. They claim the computer resets itself every time the car is turned on. They want $65 to read the code and tell me what’s wrong. That is just too much for me to pay for nothing being wrong. Perhaps I am wrong, but I just can’t buy the fact that it is not some BS warning light.

Are there any Camaro owners out there that have had this light go on? How did you take care of it?

Living with a Suburban

A while back I wrote a review of the Suburban and Expedition. It was part of our decision making process that led to the purchase of our 1999 GMC Suburban. I know we probably should have waited for the 2000 model, but we got such a good deal on the 99, that I think we did the right thing. I mentioned then that I would tell you later what it’s like to live with a Suburban.

For starters, the Suburban is BIG. I mean really BIG. I feel sorry for people that buy an Excursion to find it doesn’t fit through a standard 8’ x 7’ garage door. The Suburban will only fit through our garage door with one of the side mirrors folded in. (Note: In the picture my vantage point makes it seem like there is a couple of inches of clearance on each side. This is not the case. In fact, I had to backup a couple of inches because I hit the mirrors and jammed one. Had I taken two photos, directly in front each mirror, you would see that the Burb doesn’t fit.)

I have seen a couple of Suburbans on the road with their passenger side mirrors folded. I think this is lazy and a little dangerous. We roll the driver’s window down and fold the driver’s mirror in and out when we pull in and out of our garage. Leaving the passenger mirror folded all the time is lazy. In south central Texas the weather is mild enough that rolling a window down for a minute is not a problem. But driving without a passenger side view mirror, especially on such a huge vehicle, is a mistake.

When you drive a Suburban you take a much more relaxed approach to driving. The vehicle is clearly not nimble. So you think more about lane changes and you brake early. Darting though traffic is definitely not one of this truck’s strong suits.

Parking is an experience in itself. No longer can you just whip in and out. It takes a bit more time in crowded lots. But it is not terrible. My worst parking experience was with a Ford F-250. It literally blocked the view of the BMW in the next space so that I couldn’t tell if I was going to run it over. The Suburban is not that bad.

So far I have done nothing but complain. You may think I am trying to turn you off of Suburbans. I am. If all you are going to do is haul people around you are better off with a mini-van. But that has its drawbacks. A Suburban is more comfortable for all passengers than a mini-van. Then there is the stigma of a mini-van being a Soccer Mom’s car. Plus they just aren’t cool.

But if you plan to tow anything and need to carry 8 people around, I can highly recommend the Tahoe & Yukon. With the third seat for 2000, and their shorter length than the Suburban/Yukon XL, they will haul just as many people as a mini-van and will tow a heavy trailer to boot. The added space behind the third seat in the Suburban/Yukon XL is mostly for convenience.

A note here: 1999 the line up was Chevrolet Tahoe & Suburban, and for GMC it was Yukon & Suburban. For that year the Tahoe & Yukon were the shortened versions of their Suburban counterparts. For 2000 GMC broke the mold and uses the models Yukon & Yukon XL. Chevrolet stayed with Tahoe & Suburban. So for 2000 the short ones are still Tahoe & Yukon, but the long ones are now Suburban & Yukon XL. Think of the XL moniker as Extra Large and it will be easy to remember.

In the Suburban, we rarely have to folding down the third seat for most normal operations. An Expedition with a third seat would have a tough time storing a week’s groceries for one, no less a family, in the cargo area. The Suburban eats groceries for breakfast (pun intended).

The front captain’s chairs in the Suburban are wonderfully comfortable. It’s almost like sitting in a Lazy-Boy. Expeditions don’t even have armrests on the insides of the front seats.

One really neat thing in the 99 Suburban is the cup holder for the driver. It is right in front of the air conditioning vent. It is a split vent that can have the bottom portion pointed directly at the beverage. Yes, it does work to keep a drink cold. In fact, it can even cool (though not get cold) a drink that starts out warm. Very nice.

The 2000 Suburban (and Tahoe, Yukon, and Yukon XL) doesn’t even have a cup holder in the dash. The 99’s dash cup holder holds two drinks (a second holder pops out to the right side) as well as having a 1-1/2 capacity cup holder in the console. The 2000 models do with two full size cup holders in the console only. A small step backwards if you ask me.

I briefly mentioned towing earlier. I have towed a 1500 lbs. trailer with both my Suburban and my previous SUV, a 1996 Ford Explorer with the 302 V-8. The Suburban handled the trailer with much less trouble than the Explorer. In fact, when the trailer was empty it didn’t seem to phase the Suburban at all. The Explorer required much more attention when driving with the trailer. Braking distance in the Ford was so much further than normal that you had to brake pretty early. The GMC seems to brake exactly like normal. Acceleration also seems unaffected by the trailer. I didn’t load the trailer up enough to push the Suburban to the 5000 lb. limit of the bumper, or even the 3500 lbs. limit of my tow ball. But with about 500 - 1000 lbs. of brush, on top of a 1500 lbs. trailer, it was a much easier and safer journey with the Suburban than with an Explorer. For towing the Suburban is tops in my book, unless of course you get an actual truck.

So, I like the Suburban for what it can do, but I don’t love it. Myself, I would much rather drive a car than a Burb. And that is coming. As soon as we build my house (we should be starting in October) I will be looking for a car to fill the third garage bay. But that is another article, or in other words... “I’ll keep you posted.”

Until next time...