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OT: GM 5.3 motor in a Sierra 1500 - any experiences?

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Old 12-12-2002, 09:16 AM
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Default OT: GM 5.3 motor in a Sierra 1500 - any experiences?

Started my truck shopping in earnest yesterday. I've always been a Ford man, and my last two trucks have been F-150s (1997 Supercab, 2001 Supercrew). I'm fortunate enough to get both the Ford and GM discounts, so I thought I'd take a look at Brand X.

Drove a 2003 GMC Sierra 1500, 5.3, 4x4, Extended cab yesterday. Very nice - I really liked the interior finish and room, and it drove very well. Quiet, pretty good power, no rattles or squeaks. Not too sure about the seat cushions - they felt really spongy - I wonder how long they'll hold up...

Does anyone have any experience with this motor? I'm 90% sure I'm going to buy my next truck, rather than lease, so I'm primarily concerned with longetivy; this will hopefully be a 7-10 year vehicle for me. At this point, I only put about 10K a year on a truck, so it should last a good long time (and once it's paid off, lots of $$$ freed up for a bigger boat )

TIA...
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Old 12-12-2002, 09:33 AM
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The motors are good motors, but they knock on startup when cold. Its not a bottom-end knock, more of a tick. Something to do with carbon in the top ring groove. Goes away at operating temperature. Seen/heard them doing it with as few as 9,000 miles on them and have driven one with 120,000 on it that still ran great and used no oil (but knocked on cold startup).

GM knows about it. Has dealer bulletins on it. Refuses to do anything about it because they swear it is not a reliability or longevity issue and it goes away when warm...

Other than that point, I know of no other issues at all and I've been involved with a good number of them.

Own one also ('00 YukXL that wife drives).
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Old 12-12-2002, 09:51 AM
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How much weight are you planning on pulling with it? The 5.3 is not very strong. The power band is high on the rpm range, which is not good for towing. I know they are rated at around 7K lbs towing, but I would not want to pull more than 3-4K lbs with it on a regular basis. I had a 5.7 in my last truck rated at 7K lbs towing, and from personal experience, you do not want to spend a lot of time towing right at your tow rating weight. It sucks.

I have a buddy who was pulling a 288 Sunsation with a single BB regularly (short distances) with a Nissan Frontier crew cab, (non-SC). He was upgrading to a 32 Sunsation with a single BB and everyone talked him into upgrading to a new truck. He bought a Chevy 1500 with a 5.3 in it and immediately drove to FL from VA to pick up the 32. The whole way back, the truck did not have enough 'grunt' to pull the 32, carry three guys, and run the AC at the same time. I would have to advise if you are going anywhere over 5K towing for any amount of distance even on a few trips, go with at least the 6.0.

I came very close to buying the 2002 Sierra Denali (AWD, AWS) with the 345HP 6.0 rated to pull 10K lbs. The power band on that truck is very high too. I ended up going with a loaded 2500 Avalanche with the 8.1 rated for 12K lbs.

There is no substitute for cubic inches, (although a SC can help), and you can NEVER have too much truck. There is always something bigger to tow.
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Old 12-12-2002, 10:02 AM
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I just traded a 01 suburban with the 5.3. Towing as little as 1000lbs would cause the tranny to constantly hunt for a gear. On the sightest grade it would kick down to drive and back to OD until I finally had to leave it in drive. To be blunt it was the weakest motor I have ever owned. In OD you can put your foot on the gas and nothing happens until it downshifts. It is nothing like the old 5.7 350. NOTHING. Even full of people it could not pull a hill in OD. I owned a 91 and it was great, now they have turned it into a grocery getter. Get the 6.0 or get a Ford or Dodge. Simple as that.
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Old 12-12-2002, 10:04 AM
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I had a 2000 with a bunch of add-ons, motor was great, did a lot of pulling with it, tranny let loose at 50 k. now i have a 8.1 in a dually, it rocks as does the diesel.
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Old 12-12-2002, 10:20 AM
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Well, the truck will likely not be pulling anything more than a 2-place sled trailer. We're currently boatless, and while I sometimes dream of trailering a boat to all these great locations, the reality will be that:

1. We get a cruiser, and it will sit in a slip, or
2. We'll get another offshore boat, and it will be rack stored just like the old one.

With a soon-to-be one year old, and probably another on the way in a year or so, "tow the boat" to LOTO probably isn't going to happen. Boating for us is more like, "we've got a Saturday free, let's get on the water!" With rack storage, I can go from the driveway to the dock in roughly 30 minutes.

Back to subject... the truck will probably just be my daily driver, so I think the 5.3 should be enough.

Mitch, I've heard about the cold start knock. From what I've read, it was really a big problem with the 6.0's, and GM has redesigned the pistons in both motors for 2003. At least, that's what I've read over at pickuptruck.com (only GM message board I could find...) Something to keep in mind, though - thanks for the input!
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Old 12-12-2002, 10:28 AM
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Got a 2000 SLT with a 5.3, has almost 60,000 with no problems, seems to have plenty of power but i don't tow much with it, descent mileage. hope this helps
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Old 12-12-2002, 10:38 AM
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Kind of funny to see everyone's OPINION be so much different on one vehicle.

I have a 2000 K1500 E-Cab with the 5.3. My experiences have been a little different then most.

My last truck was a 95 with the old TB 350. This 5.3 runs circles around that thing. The transmission hunt, don't see it. There is a feature calle tow/haul...push the button and you WON'T see any hunt. It does need to be wound up to make optimum power. But it is much smoother and more efficient. I have yet to see one the doesn't have the ticking noise. Mine isn't bad, just learned to live with it.

I currently tow a 26' Scarab on a triple axle trailer with it. Boat,Trailer, and loaded with gas weighs in at 6820lbs. I tow 100 miles round trip every weekend with it. Not to mention the occasional 250 mile run up to LOTO.

For a 1/2 ton I wouldn't hesitate to buy. It's not a 3/4 ton, let's not compare it to one.

I have had one recall done on the truck. I noticed that the rear doors would not catch and completely close in extremely cold weather. They would however close when the truck warmed up. Dealer thought I was nuts. Service Writer just happens to be my neighbor. He calls me about 2 weeks later saying that he just got a service bulletin from GM saying that some people may experience problems with rear doors not closing all the way when it is extremely cold outside. Go figure?? Anyway, put a retrofit latch kit on and everything has been fine.

dockrocker said that they were not going to be towing anything heavy anyway. That being said, there's nothing wrong with the choice.

Buck
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Old 12-12-2002, 10:53 AM
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Buck,

Thanks for the info. I drove a 2003 Ford F-150 right after the GMC. The GM is just a bit nicer inside (IMO), probably because the Ford's design is 2 years older (1997 vs 1999). I'd look at the Dodge, but that damn thing is just ugly. Got a nose like Barbara Streisand... so, no Dodge. And Chevy decided to give the Avalanche/Aztek "design" team a turn with the Silverado, so no Chevy - don't want to scare my daughter every time we go for ride....

GMC or Ford, who's gonna have the best incentives come Feb?
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Old 12-12-2002, 11:04 AM
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Yea, the 5.3 is ok for hauling a gallon of milk The ticking is a bad sign. The tow haul is only for low speed and just holds the shift point longer. At speed it does nothing. I drove mine for 30k and towed a two place trailer. It could not do it in OD. 10mpg and 3000rpm in a 3.73 just does not cut it in my book. Plus I hated seeing eye to eye with a minivan.
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