Vans in the snow

Hey guys (and gals), I wanted to get some input on the pros and cons of 2wd vs. AWD for chevy astros (gmc safaris). I plan to move to New England in a year or so and want to start up my window cleaning company there. I hear that a lot of customers want to have their windows cleaned before the holidays, also I may be interested in doing snow blowing during the winter to supplement my window cleaning income. I basically need a vehicle that will be dependable in all weather conditions. I have decided that I want an Astro van for the storage capacity, relative fuel efficiency, and durability.

My question is: 1) is it really necessary to have 4 wheel or AWD in New England. I hear that they plow the roads really well there (as opposed to Western Washington where I currently live) so is it necessary to have AWD?
2) Is the AWD version of the Astro as mechanically reliable as the 2wd version. I don’t want to compromise reliability and ease of maintenance too much.
3) Does the fuel efficiency of the Astro go down considerably with it’s AWD capability?

Any feedback on these issues as well as other issues I haven’t thought about will be greatly appreciated.

I don’t have answers to all your questions, however I know a little about the awd in the snow. My buddy is a contractor here in Idaho. He has the astro with awd. It works in 2 wheel drive until one of the wheels loses traction and then the awd automatically kicks in. Works great and doe not diminish gas mileage much if any under normal circs. Even a good plowed road freezes over night and awd just makes sense. He loves his and I have been looking for a good used one for my business. I think fuel efficiency in awd might be lower but most any 4 wd will be and it beats putting chains on. I have never used snow tires, many people here do that. Not sure if they are allowed where you are moving. If you don’t already have on, the AWD Astro would be a good choice. IMO.

I live in the Boston area. You’re right they do plow the roads. I have been driving cars, Astros, full size cargo vans, and now a Dodge caravan in the Boston area for the last 35 years. I like front wheel drive vehicles in the snow best. I think all wheel drive is over kill.

Same as Mike, I live near Boston. Roads are well taken care of, but if you plan on plowing yourself Im not sure if an Astro is up to it. I don’t know much about them but have never seen one with a plow attached

I was talking about driving around after they plow the roads. You need a pick up truck to plow. Something like a Ford 150!

Unless you are only plowing small driveways and small amounts of snow you need at least a F250. I believe the original post said snow blowing so a Astro type van would definitely be easier for loading and unloading a snowblower than a pick up.

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If our friend is going out before the roads are cleared a AWD Astro would be a good choice.

I thought he said plowing not blowing. Can a guy with a blower compete on price with guys who have plows in Massachusetts?

Not on the open market but you could certainly cherry pick from your window cleaning customers. Also, some jobs can only be done with a snowblower or by hand

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Well, I was thinking of moving to the south shore maybe near Plymouth. I think the roads there, especially many of the rural roads are not always well plowed. Plus at night the roads may freeze up and become really slippery. I’ve been to Massachusetts a few times, but only in the spring and fall. I haven’t had the pleasure of being there in the winter.

Do the storefronts get their windows cleaned during the winter or do they give up and let them stay nasty until spring? I’m from the Seattle area and we get snow maybe 3 days a year. Sometimes we get whole winters without any snow, so I am not familiar with the whole winter window cleaning scenario and am trying to research a potential new location for myself.

Do the more rural areas get plowed regularly as well?

Thanks for the responses.

Hey Jesse
I have both vans right now the awd does use more fuel than 2 wd. But the awd is great on the snow covered roads of west michigan.
Plus you can pack alot of stuuf in them. They are great work vehicles. Any ? let me know

Hey Jesse
I have both vans right now the awd does use more fuel than 2 wd. But the awd is great on the snow covered roads of west michigan.
Plus you can pack alot of stuuf in them. They are great work vehicles. Any ? let me know

Thanks Bill. I have heard that some of the newer model astros aren’t as reliable as the older ones.

Winderwasher said:

I have 3 astros and 1 safari.
Safari (1995) 184,0000
Astro (1993) 245,000
Astro (1994) 147,000
Astro (1995) 252,000
They all run great and have been very reliable. The body shop owner behind our building said to me one day that he never sees me working on them. The 4.3 liter V-6 is very reliable up until around 1998 and later. GM decided to make a little more money by substituting the intake manifold gasket with a cheap plastic one. The “developed” a “NEW” better coolant called DEXCOOL that was supposed to take care of this problem (bandaid). They chevy astro, blazer, venture,silhoutte, to name a few, all fell prey to this stupid decision to cut cost by GM. I would recommend buying 1995 and older if it were me. There is one in my area that has over 500,000 on it and still runs good.

(I looked through the old posts on Astro vans - but none of them mentioned AWD)

I have looked at a few internet forums about astro vans and a lot of people like the 95-96 years. I am going to look at a 91 Safari AWD tonight. It only has 142K on it.

I have heard that the AWD models were fitted with fiberglass leaf springs instead of steel ones. I hope that the one I’m going to look at has had their fiberglass springs replaced.

Have you had any issues with the suspension, idler arm, or transmission?