Notes on Chevrolet Astro Van

Russell Bateman
August 2014
last update:

Steps to replace brake pads and repack front wheel bearings
  1. Check for bearing grease and purchase if out.
  2. Purchase new bearings.
  3. Purchase two cotter pins.
  4. Purchase new brake pads.
  5. Jack front axle to put both wheels off the ground.
  6. Remove wheels.
  7. Remove brake calipers (not just the pads--in fact, leave them just as they are).
  8. Remove thimble (grease caps) hiding wheel-spindle hub.
  9. Remove cotter pin holding castle nut.
  10. Remove castle nut.
  11. Remove and clean wheel hub.
  12. Clean spindle.
  13. Load bearings with grease.
  14. Load wheel hub tracks (interior) with grease.
  15. Reassemble, back bearing, wheel hub, then front bearing.
  16. Remount castle nut, tighten just enough that there's no lateral movement of hub.
  17. Install cotter pins.
  18. Remount thimbles (caps).
  19. Recompress caliper pistons.
  20. Replace brake pads.
  21. Remount brake calipers to wheel hub and rotor.
  22. Replace wheels.
  23. Drop jack.

Replace brake pads (alone)

Perform steps 4, 5, 6, 7, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 above.

In the doghouse...

Sometime last spring, my van's heating and cooling system failed in the sense that I could no longer direct the air anywhere in particular. It was stuck on the floor, which wasn't particularly helpful for refrigeration.

No matter; I ride a motorcycle almost exclusively in the spring, summer and fall. Still, there are those times...

...and, after all, winter is coming: I can't operate this vehicle without a defroster.

Well, I knew that, because this happened before, there was some nasty work in the offing. Julene remembered that the last time, the mechanic reattached some hose to the engine. Yeah, back when I was a child, the manifold vacuum was used to operate many things—using amply large-gauge rubber tubing. Not everything is electric even today.

Well, for the Chevy Astro van, there's a "doghouse" that encloses the back end of the engine compartment isolating it from the cab. The operating manual has instructions and illustrations on how to do that. This doghouse cover must be removed because the hose connects underneath it. It also connects up in a place accessible from the front mixed in a bit with large aluminum tubes that appear related to refrigeration. (I'm not verifying all I'm saying 'cause I'm way past interested in auto mechanics at this point in my life, but most of this is accurate I think.)

At first, I couldn't find any tube likely to the one in question. And the doghouse wouldn't come completely out of the van without removing one of the seats. As (bad) luck would have it, my brother has the same vehicle (a little newer) and the same problem at the same time. If that weren't convenient, his second son married the daughter of the guy who, Julene thinks, fixed this thing the first time. So, a little networking and a visit from my brother after calling the mechanic and he found the broken tube exactly where he learned it would be.

The problem is this tiny gauge (⅛") tube is cooked by the engine over the top of which it's routed, become brittle and ultimately breaks. Mine broke next to the repair splice from the first time. The splice was still good; much of the rest of the tube was brittle.

We went to get a replacement from AutoZone, but they only had ¼" gauge tubing and some tubing connectors, none of which really was the answer, but we were in hard way, night was falling, etc.

We clipped off the tiny hose from its nice factory ends (rubber elbows that mated with a T connector in front and a nipple on a connector at the back under the doghouse) leaving short stubs of that tubing, still not brittle, and cleaned the latter up. We force-fitted these good bits of the remaining skinny tubing into nylon connectors from an $8 box of a million different size tubing connectors purchased from AutoZone, and heated up the ¼" tubing ends to go over the other end of the connector.

This, plus hooking it back up did the trick. My brother did his this morning and reports that it all went much faster as he'd been in on most of the job at my house.

Here are the puzzling bits I learned performing this repair. I'm hoping that after the search engines crawl my post, these points and my account will help someone else.

  1. You need a large-gauge star drive to remove the two upper screws holding the console to the frame over the doghouse.
  2. In order to remove the upper, passenger-side screw holding the doghouse to the firewall, you must have a flat-blade screwdriver at least 18" long. Nothing else will reach in there because there's precious little room left between a duct and the doghouse.
  3. The tubing is tiny and the end under the doghouse is on the driver's side very near the throttle body.

The rest of what's going on is fairly obvious.