What kind of lift kit would you recommend

AaronW

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hi:

I'm pretty new here, just getting started on rehabbing my 89 V3500.

My pickup has 33" tires on it, they were there when I bought it-285/75 16's, that appear to be on 9.5" wide rims, so from what I've read, that's pushing it already, as far as how wide the tires are.

If I want to put any larger tires on it, I'm going to have to lift it a bit. I've never done a lift before--part of this whole project is going to be teaching myself to be a better mechanic...

I've been looking into lift options, which seem numerous. So if I want to go up to 35" or 37" tires (and I'd just do AT tires, not mud tires), help me out with some general recommendations on lift systems. I don't think my truck has been lifted already, but I don't necessarily know what I'm looking for, either.

Also, can anyone recommend a good youtube tutorial on installing a lift kit? I'm going to have to replace my steering gearbox anyway, so if there are lift options that involve me tearing into my steering, that's no big deal.

Thoughts?

Aaron

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Grit dog

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In general, the more it costs, the better it is. If you buy it from ORD its GOOD but keep a firm grip on your credit card!
Rear, blocks, shackle flip, or springs, not a big deal, IMO, unless you're going to put some big power through it that would make the blocks inferior or need the batter ride of new soft ride springs in back.
Front, drop Pittman arm, not drop drag link preferable. Much over 4" lift and crossover steering is MUCH better. Springs, Rough Countrys ride like **** (I have em), unless you're after a super stiff set of springs.
35s, IMO 4" is min, in front. Well 3" on a 3500 since they sit a little higher than a K20. Someone with more experience than me will give you better advice.
This is 4" front and back with 35s (315-75-16) on a 3/4 ton for reference.

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In general, the more it costs, the better it is. If you buy it from ORD its GOOD but keep a firm grip on your credit card!
Rear, blocks, shackle flip, or springs, not a big deal, IMO, unless you're going to put some big power through it that would make the blocks inferior or need the batter ride of new soft ride springs in back.
Front, drop Pittman arm, not drop drag link preferable. Much over 4" lift and crossover steering is MUCH better. Springs, Rough Countrys ride like **** (I have em), unless you're after a super stiff set of springs.
35s, IMO 4" is min, in front. Well 3" on a 3500 since they sit a little higher than a K20. Someone with more experience than me will give you better advice.
This is 4" front and back with 35s (315-75-16) on a 3/4 ton for reference.

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Good deal
 

Rusty Nail

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Youre in the right spot.

I like 35s with a 4 inch lift.
All springs though, theres no harm found in replacing 35 year old leaf springs and it's kinda cheap.

Might have to lengthen the rear drive shaft 1 or 2 inches. But maybe not.

Might have to install a "drop steering arm". But maybe not.

Might have to buy new front brake hoses too. But maybe not.


If you go bigger than 4 inch lift, you in fact WILL have to replace all them.parts ++

Very straightforward. Remove parts and replace them.

Were it ME, I would ONLY consider "Tuff Country E-Z Ride" springs.

*A 4 inch lift and 35s.
:waytogo: That's what you want!

https://www.tuffcountry.com/more-products/leaf-springs/

Hope this helps!
 

77 K20

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Hey- someone else from Montana! Welcome!

To offer the best advice need some more input:

-What is the budget for this? Cheap as possible? There is a wide range of prices and options.
-Truck still need load carrying capacity?
-Looking for as soft of a ride as possible?
-Any offroading? What type? Just gravel roads and washboard? Or offroad trails?

Grit dog mentioned ORD up above. Check out their website:

https://www.offroaddesign.com/

They have good information here. They also can put together a kit.

https://www.offroaddesign.com/square-body-chevy-k30-4-standard-lift-system.html

Chevy 1/2 tons and 3/4 tons have issues with frames cracking at the steering box. It can happen with a 1 ton also- especially with larger tires. Might look into a steering box brace also. They have bolt in and weld in.

https://www.offroaddesign.com/bolt-in-steering-box-brace-for-81-91-gm-4wd-trucks.html

After lifting a truck the front sway bar gets tilted- and often makes the ride pretty harsh. Can remove the sway bar completely (hey, it's free to try) and if you don't like that you can get a quick disconnect kit. And you don't have to disconnect it- it has a pivot point to let it move with the suspension and not make the ride rough.

As far as lift kit brands: Tuff Country or the ORD custom springs ($$$)
 

Rusty Nail

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Oh yeah steering brace.
Good call!
Better check that out too, prolly want one if you dont need one already. :)
 

AaronW

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Thanks, everyone for the suggestions. I'm not looking to go real high, just enough to maybe get some 35's on it. My wife is short, I don't want to have to install multiple steps just so she can get into the cab. Though I do look forward to whistling at her, when she does :)

Mike asked some questions. (Where you at in MT, Mike? I'm down in Dillon):

Budget: Right now, I don't really have one, since as long as I can drive the truck in between stages, I can afford to wait until I've got money for whatever the next stage is. So that said, I just as soon get a sense of what the top-notch parts are going to be, and then I can work down from there, if I don't want to wait that long to save the $$ for them. Overall items I've got to do/take care of: Fixing the cab rust. Build a flat bed. (Unless I can find a whole regular bed, around here). Going to replace the heads and get some more horsepower, and well as a different cam. It's the 454 TBI.

Load carrying: Yes, I definitely want to be able to carry pretty heavy stuff in it. I rebuild a lot of old woodworking machinery, which tends to be beefy. (My jointer weighs 2000 pounds or so), and so I don't want to sacrifice any weight capacity here. I could always install a set of airbags, but I'd assume that that is more complicated, if you've lifted the truck.

Ride: Well, it rides pretty hard now, though pretty good if you've got a yard of sand in the bed. :) I'm probably not likely to drive it much further than Bozeman or Idaho Falls, but you tell me: If I did a 4" lift: Am I going to hate highway driving? It's a three speed. I've got a couple mechanic friend who think that I could actually put a 4 speed transmission in it, and increase my gas mileage a good bit, since I'd effectively have an overdrive gear. If I did this, then I've be likely to take it on a bit longer runs. (Can you tell I'm undecided on this overall point?)

Offroading: Sometimes it's kinda like offroading just getting to my house. I drive lots of bad dirt and gravel roads. I don't intend to do any major offroading with it though, other than getting around during hunting and firewood cutting season.

One more thing: One consistent problem I've had with this truck, is the bolts in the steering box loosening up. Would the "crossover" steering thing help this problem? I finally fixed it with the steering box I've got, by getting new over-long #8 bolts and lock nuts, and going clear through the frame and putting the lock nuts on the other side. The steering box is worn out though, and my steering is pretty loose-goosey, so I've going to have to change this out no matter which way I go.

Thanks again for the ideas. As I said above, I rebuild lots of woodworking machinery, so I'm not exactly a mechanical novice, but at the same time, but experience on vehicles is mostly limited to "take that thingy out and replace it with the same thingy", so forgive me if I ask any dumb questions here.

Aaron
 

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Mine is currently on stock ride height with 315/75R16's like Grit Dog. A PO had cut the fenders for them to clear and also ran into a pole or something on the drivers side, so I'm going to replace both fenders when I lift the truck to clear the 35's without cutting. I've used my Biden bucks to purchase the rest of the stuff for my lift and will be starting the installation in the next week or two.

For the front I managed to source a set of new 4" lift Tuff Country EZ-Ride HD's locally for $100. I bought the front HD shackle hanger and all new greaseable kevlar bushings from ORD as well as the 4" lift steering arm and 24" braided brake lines. I also got the sway bar disconnect kit.

For the rear I'm using rear 63" K2500 Suburban springs and a 4" ORD Shackle flip kit. I got the ORD greaseable kevlar bushing kit for the rear as well. Saddle tanks are being removed and a 30 gal '87 Blazer tank will be installed in the rear so that I can move the forward rear spring mounts forward by 4-6". That should keep the load handling capability but give it a much softer ride.
 

idahovette

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Thanks, everyone for the suggestions. I'm not looking to go real high, just enough to maybe get some 35's on it. My wife is short, I don't want to have to install multiple steps just so she can get into the cab. Though I do look forward to whistling at her, when she does :)

Mike asked some questions. (Where you at in MT, Mike? I'm down in Dillon):

Budget: Right now, I don't really have one, since as long as I can drive the truck in between stages, I can afford to wait until I've got money for whatever the next stage is. So that said, I just as soon get a sense of what the top-notch parts are going to be, and then I can work down from there, if I don't want to wait that long to save the $$ for them. Overall items I've got to do/take care of: Fixing the cab rust. Build a flat bed. (Unless I can find a whole regular bed, around here). Going to replace the heads and get some more horsepower, and well as a different cam. It's the 454 TBI.

Load carrying: Yes, I definitely want to be able to carry pretty heavy stuff in it. I rebuild a lot of old woodworking machinery, which tends to be beefy. (My jointer weighs 2000 pounds or so), and so I don't want to sacrifice any weight capacity here. I could always install a set of airbags, but I'd assume that that is more complicated, if you've lifted the truck.

Ride: Well, it rides pretty hard now, though pretty good if you've got a yard of sand in the bed. :) I'm probably not likely to drive it much further than Bozeman or Idaho Falls, but you tell me: If I did a 4" lift: Am I going to hate highway driving? It's a three speed. I've got a couple mechanic friend who think that I could actually put a 4 speed transmission in it, and increase my gas mileage a good bit, since I'd effectively have an overdrive gear. If I did this, then I've be likely to take it on a bit longer runs. (Can you tell I'm undecided on this overall point?)

Offroading: Sometimes it's kinda like offroading just getting to my house. I drive lots of bad dirt and gravel roads. I don't intend to do any major offroading with it though, other than getting around during hunting and firewood cutting season.

One more thing: One consistent problem I've had with this truck, is the bolts in the steering box loosening up. Would the "crossover" steering thing help this problem? I finally fixed it with the steering box I've got, by getting new over-long #8 bolts and lock nuts, and going clear through the frame and putting the lock nuts on the other side. The steering box is worn out though, and my steering is pretty loose-goosey, so I've going to have to change this out no matter which way I go.

Thanks again for the ideas. As I said above, I rebuild lots of woodworking machinery, so I'm not exactly a mechanical novice, but at the same time, but experience on vehicles is mostly limited to "take that thingy out and replace it with the same thingy", so forgive me if I ask any dumb questions here.

Aaron
As for the wife and the steps, maybe the opportunity for a little "hands-on",(or under)...help....if ya know what I mean!!!.....LOL
 

Frankenchevy

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35s won’t fit with a 4” ORD lift even on a 1-ton without fender trimming. They’re too soft and you’ll make body contact.

Either way, the wheel well is only so big in the front. So if you get a really nice spring that’s capable of articulation, a 35 will rub without trimming. If you get a cheaper (stiffer) lift, you can run 35s on a 2-3” lift on a 1-ton and it’ll keep the tire far enough away from sheet metals. It’s similar to a 4”+ lift on a 3/4 or half ton. Nice thing about a 3” lift on a 1-ton is you can get away with just running a drop pitman arm.

All that being said, an Alcan or Deaver leaf spring is about as close in ride quality as you can get to links/coils without doing the conversion.

They’ll run about $1800 for the four springs. Plus another $500 for some decent (bilstein 5125) shocks.
 

Frankenchevy

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As far as a how to on leaf lifts, it’s incredibly simple. Jack the truck up til the wheels are off the ground. Put some jack stands under it on the frame. Rock the hell out of it back and fourth once it’s on the stands to make sure it isn’t going anywhere. The put the floor jack under one corner at a time on the shock perch, pull the tire, lower the jack to get the axle to droop. Unbolt the spring, reinstall new spring with new hardware, then locate the centering pin into the spring perch as you jack the axle back up. Don’t torque everything down till the truck is back on it’s own weight.

A couple things I left out of my previous post. You’ll want new ubolts, new bushings and bolts as well as new brake lines. That add up to $400-500 if you go with quality stuff like crown braided lines and greasable kevlar-poly bushings and bolts. I eliminated the bottom cups from the rear axle and went “bolt under” as well as the Dana 60 stud kit for the passenger side spring plate.

Damn, now that I’m thinking about it, I could’ve gone coils and spent around the same money, haha. It’s probably $3500 ish to do a really nice 3” lift.
 

77 K20

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I'm in the Kalispell/Whitefish part of the state.

Since the truck still needs to do some work and haul things I'd probably recommend the Tuff Country HD front springs since you have the big block and then remove the front sway bar. (*AND if you think it rides too rough you can simply remove the bottom leaf spring then you have the same thing as the Tuff Country EZ ride springs. This might drop the truck down a small bit in height). I used this combo on my truck even though I just had a small block (was thinking I would put on a winch bumper but it didn't happen). I liked the way it rode and could still haul weight. Also can get the HD front shackle and greaseable bushings. Lets the leaf spring flatten out more easily when you hit bumps.

For the rear if your existing springs are still ok could do just a lift block or a shackle flip. The lift block is the cheapest, and can try this first to save some $$ now. Drawback is depending on what you are doing you can get some axle hop. Can also upgrade you stock rubber bushings for greaseable urethane. A bit more expensive is the shackle flip. With this you can get a longer shackle and some nice greaseable bushings. The ride is improved as the shackle is more free to move. The stock one with rubber bushings doesn't want to move much at all. With aftermarket rear leaf springs you lose load carrying ability. Sure- you can get airbags, but $$$. (EDIT- guess they aren't as expensive as they once were). And with the block or shackle flip if you change your mind later you can still swap out the factory pack for something else, something softer.

With a 4" lift as long as you have your steering geometry fixed it will be fine on the highway. Putting slightly bigger tires on it will effectively give you more of a highway gearing anyway. Do you know what your truck has now? 4.10? 4.56? If you put on bigger tires AND added an overdrive trans then it might be too much for your existing gearing.

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Get some decent shocks- I've run Bilsteins a lot and have had pretty good luck and have been happy with them.

Crossover steering is pretty expensive. I went that route and have to say for highway driving I like the old "traditional" steering better. The crossover is nice for when I have the truck all articulated out on the trail. Getting a steering brace where it triangulates the front frame and crossmember will probably help out. You get new bolts that go thru the steering box and frame. One thing you can try is park your truck on pavement and have someone sit in it and steer the tires back and forth- lock to lock. Watch the power steering box/frame area. At least on the 1/2 tons it is pretty impressive how much the frame will flex and twist with the stress. Bigger tires just increase it even more.

Been some discussions again about rebuilt/reman steering boxes from NAPA/O'reilly. They often suck. Lares/Redhead/PSC make brand new ones, but cost more than a rebuild.

And I thought it was a requirement in Dillon to have a flatbed. Seems everyone has one down there.

Asking questions is what this forum is for... so ask away.



Thanks, everyone for the suggestions. I'm not looking to go real high, just enough to maybe get some 35's on it. My wife is short, I don't want to have to install multiple steps just so she can get into the cab. Though I do look forward to whistling at her, when she does :)

Mike asked some questions. (Where you at in MT, Mike? I'm down in Dillon):

Budget: Right now, I don't really have one, since as long as I can drive the truck in between stages, I can afford to wait until I've got money for whatever the next stage is. So that said, I just as soon get a sense of what the top-notch parts are going to be, and then I can work down from there, if I don't want to wait that long to save the $$ for them. Overall items I've got to do/take care of: Fixing the cab rust. Build a flat bed. (Unless I can find a whole regular bed, around here). Going to replace the heads and get some more horsepower, and well as a different cam. It's the 454 TBI.

Load carrying: Yes, I definitely want to be able to carry pretty heavy stuff in it. I rebuild a lot of old woodworking machinery, which tends to be beefy. (My jointer weighs 2000 pounds or so), and so I don't want to sacrifice any weight capacity here. I could always install a set of airbags, but I'd assume that that is more complicated, if you've lifted the truck.

Ride: Well, it rides pretty hard now, though pretty good if you've got a yard of sand in the bed. :) I'm probably not likely to drive it much further than Bozeman or Idaho Falls, but you tell me: If I did a 4" lift: Am I going to hate highway driving? It's a three speed. I've got a couple mechanic friend who think that I could actually put a 4 speed transmission in it, and increase my gas mileage a good bit, since I'd effectively have an overdrive gear. If I did this, then I've be likely to take it on a bit longer runs. (Can you tell I'm undecided on this overall point?)

Offroading: Sometimes it's kinda like offroading just getting to my house. I drive lots of bad dirt and gravel roads. I don't intend to do any major offroading with it though, other than getting around during hunting and firewood cutting season.

One more thing: One consistent problem I've had with this truck, is the bolts in the steering box loosening up. Would the "crossover" steering thing help this problem? I finally fixed it with the steering box I've got, by getting new over-long #8 bolts and lock nuts, and going clear through the frame and putting the lock nuts on the other side. The steering box is worn out though, and my steering is pretty loose-goosey, so I've going to have to change this out no matter which way I go.

Thanks again for the ideas. As I said above, I rebuild lots of woodworking machinery, so I'm not exactly a mechanical novice, but at the same time, but experience on vehicles is mostly limited to "take that thingy out and replace it with the same thingy", so forgive me if I ask any dumb questions here.

Aaron
 
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Frankenchevy

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^^^these are good suggestions. I will add that I put air-ride airbags on the rear to aid the super soft ORDs and it wasn’t super expensive—about $400
 

AaronW

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I'm in the Kalispell/Whitefish part of the state.

Since the truck still needs to do some work and haul things I'd probably recommend the Tuff Country HD front springs since you have the big block and then remove the front sway bar. (*AND if you think it rides too rough you can simply remove the bottom leaf spring then you have the same thing as the Tuff Country EZ ride springs. This might drop the truck down a small bit in height). I used this combo on my truck even though I just had a small block (was thinking I would put on a winch bumper but it didn't happen). I liked the way it rode and could still haul weight. Also can get the HD front shackle and greaseable bushings. Lets the leaf spring flatten out more easily when you hit bumps.

For the rear if your existing springs are still ok could do just a lift block or a shackle flip. The lift block is the cheapest, and can try this first to save some $$ now. Drawback is depending on what you are doing you can get some axle hop. Can also upgrade you stock rubber bushings for greaseable urethane. A bit more expensive is the shackle flip. With this you can get a longer shackle and some nice greaseable bushings. The ride is improved as the shackle is more free to move. The stock one with rubber bushings doesn't want to move much at all. With aftermarket rear leaf springs you lose load carrying ability. Sure- you can get airbags, but $$$. (EDIT- guess they aren't as expensive as they once were). And with the block or shackle flip if you change your mind later you can still swap out the factory pack for something else, something softer.

With a 4" lift as long as you have your steering geometry fixed it will be fine on the highway. Putting slightly bigger tires on it will effectively give you more of a highway gearing anyway. Do you know what your truck has now? 4.10? 4.56? If you put on bigger tires AND added an overdrive trans then it might be too much for your existing gearing.

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Get some decent shocks- I've run Bilsteins a lot and have had pretty good luck and have been happy with them.

Crossover steering is pretty expensive. I went that route and have to say for highway driving I like the old "traditional" steering better. The crossover is nice for when I have the truck all articulated out on the trail. Getting a steering brace where it triangulates the front frame and crossmember will probably help out. You get new bolts that go thru the steering box and frame. One thing you can try is park your truck on pavement and have someone sit in it and steer the tires back and forth- lock to lock. Watch the power steering box/frame area. At least on the 1/2 tons it is pretty impressive how much the frame will flex and twist with the stress. Bigger tires just increase it even more.

Been some discussions again about rebuilt/reman steering boxes from NAPA/O'reilly. They often suck. Lares/Redhead/PSC make brand new ones, but cost more than a rebuild.

And I thought it was a requirement in Dillon to have a flatbed. Seems everyone has one down there.

Asking questions is what this forum is for... so ask away.

You're right about the flatbeds down here. They're all over the place. I'm teaching myself how to weld, so I figured I'd just build one with a wood deck if it came to that. One of my uncles used to have a square body with a factory wood bed, I've always liked the look of those. I don't actually know what the gearing is, in the rear end of the truck. How to I figure that out? Is there a number back on the differential somewhere? I'd been wondering about this, in combination with an overdrive gear... Thanks for that chart, I'd not seen that before. I'll study this over.

Thanks again for all the suggestions, everyone. Nice to find a forum where everyone is actually interested in sharing what they know. I'm on another forum for rebuilding old woodworking equipment, and it is awesome.

Aaron
 

77 K20

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To figure out gear ratios check out this page:

https://www.crankshaftcoalition.com/wiki/Gear_ratio_check#:~:text=On some ring gears, there,for a Dana 44 differential.

One way to do it without popping off the diff cover is jack up the back of the truck and make a mark on a tire and on the driveshaft. Rotate the tire and you can see the ratio.

That gear ratio chart is for a 1:1 ratio manual transmission on a non-overdrive transmission with a lock up torque converter. If you don't have a lockup converter you will get a higher RPM as the torque converter is "slipping" a bit. And tire size is actual measured tire size, not just the size stamped on the sidewall. Best most accurate way is to measure to the ground to the center line of the hub (measures tire "squish" on the ground) then x2.

https://purperformance.com/p-29669-rpm-calculator.html

Here is a better calculator to input whatever you want including an overdrive ratio.
 
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