Equipped with bottom-of-the-line tires and wheels-245/70R17 skinnies on heavy 17x7 steel wheels-room for improvement was large. While acceptable in the dirt, the stock tires were already chunking and wearing funny at 800 miles. On pavement they were adequate, but the rear end would often skip in turns on uneven asphalt due to the heavy wheels and crummy tires.
We started searching for good-looking aluminum 16x8-inch wheels (15s won't fit) with the correct offset, but eventually decided on American Racing's 17x8 Moab. These forged wheels (PN 9251-7838) are light and strong, but not exactly cheap at $375. However, the performance and ride quality improved quite noticeably-not to mention the Silverado's appearance-but see the "Wheel Options" sidebar for a less expensive alternative.
The Bridgestone tires and American Racing wheels made a huge difference in handling and comfort, plus they saved some unsprung weight (14.4 pounds), although both are 1 inch wider than stock. Going from a 245/70 to a 275/60R17 only made a 2.3 percent difference in revolutions per mile in this case, so the speedo is still happy. A 3/4-inch socket is needed for the ARE wheels' included lug nuts, but they have the same taper as the metric stockers and work on the steel spare wheel too.
It's probably the first time ever in a four-wheel-drive magazine, but the mild-treaded stock tires were chucked in favor of even milder ones-and P-rated at that. Are we completely nuts? Could very well be, but the OE low-bidder tires were the only noise in the cab and didn't work all that well anyway, so we took a gamble on Bridgestone's Dueler H/L Alenza, size 275/60R17. We're glad we did, because the pickup became a quiet, extremely responsive, and predictable ride with kind of a go-cart feel from the lighter, wider wheels and superior tires. Of course, it all backfired in the dirt. With decreased contact pressure from the wider and milder treads, slopes became harder to conquer, and even sand was now trickier to traverse with the unladen pickup.
Since the Chevy will undoubtedly gain some weight, it just might grow into its new, larger shoes, and our only regret is that we didn't do one hellacious burnout to take the stock tires out in style before switching to the Bridgestones.
Carrying tools in a new vehicle may not seem all that natural, for three reasons. First, it's new and shouldn't break down in the first place. Yeah, right. Second, it's under warranty, so why bother? That's fine and dandy near a dealership, but a warranty doesn't mean squat in the sticks. Third, there's nothing that can be fixed on late-model stuff anyway. Well, while it would be nice to have an oscilloscope and such for troubleshooting the electronics, there are still a lot of fixable things on vehicles made in this millennium. Therefore, a Craftsman tool set was added to the mix, and its 137 pieces will go a long way toward performing maintenance as well as road- and trailside fixes, but it's not complete by any means. A hammer, hacksaw, adjustable wrench, pliers, prybar, and more will have to be added, not to mention those dreaded Torx tools, but this Craftsman set is a very good start.
Perhaps even more frustrating than not having the correct tools for a fix is not having a clue what to fix, or how. That's where a service manual comes in, an invaluable tool in itself. Just the wiring diagrams are worth the price of admission. Alternatively, if you're refinancing the house anyway, you could always get GM's OnStar thingy rather than tools and a manual.
Life without a good flashlight is, well, dark. South West Public Safety carries the entire line of Streamlight rechargeable flashlights, and after years of using the small but very capable Stinger on a daily basis, we were ready to order one for the pickup. SWPS suggested the even smaller Strion instead, and we're glad we listened. Despite its diminutive size (just 5 1/4 inches long-compare to the cigarette lighter plug), this quality light outshines much larger regular flashlights, yet fits in a pocket. A charge lasts about an hour, and a 110-volt charger is available. If only the rear blinkers were 1/50th as visible.
Tools for a brand-new vehicle? Well, it doesn't much matter how many miles or years are left on the warranty if something gives out 82 miles from the nearest pavement. It was hard to resist this Craftsman 137-piece kit (PN 5137) when it was on sale for just $98. It contains enough sockets, wrenches, and such to handle most basic repairs and installations, and everything stays put relatively well within the case. Also, there is room for additional tools, such as pliers, a hammer, and some extensions. This case lives behind the passenger seat until the bed gets some sort of toolbox or cover.
While most anything added to the Silverado will increase its weight and consequently hurt performance, some additions are worth it. There are still quite a few things that will be installed and/or modified to improve its utility. That useless center seat, for example, has to come out. Also, the taillights' output is dangerously bad, and they're ugly. Well, you'll just have to wait and see what all gets done to the Chevy we're trying not to do anything to, but rest assured that it'll remain in the bling-free zone.
There are lots of wheels to choose from for a late-model six-lug Chevy, and an 8-inch-wide rim can be a good compromise between rim width and keeping the tires inside the fenders. With a 4 1/2-inch backspacing (zero offset), the American Racing Moab wheels added 1 1/2 inches to the outside over the 17x7 stockers. This kept the tread just inside the body lines and shouldn't punish the wheel bearings much. All good and nice, but also pricey.
Another alternative is the pictured Mickey Thompson Classic II, size 17x9 (PN 379411). With a 5-inch backspacing, that extra inch of width is divided equally and no worse for the wheel bearings than are the 17x8s. Also, while the sidewall moves out (and in) by 1/2 inch, the tread remains in the same relative position with either wheel, putting the shoulder right at the edge of the fender, avoiding needless dirt, rock, and mud spray onto the body. At $175 apiece, the Mickey Thompson wheels are significantly cheaper, plus the design is very similar to the stocker's. Like the Moabs, the MTs come with center caps, but cutting the three little knobs off the back of the factory center caps makes them fit over the Classic IIs. Then, for the ultimate in sleeper appearance, paint the wheels silver and very few will notice the lighter, 2-inch-wider wheel. By the way, the tire seen here is a Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport, which is even more mild-treaded than the Dueler H/L we run, and not what you'd want for trail use.
Adventure Medical Kits
American Racing Equipment
19067 S. Reyes Ave.
Coast Driveline & Gear
2457 Palma Dr.
Southwest Public Safety