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1988-98 Chevy C/K Lift Kit Buyer's Guide

Posted in Features on February 1, 2003 Comment (0)
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1988-98 Chevy C/K Lift Kit Buyer's Guide

In 1988, General Motors introduced a brand-new Chevy/GMC pickup truck line. A collective gasp went up from truck enthusiasts when they learned that GM had defected from a leaf-sprung solid-front axle to independent front suspension (IFS). Over the course of time, IFS proved itself viable in real-world use and GM used this system through 1998, when a similar but non-interchangeable system was introduced. For those of you who have opted to not torch this smooth-riding and well-handling suspension from under your '88-'98 Chevy/GMC truck in favor of a leaf-sprung solid-axle system, we have good news. There are many manufacturers offering lift kits for the '88-'98 Chevy/GMC K1500 (11/42-ton with 6-lug wheels), K2500 (31/44-ton with 6- or 8-lug wheels) and K3500 (1-ton with 8-lug wheels) pickup trucks. What follows are some of your options if you're looking for a bit of altitude adjustment.

So, What's Involved?
Clearly, the GM IFS is a bit more complicated than a standard solid-axle/leaf-spring setup, and this is driven home when you look at what's involved in installing a lift. Mechanics who do these kits frequently tell us that once you do a few, it's possible to hustle through an installation in about six hours. The common man, one who works on his truck in his driveway, will find that the first-time installation will take well over the 10-12 hours that most manufacturers indicate. Of course, this depends on which kit you're installing, how the manufacturer has approached the design, and the number of required components.
Depending on the kit, you can plan on having to torch off frame brackets or differential brackets to make way for the new parts, and you may have to do some exhaust modifications to make way for the lowered IFS components. After the installation, those vehicles equipped with the Autotrac transfer case may encounter driveline vibration. Some manufacturers have eliminated this problem in the design of their kits' geometry, while others have solved the problem by offering optional CV driveshafts. Is the time worth it? Owners of these vehicles say that it is, pointing out the improved off-highway performance created by the larger tires and improved ground clearance. The choice you have to make is whether or not you want to tackle the installation, or whether you turn it over to an experienced installer.

bds suspension chevy lift lift

BDS Suspension
Kits available:1
What it fits: K1500, K2500 (6-lug wheels only)
Inches of lift: 6 front, 5 rear
Maximum tire diameter: 35 inches
Kit details: Included are one-piece lower crossmembers that increase frame rigidity while reducing installation time, a "No Flex" drop drag link that helps retain factory alignment settings and reduce bumpsteer. The kit retains the factory upper and lower control arms, which eliminates a ball-joint change. The rear is lifted via blocks and add-a-leaves, and the kit includes shock absorbers.
Optional accessories: Aluminum skidplate, lateral compression strut, rear bumpstop extension.
BDS Suspension
402 Jay St., Coldwater, Michigan 49036
517/279-2135, www.bds-suspension.com.

explorer pro comp chevy suspension kit

Explorer Pro Comp
Kits available: 5
What they fit: K1500, K2500 (6- or 8-lug wheels), K3500
Inches of lift: 4 to 6 inches front, 311/42 to 4 inches rear (depending on kit)
Maximum tire diameter: 32-35 inches (depending on kit)
Kit details:Pro Comp offers a number of kits. The company addressed the Autotrac option by creating a kit (PN 51098) specifically for vehicles equipped with this system. It differs from standard systems by incorporating changes for proper front pinion angle for use of a CV driveshaft, and eliminates the slip-yoke at the transfer-case output shaft. Standard features of all Pro Comp kits include one-piece upper control arm drop brackets, rear crossmember compression struts that increase chassis rigidity and four shocks.
Optional accessories: Traction bars, stainless steel skidplates, triple-shock system.
Explorer Pro Comp
2360 Boswell Rd., Chula Vista, California
619/216-1444, www.explorerprocomp.com.

fabtech motorsports chevy lift kit

Fabtech Motorsports
Kits available: 1
What it fits: K1500
inches of lift: 6
Maximum tire diameter: 35 inches
Kit details: The folks at Fabtech offer this comprehensive kit that includes one-piece cast steering knuckles, high-arched 1 1/4-inch thick crossmembers, integrated 1 1/4-inch-thick steel differential plate, steel billet antiroll-bar end links, tubular impact struts and one-piece torsion-bar mounts. The rear is lifted via a 4-inch block and add-a-leaf system. The kit increases caster for more control with oversized tires and it retains the factory steering centerlink and upper control arm in the stock location.
Optional accessories: Multiple front shock system, steering stabilizer, rear-axle traction bars.
Fabtech Performance Suspensions
4331 Eucalyptus Ave., Chino, California 91710
909/597-7800, www.fabtechmotorsports.com.

rcd suspension chevy lift kit

RCD Suspension
Kits available: 2
What they fit: K1500, K2500 (6- or 8-lug wheels), K3500
Inches of lift: 6
Maximum tire diameter: 33 inches
Kit details: RCD kits include replacement cast-iron steering knuckles for precise steering geometry. The kits also feature fully machined T-6 billet aluminum axle spacers to maintain proper axle lengths, a heavy-duty two-piece lower subframe assembly and polished stainless steel "Twin-Link" anti-compression struts to ensure structural strength and durability, CNC-machined zinc-plated billet steel antiroll-bar links with oversize urethane bushings, powdercoat finish, Grade 8 hardware and four Bilstein monotube shocks. RCD says that no optional items are needed for Autotrac-equipped vehicles because its kits relocate the front differential to eliminate potential vibration.
Optional accessories: Front multiple-shock system, front skidplate (T-6 brushed aluminum or polished stainless steel), RCD "Trac-Link" rear traction-arm system, front lightbar hoop (powdercoated or polished stainless steel).
RCD Suspension
3552 Fowler Canyon Rd., Jamul, California 91935
619/588-4723, www.racecardynamics.com.

rancho suspension chevy lift kit

Rancho
Kits available: 3
What they fit: K1500, K2500 (6- or 8-lug wheels), K3500
Inches of lift: 2 to 4 front, 1 1/2 to 4 rear (depending on kit)
Maximum tire diameter: 32-33 inches (depending on kit)
Kit details: The 2- to 3-inch kits for the K1500 and K2500 6-lug-equipped trucks come with new upper control arms, longer front brake hoses, all required hardware, drop-down bracketry to retain the factory geometry and a rear add-a-leaf kit to raise the tail of the truck. Also available is a 4-inch kit for the 6- or 8-lug K2500. It lifts the 6-lug rear by 4 inches and the 8-lug rear by 2 1/2. The kit for the K3500 1-ton offers a 4-inch front lift and a 2 1/2-inch rear.
Optional accessories: Steering stabilizer.
Rancho Suspension
One International Dr., Monroe, Michigan, 48161
888/GO-RANCHO, www.gorancho.com.

skyjacker suspension chevy lift kit

Skyjacker
Kits available: 8
What they fit: K1500, K2500 (6- or 8-lug wheels), K3500
Inches of lift: 2-6 inches (depending on kit)
Maximum tire diameter: Up to 36 inches (depending on kit)
Kit details: The 2 1/2-inch kit includes new differential brackets and A-arms to relieve wear and tear on the upper ball joints, full-length Softride rear add-a-leaves and four Softride shocks. The 4 1/2- to 6-inch kits include new differential brackets and A-arm drop brackets, center steering stabilizer link and stabilizer arm, lower differential skidplate, stainless steel brake lines, Grade 8 mounting hardware, poly bushings, four Softride Nitro or Hydro shocks and your choice of either complete rear springs or kit with rear blocks.
Optional accessories: Polyurethane cab bushings, Autotrac driveshaft, 2- or 3-inch body lift.
Skyjacker
P.O. Box 1678, West Monroe, Louisiana
71294-1678, 318/388-0816, www.skyjacker.com.

superlift suspension chevy lift kit

Superlift Suspension Systems
Kits available: 9
What they fit: K1500, K2500 (6- or 8-lug wheels), K3500
Inches of lift: 2-6 inches front, 0-5 inches rear (depending on kit)
Maximum tire diameter: 32-35 inches (depending on kit)
Kit details: The 2-inch front lift kit for the K1500 includes new replacement upper control arms (with greasable urethane eye bushings) that restore proper alignment and factory ride quality, brackets to lower the front differential to relieve CV angles and Superide shocks with boots. The 4- to 6-inch (pictured) and 5- to 7-inch kits for light-duty 6-lug K2500 trucks and heavy-duty K2500 and K3500 trucks with 8-lug wheels feature full-width differential/control arm crossmembers, crossmember kicker braces, skidplate and dual centerlink stabilizing links. Superlift says that all of its GM kits retain the factory ride quality, steering geometry and CV angles, offer increased wheel travel and allow for fitment of larger-diameter tires.
Optional accessories: For the 2-inch kit you can choose either blocks or add-a-leaves to lift the rear, while for the remaining kits you can choose from a steering stabilizer kit, idler arm conversion, front dual-/triple-shock kit or speedometer recalibration.
Superlift Suspension Systems
Dept. FW, 300 Huey Lenard Loop Rd., West Monroe, Louisiana 71291, 800/551-4955, www.superlift.com.

trail master suspension chevy lift kit

Trail Master Suspension
Kits available: 3
What they fit: K1500, K2500 (6-lug wheels only), K3500
Inches of lift: 4, 6
Maximum tire diameter: 33 and 35 inches respectively
Kit details: The 4-inch kit for 6-lug K1500 and K2500 trucks retains the OE lower control arms and torsion bars, includes differential drop bracketry to maintain OE CV joint and driveline angles and features heat-treated, ductile-iron knuckle adapters. The 6-inch kit for the same vehicle consists of just 12 pieces to simplify installation, and includes Trail Master's original centerlink design that reduces leverage on the pitman and idler arms. It also utilizes the factory upper and lower control arms. Also available is a 4-inch kit for the K3500 1-ton 8-lug trucks, and, like the others, it comes with your choice of Trail Master N7, SS or SSV shock absorbers.
Optional accessories: Steering stabilizers, Dual Cardan driveshaft for Autotrac-equipped models.
Trail Master Suspension
395 Smitty Way, Suite 200, Corona, California 92879
909/736-8686, www.trailmastersuspension.com.

tuff country suspension chevy lift kit

Tuff Country
Kits available: 4
What they fit: K1500, K2500 (6- or 8-lug wheels), K3500
Inches of lift: 4, 6
Maximum tire diameter: 33, 35 inches respectively
Kit details: Tuff Country says that all its kits were designed with the installer in mind, and to this end, the company uses a one-piece integrated subframe and new spindles to simplify installation. The one-piece lower subframe incorporates numerous brackets into one sturdy unit, and this helps eliminate squeaks and rattles, while the new spindles help retain stock driveline geometry. Other components include upper-differential drop brackets, torsion-bar drop blocks, shock absorbers, rear blocks, U-bolts and add-a-leaves.
Optional accessories: Dual shock kit, front driveshaft for Autotrac-equipped vehicles.
Tuff Country EZ-Ride Suspension
4165 West Nike Dr., Salt Lake City, Utah 84088
800/288-2190, www.tuffcountry.com.

lifted 1995 chevy 1500

Whiplash Suspension
Kits available: 4
What they fit: K1500, K2500 (6- or 8-lug wheels), K3500
inches of lift: 8, 10 inches
Maximum tire diameter:36, 38.5 inches respectively
Kit details: Whiplash has had these kits (8-inch kit shown) on the market now for three years. The company says they are computer-engineered and laser-cut for the best possible fit. Whiplash says that its cross-braced design allows for superior strength and quick and easy installation with no welding. Rear lift is created by a combination of 8-inch leaf springs, block and U-bolt and add-a-leaf kits. For vehicles equipped with the Autotrac transfer case, Whiplash offers complete front driveshafts.
Optional accessories: Triple front shocks, dual steering stabilizers, traction bars.
Whiplash Suspensions
2686 N. Clovis Ave., No. 107, Fresno, California 93727
559/294-8404, www.whiplashsuspensions.com.

rough country suspension chevy lift kit

Rough Country
Kits available: 3
What they fit: K1500 6-lug
Inches of lift: 2 to 6
Maximum tire diameter: 2- to 3-inch kit up to 285/75, 4-inch kit up to 33x12.50, 6-inch kit up to 35x12.50
Kit details: The 2-3-inch kit includes front upper control arms, differential drop bracket, torsion bar adjuster keys, front brake lines, front shock relocation brackets, polyurethane bushings, Hydro 8000 shocks, rear add-a-leaf. The 4- and 6-inch kits (6-inch kit pictured) are newly redesigned and feature front and rear crossmembers, differential drop brackets, drop torsion bar brackets with RCX laser-cut logos, kicker brackets, upper and lower control arm drops, massive steering link coupled with heim joint-assist link, front and lower skidplates with RCX laser-cut logos, Hydro 8000 shocks, rear lift blocks, add-a-leafs, and U-bolts.
Optional accessories: 2- to 3-inch kit: Single steering stabilizer, Performance 2.2 shock upgrade, Nitro 9000 shock upgrade, shock boots. 4- & 6-inch kits: Steering stabilizer, Autotrac driveshaft, rear sway bar links, shock boots.
Rough Country
1400 Morgan Road, Dyersburg, Tennessee 38024
800/222-7023, www.roughcountry.com.

Crank Up the Torsion Bars? - Don't Do It!
If you're thinking of skipping a suspension kit, opting instead to just crank on the torsion bars to generate lift, there are some things you need to know. Trent McGee at Superlift Suspension points out that by doing so, you may get an inch or two of increased ride height, but the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages. As the ride height is increased, the distance between the bottom of the upper control arms and their extension travel stops becomes smaller, and this results in a rough ride. The reason is that with no extension travel, the suspension cannot fully cycle to soak up bumps and dips. Over time, this topping out causes accelerated upper balljoint wear, front-end alignment problems and CV axle-boot wear, all the result of increased operating angles.

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