Step By Step
Our Suburban was already up on the lift when we got to PG Series, so we began snapping photos as the torsion bars and some dried mud were unloaded and removed. The Tuff Country kit supplies brackets that lower this crossmember to compensate for the relocation of the front A-arms. They give no provisions to reattach the mud, but were sure you can figure that one out on your own.
There are as many wires and hoses holding the front suspension on this truck as there are bolts, so disconnect the wheel speed sensors, shock load sensors, ride height sensors, and the front calipers before you pull the trigger on that air gun. The front A-arm suspension should be removed as an assembly and placed out of harms way while you strip the rest of the truck.
The entire front suspension and drivetrain must be removed prior to installing the Tuff Country kit. The factory aluminum skidplate comes off and the lower suspension crossmember is unbolted and discarded. The driveshaft is then unbolted and the front differential is prepared for removal by disconnecting the vent tube and front axle actuator switch.
About 6 inches of this L-shaped bracket must be cut off in order to facilitate lowering the front differential. This cut is nothing to be afraid of, and the instructions provide you with a clear illustration of where to make the cut. If you think you might return the vehicle to stock at a later time, this piece can be welded back on.
The front differential was supported on a transmission jack and lowered out of the truck after unbolting it from the top three mounting points. That electrical connector is for the front axle disconnect that we advised you to remove in the previous step. We forgot, and were lucky to find there is enough slack in the wire to not damage the actuator. You may not be so lucky.
With the suspension and front axle mess out of the way, you can move on to the steering. A dropped centerlink is used in conjunction with your stock tie rods to regain the factory steering geometry. An additional idler arm is added to the new centerlink to support the extra load of larger tires and off-road use.
Time to fire up the torch because you have to cut off most of the original suspensions attachment points from the frame. Again the kits instructions outline where the cuts have to be made, but take your time, as you dont want to cut any more than you have to. Take care not to get the torch too close to the factory shocks, as high heat will damage them. Wed recommend removing them before making your cuts.
If you liked building things with your Erector set as a child, you will love putting this lift together. The kit uses 17 laser-cut, 1/4-inch-thick steel plates to lower the front differential and A-arms. There are a lot of bolts here, so make sure to use the hardware specified by the instructions and use Loctite to keep it all from coming loose. We called the tech line, and Tuff Country requires you to retorque all fasteners after the first 1,000 miles and then every 3,000 miles thereafter.
The kit comes with a two-piece skidplate that is much beefier than the stock piece. It bolted into the new lower crossmember and required a little massaging with the drill to get all of the bolt holes to line up. The skidplate looks like it will take a beating without complaint, and adds strength to the new suspension.
The upper and lower A-arms are bolted into their new locations on the Tuff Country brackets. The upper arms are attached with new bolts (shown here being tapped into position) that have a built-in cam to make alignment adjustments easy. The instructions recommend that the alignment be checked every six months after the kit is installed to ensure proper steering and tire wear.
The beauty of this kit is that it allows you to retain all the comfort and performance of GMs Autoride suspension by effectively adapting the factory shocks to work with the 4-inch lift. Factory suspension position sensors are retained by using longer rods to compensate for the lift.
GM is really trying to make these 1/2-ton trucks ride like cars, so new for 2000 is a five-link coil-sprung rear suspension. Tuff Country hasnt missed a step, and rear lift height is achieved with coil-spring spacers that are screwed into the upper spring towers. Additional bracketry is bolted on to keep the stock rear shocks and track bar in place. New longer sway bar links are also provided.
If you want to mount 315/75R16 tires on 16x8 wheels like we did, then 4 inches of lift wont be enough. PG Series cranked the torsion bars all the way up and did some air dam trimming to get the tires to clear, but dont expect to get much travel out of the suspension without massive tire rub.
A Suburban is a lot of truck to take out onto the trail, but that doesnt mean you have to settle for rolling around on stock tires. Most of the places we like to go on the weekends were tearing at our front air dam and reaching for our running boards. The low ride height (not our wife) was the limiting factor in where we could take the family four-wheeling. So when Tuff Country introduced its new 4-inch lift for 2000-and-newer Suburbans and Tahoes we had to check it out. Tuff Countrys kit is designed for trucks that have the new five-link rear suspension and retains the Autoride system. GM engineers spent a lot of time and money developing the Autoride system (91 pages of the factory service manual are devoted to Real Time Dampening). Tuff Country recommends a certified mechanic perform the installation, so we packed up our stuff and headed to PG Series new Hard Rock Cafelike facility in El Cajon, California, to have the lift installed.