Not every vehicle upgrade needs to be a wallet-breaker. While off-roading can never be considered a no-budget activity, it doesn’t have to be a high-budget activity, either. It turns out you can have a lot of fun with only a modest cash outlay.
One example of this is Trailmaster’s 4-inch lift system for 2007-to-2013 Chevy/GMC 1500 pickups. Fitting both 2WD and 4WD models, it retains the stock front shocks and leaves the front lower control arms in place. At press time, MSRP was well below $600. Once installed, the Trailmaster 4-inch system provides clearance for up to 33-inch tires.
To show off this suspension system, we dropped in on the 4 Wheel Parts Superstore in Redondo Beach, California, and snapped photos while technician Junior Lopez spun the wrenches. With a fully equipped installation facility, the complete process took place under one roof, including tire mounting, balancing, and alignment.
Step By Step
1 Here’s the obligatory before shot. This truck has already been treated to Pro Comp Pro Runner front shocks configured to provide a 2-inch lift. The tires are 305/60R18 Pro Comp Xtreme A/Ts. The P-Metric size 305/60R18 equates to a 32 1/2-inch tire diameter.
2 The Trailmaster 4-inch system includes replacement upper control arms, front shock spacers, rear lift blocks, U-bolts, extended-length rear shocks, a front differential skid plate, a pair of front differential lowering brackets, and complete instructions. Also included, but not shown, is an assortment of needed fasteners.
3 This particular truck is a two-wheel drive model. As such, we won’t be using the machined aluminum differential lowering spacers. They’re nice-looking pieces, so we thought we’d treat you to an up-close look.
4 The Trailmaster upper control arms are necessary to bring the front end into proper alignment at the new lift height. They come loaded with bushings and a ball joint, making installation a quick process.
5 To install the front shock spacers, it’s necessary to cut some length off the upper mounting bolts. A cutoff wheel took care of this in short order.
6 With the upper mounting bolts cut shorter, they’ll now fit into the spacer without contacting the upper plate. Red Loctite threadlocker will keep the mounting nuts securely in place.
7 The brake line and ABS sensor line are fastened to the Trailmaster upper control arm with provided clamps. The Trailmaster system is engineered around the stock shocks, but the truck’s owner wanted to re-use his already-upgraded Pro Comp Pro Runner shocks with the Trailmaster kit.
8a The Pro Runner shocks on this particular truck had an aluminum lift spacer fitted on top.
8b Retaining the aluminum spacer and stacking the Trailmaster spacer on top will potentially damage the upper control arm ball joint. As such, the aluminum spacer was removed and set aside.
9 The Pro Runner shocks feature a lower spring seat that can be set at two different heights. Junior marked each height setting so you can see the difference. To work with the Trailmaster system, the Pro Runner needs to be configured at the same height as the stock front shocks, which meant setting the spring seat in the lower position.
10 With the Pro Runner shock configured to match the dimensions of a stock shock, it was a perfect fit with the Trailmaster lift system. Note the stock coil spring is reused with the Pro Runner shock.
11 The Trailmaster cast-iron lift block on the left replaces the stock lift block on the right. The Trailmaster block is 3 inches tall. When combined with the 4-inch front lift, it produces a truck with a level stance.
12 Extended-length Trailmaster shocks bolt into the stock upper and lower mounts.
13 Cutting off excess U-bolt length is always a smart thing to do. After the cutting was done, the U-bolts, backing plates, and rear brake drums were treated to a quick coat of flat-black paint. The flat black dries quickly, protects against corrosion, and gives a professional, finished look.
14 There’s no front differential on this 2WD truck, but we installed the Trailmaster front differential skidplate anyway so you could see how it looks. The skidplate is made from 3/16-inch plate steel that’s CNC formed for an accurate fit.
15 Here’s the completed front suspension package, ready for a trip to the alignment rack. Since the alignment rack was in-house at 4 Wheel Parts, it was about a 100-foot journey.
16 The look is aggressive, yet not overdone, and the black-and-machined finish of the Pro Comp 5182 Phantom wheels perfectly complements the truck’s gray hue. The tires are Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 tires in a 295/55R20 size, which translates to 33x12.50R20.