After purchasing a new pickup, many vehicle owners will start modifying and personalizing their trucks. One of the most common upgrades is to eliminate the factory rake. Even though this is very common, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. We want to present the proper way to level out your truck.
Off Road Xtreme identified some vehicle owners were facing common issues and prematurely stressing out suspension components after leveling a truck. This may often result in a suspension failure such as a snapped ball joint on the upper control arm.
We will take a look at the proper way to level out your truck, the pros and cons of leveling out a truck, why to level out your truck, and ways to avoid problems associated with a leveled-out truck. What you need to know is that leveling out a truck may not be for everyone. Consult with a vehicle expert or truck suspension specialist to know what is right for you.
The Benefits Of Why To Level Out Your Truck
At Off Road Xtreme, we are an advocate of form following function. If you are going to mod your truck, it should serve a purpose. A few benefits of a leveled-out truck include, but are not limited to, increased ground clearance, fit larger tire size, and improved angle of approach.
Additionally, this modification in particular is rather inexpensive to achieve and accomplish. The parts are cheap to purchase, and the installation can be done with simple hand tools with moderate wrenching experience.
Obviously, another benefit is achieving a preferred stance or look by eliminating the factory rake.
What You Need To Know Before You Level Out Your Truck
Why are modern trucks lower in the front and higher in the back? The automotive industry term is called rake. On a truck platform, the factory rake is built into the vehicle setup for towing capabilities, aerodynamics, and handling.
Naturally, the more weight you tow behind your truck, the greater that the nose will raise, and the rear will lower. The level will change because the height of the hitch receiver has changed due to the weight. If you level out your truck and intend to do some heavy hauling, make sure to upgrade the vehicle towing setup with airbags, swaybars, helper springs, or a combination of options. Again, if needed, tap a specialist for expert assistance. There should be no compromise for safety.
The vehicle’s entire weight rests on its suspension. If you are unfamiliar with vehicle suspension, it is best to leave this job to the professionals. Either way, be sure to test and confirm proper drivability after any modifications are performed and regularly inspect the vehicle’s critical components.
The Negative Cons To Level Out Your Truck
By leveling out your truck, you have modified the designed vehicle aerodynamics. This will reduce your available fuel mileage. Besides that, the other most significant drawback when you level out your truck is the adjustment to the overall design of the vehicle suspension system. This can introduce increased wear and tear resulting in premature suspension component failure.
To eliminate this issue, upgrading a vehicle’s Upper Control Arm (UCA) will help correct proper suspension angles and geometry after a leveling kit is installed. In addition to the leveling kit and bolstering upper control arms, consider shocks properly fitted for the new setup, and undergo a full alignment.
Step By Step Installation Of A Leveling Kit Installation
In this article, Off Road Xtreme breaks down a complete leveling kit installation on a 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500. We sourced a leveling kit strut spacer, Part # 50209-GM, from Body Armor 4×4 and Cognito Motorsports Upper Control Arms, Part # SKU 110-90784. Both of these components are compatible and will work on two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive trucks. For Tires, we landed on these 305-55-20 Terrain Attack All Terrains from Amp Tire and some Matte Black 20-inch Mayhem Delta Wheels to finish everything off.
These parts were installed at home in a garage. A vehicle lift was not needed nor any special tools required. The wheels and tires were mounted and balanced at a local tire shop. We rate the entire job two out of five wrenches on a scale of difficulty. It took about one hour per side from removal to installation of new parts.
- Before you begin, chalk the vehicle tires with a stop block.
- Disconnect the vehicle battery terminals.
- Before tearing down, be sure to measure the height of the vehicle before doing anything
- Organize your work space and layout all the parts and tools required.
- Jack the truck up from the frame to lift up the vehicle.
- Remove the front wheels and tires off of the vehicle.
- 10 Mm Wrench
- 18 Mm Wrench
- 15 Mm Socket
- 15 Mm Wrench
- 16 Mm Wrench
- 17 Mm Wrench
- 21 Mm Wrench
- 21 Deep Well Socket
- 7/32″ Hex Key
- Flat Screw Driver
- Floor Jack & Jack Stands
Begin Installation Of The New Body Armor 4×4 Strut Spacer
- With the front jacked up and completely off the ground, brace the truck with jack stands.
- Remove the brackets holding the wiring and sensor harnesses to free them out of the way.
- Support the bottom of the spindle with a jack.
- Remove the castle nut at the ball joint connection. Use a hammer to lightly tap on the spindle at the ball joint to release it and free it from its seat.
- Provide support under the spindle by using a coat hanger, wire, or string to secure the spindle from dropping down abruptly and putting tension or damaging the brake lines.
- With the spindle now supported, jack up and support the lower control arm.
- Pry off and remove the bolt clips from the lower strut mount.
- Remove the two bolts from the lower strut mount.
- Remove the swaybar tie rod end bolt and drop the spindle down allowing clearance between the strut and lower control arm.
- Place the Body Armor 4×4 strut spacer below the lower strut mount.
- Make certain the Body Armor 4×4 logo is facing inward and right side up to ensure proper orientation.
- Install the new strut spacer with the provided bolts, washers, and nuts. But be sure to keep them loose. Set aside the old hardware, as none of it will be used.
- Align the swaybar tie rod back into position as you bring the lower control arm up into place and hand tighten the nut.
Begin Installation Of The New Cognito Motorsports Upper Control Arm
- Now move to the factory UCA mounting location.
- Remove the three bolts on top of the strut perch to free access to the strut to allow it to drop down and out of the way to gain access to the UCA’s two mounting bolts.
- Remove the nut and bolts from the UCAs and remove the factory UCA from the vehicle.
- Put into place and install the new UCA using the factory nuts and bolts.
- Reinstall the strut into the upper mount position with the three nuts but do not tighten yet.
- Reinstall the ball joint to the spindle and hand tighten the castle nut onto the ball joint to secure it into place but do not tighten yet.
- Once you have all of the UCA bolts, lower strut mount bolts, tie rod end, and ball joint nuts in place, go ahead and tighten everything down using the torque specs recommended.
- Put the wheels and tires back on, check the tire at full crank for clearance in the wheel well.
- Do this again with the suspension all the way bottomed out and also at full droop.
Level Out Installation Pro Tips
- Use a wire or coat hanger to hold the caliper back once removed from the spindle.
- Be sure to accurately tighten specific nuts/bolts with a torque wrench to factory specifications.
- During the removal stage, use a hammer to lightly tap the spindle at the ball joint to release it from its seat.
- You’ll also want to provide support under the spindle at this point to keep it from dropping down abruptly.
- When installing the Body Armor 4×4 Strut Space, be sure the logo emblem is facing up to ensure proper orientation.
- During UCA installation, use a crescent wrench to remove the factory perch by bending it back and forth until it breaks free from it’s weld points. No need for a cut off wheel like it lines out in the instructions.
- During UCA install, the strut will need to be dropped completely down and moved out of the way at the top to allow for clearance to reach inner bolt head removal and reinstallation.
- Use zip ties to secure the sensor/wiring harness.
- On the Passenger side strut mount it will require access from under the hood to reach the back strut nut. Having a long extension is key to gain enough clearance for removal and reinstallation of nut.
Vehicle Owner Feedback: Review of Parts And Installation
“Overall the installation was very basic. This is something anyone with a little mechanical knowledge could handle. It took about 1-2 hours of labor, per side, from removal to installation of new parts. It goes without saying, but the second side was a lot easier once I was able to work my way through the first side. After knowing what was what and how the front end of the truck was laid out, it all came apart and went together very quickly.”
“The Body Armor 4×4 Leveling Kit was very complete with nice packaging and premium hardware. The cast iron strut spacer was standard, but it should be noted that there are other premium leveling kits made of 1-piece billet machined aluminum.”
“The provided instructions were helpful when it came to the basic steps and made for a super easy work flow. Cognito’s Upper Controls were of high quality fit and finish. They were hand fabricated and much more robust than the OEM UCA units.”
Vehicle Owner Feedback: Ride Quality Before And After Conclusion
“The vehicle performance and ride quality didn’t seem to change much at all. In fact, it feels and rides like it is still in its stock configuration. Before the modification the front height measured at 37.5-inches on both the driver and passenger sides. After the leveling kit and before the larger tires, the front height measured at 39.25-inches on both the driver and passenger sides.”
“The main thing is we got rid of the factory rake and improved the truck’s stance, which is what I was going after.”
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