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Installing A Belltech Lowering Kit in a ’96 GMC Sierra C1500

When it comes to lowered trucks, the stance is everything! Without the proper stance, the truck will not look good or handle correctly. One company has been getting it right since 1983—Belltech. 

Belltech was at the forefront of the sport truck craze in the early ’90s building parts for none other than the GMT400 trucks. The launch of the drop spindle allowed people to lower their trucks while maintaining front-end geometry. They also addressed the rest of the suspension with shackle kits, flip kits and lowering coil springs. All of these components resulted in a ride quality that hadn’t been realized before now.

We recently picked up a 1996 GMC Sierra C1500 as a project truck. It was a bit rough around the edges but had great bones and potential. A little elbow grease and replacing a few things such as the carpet and body side moldings had the truck looking much better than when we bought it. The next step was to address the suspension, brakes and wheels.

’96 GMC Sierra C1500

To get the stance and look we wanted, we reached out to our friends at Belltech and Ridler wheels. We knew we wanted it to be low, but didn’t want to lay frame. The folks at Belltech recommended a 4/6 lowering kit with their Street Performance shocks part #688SP. We chose the new Ridler 606 gray with milled spoke wheels wrapped in Toyo rubber to round out the look we were after.

While we were tearing into the suspension, we also decided to upgrade the brakes and steering components. We chose drilled and slotted front rotors and a rear disc conversion from Little Shop Manufacturing. To ensure the truck steered straight and true, new steering components and balljoints were in order from Proforged.

All of these parts combined are going to create a truck that handles as well as it looks. Lets dive into what it takes to istall a 4/6 lowering kit from Belltech.

Belltech Lowering Kit

We laid all of the parts out and took inventory to ensure we had everything we needed to get the job done.

Removing the bed on a ’96 GMC Sierra to install a Belltech lowering kit

The first order is to get the bed removed. We also chose to take a pressure washer to the frame to get rid of years of caked-on dirt and grime.

After we got the truck on the lift, we removed all of the wheels and tires. We decided to start on the front first. Unbolt the caliper and secure it out of the way to prevent damaging the brake hose. Remove the dust cap from the rotor, remove the spindle nut and the rotor assembly. Next detatch the backing plate from the spindle by unfastening the three bolts.

Take out the two bottom bolts and upper nut from the shock and discard the shock.

Pull out the cotter pins and unfasten the nuts from the tie rod end, upper and lower ball joints. Leave both nuts on the ball joints at this time to prevent the coil spring from unloading.

Support the lower control arm with a jack. Using a deadblow hammer, gently strike the spindle at the lower ball joint to release it. Repeat for the top ball joint. Once loose, you can now remove the nuts from the ball joints.

Slowly lower the control arm to release the tension on the coil spring. Make sure to stay clear in case the spring bounces out. Lift the spindle off of the lower ball joint. Now is the time to replace those worn-out ball joints as we did.

A comparison of the spindles and springs shows the difference and how it results in a drop.

The springs come with a 1-inch spacer for the top. Use this spacer for a 4-inch drop. If a 5-inch is what you are after, omit the spacer. Now install the spring back into the spring pocket. Using a jack slowly apply tension to the spring. Make sure it seats properly into the lower control arm.

Set the new spindle on the lower ball joint and hand tighten the lower ball joint castle nut. Slowly jack up the lower control arm until the upper ball joint is fully inserted into the spindle and install the castle nut. Re-attach the tie rod end. Torque the castle nuts to 90 lb-ft and install new cotter pins.

Intall the new Street Performance shocks. The upper shock cover must be removed for the shock to fit into the control arm.

Reinstall the dust shield and rotor assembly and brake caliper. Repeat the process for the other side. Let’s move on to the rear.

Start by supporting the rear axle with a jack. Make sure to put a slight pre-load on the springs to aid in removing the spring bolts.

Starting on one side, remove the shock and U-bolts

While supporting the leaf spring, remove the front and rear eyebolts. Carefully lift the leaf spring pack and set out of the way.

Remove the two bolts circled and secure the brake line and wiring harness clear of the chassis.

Locate the cut template located in the drop kit. Attach to the frame using tapered punches inserted through the existing holes in the frame.

Using a center punch, mark the upper and lower hole locations as indicated on the template. Remove the template and drill ½-inch holes through the chassis. We used a step bit to step up to the ½-inch hole.

Using a scribe or equivalent, connect the holes. We found it worked best to scribe to the far outside of the holes. Be sure the leave the radius intact to reduce the possibility of stress cracks arising. Using a cut-off wheel, Sawzall, or plasma cutter cut along the scribed lines. Debur the edges.

Test fit the C-section. (Some trimming may be required) Using the C-section as a guide, mark the eight holes located on the side of the chassis and the two located on the bottom (circled). Remove the C-section and drill each hole to ½ inch. Applying a little paint to all of the drilled holes is recommended to prevent rust forming on the bare metal.

Install the C-section using the supplied ½-inch hardware. Torque to 110-120 lb-ft. Make sure to tighten the side bolts first, then the two bottom bolts. Note: Extended cab trucks require a few extra steps due to the two-piece driveshaft. Since ours is a regular cab, we could omit these steps. Reinstall the leaf spring, ensuring it is under the rear axle. Do not fully tighten the leaf spring eyebolts at this time.  Repeat the notch steps on the other side.

Once the C-notch is complete and the leaf springs are reinstalled, it is time to install the flip kit. Remove the original spring pack plate and replace with the new axle saddle. Make sure the hole in the bottom of the saddle is forward of the axle centerline. Lower axle into the new saddles.

Install the supplied U-bolts and spring bottom plate. Torque in 5-10 lb-ft increments to a final torque of 85-100 lb-ft.

The transformation is drastic and just what we were looking for!  The 4/6 drop and the Ridler 20×10 rear in 275/40R20 and 20×8.5 fronts in 245/40R20 tires give the perfect look and stance. We couldn’t be happier with the outcome!

Check out other Belltech lowering tech installs click here!

Sources

Belltech
www.belltech.com
800-445-3767

Ridler Wheel
www.ridlerwheel.com
866-894-3351

Proforged
www.proforged.com
866-464-6553

Little Shop Manufacturing
www.littleshopmfg.com

 

 

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