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Lowering a ’88-’98 Chevy Using a 4/6 Belltech Kit

When considering a lowering kit for your 1988-1998 C1500 or (OBS GM Truck), you’ll find there are quite a few options out there. Most companies offer parts individually, so you can get creative with parts combinations in order to get your desired results. In our case, we wanted to try and get this job done with performance and ultimate ride quality in mind. Being that Belltech Suspension was a huge part of the sport truck movement back in the ’90s, the company knows a thing or two about OBS GM trucks.  With that said, naturally they were our first call when we decided to tackle the suspension on our 1990 C1500.  

We decided to utilize the 3-inch drop spring and paired those with the 2-inch drop spindle up front. To achieve our desired drop out back, we went with a flip kit. The flip kit is also adjustable drop because it comes with new rear shackle mounts that when paired with the flip kit will yield either a 7 inch or 8 inch.  We topped everything off with Street Performance Shocks/Shock extenders and front and rear sway bar kit.

Belltech lowering kits include all the parts and pieces you need to achieve not only the look you want, but the alignment, and performance and safety you need. These complete lowering kits are your all-in-one-box solution, providing you with all the necessary parts to lower your truck. Made up of a variety of combinations as well as all the installation and alignment pieces necessary to achieve the listed lowering, choosing your kit has never been simpler. And the install is even easier! Let’s get started.

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 Factory brake caliper on an 1988-1998 C1500

After removing the wheel, we started disassembling the factory front suspension. Our first step here was to remove the factory brake caliper, which can be accomplished by loosening the two large Allen head bolts that hold it to the spindle.

removing the hub/brake rotor assembly

When removing the hub/brake rotor assembly, you must first remove the factory dust cap, which can be accomplished by using a flathead screwdriver to gently pry the cap away from the rotor. If it has never been removed this may require you to tap the screwdriver gently with a hammer to get it between the rotor surface and the cap.

Belltech lowering kit install

We then removed the spindle castle nut and slid the hub/brake rotor assembly off the spindle, then we were able to remove the dust shield by removing the three bolts holding it to the spindle.

With the outer tie rod nut removed, we used a hammer to free the tie rod from the spindle. A common mistake that people make when doing a job like this at home is hitting the tie rod. A couple good whacks with a heavy hammer on the spindle itself will free the tie rod. Never hit the tie rod itself, it will damage the tie rod and it won’t help free it anyway.

At this point you’ll need to put a floor jack under the lower control arm applying some pressure, but not enough to lift the truck off of the jack stands. We always position the jack so that the handle is facing the front of the truck and the jack can be operated from this position.

Removing shocks on an 1988-1998 Chevy

Our next step was to remove the shock. This is done by removing one nut at the top of the shock stud and the two lower shock bolts that go up through the lower control arm, and then you can remove the shock through the opening in the lower control arm.

Upper and lower control arm assemblies for a Belltech lowering kit

We will be replacing our upper and lower control arm assemblies during this installation, so we went ahead and removed all 4 control arm bolts, the sway bar end links from the lower control arms and removed the upper and lower control arms.

 Belltech springs

We then re-installed our control arms and positioned the new Belltech spring into the spring pocket (it helps to have someone hold the spring in place for you) then position the jack back under the lower control arm with light pressure on the arm.  Now you can place the spindle on the lower ball joint stud, lower the upper control arm down to position the ball joint stud back through the new spindle and then secure the spindle by installing the ball joint nuts and new cotter pins (we do not recommend re-using old cotter pins). We then installed our new Belltech street performance shock through the lower control arm re-using our original bolts.

Next up is the hub/brake rotor assembly.  Going back together we opted for all new bearings, seals and rotors.  You can re-install your old assembly, however either way you decide to go, we recommend having your rotors turned, new seals and re-packing your bearings at a minimum.

We applied some self-etching primer and rattle can black to our new rotors to prevent flash rust. After this was done we moved on to packing our new bearings and installing the new seals on the hub/rotor assembly.  (If you do not have a seal install kit, you can find a socket that has the same overall diameter as your seal).

Belltech lowering kit install

Belltech tie rods

Our next step was to assemble our new inner and outer tie rods with new our new adjusters and attach them to the new drop spindle using the new nut and cotter pin.

Now it’s time to ditch the old front sway bar in favor of our new one from belltech, but first we must remove our factory sway bar.  This was a breeze since our sway bar end links were already disconnected.

We began preparing our new sway bar by applying the provided bushing grease to the contact areas of the new bushings, and installing the bushings with brackets. We went ahead and assembled the end links and installed them on the sway bar.

We then moved the sway bar underneath the truck and into its mounting location. It’s best to have someone to help with this step by holding it up into position.  If you don’t have an extra set of hands you can use your floor jack to hold it in position.  Once this is done we attached the sway bar end links to the lower control arms.  You’ll want to leave them loose for now and then come back and tighten them.  At this point you can line the sway bar bushing brackets up with the threaded holes in the frame and install the 4 bolts you removed earlier.

To finish off the front suspension we went back over everything and did a good nut and bolt check ensuring to torque everything to factory specs. Also this is a great time to hit all of those grease points on the front end.

Our first task on the rear suspension was to remove the bed.  This kit can be installed without doing this, however we recommend removal of the bed.  We removed the 8 bed bolts, fuel filler flange, ground strap near the fuel filler neck, ground for the taillight harness, and unplugged the taillight harness near the rear of the frame.  We were lucky enough to have an overhead crane in the shop to assist in the removal of the bed, however this can be accomplished by bribing a few friends with free pizza and something cold to drink.  We took this opportunity to do a quick pressure wash of the chassis before we got started.  This isn’t just for cosmetic reasons.  Removing all of the old gunk can help speed up the process when removing old parts and hardware.

We then removed the receiver hitch, factory shocks, the spare tire, and the old rusty tailpipes that had to go due to clearance issues.

We could then turn our attention to the axle and getting it ready to be flipped.  With the truck on jack stands (supporting the chassis) and the rear end supported by our floor jack we then removed the factory u bolts and leaf spring plates. Now you can lower the rear end away from the leaf spring packs, but not so far that it puts tension on the rear brake line.

Now it was necessary to remove the bolts that secure the brake line and wiring harness to the inside of the frame rail.  There are two bolts securing the brake line transitioning fitting to the chassis and two bolts securing the rigid brake line and electrical wiring to the chassis.  These parts are secured in nylon clips that must be clear of the chassis while we do our cutting and installing of the c-notch.

We then used the supplied template and some chalk to mark our cut lines for the c notch.  In the upper corners of our cut marks we used a ½” drill bit to drill a hole in each corner.  Now on to our favorite part, the cutting! cut the chassis along the lines we scribed in the previous step.  This can be done with an angle grinder with a cut off wheel, plasma cutter or reciprocating saw.

With our chassis cut we were now able to line up our c notch utilizing the locating holes and clamp it in place utilizing a c clamp.  Make sure the C-section top flange is in contact with the top of the vehicle chassis.  Now utilizing the ½” holes in the C-section as a guides, we drilled through the 8 holes on the side and the 2 on the bottom.  We then installed the kit supplied hardware.

Now on to getting the axle back in place!  At this time we hung the front of the leaf spring by re-installing the factory bolt and nut through the bracket and leaf spring eyelet.  Utilizing our floor jack we lifted our rear end high enough to allow us to swing the rear of the leaf spring pack back up into the factory leaf spring bracket.  At this point we re-installed the factory bolts into the shackle and left everything hand tight.  It is important not to tighten the leaf spring bolts until the weight of the vehicle is on the springs.

Our next step was to position the new Belltech axle saddle brackets, and secure everything with the new grade 8 u bolts, locking nuts and leaf spring plates.  Make sure the “ears” on the axle tube saddle locate under the edges of the rear axle tube spring pad.

With all of the lowering components installed on the rear of the chassis, we could move on to getting that beefy rear sway bar installed.  We began by assembling the end links and loosely installing them on the sway bar and using the kit supplied bushing grease to lubricate the contact areas of the bushings.

The last step before re-installing the bed was to go back over all of our hardware and torque to factory and manufacturer specifications……..and of course admire our new belltech suspension. We then re-installed the bed and re-connected our grounds and taillight harnesses. It is very important that you bring the truck straight to an alignment shop and have it properly aligned for safety and to prevent premature wear on your expensive tires.

Here’s a better photo of the completed truck, after alignment and ready to be driven. We are super happy with the overall ride quality of the truck. The results are a very noticeable drop, without giving up any ride quality, and without having to trim anything out due to tire rubbing.

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