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Stanleys Stance | Swapping out the suspension on our 2008 Tahoe sport utility vehicle with a Belltech lowering kit and EBC brakes.

Sport utility vehicles have generally been the go-to purchase over the last 10-plus years for both families with and without children. SUVs are spacious, easy to drive and the gas bill isn’t really that much higher than a small car when doing local, around-town driving. Folks use them for transporting sporting equipment and dogs, driving to the city or embarking on long cross-country road trips. They are ideal for many situations and readily available for an affordable price on the marketplace.

Even after describing all the great benefits SUVs have!

We still can’t see them as cool custom cruisers with their high factory stance and big bubbly tires. They sway like mad around the corners, and hitting the brakes feels soft and very non-performance like. Well, we are going to focus on all those negatives and turn them into positives so you can see that your old soccer-mom mobile really can be a cool little street rod with some time, money and greasy fingers. No need to get a new car loan on an overpriced people mover when you have a ton of potential in the driveway already. So, get some wrenches and start making your old SUV cool again!

For this project, we picked up a 2008 Chevy Tahoe LTZ with 128,000 miles from a member of the U.S. Navy. Certainly, you know how detailed and by the book the men and women in uniform are trained to be, and it’s no different when it comes to their vehicles. Aside from some dirty seats and carpet, this truck was all stock and begging for some coolness. It came with captain’s chairs and third-row seating from the factory, but the old leather was extremely worn out and pretty smelly, to be honest. We could have spent some time deep cleaning and scrubbing the factory material, but we knew that the team at RoadWire leather interiors made a nice seat-cover replacement kit.

 

 

Like most projects, we are turning to Belltech!

A fantastically fitting suspension system that includes new performance shocks and big fancy sway bars, all for a very affordable price! Let’s get started!

This complete Belltech suspension kit (Part #736SP) is designed for ’07-’13 Chevrolet/GMC Tahoe/Yukon SUVs. The website states that this does not fit trucks with factory auto level due to the onboard air sensors and compressor. We have found a workaround for that, and since our Tahoe has factory auto-level, we know there will be some lights on the dash when it’s all done. But that’s a problem for another issue. MSRP: $1,059.92

 

For rollers, we wanted something classy and affordable but with a name that has been synonymous with high-quality standards for many, many years. The Status Titan is an imposing split 6-spoke mesh wheel available in an eye-catching Carbon Graphite finish. We went with a 22×9.5-inch wheel and a 305-40-22 Toyo Proxes ST III tire. MSRP: $299.20

The Proxes ST III is the perfect balance of dynamic looks and sport-oriented performance for trucks and SUVs. With a wider tread and a silica-based tread compound, the Proxes ST III stops up to 6 feet shorter in wet conditions while delivering superb handling, excellent all-season performance, consistent wear and a smooth, quiet ride, now backed by a 40,000-mile warranty. MSRP: $169.94

EBC Greenstuff brake pads

To make this big beast stop faster and more responsively than the original version, we ordered a set of factory replacement EBC brake pads and rotors. The uniquely created blade slot design of the rotors helps remove hot gases from the braking zone in a quick and efficient way. This helps to keep the pads flatter and the brakes cooler. The function of the multiple-overlap slots reduces the brake wind noise.

EBC Brakes

Greenstuff has once again pushed the performance barriers of organic friction materials. The latest version of Greenstuff brake pads is made with a deliberately softer compound to improve pedal feel on lighter cars at lower speeds. This resulted in a medium dust material with good lifetime and minimal rotor wear. Tests have shown to stop a car almost 20 feet quicker than original parts when braking from 60 MPH.

With the parts in hand and a plan in place, we headed over to Average Joe’s garage in Ocala, Florida, to remove the old and add the new. Can’t wait to bolt these wheels on!

Next, the factory rotor can simply slide off the hub and get tossed in the trash. We won’t be reusing these old parts!

brake sensor

Three bolts on the back side of the rotor are next to be removed, and after unclipping the ABS brake sensor, the hub can be set aside as we will be reusing this later.

steering tie rod end

The steering tie rod end is next on the list. A socket and a hammer are all you need for this, but watch those threads when you’re using the hammer!

With the brakes and steering disconnected, we can unbolt the bottom and top of the factory strut assembly. With the truck on jack stands and the suspension hanging, there is no real pressure on this strut so don’t be worried about the spring bouncing out at you like the old days.

Now that the bolts and nuts are out, we can use a little force to pop out the strut. As you can see, this truck has the factory auto level air ride, so the airline connection needs to be separated.

The complete strut assembly is then transferred over to a wall-mounted spring compressor. This is the one step when a tool can stop you in your tracks. If you don’t have this tool in your shop, simply remove both struts and take them to your local big mechanics shop and pay them to swap the spring. It will take 20 minutes and shouldn’t cost too much. Don’t rent one from the auto parts stores—they are dangerous!

Editor’s Tip: Use a small open-end wrench to keep the strut shaft in place while you remove the top bolt.

Now time to focus on replacing the factory spindle. This is not a necessary step if you don’t plan to slam or bag your truck in the future. But we never know where a project like this will take us, so we took the time to swap it out. It’s easy!

After removing the upper and lower nuts, a tap with a hammer is all it takes to free these parts after 12 years on the road.

The factory spindle and the original spindle look very similar, but look closely at the location of the center hub hole. The new Belltech spindle is higher, which in turn drops the truck.

Before we bolt the new spindle on, the Belltech strut assembly needs to be reinstalled.

Now the new spindle can be bolted to the factory upper and lower control arms. Love seeing new parts on older trucks!

Next is the steering link and swapping out the original sway bars with these new and beefier Belltech units.

With the front suspension complete, we were able to unbox out new EBC brake rotors and pads. We have used these parts on most of our projects due to their amazing fitment and performance upgrades. You really can feel the difference in brake pads and rotors based on quality and engineering, and we chose EBC for projects like these.

After sliding the front EBC rotors on, we swapped out the original brake pads with EBC Greenstuff pads and bolted everything back together exactly how it came apart.

Now time to work on the back. Luckily, our buddy Ken from Southern Squares came by to lend a hand since he just did one of these the day before. So nice having helpful friends!

Again, after securing the complete truck on jack stands at all four corners, the wheels were removed and the sockets were organized. The shocks are the first to be removed and it’s a pretty simple task.

With the new springs in place, these new Belltech shocks can be bolted into the factory location and the factory hardware loosely secure it for now. We will tighten up everything last once it’s all assembled.

The rear sway bar is also swapped out with the new Belltech piece and the factory end links are reused.

The back is fairly simple so it’s already time to change the brakes. EBC makes kits for both front and rear of our Tahoe, and probably for your truck too!

Most do-it-yourselfers have a favorite moment with each project, and it often comes in the form of aluminum wrapped in rubber. Dropping off a new set of wheels and tires to be mounted and balanced is fun but seeing them done is so exciting!

The last thing we want is for our new wheels and tires to be stolen, and everyone has a key to those cheap wheel locks. That’s why we always choose Gorilla Locks for our projects. Unique keys and available for every size and shape of lug nut. Even available in black!

Bolting the combination together looks killer and the parts really complement each other visually, don’t you think?

There he is in all his glory. Stanley is digging his new look and sporty stance. We may go back and adjunct the front to bring it up a little. Thanks to the Belltech shocks, we have the ability to add spacers to raise the front of the truck.

In the next issue

Next 
 on the list is to replace that old, dirty, dingy interior. RoadWire is whipping us up a new set of seat covers and sending them to Gainesville Sound Trim and Tint for install. So, we dropped the truck off with Shawn and waited our turn.

Another area of focus is on the sloppy steering. These steering shafts are  known for getting loose and Borgeson has a fix. Its new factory replacement steering shafts are designed to tighten everything up, giving you a much better driving experience.

 

Belltech Suspension
800-445-3767
www.belltech.com

Status Wheels
www.statuswheels.com

Toyo Tires
800-442-8696
www.toyotires.com

EBC Brakes
855-322-2725
www.shopebcbrakes.com

Gorilla Locks
800-262-6267
www.gorilla-auto.com

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