'03 GMC Sierra 2wd build... Liv.

rho

Lost again
So. I'm finally getting around to throwing together a build thread for my wifes 2003 GMC Sierra. It is a late '03, has the 5.3 with max tow, G80, 2wd, regular cab and 79" bed. Now, a little about this truck... My dad bought this thing new in 2003 for his company truck and when he did that he got the bed sprayed and got a hardshell bed cap and a full length bed slide. He ended up selling it to my wife in 2014 when he bought a pro-4x Xterra and we've had it since then. I wish I had some photos of this truck when it was new because it was a pretty sharp looking one, but oh well. Its been a fantastic truck and its nearing 200k and its been settling slowly into its middle age as my wifes DD, kid school dropping off, grocery getter, part time off roader.

One of the super nice things is that we have the full service history on this truck from when it was new and the second anything happened with it ever it got new OEM parts at the shop he took his HVAC shop trucks to get fixed at. Other than some dents and dings that were parking lot incidents and some more recent pinstripe additions, it is in fantastic shape for being 16yrs old.

Here it is before i started ripping into the suspension. This was while I was replacing the speakers in the cab and the stereo.
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Fighting with the front end...
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Fighting with the front end again...
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I hate this bolt. I've had to order two for friends trucks. Haven't had to get one for ours yet at least...
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Fambam in Big Sur a month ago!
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After Big Sur (we drove up at like 10pm.) Alix (mah wife!) asked about improving the light situation because the forward lights in her truck were just, well, not good. So. We did.

Rear bumper lights:
bumper.jpg

Box o relays and the start of the wiring cluster fsk..

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new vs old headlights...

LIGHTS.jpg

Up in the Sierra late June... We started seeing just where our ground clearance issues were on this trip. The truck was a champ but the front bumper lost a bunch of plastic clips and generally stopped being... attached... (this was taken on a trip while waiting the new headlamp housings to show up...)

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So, onto the next installment... coilovers?! BUMPER STUFF?! WHATS NEXT!
 
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rho

Lost again
So, suspension...

When we picked this truck up it had whatever the electronically controlled shock things where that the dealer wanted $400 a corner to replace. And all of the shocks were blown. So we after dealing with it generally riding like crap and bottoming out and topping out due to the front springs being gone and it always having half a ton tools in the bed, well, the suspension was shot all around. We also had to replace the ABS controller. doing brakes, some hub work, front end work was one of the reasons that my dad opted to replace the truck, and he also wanted a 4x4 again because I had my jeep and well, y'all know how that goes.

So in the fall of last year (don't have a lot of photos, saddly...) We replaced the second leaf in the rear spring packs, added an AAL, kept the overload and flipped it over, replaced the stock shocks and gutted as much of the wiring as I could get with some cheap Rancho 5000x shocks all around.
2" taller shocks in the rear and stock length in the front. This will be important later and I should have done something from the start, but it was a good interim to get the dang thing to drive better...
For the front suspension we replaced the springs with a new set of ACDelco springs, 2" lift spacers, new sway bar links, bushings, lower control arms, upper ball joints, pads, rotors, TRE's. The works.
The truck drives GREAT now.... but... Only issue is the damn shocks top out rather hard in some conditions. And well. Because I'm me, I'm not having any of this and I'm not happy with how its turning out. We only see about 1" lift in the front, shocks that top out and the butt of the truck like 3"+ higher than the rear, well. I start looking at how to fix it. A note on this is the truck is AMAZING off road as it is right now. Between the locker, 285/75R16 tires that are stuff in there and the shocks/suspension... It behaves itself shockingly well in the dirt and while it won't ever be a rock crawler it does a lot better than most people would expect it too given that its an old 2wd pickup.

The big issue is the topping out of the shocks/hard stop. Now. I've only driven with my wife offroad a handful of times when we were in college and she had a 01' GMC Sonoma and I had an '89 XJ, but she knew how to get a truck moving on the dirt roads and its hard to keep up. Its pretty much the same in this truck. She has a fairly heavy foot sometimes and def likes to go fast and wants the truck to be able to do that. One of our future plans is to do a Camburg extended travel kit or a full long travel suspension in this at some point which will be a ton of money but it promises to be a lot of fun as well.

SHOCKING.jpg

But for the short term! Coilovers! I picked up some Atomic fab lower brackets for the 2wd control arms, a pair of QA1 DS501 coilover shocks, some bottom out bumpers, a couple types of upper mounts so i have some options, and a pair of 800lb, 12" springs. Honestly if this coilover experiment goes well and the shocks/mounts hold up I'm planning on getting some slightly longer travel fox resi coilovers and doing some tuning of all of this stuff to get better spring rates and a more progressive spring rate. This will be dependent on if I can figure out a solution to the garbage upper ball joint and the alignment issues. As others of us in the GMT800 mafia have brought up, there just isn't a lot out for these trucks in terms of aftermarket support. The upside is there is _some_ support for the 2wd's in the desert crowd, so there are some options with that at least.

In addition to the coilovers, I picked up a set of 3" lift spindles for the truck as they have a slightly better geo for the upper ball joint/UCA angle as they're a little bit taller than the stock ones.

Stock Spindle, I need to spend some more time getting better dimentions from the balljoint to spindle interfaces to get a better idea of whats going to happen to this geo wise... So far there is taller gap between the two and the upper ball joint mount is appx .25" thicker, so it'll be interesting to see how this goes.
StockKnuckle.jpg

Lift spindle. Casting looks fine, I kinda want to take it to work to give it to our NDT guys to xray and magnaflux it...

spindle.jpg

Front view of the spindle...
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The upside is the lift spindles are going to push the front track out appx 1.5" on each side which will HOPEFULLY keep the tire from rubbing on the swaybar... As it has 33's, and well, it rubs on the bar. No where else at least.

Next up is the bumper...
 

rho

Lost again
As all of us in the GMT800 mafia are aware... no one makes stuff for these trucks that is along the lines of our somewhat unique use case that falls into standard truck duty but with more off road and spending more money on stuff. Anyways, bumpers are one of those things that are super lacking... for these you pretty much have the option of going with a NFAB tube bumper that is super meh looking, a 2k Addictive Desert Designs plate bumper that is badass but omg the price and a few other like ranch hand and the like that prob weigh a good 300lbs.

Not a lot of options for increasing the front ground clearance on these with out going to a full tube prerunner sort of bumper and having it look half decent. So much to the point that I started asking some local fab shops if they could do a simple tube bumper/front skid on the front of the truck either under the oem metal bumper or replacing it all together. Most didn't want to take the work on, but the shop I went to over the weekend took the cake for just kind of being garbage to deal with because I'm a tall blonde chick. It didn't even get better when I kept asking for a quote and for ideas even if it was 800-1500+. Through a bunch of reasons with body language and generally not listening it was pretty clear they didn't want the work. Oh well.

So what do you do? Well..I finished removing the lower bumper/valance/whatever/fogs/supports and started measuring up some pieces for some skids and basic stuff. I have a lot of experience with sheetmetal and with macheine shops but not a ton doing steel fab stuff. I can do an OK job welding but I'm super slow at it and I need a lot of practice to get better to a point where I'd be happy with my work with MIG, I only have experience with flux welding sadly :( So I might end up making something for the front of this, but I need to sit down and figure out what I want, how to build it, what tooling i'd need to support cutting tubes, miter joints, cutting plate and getting argon and the like.

SO, PHOTOOOSSSSSS!

Front end with the shell removed:
front bumper shell.jpg

Brackets and the like removed and my terrible mockup of kind of what I want to do with tube or plate or idfk, something.

front lower bumper removed.jpg

Cardboard!!

front skid.jpg

MOAR CARDBOARD!!

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After all this I put the brackets/fogs/etc and shell back on with lots of zipties, so in the future event that it decides to liberate itself from the truck hopefully it'll be less violent than the last time. I'll prob pick up some plate and start cutting the basic front skids/engine skids and start figuring out how i want to tie some tube in along the front skid up to the frame to give us something to help nose it along if we end up needing that.

Anyways, This is kind of where the build is at until I can start tearing the suspension apart. Again. For the third time... once the coil springs get here. argggggggh.
 

dirtdobberoffroad

Active member
The GMC look pretty decent the way they are with out the valance unlike the chevy minus the valance.. Good build up so far keep it up.
 
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CrazyDrei

Space Monkey
Welcome,

It's great to see another fun build here, especially a 2wd. Front coilovers will make a a huge difference in ride quality especially combined with the spindle lift. Also 1.25"-2" front wheel spacers will help alleviate that tire rub. I have a feeling that long travel setup for the front will be coming very soon.
 

6gun

Member
Watching for all of the 2wd off-roady goodness to come! Even here in the East 2wd can be a great get-a-way vehicle. Out west would be even more so! Any winch plans?

Now that my "Super Ranger" has spiraled out of hand I will be looking for a 2wd Ranger for general errands and mild back-road exploring.
 
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Mr. Merk

Member
You can safely and effectively improve your new headlamp performance by using 9012 bulbs in the low beams and 9011 bulbs in the high beams. They only require minor trimming of one of the tabs. Only use Philips standard replacement bulbs or OEM HIR2 (9012) Genuine GM Bulb Part# 23342527 & HIR1 (9011) Toyota 90981-13066.
 
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rho

Lost again
You can safely and effectively improve your new headlamp performance by using 9012 bulbs in the low beams and 9011 bulbs in the high beams. They only require minor trimming of one of the tabs. Only use Philips bulbs or OEM GM & Toyota bulbs.
Ill have to give that a shot. Just getting new reflectors helped a TON.

Man I wish they made a spindle lift that would accommodate the front axles on a 4wd that would be like putting portal boxes on it.
A lot of the diff-drop lifts have drop spindles, but the issue that you have is the operating angle of the CV joints and they bind if you move it down too far...
 

dirtdobberoffroad

Active member
LOL yes and no on the spindles, the 4x4 spindle actually increase the distance between upper and lower ball joint to make up distance of the bracket lift so the unit bearing stays the same distance from the lower arm. The 2wd spindle actually lowers the unit bearing making it closer to the lower ball joint effectively lifting the truck...I you was to put the lift 4x4 spindles on either a 2wd or a 4wd with out dropping the mounting points for the lower arms all it would do is raise the angle of the upper arms . The weight of the truck rests on the lower arms so really it doesn't matter what's going on with the upper if the distance between the unit bearing and the lower ball joint stays the same then there would be no lift.... I may be wrong but that's the way I see it.

Now on my 86 Toyota the upper arms supports the truck the torsion bars are connected to the upper arms so I think a taller spindle on that set up would lift the truck but then the crazy angle would be on the lower arm.
 
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rho

Lost again
Watching for all of the 2wd off-roady goodness to come! Even here in the East 2wd can be a great get-a-way vehicle. Out west would be even more so! Any winch plans?

Now that my "Super Ranger" has spiraled out of hand I will be looking for a 2wd Ranger for general errands and mild back-road exploring.
None yet, generally we'll have both my jeep and my partners Sierra if we're on anything more than service roads and that truck holds its own. However... There is room for one and it is something I have considered, Mr crazypants drey has some similar thoughts about where to stuff one rather tucked up in the frame...

updated my previous post with OEM Part Numbers, available on Amazon
Woah, thats awesome. I'll take a look. Thanks!
 

rho

Lost again
Got the chase light installed and hooked up on the wifes truck... also swapped out an oem rear bump that fell apart long ago and replaced the collapsed transmission mount that had been clunking for a while.

The lake near our apartment was great tonight as well, we had a really pretty sunset and all in all it was a really plesent day with family and just hanging out.

chaselamp.jpg


lakeeeeeee.jpg
 

rho

Lost again
The coilover springs finally came in! So aided by a jar of anti-seize and some spring compressors I got the coilovers put together. Also picked up the arbor shims for the top shock mount to close up the gap.

I got roped into supporting some crane lifts at work on my day off tomorrow so I won't be getting started on this project till Saturday... But I'll be starting on this at like 6am most likely and hopefully I'll have the old springs/shocks/spindles/old brake line out after a couple hours and get the new stuff in and torqued up before noon so I can get it aligned in the afternoon. I've ripped the font suspension apart on that stupid truck often enough that i'm getting pretty good at it now, haha.

Having a huge cordless impact driver helps massively as well ;P

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Buddha.

Lurker
You can safely and effectively improve your new headlamp performance by using 9012 bulbs in the low beams and 9011 bulbs in the high beams. They only require minor trimming of one of the tabs. Only use Philips standard replacement bulbs or OEM HIR2 (9012) Genuine GM Bulb Part# 23342527 & HIR1 (9011) Toyota 90981-13066.
I did this on my old blazer and a similar thing on my ‘17 forester and my current ‘11 Silverado. It works, also avoid any bulb with blue tint.
 
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