OEM+ upgrades for GM 1/2 ton (1500) vans?


I have another thread going discussing my thoughts on reducing our household from 3 to 2 vehicles and start using the van as a daily driver and trip rig. This will mean some repairs and updates that I was holding off on will become a priority on the van. Things like brakes, bushings, belts, paint, door hingers, etc. will need some attention.

There is a lot of discussion around tires, shock/lift upgrades, and full interior builds on the 1/2 ton (1500) Chevy vans but I would also like to get ideas of other upgrades I (or we) could/should be making on a lot of the wear/mechanical items. Are there better suspension bushings than OEM-equivalent at NAPA? Do different brake calipers help? Are there parts from the 2500/3500 vans (or trucks) that directly bolt on to the 1500 vans that help improve performance? I know any enhancements that could be made to the engine are pretty much universal for a 5.3L V8 for the trucks, vans, etc.

The car I'm looking to move along is a VW and it has "OEM+" parts on it from higher performing Audis since many of the parts directly swap; the VW parts are just detuned/lower performing so I didn't know if a similar dynamic exists among the GM vans.



I went to aftermarket brake calibers (slotted) and good quality pads, did the work myself and stopping power is better and don't get and brake chatter.
also just but on new Monroe shocks all around and replace lower control arm bushing.
Not much for upgrades other than keep it running right with new spark plugs and wires, I just put all this on at about 165,000 miles.
2005 GMC AWD Savanna
full boat conversion with all options.
Runs like new!!!


I went to aftermarket brake calibers (slotted) and good quality pads, did the work myself and stopping power is better and don't get and brake chatter.
What pad material did you go with? I've never been impressed with the stopping or pedal feel in this van.

What is the opinion on stainless steel brake lines? I found these guys but no prices listed - http://www.hoseandfittingsetc.com/product/hose/brake-hose-stainless-steel-braided. Stainless lines are typically more pricey but I've read that they can improve the feel of the brakes. This pedal has felt like mush ever since I bought it. Many "GM guys" have simply said that is how Chevy truck brakes feel but I'm not entirely convinced.

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Went with R1 Concepts -great brake products, shop on line and sent to the house. do not remember the pad name, but the site has very friendly navigation to upgrades.
I have used these pads a calibers twice now, got about 50,000 on first set, on my second set from them and like the stopping power with the slotted rotors, they don't fade.
I am running stock lines with 175,000 on them and work great.
Heavy vans stop slow but with good disks on all fours it can stop quick.
Good luck !!!


New member
Great thread idea

I also worked in the VW/Audi world at one point and enjoyed the benefits of performance upgrades from Audis and inexpensive replacement parts from VW.
Now I have a 2008 Express 1500 2wd and have been scouting for the hype factory upgrades.
Here's what I've pondered so far:

Radiator baffles 15801542, 15801541, lower 25755381

These baffles come on the diesel vans to direct more air to the radiator and should fit our vans with little to no modification

The heavier duty vans come with bigger radiators and I'm guessing they will bolt in but I haven't confirmed it.

Springs F&R:
From my parking lot measurements an unloaded 2500 van sits about 2" taller in the rear and 1" taller in the front than my van. It may be even more than this. Standard rear spring for a 2500 is 22-1209HD but it seems like most people are using the 99 Suburban springs for lift which I believe are softer with more arch for about 3" of lift.

Front springs available for 2wd from Moog are:

Front springs Moog 81010 rate 1035#, 4”ID 17” free 0.9 wire. (stock size)
Moog 81008 may lift. It is for Express 3500 rate 1500# 16.65” free, 1.03 wire. HD for 2500. Not for 1500.
Moog 81006 may lift. For Express 3500 Extended rate 1500# 17.15” free, 1.03 wire
Moog 81004 may lift. For Express 3500 diesel rate 1500# 17.78” free, 1.03 wire

I used to have an Astro van and a popular upgrade was to put the slightly larger AWD brake calipers on the 2wd van for a little more bite. I don't know if that relates to the Express vans. Surely the larger rotors from the 2500/3500 won't work without major modification.

I'd really like to know more about the differences in the 2wd front suspensions as far as ball joints, geometry, mounting points. Surely there is a way to swap parts around to accommodate a spring lift.

Thanks for starting this thread, I hope more folks chime in with their ideas.


I saw reference in an old thread somewhere about using Denali front brakes as an upgrade. No real details though about what was required and what the difference is. Are they larger rotors, bigger calipers, etc...?