Sometimes, here at Truckin, we get so caught up in SEMA vehicles and cover trucks that we forget most people (us included) have to use their trucks for work and play. All but the most polished of show trucks often find themselves cruising the boulevard Friday night, heading to Home Depot Saturday morning, then off to the campground for the night before loading the truck back up for work Monday morning.
Our friend Allan recently found himself in a bit of a pickle: He needed a new work truck but decided it would also pull a trailer and his family on the weekends. So the two-wheel-drive standard cab was ditched in favor of a ’16 GMC 2500HD crew cab. He even found one with no bed so he could throw his existing service bed right on. Since the truck will find itself in plenty of off-road situations in the future, we decided a better stance and a foolproof front suspension would be just the ticket. We also wanted to squeeze 35-inch tires on it.
| Our friend Allan traded in a carpet-less GMC work truck for a newer one—except this one happens to be a crew cab Duramax 4x4. Since it would serve double duty hauling at work and on the weekends, we had plans to give it an attitude adjustment and correct the known front-end issues with GM HD trucks while we were at it.
After a quick call to Casey at SoCal SuperTrucks in San Bernardino, California, we devised a plan. Icon Vehicle Dynamics makes a stout tubular upper control arm and 2.5-inch shock system that corrects the geometry when the torsion bars are cranked up for 2 inches of total lift. We also contacted Cognito Motorsports for its monster alloy series inner and outer tie-rod steering kit as well as its pitman/idler arm support kit. With the Icon and Cognito combo in place, all that was left to do was head over to New Century Tire in Westminster, California, to fill the wheelwells with a set of 17-inch Fuel Beast wheels wrapped with 35x12.50R17 General Grabber X3 tires.
In less than a day’s work, we were back on the road in the new HD, and it was running taller and stronger than it was when it came from the factory, with a lot of preventative maintenance built in to keep the truck on the road a long time. Check out the install below and visit the websites listed in the source box to see what’s available to lift and strengthen the front end of your truck.
| Cognito Motorsports has a system to strengthen up the HD steering system, which we’re taking advantage of early to avoid replacing parts down the road, the Pitman and Idler Arm Support Kit. It basically doubles the strength and support of both arms’ connection to the centerlink, keeping them from wearing out prematurely, which tends to happen when these trucks are lifted. Cognito’s Alloy inner and heavy-duty outer tie-rod kit adds a ton of strength to the tie rods, virtually bulletproofing the steering system.
| Icon Vehicle Dynamics’ tubular upper control arm kit is a bolt-in kit that has the geometry to allow the torsion bars to be cranked up 2 inches. And when you’re looking for a performance aluminum-bodied shock to fit your new configuration, Icon offers that, too. Its 0-to-2-inch 2.5 VS Extended travel shocks are built exclusively for this setup.
| Fuel makes this Beast wheel (D564) in a cool color (black and tinted) and a conservative offset (+20 mm), which was perfect for this HD.
| At this point, we’ve extensively tested the 35-inch General Grabber X3 tire, and we thought the red-letter sidewall would punch up the work truck a little, so we ordered up a set of 35x12.50R17s.
| We showed up with our GMC HD bright and early at SoCal SuperTrucks in San Bernardino, California, and Casey and the crew were ready to rock. With the truck in the air and the stock wheels removed, we began with the steering by removing the tie-rod end from the spindle.
| Since we’re replacing the steering components instead of just removing them, the inner tie rod was removed from the centerlink.
| This photo was taken in extremely tight quarters where good camera angles are tough to come by, but it shows a puller tool being used to separate the centerlink from the idler arm.
| Soon the pitman arm followed suit.
| Now the centerlink could be dropped down temporarily.
| Being in such a tight spot, the idler pivot was unbolted from the frame just to get a little more wiggle room.
| The sway bar was also unbolted and dropped down at this time.
| The steering box was even unbolted from the frame.
| With the steering box loose, the box could be raised up enough to drop off the pitman arm and slip the Cognito support bracket in between.
| Here is a view from the other end, with the support bracket now in place. You can see how the centerlink is being cradled by the pitman and support bracket instead of just being pushed and pulled around. Our parts will last exponentially longer this way.
| This comparison shot tells the story for us. It’s easy to see how much beefier the Cognito inner and outer tie rods are when compared to the stockers. We matched up the lengths exactly to give the alignment tech a good starting point.
| At this point, we began prepping for the Icon components. We started with breaking the upper ball joint loose from the spindle.
| Then we removed the upper control arm mounting bolts. These bolts and cams will be reused with the Icon arms. Keep in mind that you have to do this with the shock still mounted and with a jack under the lower control arm.
| The Icon tubular upper control arms have their Delta Joint already installed, but we had to install the bushings and grease fittings ourselves.
| With the control arm built, we slid in the frame mounts and reused the factory hardware.
| Then we locked the Delta Joint onto the spindle. Basically, this Icon product is a cross between a uniball and a traditional ball joint. You get the articulation of the former, with the weather resistance and durability of the latter.
| We cinched down the control arm mounting bolts, but they’ll be adjusted later by the alignment tech.
| Back to the steering. We added thread locker to the Cognito alloy inner tie rods. This is an important step.
| We threaded the assembly in place and locked it down on the centerlink.
| With the outer tie-rod end locked down on the spindle, we relocated the sway bar and cinched down the endlink.
| Then we turned our attention to the shock R&R. The power-mounting bolt was simply buzzed out.
| The upper mounts are a tight squeeze, so it takes a minute with a hand wrench.
| With the factory shock out of the way, the stem adapter provided by Icon was set into place and bolted down.
| Then the Icon 2.5-inch aluminum-bodied shock was set in and bolted down.
| We then hit all the grease fittings with some high-quality grease.
| At this point, the front suspension is all buttoned up and looking awesome. But there’s still a ways to go.
| The reason SoCal SuperTrucks has been around so long is all the crew’s knowledge and experience with little tricks like these. They pilled the plastic fender lip and did several adjustments to the sheetmetal most people won’t detect—but they provide a whole bunch of much needed extra clearance. In fact, after hundreds of off-road miles, the front tires have not rubbed!
| The Icon rear shock installation was plug and play…almost. The SoCal crew knew from experience that the upper mounting brackets must be clearanced slightly for the wider Icon shock to fit perfectly.
| Following a few passes with the grinder and the flat black spray paint, the Icon shocks were locked down in place.
| The other end of the rear shocks bolted right up.
| That sure was a lot of front-end work just to be able to crank the torsion bars up a couple of inches, but we did it right, and this truck will long outlast a truck that only did this step.
| Proof of the previous statement: SoCal’s in-house alignment tech spent minimal time getting the front end in factory spec.
| While SoCal has tire-mounting capabilities, we did not yet have our Fuel wheels. So the next day, we picked them up from Fuel Off-Road headquarters and headed to Westminster to see Junior and the crew at New Century Tire. They made quick work of mounting the General tires on the new Fuel wheels.
| Our new combo balanced out pretty easily and within minutes was mounted on the truck.
| We wanted to give this new work truck some attitude with 2 inches of lift and 35s, but it got a whole lot more. Ultra-strong, fail-proof steering, correct geometry, and a nice ride are all side effects of doing the job right the first time.
| We chose a bold wheel with a conservative offset for our W/T HD, and the tinted Fuel Boost wheels paid off big. Those red-letter Grabber X3s hint there’s some more off-road performance lurking under the fenderwell.