Over the last few years, we’ve slowly chipped away at upgrading our ’04 Chevy Avalanche 1500 Z71. Most of the changes up to this point have been primarily functional in nature, starting with new knock sensors, a rebuilt gauge cluster, and new brakes and shocks. Our first foray into spiffing up the appearance came in the form of Anzo LED headlight housings and taillights. While the lighting modernized the look of the truck, it was still running around on stock wheels and tires and a stock ride height with a “farmer truck” front/rear rake.
To give the Avalanche a little swagger, we explored several options. At first, we looked at 3- to 4-inch lift kits. However, those kits added a level of complexity we didn’t want to deal with, and they weren’t any simpler to install than a full 6-inch lift.
Because of the GMT800’s infamous square wheelwells, we thought we might have some rubbing issues with bigger wheels and tires. Ultimately, we decided on Skyjacker’s torsion key 2-inch leveling kit, rear spring spacers, and Black MAX shock absorbers.
| Here are all the components of the Skyjacker lift kit: Torsion keys, rear lift blocks, and front and rear shocks. Considering the simplicity of the install, the transformation was impressive.
To our relief, the added 2 inches of height were plenty for the Atturo 285/70R-17 Trail Blade tires and Black Rhino 17x9 Sierra wheels. So far, we have had no rubbing issues. Between the front keys and rear spacers, the Avalanche now has a level ride height and a whole new attitude.
Despite their aggressive appearance, the Trail Blades only have a moderate hum on the highway, and the Skyjacker Black MAX shocks have noticeably improved the handling and confidence compared to the overly-soft shocks we installed previously.
To complement the new, more aggressive look, we installed a set of N-Fab Nerf-style steps with textured black finish, which not only aid ingress and egress but add just the right amount of swagger to the Avalanche’s looks.
Style is subjective, but overall, we couldn’t be happier with the improvement in looks and driving experience with this latest round of upgrades.
| Since it seemed like it would be the easiest to do, we installed the rear lift blocks first. These blocks allow you to retain the stock rear springs but add a 1.25-inch lift. To ease access to the rear spring perches, we removed the shocks, which would be replaced by the new Skyjacker Black Max shocks.
| We also disconnected the sway bar end links to give us a little more clearance to insert the rear lift blocks. If needed, disconnect the brake line bracket from the rear axlehousing.
| We removed the rear springs and stock rubber spring perch mounts. After cleaning up the stock perch mounts, we put the spacer pucks on the axle and put the rubber mounts back on the pucks. We then reinstalled the springs.
| The steel shock bolt sleeves were a tight fit, so we used some silicone grease and a C-clamp to help slide them into place.
| We then reattached the sway bar links and brake line bracket, and the rear was finished.
| The front torsion key install was slightly more involved and technical than the rear, but still fairly straightforward. It does, however, require a specialized tool to unload the torsion bars.
| Note: The torsion bar tool is NOT the same as a C-clamp. These can be rented or purchased from your local auto parts store. You should not attempt to use a C-clamp to unload the torsion bar.
| Unload the torsion bar enough to loosen and pull out the torsion key retaining block.
| Once we unloaded the torsion bars and loosened and removed the retaining block, we slid the bar back and removed the stock torsion key. We used a hammer for a little “persuasion.”
| Once we got the new Skyjacker torsion key in place, we used the same tool to reinstall the front keys.
| You will have to reload the new torsion keys with the unloader tool before reinserting the key retaining block. The ride height can be fine-tuned by adjusting the bolt.
| After installing the new torsion keys, we also replaced the front shocks on the truck with the new Skyjacker Black Max shocks.
| Installing the N-Fab Nerf steps on this slightly older truck is not quite as straightforward as it is on newer trucks, which have a “no-drill” installation. If you have a GMT800 or older truck, expect to do some drilling.
| To help ease the installation and placement of the steps, we used a floor jack and a shop rag to get the steps into place.
| Due to the placement of pinch welds and ridges joining the underbody to the side section of the body, there are only a limited number of mounting options. Be sure to carefully note the optimal placement of the steps before drilling.
| Once you have determined the spots to drill, mark them with a punch or permanent marker before making the permanent holes.
| Once you’ve fastened one of the bolts front and rear, you can use the installed step as a guide for drilling the other hole and attaching the hardware.
| The Skyjacker leveling kit, Black Rhino wheels, Atturo tires, and N-Fab Nerf steps gave our Avalanche just the right dose of attitude without being too over the top.
| For a 14 year-old truck, the Avalanche has a fresh, contemporary look, and has transformed its personality from that of an anonymous workhorse to a work-hard, play-hard truck that’s sure to turn heads.