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1995 2WD F-350 Dualie Gets Leveled and A Front-End Upgrade

Stand Tall

Bruce W. Smith
Oct 4, 2019
Age takes its toll on every vehicle, and miles just speed up the aging process. That's definitely the way it typically works for trucks that see regular duty on streets, highways, farms, and anywhere else they can be driven. Our '95 Ford F-350, Big White, is a prime example of a rig that's experiencing both.
The two-wheel-drive 7.3L-powered crew-cab dualie turns 25 years old in 2020, and by the time you read this, the odometer will have passed 170,000 miles. It has weathered the time well. But mechanical issues are starting to arise, and they need addressing.
For this upgrade exercise, taking care of Big White's aging front suspension is our top priority. Worn ball joints and tie-rod ends are contributing to accelerated tread wear on the inside of the Toyo Open Country H/T tires. And the attrition the twin I-beam steering components are experiencing has also brought about vibration in the steering wheel and a slight pull. Our dualie is also in need of new shocks, brakes, and lifting of the front end a couple of inches to get rid of the "stink bug" stance.
Photo 2/21   |   A&G Automotive Tires and Wheels technician Fabian B puts the tape measure to the front of our '95 Ford F-350 before he installs the 2-inch Complete Performance leveling kit. The tale of the tape: 35 inches to the center of the front wheelwell.
Unfortunately, because of its age, it's not easy to find all the correct steering and suspension parts for old-body-style (OBS) Ford pickups at a Ford dealer's service department. We gathered the ball joints, drag link, tie-rod ends, and brake components from Auto Zone, choosing Duralast's top-of-the-line "Gold Series" front-end hardware for our rebuild because they are equal to, or better quality than, the OEM parts.
For lifting/leveling the front of Big White to get rid of the raked stance, we turned to Complete Performance Products in Jasper, Texas. There are a lot of leveling kits for four-wheel-drive Super Duty rigs, but "CP Addict" produces the only one we know of designed exclusively for '80-to-'97 OBS two-wheel-drive trucks.
The leveling kit consists of a pair of special billet-aluminum spacers that are slipped beneath the coil springs and raise the front suspension by 2 inches. "We built these spring spacers to level out the aging '80s-to-'90s trucks with front ends that are sagging from the weight of the diesel engines (Ford Power Strokes, Cummins conversions, and such)," says CP Addict co-owner Chris Rutledge. "We decided they needed to be durable and long lasting just as the trucks are, so they're built from solid billet-aluminum to prevent early deterioration."
Photo 3/21   |   Corrosion sets in after a few years, making it difficult to loosen hardware for the steering linkage, unless it's doused with a liberal amount of penetrating lubricant. Big White's drag link looks like it hasn't been touched in at least a decade.
With the springs out, it's the perfect time to replace the truck's worn-out twin-tube hydraulic shocks with Bilstein monotube, gas-pressure shocks. The Bilsteins, recommended by and available through CP Addict, are the best replacement dampers for OBS trucks, and the high-pressure gas inside them will keep the fluid from aeration that diminishes shock control. These high-quality shocks will help make Big White's ride smoother and reduce tire wear.
A&G Automotive Tires and Wheels in Reseda, California, are experts at working on trucks like Big White. It didn't take long for technician Fabian B to disassemble the front end and replace the old parts with the Duralast and CP Addict upgrades.
Photo 4/21   |   One of the wear items making the steering a little loose is the tie-rod ends. These definitely show the effects of both age and miles.
Brake rotors, calipers, pads, drag link, tie-rod ends, spring spacers, shocks, and new camber-caster bushings were dutifully and expertly installed. Then we took our dualie to the alignment rack to have the front-end aligned to factory specifications—something that hadn't been done in years.
With the work completed, it was out to the street to see how Big White responded to the upgrades. The ride and handling are markedly better. The steering vibrations are gone. There's no pull, and it rolls through dips with excellent stability and crosses expansion joints and potholes with far less jarring than it did before the modifications.
We are very pleased with this stage of the truck's rebirth and absolutely love the level stance. As far as the cosmetics, just to let you in on what the future holds, the body is going to get a wrap. So we don't know if we'll be able to call it Big White anymore. (The wrap scheme is being conceptualized right now by Mike Smith at Raceskinz).
The old Weld wheels and the Toyo Open Country H/T tires are going to come off and be replaced with Mayhem's Monstir (dualie-specific) wheels and Toyo's newest Open Country tire, the H/T II. We daily drive and tow trailers a lot with Big White, and the H/T tire has worked well for us in that regard.
Follow the Diesel Power Magazine Facebook page, and check out trucktrend.com to stay abreast of the future stages of our OBS rig's rebirth. We think the upgrades and modifications we're doing are exactly the right stuff for a 25-year-old pickup.
Photo 5/21   |   The OBS two-wheel-drive F-350 leveling kit from CP Addict is simple yet durable. The 2-inch spacers, machined from billet aluminum, are designed to sit on each spring perch to provide the lift. The kit is a great cure for sagging front springs on the classic Ford rigs.
Photo 6/21   |   Fabian removes the shocks and disconnects the steering components so our F-350's front suspension can be lowered enough to slide the spacers under the coil springs.
Photo 7/21   |   He also replaces the tired OEM-style, twin-tube hydraulic shocks with Bilstein high-pressure monotube dampers. The new gas shocks provide far greater control of the springs, giving Big White a smoother ride—and also reduce tire wear in the process.
Photo 8/21   |   Removing the upper and lower ball joints requires a pneumatic impact hammer to drive them out of the spindles. The looseness of the ball joints makes it appear as though Big White's have never been replaced, which is probably the primary cause of the steering vibration we felt—and the source of the odd "clunk" when hitting potholes.
Photo 9/21   |   008 Stand Tall Old Ball Joints
Photo 10/21   |   We like the fact that Duralast's Gold Series ball joints can be lubed, which provides better control over the maintenance aspect of keeping an OBS Ford's front suspension in tip-top shape.
Photo 11/21   |   New upper and lower ball joints should easily last another decade and help bring Big White's steering back to near-stock operation and feel. A new steering box is on our "upgrade" list farther down the road.
Photo 12/21   |   We replaced the front hub assemblies and wheel studs as well as the rotors. That way, we know everything inward from the wheels is new and problem free.
Photo 13/21   |   Deep grooves in the old rotors make replacing them necessary. We picked up the Duralast Gold Series rotors, which are OEM quality (and the official brakes of NASCAR), at AutoZone.
Photo 14/21   |   Fabian makes short work of replacing the old brake pads with Duralast Gold semi-metallic brake pads.
Photo 15/21   |   014 Stand Tall Duralast Brake Pads
Photo 16/21   |   Instead of disassembling the 25-year-old stock drag link and installing new tie-rod ends and an adjuster sleeve, Fabian removes it and installs a new assembly using Duralast Gold tie-rod ends. The old tie-rod ends are worn out and the boots are cracked from age.
Photo 17/21   |   016 Stand Tall New Drag Link
Photo 18/21   |   The Limited Lifetime Warranty of Duralast Gold tie-rod ends means while they should be trouble-free for another couple of decades under Big White's front end, the company supports replacing them in the event there is a premature failure (not related to normal wear). Zerk fittings make it easy to keep them well lubed, too.
Photo 19/21   |   All that is left to finish is slipping on the tires and wheels. With new brakes, ball joints, and steering linkages, Big White should be much more comfortable to drive on long road trips. No wander. No pull. No steering-wheel vibrations. Quicker stops. All good.
Photo 20/21   |   Fabian measures the front wheelwell heights again once everything is buttoned up. The tape reads 38 inches—a 3-inch gain over stock. An inch more than we anticipated from the "2-inch" CP Addict two-wheel-drive leveling kit, but it actually suits Big White just fine.
Photo 21/21   |   Big White looks good in front of A&G Automotive Tires and Wheels. The leveling kit got rid of the truck's original low-front, stink-bug look, and with the new Duralast suspension and steering components under the front end (and a good wheel alignment), driving the 25-year-old workhorse feels a lot better.


Reseda, CA