Sometimes here in the land of all things truck, we get so preoccupied with all the latest giant horsepower numbers and flashy power adders that we forget about making some simple hp for a daily driver. This month, we decided to bring you just that on our recently lowered ’10 GMC test mule belonging to Rob Fortier from Street Rodder magazine.
We chose the tried and true triple install of a single-sided cat-back MBRP Performance exhaust system (PN S5054), with an AEM Cold Air Intake (PN AEM218030), along with a Max Energy 2.0 Power Programmer from Hypertech (PN 2100). The trio of parts is usually done together so that all the pieces can work in unison. Colder denser air is supplied to the engine by the intake, a change in programming provided by the tuner, and more efficient evacuation of spent gasses by the exhaust.
| Our MBRP single-sided cat-back exhaust came in one big box ready to be installed. Save for one minor modification that will be explained later. This stainless steel will match up with all the chrome and other shiny bits of this truck.
This is also a commonly performed upgrade for the budget-minded performance seeker looking to get the most bang for their buck. An installation such as this can be done in stages, and not have one component dependent on the other, but only with the three working together are the power gains are truly realized. Best of all, each component can be installed by the DIYer in their garage or driveway. The exhaust is the most complicated only due to the fact that it requires the truck to be raised, but even together, you can install the three in an afternoon and still have time left over to enjoy a nice night cruise.
Follow along with us as we use all the resources provided to us in the TEN Tech Center, and enlist the help of Jason Scudellari, Tech Center manager for TEN, to make this ’10 standard cab Sierra into a sweet little runner.
| The cold-air intake from AEM was packed very creatively in its box, but is also ready to be installed. No mods here!
| The last component of our install was this Hypertech tune, which will allow us to do speedo and odo corrections for our 22x8.5 and 22x10 U.S. Mag Milner wheels with 265/40R22 and 285/40R22 Falken ZIEX S/TZ tires, set shift point based on rpm, disable the Active Fuel Management System for some tire-ripping fun, and change the settings back to stock when needed.
| Our first step was to remove the front rubber exhaust isolator from the hanger. We started by hitting it with a little spray lube, then using our trusty oversized pry bar, we carefully removed it because the hanger itself would be reused.
| We then set to work unbolting the front clamp securing the catalytic converter to the rest of the exhaust system. The cat would stay firmly where GM installed it from the factory, and the entire rear of the exhaust would be replaced by the MBRP system.
| At this point, Jason went around and sprayed the other exhaust isolators and pried them off the hangers until the exhaust itself just hung down loosely. This photographer was forced to do double duty to balance the now free exhaust while taking pictures.
| With the entire system free, Jason tried to remove the exhaust as a whole. But no matter how it was twisted and shimmied, it would not come out complete. So they decided to chop it in half. The Sawzall came out, and it no time, it was cut into more manageable pieces. Finally, he was able to get the exhaust out.
| We enlisted the help of the truck owner, Rob Fortier from Classic Trucks, who quickly bolted up the Extension Pipe to the cat. Upon reading the instructions, we realized the pipe needed to be cut down to 19 1/2 inches to fit his standard cab, shortbed 1500.
| One of the advantages of having a fully equipped shop at our disposal is being able to raise the truck to a working height using our two post lifts and cut our Extension Pipe using this handy horizontal and vertical band saw. Although, you can do this upgrade with jackstands and a Sawzall. We sanded down the edges, and it was ready for installation.
| The Extension Pipe was now ready to be bolted to the catalytic converter. We set the isolator onto the exhaust hanger and clamped it down with the provided clamp. Next, came the Muffler itself, which we turned until the logo faced downwards. That is how it best fit the space provided.
| Fitting the over-axle pipe was slightly challenging, until we (once again) looked at the directions and saw which way it was supposed to go. After our course correction, it slid into its location, and we clamped it down in no time.
| One of the last steps was to fit the tailpipe onto the over-axle pipe using the supplied clamp. Just like the rest of the components, it was left loose. We tightened it all up at the same time, so we can get our final adjustments and placement right.
| Last for the exhaust was the all-important tip. It not only looks fantastic, it’ll set the gap under the bumper. It will be last piece we tighten going back, adjusting the exhaust system for a proper fit.
| With the exhaust done, we moved onto the AEM intake. We removed the plastic engine cover and set it aside. We unplugged the Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF) from the inlet tube and unscrewed the MAF itself.
| We loosened the clamps that secured the inlet hose from the both the airbox side and the throttle-body end.
| Before the inlet tube could be removed, we had to remove the stock air inlet assembly. We pulled the PCV valve, and the inlet assembly was ready to come out. All it took was some steady pulling, as it was only held in place by rubber grommets on top of the intake manifold. We removed the assembly along with the intake tube.
| Both the radiator overflow tank and the stock airbox had to be removed. The airbox was going to be replaced, but the overflow tank was just in the way.
| The new AEM airbox from the kit was fitted with this rubber gasket around the inlet tube hole. It took a team effort to get it on, but once it was installed, it fit perfectly snug. We installed the two upper and lower brackets. One would hold the AEM Filter Minder, which displays filter life, and the other bracket would support the new inlet tube.
| With the airbox situated, we installed the MAF sensor into the new inlet pipe and tightened it down using the supplied socket bolts. We also installed a supplied grommet onto the throttle-body to accept the new inlet tube.
| At this point, we drilled a 7/8-inch hole in the filter and slipped a rubber grommet, which then got fitted with a 90-degree plastic elbow. The Filter Minder would be connected to the filter using a hose that would then be connected to the elbow.
| The filter could now be dropped into the new airbox, awaiting its connection to the inlet tube. The inlet tube was first connected to the throttle-body and then to the airbox. All the hose clamps and brackets were tightened down, and our intake was basically done!
| All that was left now was to reconnect one side of the supplied PCV hose to its original location and the other end to the intake tube, clip in the MAF, and replace the overflow tank. The last piece of the puzzle was the airbox lid with the AEM logo prominently displayed.
| To install the tuner, all we had to do was plug it into the OBD II port and follow the prompts. We had a few corrections to make to the speedometer due to our wheel and tire change, but ultimately, we were out for the performance aspect of this tuner.
| We cycled through the sections and found what we’re looking for. An adjustment for the shift points in the tranny and a bump in top speed! Once the tune was all dialed, we went out onto the highway and could really feel that our efforts had paid off. The GMC was faster, shifted more crisply, and had a great exhaust note.
| Not bad for a couple hours’ work! We had a great-looking and great-sounding MBRP exhaust, a serviceable AEM cold-air intake, and our Hypertech tuner ties all three together to extract all the available power. This trio of upgrades is easy for any DIYer and makes a big improvement on low- and top-end power. In fact, the only thing cooler than the nice sound the intake and exhaust put out when you stomp on it is the added responsiveness and power!