Tuff Country 4" Dually Lift Kit
By Jeff Fretwell

I’m a big fan of Chevy trucks, but ever since they went to IFS front suspensions the 4 wheel drive trucks just did not seem to have that big 4x4 look to them. My truck is mainly used as a daily driver and serves as my tow rig to haul around my Land Cruiser. I traded my old 2wd dually for the 4wd because I occasionally have to tow my trailer into rough roads and sometimes muddy or snowy conditions. So the 4wd serves me well, but the looks of the low riding truck does not! That’s when I decided to give a call to Tuff Country and talk about suspension kits. I didn’t want to go overkill with too much lift and end up dealing with handling or drive line issues, so I decided on a 4 inch kit. This is the perfect amount of lift to allow enough room for some 33 inch meats, and to give it that look it deserves!

Bone Stock 97 Chevrolet 4x4 extra-cab dually.
One last picture of the stock truck before it goes under the knife!
New Tuff Country SX6000 EZ Shocks & Boots.
The Tuff Country suspension system to be installed is for 88 - 97 Chevy /GMC K2500 & K3500 trucks, part # 14823. This kit does not include shocks, so they need to be ordered separately.

The following steps and procedures in this article are not intended as Tuff Country suspension system instructions. Although I did follow their instructions during this installation, this article is intended simply to show the quality and simplicity of installation of the Tuff Country EZ-Ride suspension system. And also to demonstrate that the average shade tree mechanic can install this kit in the garage or driveway with basic shop tools. Note: GM uses alot of odd ball sized nuts & bolts, so be prepared to use a large variety of metric and standard tools.

Getting started! Here the front tires are removed and the truck is jacked up and supported with jack stands.

Front Suspension: As soon as I got started I ran into a small problem, the instructions make mention of a "torsion bar removing tool". This tool is used for releasing the presure on the torsion bars. I quickly realized that I didn't have one of those! So I made a few calls but ended up coming up short. So I decided to fabricate my own tool, seemed simple enough.... After spending a good 30 minutes or so making the tool I attempted to release the pressure of the torsion bars, but the tool simply bent and failed to release the pressure of the torsion bar. After a little thought and reading ahead in the instructions I decided to remove the torsion bars by separating the upper ball joints and dropping the lower control arms. This was suppose to take place after I removed the torsion bars anyhow. So on with the project!

Disconnecting upper and lower A-arms, brake lines, CV shafts, and sway bar.
Torsion bars and cross member removed.
There are three brackets that need to be cut off of the frame to make room for new brackets and a new lower control arm sub frame. The first cut is the lower center section rear wrap that needs to be cut off flush with the lower control arm bracket. The next two are the bump stops. The picture to the left shows the bump stop that needs to be removed in order to make room for the new upper control arms.
The bump stop bracket had to be cut off flush with the frame to allow clearance for the new upper control arm brackets.
Here the new upper control arm bracket is temporarily mounted to check for proper alignment. Basically you need to make sure the bracket sits perpendicular (90 degrees) to the frame. If it does not, more grinding where the bump stop was removed is needed.

Once the front end of the truck was pretty much gutted, the installation process began. Installing this suspension kit is really not that difficult, but be warned that it is very time consuming! The instructions say that average time is 12 hours and that Tuff Country highly recommends that a qualified or certified mechanic perform the installation. I would guess that 12 hours is based on a mechanic that installs these lifts often, because it took me the better part part of 3 days! But really it was not that difficult, just time consuming and labor intensive.

Next was to locate the new lower sub frame. This is what the lower control arms and differential mount to. Before mounting the sub frame, the lower stock bracket that wraps around the differential must me cut off flush with the driver side rear lower control arm bracket.
The bracket that sits real close to the ribs on the center section is the part that needed to be cut off. I was a bit confused as to how much of the bracket actually need to be removed so being extra cautious I failed to cut enough off. So during installation of the lower sub frame I had an alignment issue. Of course I had to remove everything and cut more off. Oh well, better that than if I had cut too much off!
Mounting the new lower control arm sub frame. Tuff Country supplies you with all new grade 8 hardware. The sub frame mounts using new hardware and stock frame and bracket holes. Except for two new holes that need to be drilled in the front location just below the radiator.
Hardware, bushings, sleeves, brackets, etc..
New lower sub frame mounted and torsion bars locked back into place.
Lower control arms with new bump stops mounted to the new lower sub frame.
New torsion bar drop blocks. The drop blocks mount to the stock torsion bar cross member.
Another view of the torsion bar drop block and cross member.
Nothing special here, just installing the torsion bars and brackets
Seen here is the new upper control arm bracket loosely mounted as well as the lower control arm sub frame, lower control arms, and torsion bars. Everything at this point is being test fitted and checked for proper alignment.
Front view of the lower control arm sub frame and control arms installed.
Lower arms and tie rods installed.
Towards the completion of the front end installation.
New Tuff Country EZ Ride shocks installed, all that's left here is to re-mount the brake line brackets and re-install the inner fender splash guards.

Here the front end is mostly completed except for the brake line drop brackets, which I'm fabricating my own because I really didn't care for the brackets that came with the kit. After that it was off to the alignment shop.

I took this picture just after completing the front end to show just how far out of whack the front end alignment was. You can see that both the camber and toe in is pretty far out of alignment! This must be why they mention several times through out the installation instructions that you will need to take it to an alignment shop following the completion of the lift kit! I spent the better part of the third day dialing in the alignment myself and got it very close. So the drive to the alignment shop was a smooth comfortable drive.
For the brake line bracket, I welded a nut into this peice of tubing. I then welded the tubing to the upper control arm bracket.
The brake line bracket bolts to the new mount and is out of harms way.
Rear Suspension: The rear suspension is a piece of cake being that it's just solid axle and leaf springs. When ordering the kit from Tuff Country you have the choice of using 4" blocks or 3". If you want to level out your truck, the 3" blocks are perfect for a pick up truck since the rear end has a rake from the factory to compensate for loads. My dually had about 2 inches of rake in the rear end, plus I have air bags which can pump it up another 2 inches. I ended up using 2.5" blocks which made the truck sit perfectly level with no load. Also, I didn't want to have any issues with rear drive line vibrations which I hear can be a problem with dually's that have two-piece drive lines like mine. From what I've been told, most of the problems have been when the rear end was lifted 4 inches or higher. So I should be good.....
New U-bolts and 3" blocks supplied by Tuff Country.
I don't think I really need to get much into installing a set of lift blocks! But here's a picture of a big ass GM 14 bolt brake drum held up by a nice shinny Harbor Freight jack stand!
Stock rear axle with airbags mounted to axle using a U-bolt.
After installing the lift blocks, my next issue was addressing the now un usable airbags. Because of the 2.5" lift I of course had to unbolt the airbags from the axle, so now I just had to figure out how to remount them 2.5" higher.
Pretty simple, I just cut down some 2.5" receiver tubing and welded into place. Done!
Mounting the shocks reminded me of installing the Bilstein 5150's on my Land Cruiser. They came with the strap wrapped around them like the Bilsteins did, but I didn't think I'd ever come across a shock that stiff ever again! I was wrong, after cutting the strap on the first shock while installing it on the front end I was quickly reminded of how stiff a shock can be! After wrestling with the first one for a while I remembered the best way is to install it with the strap installed and then mount the upper part. After the upper shock eye is mounted you can either compress the suspension or just cut it and hold the shock really tight and muscle it into the lower mount.
Here's what the rear looked like before the lift.
And here it is after the lift.
Side shot.
Full profile shot. She's looking much more like a 4x4 truck now.
Tires & wheels: The previous tires where 235 X 85 X 16's on stock GM steel wheels with chrome wheel simulators. Those tires when new measured close to 31 inches tall. The new tires are Dunlop Mud Rover 255 X 85 X 16's. They measure a true 33" tall by 10" wide. They are mounted on 0589 Polished Eagle Alloy's.
Pictured here are the old bald 235's on stock wheels. Pretty lame!
New Dunlop 255 X 85 X 16 next to the old Big "O" 235 X 85 X 16.
Another angle of the comparison. The 255 is 2.5 inches taller than the 235 un mounted and about an inch wider.
When I purchased these tires I was told from the tire shop that they mount 255's on stock width dually wheels all the time with no tire to tire contact. As you can see here, I was not so lucky!
I had to install a set of 1/4" wheel spacers in between the wheels to solve the problem. After installing the spacers I now have about an 1/8" of clearance.

For the exhaust pipe modifications I took the truck to Casper's Muffler & Hitch. They specialize in custom off-road exhaust systems, so this small task was a walk in the park for them! Here the cross over pipe is being cut out.

Casper's Muffler & Hitch Service
4500 Missouri Flat Rd.
Placerville, CA 95667
(530) 626-6751

A new peice of alluminized tubing was bent into shape to allow clearance for the driveshaft.
Exhaust is complete, now I have 4-wheel drive again! Nice...

Conclusion: I am very pleased with the Tuff Country suspension system. The product is made of high quality materials, and comes complete with everything you'll need to complete the installation successfully including very detailed instructions and a 800 tech support line (which I used a couple of times!) A few things to remember when considering a GM IFS suspension kit is that the installation process is not a simple task! It is highly recommended that installation of suspension systems be performed by qualified technicians. To insure proper tire wear, it is recommended that a front end alignment is done after installation of the suspension kit. Also, you will need to have your exhaust modified in order to reinstall the front drive shaft. This is a simple task that any muffler shop can handle.

Contact Information:
Tuff Country EZ-Ride Suspension

4165 West Nike Drive
West Jordan, Utah 84088
(800) 288-2190
(801) 280-2777
(801) 280-2896 fax