Ever wonder how some truck owners manage to get that just-right look without any resorting to a lift kit? Odds are they’ve installed a leveling kit. This is a more subtle, less involved, and cheaper alternative to the lift kit. But for all their benefits, there are some common problems and concerns that Silverado owners should consider before installing a leveling kit.
Unlike a lift kit, which requires significant modifications to the suspension in order to raise the ride height so dramatically, leveling kits are much more straightforward. This is because raising the ride height is a happy side effect; the main intent of these kits is to level out the truck so that the front end is the same height as the rear. It eliminates the forward rake most trucks come with from the factory.
Leveling out the truck brings a host of benefits. Front-end clearance improves and overall clearance is greater is before. Fat all-terrain tires will fit better in the wheel wells. Attaching a plow becomes easier. And let’s not forget that a leveled-out truck just looks cool.
However, the installation of a leveling kit might lead to issues that aren’t entirely obvious beforehand. To shed some light on the potential unintended consequences of a leveling kit, we’ve highlighted the main problems you’ll want to keep in mind.
What to Watch For When Installing a Leveling Kit on Your Chevy Silverado
Alignment and Caster Angle
It is vital to get an alignment following the installation of a lift-leveling kit. An alignment ensures the wheels are positioned where you want them to be. This is important for minimal tire wear and longevity of suspension components. You also can’t forget about caster angle, one of the most important adjustments required after installing a leveling kit.
Don’t confuse caster with camber. Camber measures whether the wheels lean inward or outward relative to the front of the vehicle; caster measures whether the tires point more to the left or right. If you don’t adjust the caster angle following the installation of a leveling kit, the truck will likely wander, drift, and cause a general sense of instability. It certainly won’t feel normal or safe.
Many correct their caster angle with the use of a cam caster adjusting kit, such as this one by MOOG. These kits are easy to install and use and allow for a wide range of adjustment.
If you don’t feel comfortable messing with alignments and suspension angles in your driveway, we recommend visiting a reputable alignment shop that is familiar with lift kits and leveling kits. Once they align the truck, they’ll know if you even need the aftermarket caster kits at all; if so, they’ll be able to dial them in so your Silverado isn’t wandering all over the road on the ride home.
Tires, Brakes, Speedometer
If you choose to upgrade from the factory tires to larger all-terrain rubber, other ancillary items that require attention include your tires, brakes, and speedometer calibration.
Why the speedometer calibration? With larger tires, the time it takes for a single revolution will be longer than smaller-sized tires. The difference might be negligible when the new tire size is only slightly larger, but if you’re making a jump from, say, stock all-season tires to 33-inch all-terrain tires, the difference will be much more dramatic. The speedometer, which is calibrated for the factory tire size, needs to be adjusted accordingly so it reads true. Otherwise, it could be off by five or even 10 mph – enough to net you a ticket if you aren’t careful.
As for the brakes, stronger pads or larger rotors and calipers may be in the cards if your new tires are that much larger than the outgoing set. You want to make sure you have enough braking power to safely panic stop, and bigger tires may have a predilection to keep rolling. If you feel the stock brakes are inadequate for the new setup, upgrade.
Following the installation of a leveling kit, you’ll need to get your headlights adjusted in order to compensate for revised stance and ride height. Because trucks tend to have a forward rake from the factory, the headlights will be set to aim slightly upward. Once you level the truck, this will need to be corrected.
You might be brave and undertake installation of a leveling kit on your own. The easier but more expensive option is to have a trustworthy mechanic do the installation for you. If you plan on tackling it yourself, there are detailed videos on YouTube for all trucks, Silverados included. Of course, the kits include a simple instruction manual as well.
Be warned, though: you will have to disassemble at least some of your factory suspension during installation. And making a mistake installing a leveling kit could cause some serious problems for you and your truck. After all, the suspension carries the weight of the truck, and there’s some major pressure on some of those components. If you don’t feel comfortable, we highly recommend letting a shop handle it.
Affections Of The Tie Rods
When a leveling kit is set up, the tie rod angle changes, putting more stress on the tie rods if left in the factory position. This presents additional problems for those who like taking their truck off-road, where the tie rods are more apt to bend or snap from extreme wheel articulation or potentially even catch on an obstacle on the trail.
As an owner, you’ll want to upgrade to aftermarket tie rods, which are designed for the difference in angle created by the installation of the leveling kit.
Silverado Leveling Kit Issues
This video also sheds some light on potential problems you may run into when installing a leveling kit:
Premature Suspension Wear
Another common leveling kit problem is how it can affect the suspension geometry. That can invite additional wear to certain components, which may cause them to wear out prematurely. Ball joints and – on four-wheel drive trucks – CV joints are some of the parts that may be affected.
That’s why it is paramount to purchase a quality leveling kit from a reputable manufacturer – cheap out on a mod like this and you’ll pay for it down the line when suspension, ride, and handling problems inevitably crop up.
Necessary Replacement of Factory Shocks
You’ll likely have to install new shocks after adding a leveling kit to your Silverado. The factory-installed shocks are not intended for the newly-extended space between the wheel well and the axle.
If you try to run the factory shocks with a leveling kit, you’ll find their total range of travel is significantly more limited due to the higher ride height. You’re more apt to bottom out or hit the bump stops, which could damage your suspension. Even if you don’t max out the shock’s travel, you’ll suffer a rougher ride regardless of the road surface. Your best bet is to buy new shocks intended for trucks with a leveling kit.
Reduced Gas Mileage
Gas stations must love leveling kits, because they take a truck’s already-mediocre fuel economy and make it worse. Half the reason trucks come canted downward from the factory is to improve fuel economy and aerodynamics; raising it to ride level nullifies those efforts.
Gas mileage will be further affected by the addition of larger tires. The chunky tread of all-terrain tires generate massive rolling resistance compared to all-season tires.
If your truck is fairly new, be aware that a leveling kit will likely void the factory warranty. Modifying the suspension is a strict violation of most warranties, which typically won’t cover a modified vehicle.
We recommend waiting until after your warranty expires before making modifications to your Silverado. Voiding the warranty could cost you thousands of dollars if something were to happen that would be otherwise covered by the warranty.
Leveling kits are practical, common, and affordable ways to improve the look and functionality of your truck. As a bonus, these are bolt-on modifications – you can reverse them if you ever decide to sell your truck or change your suspension setup.
That said, don’t underestimate the potential issues and problems of a leveling kit. We recommend having a professional install your kit, as it is the most surefire way to avoid many of the pitfalls we outlined here. Installed correctly, your leveling kit should bring many miles of trouble-free driving.
If you would like to make sure you pick a leveling kit that will perfectly fit your Silverado and provide the lift you need, check out our article on the Best Silverado leveling kit.