Suburban build out guidance and opinions


Learning To Live
Ok, here it is.. I have a 97 K1500 Chevy Suburban that I am thinking of building up for Overland. 5.7L Vortech (probably a swap later down the road). I now have stock drivetrain, but lifted with a crappy lift 4" with 33x12.5x17s on the 6 lug pattern. This rig is not a crawler, so I only need to set her up to do like 3 or 3.5 trails at most and to be able to be unsupported in areas three to four days travel from any civilization. I want her to be able to do 5k kms any chance I get with minimal prep to the vehicle other than gear and habitat. I am thinking a couple of possibilities here!

OPTION 1: Going live axle in front and removing IFS, which means 8 bolt wheels I presume. And a 14 bolt in the rear. Swaping wheels and lifting her 6 inches to fit 35s.

Option 2: Keep IFS and still do 14 semi in the back so I have more for habitat improvements.

OK, lets talk turkey and help me build this old girl! ALL constructive coments are welcomed here and I will weigh them all out! I am very greatful for any knowledge I can gleen from any of you! I came from thr rock crawling Jeep world, and I av over trying to take the most difficult lines to get over an obsticle, so keep in mind that I do know how to drive!


Renaissance Redneck
I see you posted in The Other Side's thread on his 93 1500 burb. I will go as far as to guess you read the whole thread. 'Nuff said...


Use the 14 ft not the semi. The ff was an option on the 3/4 tons and a direct bolt in.
you got that backwards dude, the FF 14 bolt came in the 1 tons, and is a much larger, heavier diff, and the smallest bolt pattern is a 8 bolt, the Semi Floating diff came in the 3/4 tonns, and is a smaller lighter diff, but stronger than a 12 bolt, and came in a 6 bolt and 8 bolt patter, making it a direct bolt in if it had the 6 bolt pattern. but you have to be carefull because if it came out of a 2WD truck it will be narrower.


actually radar is right the ff was an "option", the semi floater was in the burbs and light duty 3/4t and heavy 1/2t, some 3/4t had the ff as well.

if you want strength and dependability offroad and can fabricate, do a solid axle swap. the cv's and tierods don't hold up well in situations where one tire might lose traction or you have to get on the throttle while steering. Fourwheeler magazine did an article on trying to beef up the suspension in big red, a 3500 extended cab and it didn't go well. the ifs is great for backroads and that kind of thing though. sky manufacturing sells a kit for sas by the way.

good read about somebody that swapped a solid axle in place of ifs lift and costs.

in your situation i would rather have a hp dana 44 front and a 14ff rear both with 4.56 gears. 3/4t suspension in the back. 52" leafs up front, and good shocks, with a remote resevoir. keep it simple and easy to work on. should work fine for a 3-3.5 trail. the ifs would concern me on trails period.
Last edited:


Learning To Live
Many thanks!

I appreciate everyone chimimg in. I have been leaning toward the live axle swap anyway, but wanted to hear the views of someome who may not think that The Hammers is a byway!:sombrero: I am looking into bolt on kits because I cannot fabricate! Guess that is why I had 30k into the Jeep! I was looking at Offroad UNlimited for a kit, but by the time I have all parts it will cost more than 3k before I get the axles! Little rich for me right now.


Renaissance Redneck
As bftank said, check out Sky Manufactoringvin Oregon. Sky (the owner) is a great guy to deal with and his product is top notch.


New member

Sorry if I posted on another thread , smart phone and big fingers . Anyway I saw a 96 2wd sub with a FF in a salvage yard . Maybe not as common as the semi but still available. I was looking for a FF for my 90 sub and spotted it but found an 89 with a factory FF.


Heretic Car Camper
As the owner of 3 live axle trucks I wouldn't do an SAS on any long range camping - Overland oriented truck. Keep the IFS and address it's known weak points. There is NO way that you'll ever, ever make a live axle ride as nice as the IFS. That is important to others in your family. Ideally you'll dump the torsion bars and go to coil-overs, but t-bars work OK and they're already there. Keep the lift small and massage the body if you're determined to run really tall tires. Personally I don't see any justification in going larger than a 33-10.50 or a 255/85R16's.


You know, I have to agree with NTSQD here.

There are ways to make a live axle handle good, and ride decent, but, they are VERY cost prohibitive.

Stick with the IFS. Unless you are really going to get into some hardcore stuff, and KNOW you are going to break stuff... leave it be. Take it out and USE it, before you decide.

There are things that can be done to address some weaknesses that you may be concerned about.

I agree on the 6 lug 14bolt rear... find one, and stuff it under there. Work from there....



Learning To Live
Ok. I have read two coments that elude to strengthening the IFS, but how would I do that? What are the weak points...besides the fact that it is IFS


Heretic Car Camper
I don't really know what the weak points of that vintage IFS are. Keep in mind that the kit mfg's haven't really caught up with this area. A lot of what you will want to do may not be off the shelf available. Find a real vehicle fabrication shop in your area if this is work that you can't do yourself. I know of one shop that might be a good option for you, depending on where in AZ you are.

The front diff *might* be an issue, but most guys seem to get along with them. Perhaps the 3/4t or 1t trucks used a larger diff that could be transplanted? The CV Joints are another possibility. Perhaps the heavier duty trucks have bigger parts? No idea myself.

Since nearly all GM forums are going to heavily advise doing an SAS I suspect that mostly you're going to have to find the trouble spots on your own. cK5 *might* be helpful, but most there will say to do the SAS. If you can weed through all of that bravado you might get some hints about where to look.

First is to keep the tire size moderate. Large tires put disproportionately larger stresses on all of drivetrain & steering parts. That is true of any suspension design, but stock IFS seem to have less margin for error.

If you buy a "lift" look for a company with real desert racing roots. Most of those "lifts" aren't lifts at all. They are working to increase wheel travel, which is really what you want. All that a lift does is make it taller, which other than making the rocks jump further to ding the sheet metal, is kind of pointless.

The classic IFS failure mode tends to be the steering idler arm and then tie rod ends. So you may be looking at building a center link and tie rods to use the same GM TRE's that places like sells to the SAS crowd. The idler arm may have to be built. I'll suggest the Total Chaos toyota IFS idler arm as a model of what you want should this be necessary.


I dont see any benifit of swapping out the 10 bolt rear for a suburban that is going to be used lightly off road ( not hard core) and not as a tow rig. The stock 10 bolt will hold up to 35's with out an issue and if you are worried about snapping a shaft put a locker in and swap out to disc brakes. The 14 ff is a boat anchor that provides alot of strength that he simply wont need. I would also keep the ifs as a matter of reliability and ride. 4" and 35's is enough swap in 4.56's or 4.88's. Leave the front open and up grade the brakes. You need to focus on reliability and replace worn parts with high quality stuff. I dont know that I would really replace anything before it was worn. As far as the vortec 350 what would you swap to and why?


Learning To Live
12 bolt

My truck actually has a 12 bolt limited slip with 4:10 gears. Just fine for 33s for gear. Strength is important. Lets not forget that a 3.0 is prety hairy. 3.5 in my understanding requires at least one locker and 35 inch tires. Also I am concerned about the weight that these axles will need to carry! A fully loaded burb setup to run for an extended trip will be pretty heave. As for lift I have 4 inches right now, and am planning on at least 6 total.

Forum statistics

Latest member