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How to Install Upper Control Arms and Front Struts + Spacers

Second Gen Silverado 5.3 4x4 upper control arm (UCA) and front struts + spacers install
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How to Install Upper Control Arms and Front Struts + Spacers

Postby Gibson6 [OP] » Apr 27 2020, 8:36pm

Requirements:
• Skill Level: Moderate
• Patience Level: High
• Time: Took me all weekend but I spent a lot of that time fighting old nuts/bolts
• Special Tools: What do you consider ‘special’? I had to go out and buy a grease gun…

Things you'll need – and parts I used
• New UCA’s – NAPA Premium (NCP 2605507 and NCP 2605508)
• New UCA bolts – NAPA (NOE 73003141)
• New Strut assembly’s – (2) NAPA Premium Struts (RRA 181784)
• Strut Spacers (optional) - Freedom Off-road 2” spacers (FO-G302F20AL)
• Grinding wheel / hacksaw / etc.
• Blue Loctite
• New Stabilizer Bar Links - ACDelco 45G0002
• Sway Bar Bushings – MOOG (MOG-K200222)
• PB Blaster – penetrant to break old bolts and nuts loose
• Grease & Grease Gun (to fill your UCA joints)
• Deep Metric socket set (up to 22mm)
• Impact driver or air gun
• Floor Jack, Bottle Jack, and Jack Stands
• Torque wrench

Goal:
Replace old stock upper control arms, front struts, stabilizer links, sway bar bushings and also add some lift/level via top sided strut spacers on my 2011 5.3 Z71 4x4 Silverado 1500. (I have added rear blocks/new shocks too in separate write up).
My UCA’s, struts, and related parts were in very bad shape. I bought my 5.3 Silverado with over 100K miles on it (currently at 125K) and these parts were still the original parts.
I wanted to get all this done and replaced but only have to take each tire off once while also only paying for one alignment afterwards.

Part choices -
For the UCA’s I went with NAPA Premium’s (part no.’s - NCP 2605507 and NCP 2605508) for a couple of reasons. The level/suspension I am installing (2” front top sided strut spacers and 1” rear blocks) works with OEM spec UCA’s (which these NAPA’s are). Also, with the other upgrades/replacements I am doing, the budget did not have room for $400+ UCA’s.

For the struts I went with full assembly’s to avoid having to remove and install the old coils and these things have some miles on em so figured best to go new all around. I went with (2) NAPA Premium Response strut assembly’s (part no. RRA 181784). I was leaning Rancho Quick Lift but I could not justify the extra $150 for a longer strut. Also, the adjustability of the Rancho was something I wanted to steer clear of along with the reviews of how ‘soft’ they felt. These NAPA’s have better range than the ranchos and were a far better deal.

For the top sided spacer I went with Freedom Off-road 2.0” Front Leveling Spacers (part no. FO-G302F20AL). The previous owner had installed a 1” bottom sided level spacer and I removed that as I prefer the top sided… just seems more mechanically sound but doubt it really matters. I also did not want to reuse old bolts/nuts or have 3” front spacer lift that could cause angle or driveshaft issues. I have also added a 1” block level in the rear with new shocks (Procomp 925543) that I have covered in a separate write up.


Step-by-Step Instructions:
Prep
1. Park truck on a level surface and put the parking brake on. If you are not using air tools, be sure to break loose the lug nuts before jacking her up.
2. Jack the truck up, put on jack stands, chock the back wheels, and place a bottle jack under the lower control arm of the side you are doing first.
3. Remove the front tires
4. Support the lower control arm with a bottle jack or some other type of support

Strut Removal
5. Remove the stabilizer link nuts by placing a wrench on top and socket wrench or impact driver on the bottom. (I am replacing these as well along with the sway bar bushings) For the Stabilizer link I went with ACDelco Part no. 45G0002. And am damn glad I decided to replace these in advance… my old ones snapped off when trying to remove the nut…
Snapped Sway bar linkager.jpg

6. Locate the top strut bolts and remove wire clip (if there). Loosen the three bolts (18mm). I used a wrench from within the tire well.
7. Remove the two bolts that hold the strut in place from the lower control arm. Mine were 17mm but had a spacer block on from the previous owner. I had to jack up the lower control arm even more here to get the nut off.
8. Remove the old strut assembly. The previous owner had a 1” spacer on the bottom was I am removing this and putting in a new 2” top spacer in.
Old lower spacer installed.jpg
Old strut and spacer.jpg


UCA Removal
9. Mark the position of the UCA where the tabs/pins/washers are to keep it fairly aligned after the new parts are installed. I broke a couple pins when doing this as well…
10. Remove 10mm nut holding the wiring harness clip on the upper control arm. This bolt also broke on me…
11. Spray UCA bolts with some WD40 or other lube to help in breaking bolts loose. This was a 3+ hour battle on my passenger side for me. I guess 125k miles will do that to parts… PB blaster will help
12. Remove the 18mm castle nut from the ball joint. Pound the hell out of the ball joint to get it to dislodge. If you cannot get it dislodged here (like me) then just remove the nut and move on to step 13. I removed the ball joint after remove the UCA bolts. Twisting it around gave me more leverage.
13. Remove 21mm nuts from the UCA bolts, then remove the alignment pin brackets (Very likely you have already broken the pin and/or bracket if you’re doing this on an older truck like mine.)
14. Remove the UCA bolts and pry out the old UCA. This was a battle to get these bolts out. Mine were all seized up and one nut even snapped right off the bolt. Spent a solid three hours spraying, banging, heating, twisting, to get it out.
Snapped UCA Bolt.jpg
New UCA bolts v old.jpg

15. Turn your upper control arm around 180 degrees and lift up/maneuver to get some leverage and pound the ball joint out.

UCA Install part 1
16. My UCA’s came with the ball joint already installed but if yours don’t you will need to install them now
17. Put the new upper control arm in place – making sure to put bolts/brackets back in same direction and also use new bolts. Set your brackets back into place using your markings.
18. Leave the UCA bolts loose enough to push the UCA up as high as it will go

Top Sided Strut Spacer Install
19. Install provided bolts into the spacer facing up in three spacer holes. I used Blue Loctite here too.
20. Take the spacer and set into your truck as a test run to find which bolt will be the one facing out. Mark this bolt. This will help a ton when placing the strut assembly.
21. Place spacer on top of strut. You will have to rotate the spacer until it fits. Bolts are not equidistant from each other.
22. Tighten down nuts onto the three strut bolts using blue Loctite. Torque to 75ft/lbs
23. Trim off spacer bolts sticking out from top of spacer. Be careful not to touch your new bolts.
Spacer - grind studs off.jpg

24. 25-28 is a key part where I could not find anything online covering. On each video they totally skipped how to get the strut into place again now that you have changed the position of the mounting bolt that faces out and therefor rotated the lower portion of the strut about 45 degrees.
25. Lower the bottle jack letting the lower control arm down
26. Place lower portion of strut assembly into your lower control arm and put bolts in place
27. Place pipe or wrench or something to get some leverage between your top bolts
28. Rotate until your marked new bolt is facing out and in place.
Twisting strut into place after spacer install.jpg


Strut assembly install
29. Remove bottom bolts you just put in place to rotate the strut assembly
30. Place the top of the strut into place - setting top three strut bolts in place. Tighten nuts down but leave loose enough to maneuver bottom bolts in next step
31. Set bottom of strut into place and secure bolts through the bottom up into the castle nuts. I had to add a washer here to make tight.
32. Torque both top and bottom nuts down to 85 ft/lbs

UCA Install part 2
33. Raise the lower control arm with your bottle jack and set new UCA ball joint bolt in place
34. Tighten castle nut down and place pin into eye, then bend the pin over and around the bolt
35. Fill UCA joint with grease using your grease gun
36. Torque control arm bolts down to 100ft/lbs
37. Reinstall 10mm bolt and wiring harness clip onto UCA

Finishing touches
38. Put new sway bar link in place and tighten down
39. Put wheel back on – tighten to 110ft/lbs (or your preferred torque) in star/crossing pattern
40. Return back to step 5 for the other side
41. Go get an alignment

Internals Before
Old parts installed.jpg


and after
After parts 1.jpg


Here she is after the installs. Now has ProComp rears, 1" block, and NAPA premium fronts with 2" topsided spacer level.
AFTER2.jpg



Evaluation:
Man this was a job! Mostly because of the time spent fighting old bolts that do not like change… be sure to buy all bolts you will need. Do not use any old ones or think you will be able to

Conclusion:
Glad I did this… truck rides better, sits better, looks better, and feels better knowing those old nasty risky parts are off my rig. Could have been one pot hole or ride out to the turkey plot away from messing something up real bad.
Last edited by Gibson6 on Apr 27 2020, 9:23pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: How to Install Upper Control Arms and Front Struts + Spa

Postby judsonlimited » Apr 27 2020, 8:38pm

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"CritterGitter: I'm just baffled at the amount of dumb worthless douchebaggery I see being done to these good trucks"

JEFFREY EPSTEIN DIDN'T KILL HIMSELF
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Re: How to Install Upper Control Arms and Front Struts + Spa

Postby 19trax95 » Apr 27 2020, 9:00pm

Very nicely written and easy to follow along with.
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Re: How to Install Upper Control Arms and Front Struts + Spa

Postby brazos_bend » Apr 27 2020, 9:37pm

Helped my cousin do this on his 14'. And done it myself on my N****n Xterra. It is an ALL DAY job. Preferable weather and beverages are encouraged.
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Re: How to Install Upper Control Arms and Front Struts + Spa

Postby Gibson6 [OP] » Apr 27 2020, 9:43pm

Oh yeah beers were going down easy at the end of these days... everything just goes so smoothly in those online videos lol
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Re: How to Install Upper Control Arms and Front Struts + Spa

Postby Spectreniner » Apr 27 2020, 9:52pm

Dang, your truck must have had some serious off-roading (being in GA) to get that rusty/bad of bolts. When I did my spacer last year and my swar bar link stuff this year, I didn't have any problems on my '11. xD

Great write-up btw!
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Re: How to Install Upper Control Arms and Front Struts + Spa

Postby Gibson6 [OP] » Apr 27 2020, 9:57pm

Yeah I need to do some research on where the truck was in its previous lives. But in the pics it is hard to differentiate georgia red clay debris from real rust but either way the dirt doesn't help!!
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Re: How to Install Upper Control Arms and Front Struts + Spa

Postby Lardog » Sep 21 2020, 3:42am

I sampled this action 3 years ago when i did a level kit, then following year decided to go with RC 3.5" Lifted Struts, and here i am a few years later going back in for RC UCA's. I'm a glutton for this punishment. After every upgrade you can tell a great difference in ride though. so Im looking forward to doing these when they come in in 2 weeks. Great write up and photos, I needed to see it done to get a feel for the job ;)
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Re: How to Install Upper Control Arms and Front Struts + Spa

Postby Gibson6 [OP] » Sep 22 2020, 1:37pm

Thanks Lardog! Glad to help let us know if you have questions... your rig looks much newer should have a much easier time fighting bolts!
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Re: How to Install Upper Control Arms and Front Struts + Spa

Postby Bradley21sanders » Sep 22 2020, 3:02pm

Nice and congratulate yourself on some money saved. The shop near me was going to charge $400 just to press out and replace the two lower ball joints. Took me an hour if that with the rent a tool from an autoparts store.
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