Help on my 2009 Silverado 5.3L build (and others' 2007-2013 silverado/sierra builds)

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Medic5.3

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Charlie
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Dillon
Hello all!

I recently bought a new (to me) 2009 Silverado 5.3L. I'm looking to make it an overland build. I previously had an old 4runner that I loved, but sold it to a friend who was in need of an adventuring rig and bought this thing to to also help with other parts of my life.

I know that i will probably get some backlash for trying to make a full-size vehicle like this an overland rig, but i want something a little different than all of the land cruisers, tacos, 4 runners, TJ's, YJ's, etc., although I do love all of the vehicles!

My vehicle will be my daily driver as well as my overland rig, so I need to build it to be capable for both. It is currently stock apart from chopping off the resonator and muffler to give it a bit of a better sound and help with exhaust flow. Here are the list of "mods" that I am currently thinking of doing in order. My problem is finding best bang for the buck, and both short term "effectiveness|" and long term longevity.

1st upgrade: Traction and Ground Clearance

For traction, I am thinking of getting a set of 33" x 12.5" Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs. ( I live up in Calgary, Canada and need something that can handle a bit of everything. These tires were literally designed for my area and are really good both on and off road. Unless someone has a better tire choice for the needs and size that I am looking for. My only question is wheel size. Looking to get a set of M/T Classic III's. (Shop Discounted Mickey Thompson Wheels CLASSIC III Satin Black Canada - PartsEngine). I currently have stock 18" wheels on my truck and just by looking at the wheel when it's on the truck, I can tell that I can easily fit 17" wheels but am wondering if I can fit 16" wheels (worried about clearing caliper). More sidewall the better, especially where I go 4wheeling, I need a lot of deflation capability to get over some gnarly rocks.
What's your guys' opinions on tire choice and wheel size?

Now to fit these wheels. I am looking at getting around a 3-4" lift. Wondering what the best bang for my buck is. I know I can go crazy in price and get an Icon lift or something, but like I mentioned earlier, trying to get the best bang for buck but also keeping it to a lower budget. I was looking at going on the cheaper side and getting the Rough Country 3.5" lift with control arms (Rough Country Silverado 3.5 in. Suspension Lift Kit w/ Upper Control Arms S102074 (07-16 4WD Silverado 1500 w/ Stock Cast Steel or Aluminum Control Arms)) and then as my OEM front struts start to go, replace them with something real nice and what not. OR go a little bit more in the middle (which I am thinking is my best option) and going with something like this : Zone Offroad Silverado 4.5 in. IFS Suspension Lift Kit w/ Shocks S102477 (07-13 4WD Silverado 1500, Excluding Hybrid). OR save up more money and go with something like this: Fabtech Silverado 4 in. Budget Lift System w/ Dirt Logic Coilovers & Shocks S101502 (14-18 2WD/4WD Silverado 1500 Double Cab, Crew Cab).
I understand that the more money I spend on the lift, the less ill have to spend on replacing parts, and suspension especially, down the road. I do have custom made leaf springs from Standens, a vehicle fabrication shop that everyone swears by. So will just need to upgrade the rear shocks for now. What is your guys' opinion on these lift kits that I have considered and what do you think is the best option for a budget build?

Wheels, tires, and lift will all happen at once, so the more money that I can save, the better.

2nd Upgrade: Recovery and Armour:

Recovery and armour are kind of linked together as one.
I'm looking to get the highest pulling winch (15k lbs and more) as I do have friends with some heavier vehicles than my own that I would love to be able to use to help them get unstuck out of gnarly situations. So my first question is what winch would you guys recommend?
Obviously tow straps, and all the recovery gear would go along with it. Looking to get maxtrax, but also wondering if there are other companies that offer the same quality of product at a cheaper price?

Next question is bumpers which also ties into the whole winching thing. I am gonna be honest, can't stand the look of those big ironcross bumpers and what not. Way too heavy and big, and also just look ridiculous in my opinion. I am a huge fan of the prerunner/baja style bumpers but it is almost impossible to find these types of bumpers that i could install a winch behind and be able to use to pull people out. There's been a few that I have been looking at, but need your guys' help on this one. Please just throw links to bumpers at me or suggestions and advice. And if it would just be better to get a custom made bumper, where in the hell would I go to do that?
I need to find a bumper that I like the look of, but something that I can still have a winch, be able to hook up tow straps to and pull someone out, and also to be able to be pushed into the ground and other forms of abuse. If I buy a bumper that doesn't come "winch ready" can I cut a hole in where the cord would come out? For example, can I cut a hole and put a metal guard where the winch cord would be on the N-Fab bumper like the Addictive Dessert Designs bumper, or do I face too great of a threat ripping the bumper off?
Here are some bumpers that I have been looking at:

A rear bumper would be added onto the truck in the future which I am not too worried about.

For skid plates and what not, I understand that some lift kits come with skid plates for the front diff and stuff and I already have one for the engine oil pan area. And if I get a prerunner style bumper, most of the come with a skid plate that runs down all the way to my diff. So now I'll be looking to protect my transmission/transfer case, fuel tank and whatever else you guys think I should protect. I am looking to be able to use the skid plates to drag my truck along the ground incase I bottom myself out and need to slide on my belly. Where should I go for these skid plates?

Also, to add to the armour thing, I will be looking to get rock rails on the truck to protect the body of my truck. What would you guys recommend? I don't want side steps (or need them) and don't want something that is going to counter-part the money I spent on lift and bigger tires.

3rd Uprgrade: Lights, Gear, And A Good Ol' Rooftop Tent

I apologize in advance guys, but I am going to need a lot of help in this part.

Lets start off with lights. I live in a damn cold and hot area. Calgary, Alberta is known for its crazy weather. You can have days where you get all seasons in a 12 hour period. Heavy rain, light rain, heavy snow, light snow, light fog, crazy fog, light wind, heavy wind up to 100+ km/h (60+ mph for my American neighbours). The climate that I live in is crazy. The hottest it gets here in the summer is about 35 C (95 F) to the coldest in the winter is usually no more than -40 C (-40 F) but sometimes the temperature can get even colder or hotter on rare, extreme occasions. I am looking at Rigid industries or KC Hilites for lights bars and pods. Thinking of having a 50"-54" light bar across the roof, 18"-30" light bar along the center of my bumper (if I can fit it), and spot and flood pod lights on the sides of my bumper maybe or somewhere. I am gonna need lights that can handle these intense weather conditions and also just be great at lighting up the outside world (really nice being able to see when driving).

Next would be a rooftop tent. First question is what do you guys think is the best bang for your buck tent?
Next question related to tents but also gear is where do I find/go to to find a bed rack for the tent but also one that can take a lot of abuse from driving on the trails and also be able to hold gear on the sides like fuel and water tanks and what not? It's hard to find ones for my truck.

My next question is what do I do for a snorkel for my truck? I can't seem to find anywhere that sells snorkels for my vehicle. Can find them for almost any other vehicle but cant for mine, only cold air intakes. So if I end up having to get one made, where would be a good place to go? Preferably somewhere closest to my hometown (Calgary, Canada)

Last thing with gear is what do you guys think I should get? After getting a suspension lift, wheels and good set of tires, front and rear bumpers for protection, side and belly protection, recovery gear, lights, and roof top tent along with some gear like extra fuel pods/jerry cans, water, and basic camping gear. Do remember that I am also using this vehicle as a daily driver, So back seat use is kind of a must. I'm more than happy to spend time to take things out of the vehicle and what not, but don't want permanent storage ideas and stuff that wont allow me to use the back seats for, well, their main purpose, to seat people while doing my daily driver activities. Also what gear do you guys think is a must-have?

Thank you in advance for reading this novel, and helping me out. Apologies for the long post. Just trying to plan for now and in the future.
 
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Medic5.3

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Calgary, AB, Canada
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Charlie
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Dillon
I'll probably be adding more things and be asking more questions as i get further and further into my build, but I forgot to ask about something. For tires, I am heavily considering the Duratracs since i have a vast selection of climates and conditions that i need my tires to handle as well as paved roads. What do you guys think of the Goodyear Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar? How do they handle in snow? I've seen the 4WD Action youtube channel use them, and they seem to handle great in all of the condtions Australia throws at them, but my main concern would be snow as well. How good are they compared to the duratracs since they are in the same family of tire?
 

JCWages

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My big issue with Duratracs is the lack of a real 3ply sidewall. That's where the Cooper ST Maxx and Geolandar X-AT has them beat. The 3 peak snow rating is hit or miss as some non-rated tires do better than rated tires. MTs do fine in deeper snow. Their biggest issue is on ice and hard packed snow on roads. If you're not doing any hardcore trails or have to deal with sharp sticks or sharp edged rocks then the Duratracs will work well.
 

RoarinRow

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I had the Duratracs for a short while but did not like them. They were soft and unpredictable when driving on pavement. Not sure why. On my 2500 maybe it was the weight? I switched to Toyo Open Country AT which I find more stable and with less road noise.

With the added weight of the lift, 35” tires and rims brakes performance suffered slightly. Another consideration for your build.
 

Medic5.3

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Charlie
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Dillon
My big issue with Duratracs is the lack of a real 3ply sidewall. That's where the Cooper ST Maxx and Geolandar X-AT has them beat. The 3 peak snow rating is hit or miss as some non-rated tires do better than rated tires. MTs do fine in deeper snow. Their biggest issue is on ice and hard packed snow on roads. If you're not doing any hardcore trails or have to deal with sharp sticks or sharp edged rocks then the Duratracs will work well.
Ive gone with duratracs in the past and have absolutely loved them. seemed to be a tire that was pretty good in every area instead of just focusing in one than the other. Everyone just seems to either run these or KO2s out here unless they have a vehicle built for something in specific or have tirs bigger than 35s. I do agree with you on the side wall though. The tread is great for toughness, but they are known for ripping and tearing on the sidewall from obstacles. I will have to do some research about both of those tires for sure though!
 
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Medic5.3

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I had the Duratracs for a short while but did not like them. They were soft and unpredictable when driving on pavement. Not sure why. On my 2500 maybe it was the weight? I switched to Toyo Open Country AT which I find more stable and with less road noise.

With the added weight of the lift, 35” tires and rims brakes performance suffered slightly. Another consideration for your build.
To be honest, I have heard many people say that they are not great for heavier vehicles. KO2s are even worse for heavier vehicles. tread just burns so fast on both tires and they act as a soft tire under tons of weight
 
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JCWages

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I love both of your guys rigs though! And thank you for the input
Thanks!

I think a 33" is a good daily driver size. There are a ton of choices in the 33x12.5 or 285/70/17 and you can often find great deals because the latter is a common size. You likely won't need to regear either. My truck has 3.42 gears and does fine on 33s. A 4.10 gear swap would help me get into 7th and 8th gear at high speeds loaded down but it's not really needed until 35s. A 295/70/17 (33.5") or 285/75/17 (34") are also good daily driver choices for a full size.

Bumpers for full size trucks are tough. They are usually WAY too big and bulky for my taste. The Barricade one you listed is not a winch bumper so you would have to go to the HD bumper which sticks out twice as far from the looks of it. :( If I come across a good looking low profile winch bumper I'll post it up.
 
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RoarinRow

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To be honest, I have heard many people say that they are not great for heavier vehicles. KO2s are even worse for heavier vehicles. tread just burns so fast on both tires and they act as a soft tire under tons of weight
Just glad I didn’t have them long enough to find out.
 
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Medic5.3

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Thanks!

I think a 33" is a good daily driver size. There are a ton of choices in the 33x12.5 or 285/70/17 and you can often find great deals because the latter is a common size. You likely won't need to regear either. My truck has 3.42 gears and does fine on 33s. A 4.10 gear swap would help me get into 7th and 8th gear at high speeds loaded down but it's not really needed until 35s. A 295/70/17 (33.5") or 285/75/17 (34") are also good daily driver choices for a full size.

Bumpers for full size trucks are tough. They are usually WAY too big and bulky for my taste. The Barricade one you listed is not a winch bumper so you would have to go to the HD bumper which sticks out twice as far from the looks of it. :( If I come across a good looking low profile winch bumper I'll post it up.
Yeah, I am looking to run a 33-34 inch tire.

And yeah, I hate the look of those big beefy bumpers. Please! would love to find a lower profile bumper that i can use a winch with.
 

JCWages

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Yeah, I am looking to run a 33-34 inch tire.

And yeah, I hate the look of those big beefy bumpers. Please! would love to find a lower profile bumper that i can use a winch with.
Hey @rho have you come across any stealth or low profile winch bumpers for the 2007+ Silverado? All I'm finding are the I wish I had a bigger manhood monster bumpers. lol
 
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Hey @rho have you come across any stealth or low profile winch bumpers for the 2007+ Silverado? All I'm finding are the I wish I had a bigger manhood monster bumpers. lol
Hey can you measure the distance from your radiator support to the inside of your bumper, I might have a solution to a hidden winch bumper for you guys, but I don’t have a GMC to take measurements from.
 
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UltimaSanctus

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Another affordable consideration for tires could be the General Grabber ATX'S. I've had them on my '04 Tahoe for a little over a year now and have plenty of traction in snow and rain unless you PURPOSELY try to break them loose in 2wd. If I remember right they were about $40 cheaper per tire than the KO2's in my factory 265/70/17.

Also I think the smallest wheel that will fit over your brakes is a 17". I've been looking into upgrading my front brakes to the '07-'11 Tahoe ones and they won't fit a 16"
 

Medic5.3

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Hey can you measure the distance from your radiator support to the inside of your bumper, I might have a solution to a hidden winch bumper for you guys, but I don’t have a GMC to take measurements from.
I am currently out of town working, but I get home on the 31st of january. Can I give you the measurements then? From where exactly would you like them to and from?

What was the solution you were thinking of? I am not looking to keep my stock OEM bumper just so you know. Just trying to find a bumper that looks good and isnt one of those big beefy ones that supports winching and recoveries. Thank you in advance for all of the help.
 
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Medic5.3

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Another affordable consideration for tires could be the General Grabber ATX'S. I've had them on my '04 Tahoe for a little over a year now and have plenty of traction in snow and rain unless you PURPOSELY try to break them loose in 2wd. If I remember right they were about $40 cheaper per tire than the KO2's in my factory 265/70/17.

Also I think the smallest wheel that will fit over your brakes is a 17". I've been looking into upgrading my front brakes to the '07-'11 Tahoe ones and they won't fit a 16"
To be honest, I have actually tried those tires up where I live. Ran a set on my old rig and liked them, but they just weren't my favourite. I personally much prefer Nitto mud grapplers or ridge grapplers, or duratracs. And I find that I am needing to (and maybe sometimes trying to ) break traction and just need tires that can self clean very well and just grab the ground as much as possible. Why I like the Duratracs a lot more than the KO2's. Bigger lugs, better at self cleaning, and and just generally better at grabbing.


And yeah, I have been reading the same kind of things, but I've also read that most of the lift kits for my truck have a minimum wheel size of 17" to be able to fit. So sadly, looks like im going to have wheels somewhere around 33x12.5 R17
 
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JCWages

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I went snow wheeling with a buddy in his T4R last weekend and the Ridge Grapplers didn't seem to do well in the snow. He had 10/32nds tread left which should be fine for packed trail snow but he was sliding around WAY more than I was with the Patagonias. In some cases I was actually towing him up slight inclines. Temps were 25F to 38F.
 

Medic5.3

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I went snow wheeling with a buddy in his T4R last weekend and the Ridge Grapplers didn't seem to do well in the snow. He had 10/32nds tread left which should be fine for packed trail snow but he was sliding around WAY more than I was with the Patagonias. In some cases I was actually towing him up slight inclines. Temps were 25F to 38F.
This might sound ridiculous, but I think it is because of the consistency of the snow. I see that you are from Cali, and Cali tends to have very thick, heavy, and wet snow which compresses into ice very easily and just becomes this incredibly slippery hard slush type snow. Where I live, the snow is very dry and crystal like. Sometime we do get that wet, heavy stuff that is super fluffy, but most of the time its like weird hard crystals. Looks like someone just covered the ground with a few inches of white Gatorade crystals, lol. This consistency of snow I have found ridge grapplers to be pretty good in since the snow doesn't compact too much and just gets thrown around since it is like driving in bath crystals. I have only driven on ridge grapplers a handful of times though because they are on a friend's rig, so I do not have a lot of experience with them. But I have tested them in a lot of conditions I get out here and I found them alright for the kind of snow I get since you can't even make a snowball out of the snow I get unless you freeze your hands off holding the snow compacted in a ball shape until it melts a bit to form the snowball.
 

JCWages

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This might sound ridiculous, but I think it is because of the consistency of the snow. I see that you are from Cali, and Cali tends to have very thick, heavy, and wet snow which compresses into ice very easily and just becomes this incredibly slippery hard slush type snow. Where I live, the snow is very dry and crystal like. Sometime we do get that wet, heavy stuff that is super fluffy, but most of the time its like weird hard crystals. Looks like someone just covered the ground with a few inches of white Gatorade crystals, lol. This consistency of snow I have found ridge grapplers to be pretty good in since the snow doesn't compact too much and just gets thrown around since it is like driving in bath crystals. I have only driven on ridge grapplers a handful of times though because they are on a friend's rig, so I do not have a lot of experience with them. But I have tested them in a lot of conditions I get out here and I found them alright for the kind of snow I get since you can't even make a snowball out of the snow I get unless you freeze your hands off holding the snow compacted in a ball shape until it melts a bit to form the snowball.
The snow conditions last weekend were exactly as you described. Thick, heavy, wet and turns icy slick when compacted too much.

Same conditions last fall. lol
 

Medic5.3

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The snow conditions last weekend were exactly as you described. Thick, heavy, wet and turns icy slick when compacted too much.

Same conditions last fall. lol
Look like a very hard rescue and a lot of fun! I love those conditions, can make for some very interesting wheeling. But i definitely agree with you, ridge grapplers would be horrible in those conditions. Lugs are way too tightly spaced together so they don't self clean that well and that type of snow is very sticky and hard to get out of tires to try and get traction. Even tires like mud grapplers can't get rid of the snow sometimes, or all of it.

To be honest, Ridge Grapplers are just decent all terrain tires. They are definitely more road biased and are definitely good in that grocky, pine needle type dirt stuff you get on some roads out in the woods, but not my first choice at all. Since this vehicle of mine is going to be a daily driver as well, I think the Duratracs are going to be my best option
 
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