Wheel Spacers

Written by James on April 14th, 2011

Hubcentric Wheelspacers

The TrailBlazer is further unfriendly to people wishing to do a lift or increase the tire size. The first obstacle is the positioning of the upper ball joint that is located on the steering knuckle, above the tire (see the picture below). This severely inhibits a larger tire size unless you install wheel hub spacers (pictured to the right) or purchase wheels with a backspacing of less than 4. I purchased wheel spacers from WheelAdapter.com after the recommendation from fellow TrailVoy members.

If you wish, a wheel spacer can also act as an adapter to change the lug pattern to match a new wheel. I requested four 1.5″ hub and wheel-centric billet aluminum spacers. Fred (the owner of Wheel Adapter) knew all of the necessary dimensions and shipped them out the next day.

If you are planning to use the stock bolt pattern, remember, it is NOT 6×5.5″, as most Chevy trucks are. Our stock lug pattern is 6×5″, or 6x127mm.

 

Shocks

Written by James on April 14th, 2011

Bilstein Shocks

I chose Bilstein HDs (pictured to the right) from ShockWarehouse.com. I have read great reviews of these shocks, which are developed to provide better stability and bump rebound control. With the improved performance combined with the club discount from TrailVoy.com, they are a no-brainer addition. Since the front strut is already all apart when doing a spacer lift, it’s highly advised to replace the front shocks at the same time.

Rear Shocks:

For rear shocks, it seems the simple choice are BDS shocks. They have two options for the 360 platform, gas-charged shocks, and hydraulic shocks. I went with the 55-series hydraulic shocks, however will switch to gas-charged once the 55s die.

 

Rear Springs

Written by James on April 7th, 2011

The last part of the lift equation is the rear springs and shocks. Stiffer rear springs are desirable here because of the heavy loads I tend to carry with me. The stiffer springs also produce additional lift and can be coupled with lift spacers.

Z71 Springs

Here again, the TrailBlazer aftermarket is poor. Amazingly, a member of TrailVoy Off Road found that Z71 Tahoe springs and shocks (pictured to the right) were direct bolt-ons for our vehicle. While they have the same resting length as our stock springs, they have a non-linear spring rate, and sit about 1.5″ higher than stock when on our vehicles. This means they will compress less when loaded down or towing.  To find these jems, search eBay (and include the description in your search) for the GM part number, 15234633.

The Z71 shocks are also somewhat beneficial in that they are slightly longer than our stock shocks (to allow slightly greater articulation) and they have a more aggressive dampening effect.  However there are much better options available.

 

Trailblazer Suspension Lift

Written by James on April 7th, 2011

it was time to begin the big modifications. A proper suspension lift takes a lot of planning on these vehicles. By proper, I mean upgrading the necessary secondary parts along with the lift. I also did not want to go through a portion of time with a lift and undersized stock tires, so bigger tires were to accompany the lift ‘package.’ For me, the package included the lift, rear springs, front shocks, and wheel spacers.

The TrailBlazer is unfriendly to being lifted due to the front differential’s unusual mount to the engine’s oil pan. The half-shaft actually runs through the pan. I believe this was done by the Chevy engineers in an attempt to make the engine as low as possible. While this does make a lift greater than about 3″ impossible without extreme changes, the resulting low hood does provide the driver with a good view of the trail and the low CG gives us decent lateral stability.

The TrailBlazer aftermarket is rather small when it comes to lifts. We have a few options that I know of, and they are all covered in relative detail on offroadtb.com.  Link here: The Complete Lifts and Suspension Accessories Thread

The BDS kit, which I have and personally prefer, (to the right) advertises 2″ of lift, front and rear spacers included. While the BDS kit is the most expensive of the options, I feel it offers the greatest strength and durability, and that matters off the road. It replaces the front upper strut mounting plate and is made completely of steel. The rear BDS spacer mounts to the top of the spring and is retained by a couple bolts. The kit includes new upper strut mounting bushings and new hardware.

There have been some questions regarding how strut spacers work, so I made the below diagram to help explain how they add lift, yet retain the stock (and safe) maximum suspension extension.

How a strut spacer works. Just a simple spacer above the spring.

 

The Big West Overland Tour

Written by James on March 31st, 2011

This has been a long time coming, but as the time draws nearer I feel compelled to at least begin a post about it.

The general layout of the trip is a 2 week jaunt from Maryland out to Colorado, Utah, and Arizona (maybe New Mexico for literally a minute).

We’ll spit our time between hotels and campsites. There’s another key portion to the trip though – restaurants. We both enjoy little holes in the wall that have great food (we watch triple D when we can – for those in the know).  The plan is to speed out of the east along 64, then swap to 70 in St. Louis. We’re hoping to make our way to Denver (maybe Estes Park) in two long days of tag-team driving. From there, Moab, White Rim, Zion, Grand Canyon, Navajo Nation, Mesa Verde, Alpine Loop, before returning to I-70. It’s a bit of a stretch for two weeks, but I think it can be done with relative relaxation.  Who knows, we may end up skipping some spots.

If anyone has any input on the plans – suggestions as to a route – places to stop – hotels – campsites – restaurants – tips… by all means, please share.

Below is a rough estimate of our route so far:

Image

The thumbnails below represent glimpses of what we’re hoping to see along the way.

B – Estes Park, CO (Trail ridge road)
C – Moab, UT (White Rim trail)
D – Zion NP
E – Grand Canyon (North Rim)
F – Monument Valley
G – Four Corners area (Mesa Verde)
H – Ouray, CO (Million dollar highway)
I – Lake City, CO (Engineer Pass)
J – Colorado Springs, CO

 

 

Auxiliary Lighting

Written by James on March 31st, 2011

For grille lighting, I chose the Hella Rallye 4000s. Hella offers a few beam options for these 9″ monsters. I opted for the cornering beam pattern. This does not only throw light to the side, like the name may imply. Instead, it throws an abnormally wide beam pattern (a cross between a fog and euro beam) that is perfect for tight maneuvering in low visibility situations. A wide beam is much more useful than a far-reaching focused beam when driving off road. At 100 Watts per light, the output is formidable.

Hella 4000s in the grille, 550s on the roof

In addition to the brush guard lights, I built a roof mounted light rack. This comes in handy when driving in late-day situations or even night driving. I have also noticed they are quite helpful when driving in snow during dark evenings. The increased lighting angle allows less light to reflect off the surface of the snow, therefore improving road visibility. However, it is not to be used in fog because the beam crosses right in front of the windshield. In that situation, the light reflects right back into the driver’s eyes.

Roof top wiring

Click the link to offroadtb.com for a detailed write up that includes a materials list and detailed build instructions with pictures.

http://forums.offroadtb.com/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=8

 

Don Pablos

Written by James on March 31st, 2011

Ok, so this isn’t a hole in the wall restaurant, it’s not a secret gem… but you’ve gotta love Don Pablos.

We’ve begun to make it a Wednesday tradition for the fajita special.  Only 8.99 for a fajita plate.  Can’t pass it up.

Two thumps way way up for the fajitas.