Suspension: Converting OEM\2003 Tahoe LT (test post)

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Murder n Mayhem

New Member
Oct 18, 2015
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Washington St.
Code in glovebox probably reads zw7-Premium Smooth Ride, regular front shocks & self contained Nivomat self leveling shocks in rear OR z55 which is the Auto Ride air system.

OEM style shocks are over priced & widely considered as overrated. Most convert to new shock & stiffer springs (basically what z71 has). If you get good shocks when do it your ride changes very little & you can use regular shocks from then on.

I (average joe driveway mechanic) did the whole conversion. It took about 2 hours in my driveway with limited tools & no spring compressor needed.

I used the following converting from OEM zw7 Premium Smoothride system (will work as conversion on all OEM suspension systems for @ least years 2000-2006, some systems like z55 Auto Ride will require a resistor at shock for computer purposes).

This conversion retains your towing capabilities: Many conversion kits & replacement systems do not, make sure to ask the manufacturer.

Bilstein 5100 series Rear Shock Part #24-187237
Bilstein 5100 series Front Shock Part #24-186643
Bilstein Coil Springs Part # 199021 (also known as #15711646)

I used 5100 series because they give room for lift which I plan on doing later but you can use the 4600 series. Spoke to Bilstein & they told me they were same shock, the 5100s just allow for 1" lift in front & 2.5" lift in rear & were different colors.

I put on the new shocks first but not the springs so I could see how it went without putting in the stiffer springs. The rear end sat lower, felt like it was loaded down or had load on the hitch. The right & left rear side moved around a lot more independently of each other & bounced much easier & longer.

I then went home & put the stiffer springs in. The truck rides like new. I was afraid I would lose some of the smoothness but hadn't. The Tahoe is more responsive, rides smooth & the new set up leveled out the truck perfectly with no real height gain or loss.

Shocks were a very basic swap. Doing the rear springs (in a nutshell) I put rear up on couple jack stands (I put stands under outermost side of tow package bar that was frame connected directly above), removed wheels, removed 1 sway bar bolt & 1 lower shock off each side & let shock & sway bar hang free. I unbolted nothing else. Truck was set on stands just high enough that top of springs weren't contacting body & I simply reached in, grabbed them & angled right out. Then reversed that & put in new with rubber top & bottom from old springs fitted on new. Lowered slowly checking that they were in place when weight was going back on. Put lower shock & sway bars back on, bolted on wheels, put truck on the ground & done. I am not promoting this as a way of doing it. It is simply the way that worked for me & I felt safe doing it.

Stores like Autozone, napa etc wanted over $125 for each shock but I got them for less than half that by going to products site & finding local distributor & parts were ordered & available for pick up in 24 hours (places like shockwarehouse had 3-4 week delivery time because they order them from Bilstein then when they get them they process them then turn around & mail out to you).

I researched this for over month on forums, sites, at performance shops, product manufacturers etc. I firmly believe this is the easiest way to convert from the overrated stock OEM system to one that rides very closely to OEM, fully functional & are a superior quality product. Once the new rear springs are installed you can put on any shocks that fit the z71 package for your year. After all said, done & tested I think Bilsteins listed above are the best bang for your buck @ $444 for 4 shocks & 2 springs.

Hope this helps anyone considering converting your Chevy SUV or truck


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New Member
Dec 12, 2016
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So Cal
Thank You

Mayhem - Thanks for the leg work on this, as I have been contemplating this change for a while and was ready to purchase the Arnott kit at $500+ and by following your advice, I was able to get everything from 4Wheel warehouse for $425. Going to do the install this weekend and will update, hoping I have no issues as I have a leveling kit already installed for Tire height.
One question that I have is how did you overcome the electronic issues (Warnings and such on dash)? Or if anyone else knows?
The Arnott kit included a EDM to bypass but they won't sell it separately.