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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I couldn't really find a sub-forum for "project builds" so I put it here. Mods feel free to move it if it's in the wrong place.
I'm calling this “Project Snowball” for two reasons:
1: The color of my 2004 Trailblazer EXT is white.
2: Because that's what this project has sort of done.
Here's a picture of the victim, er... project vehicle:
Wheel Automotive side marker light Tire Automotive parking light Car


This started out as a simple (yea, right!) rear wheel brake job, but it's sort of snowballed, hence the name. The rear brakes started making a very loud squealing/grinding noise. I've been wrenching on cars for 44 years, so I knew what that noise meant: it's time for pads and rotors back there! I got the pads changed, but those rear caliper bracket bolts are on there mighty tighty! I'm sure it's partly due to corrosion, and partly due to the red thread locker that GM seems to be in love with! I tried using 'conventional' methods to get them loose, but they wouldn't budge. I have picked up a propane torch, a long 1/2” flex-head ratchet, and a Porter-Cable electric impact wrench. I'll get them loose!
And it was while I was under there struggling with them that things started to snowball! I first noticed the deplorable condition of the dust shields. They are looking pretty rusty and crusty! I also noticed that the two rear sway bars links are easily moved by hand. Shouldn't oughta be able to do that! So now it's up to needing, in addition to pads and rotors, new dust shields and sway bar links. Some online research revealed that in order to replace the dust shields, the axles have to come out of the rear differential. To do that, the differential cover has to come off so the fluid can be drained. No problem, because the rear differential fluid was on my do list last fall, before I wound in the hospital for 5 days due to an incarcerated hernia. Once I had healed up from that, it was way too cold outside to be laying on the concrete changing rear differential fluid! So once the axles are out and everything is removed so I can replace the dust shields, I may as well replace the axle bearings and the axle seals. Total cost for new bearings and seals would be about $60, and I sure don't want to have to pull all this stuff back apart to do them later!
I bought the sway bar links and new bushings for the sway bar. I'm going to do the track bar bushings, too. And I'll put new shocks it, since those don't look too great, either! So other than the coil springs, I'll basically rebuild the entire rear suspension.
When I bought the rotors, I also bought some VHT satin black caliper paint and painted the hat of the rotors. I then baked them in a 200 degree oven for 1 hour to thoroughly cure the paint. When I replaced the pads, 3 of the 4 didn't look too bad, but inner pad lining on the drivers side was gone! It was metal on metal! That explained the noise. The pads still slid freely in the caliper bracket, and the caliper slider pins looked good with plenty of grease on them, so it would appear that the drivers side caliper piston was sticking. At minimum, rebuilding the calipers was in order. But Rock Auto had brand new Raybestos Extreme3 calipers, with brackets, for $50 each, so I went that route. I'll also get 2 caliper rebuild kits, and rebuild the ones that are on my truck now. There's no core charge on the ones I got from Rock Auto, so this way I'll have spares in case the wife's '06 TB needs a rear caliper in the future. I've rebuilt calipers in that past, so I know how it's done. I also bought a new differential cover, since the one on there now is looking really ratty!
I have been planning on getting new tires this summer or fall, because the ones on the TB now aren't going to make it through another winter. I don't really care for the nose-down look these vehicles have either, so I decided that since I was pretty well going to have the back end torn apart anyway I would go ahead and add a leveling kit. I don't want to go sky high with this truck, since my vertically challenged wife still has to get into it on occasion. So I decided to go 2” in front and 1” in the rear. (That doesn't sound good for some reason!?) I could find plenty of kits for the standard WB Trailblazer's, but the only one that said it would fit the EXT model was the 69-3065 kit from ReadyLift. I found it on sale at TireRack for $191 (MSRP $329) so I bought it. It came on the big brown Santa van yesterday. The calipers and differential cover from Rock Auto came today.
Here's the calipers, dust shields, leveling kit, and diff cover. The dust shields are from Dorman (not my favorite manufacturer, but they'll do for these). I bought them at Autozone, because I needed 1 more purchase over $20 to earn my next reward credit of $20.
56825


I'll make another post detailing the plans for the front end.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
So moving on with my tale of woe, I'll fill you in on my plans for the front suspension.
As I mentioned, I'm going to install a 2” leveling kit from ReadyLift. A 2” spacer will put the upper balljoint at a severe angle, although I've read posts from people who claim “Oh, that won't hurt anything!” It just reduces the life expectancy of the balljoint by about 50%, that's all! So when I install this leveling kit, I will be doing the side-to-side and flip them upside down swap on the upper control arms. Actually, given that I do not how long those control arm bushings have been in there (probably for the life of the truck, I imagine), I'm just going to replace the control arms. Getting new arms isn't that much more than just replacing the bushings, and I don't know what the condition of the current ones is.
The shock absorber/spring assemblies (the front struts) will also be replaced with new ones. The front sway bar links and bushings will also be replaced.
After installing the leveling kit, a front end alignment is going to be required. The camber will almost certainly need to be adjusted, and it is my understanding (some correct me if I'm wrong here) that this is done by slightly moving the lower control arm bracket in or out of its pocket. I have no idea what the condition of the brackets and pockets are now, and I will be replacing the upper and lower ball joints anyway. Like the upper control arms, once the cost of new bushings is considered, and the cost of new lower ball joints, I can get new lower control arms from Rock Auto that already have them installed for not much more than the cost of just the parts! In fact, I have priced entire front end suspension kits from Moog that have the struts, upper and lower control arms, sway bar links and bushings, and new upper ball joints for less than the cost of buying them separately! So a rebuild of the front suspension will be taking place. And since the CV axles are going to have to come out, I may as well replace the differential seals and bearings while I'm in there!
It wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to replace all of these components and then put worn CV axles back in, would it? So guess what? Yup! New CV axles are also on the list!
Am I done yet? Nope!
Remember how I said I was going to get new tires? I plan to replace the current 245/65R17's on there now with some 265/70R17 Firestone Destination AT/2's. These will be 20mm wider and about 2” taller than what's on there now. So there will be a 1” increase in height in relation to the steering knuckle/upper balljoint. I cannot get two fingers between the tire and the balljoint now, so this size tire will hit the balljoint.
Font Publication Photo caption Event Book cover

To accommodate the new tires I will be installing 1-1/2” wheel spacers on all 4 corners. I probably just gave some of y'all a heart attack! “Don't use wheel spacers! You'll die and kill someone else in the process!” Uh... no. Wheel spacers are safe to use IF you buy quality spacers from a reputable company and IF you install and use them properly.
Wheel spacers get a bad reputation from guys like Bubba: “Hey, Cletus! Guess what? I just got s whole set of 6” wheel spacers from the YingYang Engineering corporation from over there in China-land somewheres! Bought 'em online, and get this: They only cost me 15 bucks, SHIPPED! Now I can put them monster truck tires on my Chevette!” If Cletus values his life, he'll never ride with Bubba again!
I plan to by some 1-1/2” Bora hub-centric spacers made from T-6 billet aluminum. They'll cost me $250 for a set of 4, but Bora is a well known and highly respected name in the field. Don't worry, I'm not going to endanger myself or anyone else!
Once all the suspension work is complete, I'll get the new tires. While it's at the shop, I'll have the alignment done and the headlights re-aimed. Then it will have to go to the dealer to have the speedometer/odometer re-calibrated for the new tire size.
And it all started with a worn out brake pad.
Remember that Dr. Seuss book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”?
 

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Good story, keep it going and keep us updated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Good story, keep it going and keep us updated.
Thanks, 3Dog! I'll probably put it up on jack stands tomorrow and attack those caliper bracket bolts. It's supposed to get up to 73 today, which would be nice weather, but we're having 40 mph winds as well. :(
Since I don't have a garage, I'll be doing this outside. I'll have to use the torch on those bolts, and flames and 40 mph winds are not a good combo! But as Eric O. from South Main Auto https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtAGzm9e_liY7ko1PBhzTHA once said "We're going to win this battle!"
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
(In his best Ernest P. Worrel voice)
There comes a time when the unpleasant realities of battle can simply no longer be postponed. And so it was on a sunny, although chilly, Saturday morning that the Battle of the Brake Rotors was engaged. There were actually two heights which must be conquered before victory could be declared: the brake rotors must be replaced, and the sway bar hardware must be replaced as well. The enemy, to their credit, put forth a valiant struggle. In the end , however, they simply proved no match for cunning, a propane torch, and overwhelming force. And so it was that victory, while it may have been delayed, would not... be... denied.
Eye Human body Hat Smile Cap

That you for that intro, Ernest.
As you may have guessed by now, I got the brake rotors replaced! YAY! To do that I had to get the brake caliper bracket bolts out, and they were in there pretty tight! GM likes to use high strength thread locker on them, as well. I bought myself a Ridgid medium torque 1/2” drive impact wrench. I would have sprung for the high torque version, but Ridgid dropping their Octane line and the replacement high torque impact isn't available yet. The maintenance department at work uses Ridgid cordless tools, and they all say that Ridgid performs very well, so when my previous cordless drill lost it's magic smoke from the back of the tool, I decided to give Ridgid a try. I have been very happy with them so far. I have the impact wrench, a cordless driver, and a 1/4” impact driver. I think my next purchase will be the 1/2” drive subcompact impact wrench.
Automotive tire Motor vehicle Hood Tread Bumper

The first thing I did with this job was to remove the sway bar links. Those nuts were rusted on there pretty good, but they proved no match for a cutoff wheel on my Milwaukee grinder! Once the sway bar links were out of the way, I had enough room to get my impact wrench in there. I had to use an extension on the top bolts, but they yielded pretty quickly. Using an extension is not ideal, because you will lose some torque, but you do what you have to. The bottom bolt on the passenger side came out fairly easily as well, but the bottom bolt on the driver's side was another matter! That one put up a fight! This is where the propane torch part comes in. As Eric O. from South Main Auto Repair https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtAGzm9e_liY7ko1PBhzTHA said in one of his videos “We're about to win this war!”
I lit up the torch and held it on that bolt and the surrounding area for at least 5 minutes, put the impact on it, and out it came! Once the brackets were off, I used a cutting chisel and ball peen hammer to cut the brake rotor retainers off the wheel studs. (Hey, boys and girls, can you say 'original brake rotors'?) I tried to pull the rotors off but they were stuck to the axle. I put two lug nuts on each side, about 1/2” deep, whacked the rotor with the ball peen hammer, and put a 10mm bolt into each of the two threaded holes n the rotor hat. A few seconds with the impact on each bolt and the rotor popped loose.
The rotor on the left shows what the problem was. Those grooves were caused by the pad lining on that side being worn down to nothing! I changed the pads about a month ago, but because I couldn't get the caliper brackets off until now, there is some grooving in the new pads on that side. I'll replace the pads when I have this all back apart again in July.
Automotive tire Bicycle part Tire Rim Tread

These are the new rotors. I painted the hats with VHT satin black high heat caliper paint and cured the paint in a 200 degree oven for 1 hour. That process slightly discolored the disc, but after the test drive all of that has worn away.
Automotive tire Gas Rim Auto part Circle

I put the new rotors on and installed two lug nuts per side to hold them in place. At that point I decided I kind of like that look, so I decided to install the new brake caliper brackets from the Raybestos calipers. I will do some clean up (electrolytic rust removal) and paint the brackets. I might wait until I have this apart in July, then paint and rebuild the calipers.
Here's a couple pics with the new hardware installed:
Automotive tire Motor vehicle Automotive lighting Vehicle brake Locking hubs


Tire Wheel Land vehicle Automotive tire Vehicle brake

And the new sway bar bushings.
Wood Auto part Metal Automotive wheel system Automotive exterior

The old ones had the slit to the rear, but these are AC/Delco replacements and they have a nub which fits into a hole in the bracket. That puts the slit to the front, but they won't go on any other way. I found that installing the bushings from the end of the sway bar works best, because that slit does not want to open wide enough to go around that bar! A bit of SYNTHETIC grease helps the bushing get around the curves. There is a stop collar on the sway bar so you can't install the bushing on too far.
I am so relieved to have this done! Having that worn out brake rotor back there was really bothering me. It rides a lot better now as well with new sway bar hardware.
Looking at the wife's '06 Trailblazer I notice it has red dust on the left from wheel. None of the others, just that one. Looks like I'll be doing a brake job on hers next weekend. :(
But, on the bright side, while I have it jacked up and on jack stands, that's the perfect time to do an oil change! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Nice work and excellent pics . They speak more than a thousand words . (y)
Thanks! I noticed that the left front wheel of the wife's '06 TB has red dust on it. None of the other wheels, just that one. I stopped at AutoZone this afternoon and got some new pads and hardware for the front. The rotors feel OK, from what I can reach, so I think we're good there. Looks like I get to play with HER TB this weekend!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It's a cloudy, chilly, drizzly day here in Lincoln, Ne. Perfect for removing rust from brake brackets! I especially like this method because I don't have to do much work!
If you've never used electrolysis for removing rust from ferrous (meaning a magnet will stick to it) metal parts, you should give it a try. It's easy, though not particularly fast, and if you already have a battery charger for your car it's basically free! And we all like 'free' don't we? This process works based on the principle that electrons flow from the negative pole to the positive pole. All we need to do is provide an electrolyte solution to transport the rust off the part and onto the positive pole. The nice thing about this process is that it will remove the rust, but it will not erode the base metal, provided you don't have the amperage cranked up to 30 or above.
To do this, you will need a NON-METALIC container for the water and the parts. You cannot use a metal container as that will produce a direct short across the leads of the battery charger, and your homeowners insurance will not cover damage caused by unbelievable stupidity. I use a plastic 5 gallon bucket, but you can use a larger or smaller container depending on the size of the parts. You will need a piece of metal for the sacrificial (sounds brutal, doesn't it) anode, and a support piece from which to hang the parts. I use a piece of steel bar stock and suspend the parts from some pieces of bent wire coat hanger, but you could use a 2 x 4 and some wire. You have to make sure that the parts have contact with the negative lead from the battery charger.
Setting this up is simple. Fill the bucket with enough water to completely cover the parts. Stir in 1 tablespoon full of baking soda per gallon of water. Some people say to use washing soda instead of baking soda, but I have been using baking soda for years with great results. If you do use washing soda, be aware that the resulting solution IS caustic! It can burn your hands. The baking soda solution is not caustic, but it's still a good idea to wear rubber gloves when dealing with it. Attach the anode to the side of the bucket. I use a piece of bar steel and clamp it to the bucket with a spring clamp.
Position the support bar for the parts across the top of the bucket. I secure it in place with a couple of spring clamps. Make sure that the parts to be cleaned are free of any oil, dirt or grease. I cleaned these brake caliper brackets with some brake cleaner and let them dry. Lower the parts into the water and hang them from the support bar. If you use a non conductive bar, you will have to provide an electrical path to the parts from the negative lead of the battery charger. Since I'm using a piece of steel bar stock and wire coat hangers, they provide the electrical path.
This next step is important, since if you hook it up backwards you could erode your parts! Connect the NEGATIVE lead of the battery charger to the support bar/parts and the POSITIVE lead to the sacrificial anode on the side of the bucket. Remember, electricity flows from negative to positive. Once the electricity starts flowing, it will take the rust with it. The amperage will not be high enough to erode the base metal, however.
Here is a pic of the setup:
Electrical wiring Gas Engineering Tool Wood



Now comes the fun part! Set the amperage on the battery charger to between 5 and 15 amps. (In the pic I have it set on 2, but I changed it to 12 after I took the pic.)
Automotive tire Bumper Motor vehicle Automotive exterior Audio equipment


Plug it in, and you will soon start to see bubbles forming on the anode, and the water begin to get cloudy. This indicates that the process is working. I usually let the parts stay in the solution for 12-18 hours, depending on how thick the parts are and how badly rusted they are.
Fluid Tool Cookware and bakeware Gas Kitchen utensil



Setting the amperage too low will result in the process taking a long time, while setting it too high can in fact damage the parts. Anything between 5 and 15 amps will be fine. As the process works, the anode will begin to get covered in a fine film or rusty goo. This will decrease the effective amperage going through the solution, and slow down the process. So starting on 2 amps could bring the process pretty much to a halt after a while. The process does produce hydrogen gas, so doing this right next to the pilot light on the water heater may not be such a good idea. Remember the Hindenburg? Hindenburg disaster - Wikipedia
When the parts have finished de-rusting and you remove them, they will be covered in a black film that will need to be removed. The parts will be washed and dried, and then they need to be protected because they will want to begin rusting again. But more on that in the next installment.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Movin' right along in search of good times and good news (Fozzie and Kermit)
After letting the calipers brackets cook overnight at 12 amps, this is what the bucket looks like:
Fluid Gas Cookware and bakeware Circle Machine


Yummy, isn't it? Doesn't that just make you want to grab a straw and go to town?
Okay, maybe not.
These are the brackets right out of the bucket:
Horseshoe Pet supply Tool Metal Fashion accessory


Notice how crusty they look? That's actually rust flaking off the brackets. After a thorough cleaning with soap, clean water, and a brass scrub brush, they look MUCH more gooder!
Tool Bicycle part Gas Auto part Household hardware


I cleaned the brackets, and the new rear differential covers for my '04 and the wife's '06, with brake cleaner and followed that up with some 91% isopropyl alcohol. Then they got a coat of Rust-Oleum high heat primer.
Wood Plumbing fixture Gas Composite material Auto part

The bar you see in front of the differential covers is that anode used during the process. I'll clean the rust off of it, and use it again next time!

I let the parts dry for an hour according to the Rust-Oleum directions. I then gave them 2 light coats of VHT high temp caliper paint, followed by a 3rd slightly thicker wet coat, all 10 minutes apart according to the VHT directions. I think they look pretty good!
Wood Cookware and bakeware Gas Personal protective equipment Input device


These will dry thoroughly for a week, then get cured at 200 degrees for 60 minutes. The directions for the primer were a bit confusing. I would have assumed that the primer should be heat cured when dry, but the directions make it sound as though the parts should be top coated and then heat cured. So that's what I'm doing. The curing directions for the primer would have you cure the parts for 30 minutes at 250 degrees, followed by 30 minutes of cooling. Then do the same at 400 degrees, then do the same at 600 degrees. The VHT directions call for 200 degrees for 60 minutes. There is a flat strip magnet inside each differential cover that seems to be glued in place. I think 600 degrees would melt that magnet, or at least the glue, and have an adverse effect on the magnet. 200 degrees shouldn't affect it, since the differential will probably run at least that hot under normal use. I am also concerned that 600 degrees could warp the covers, and a leak from the differential would not be a good thing! So I'm just going to cure them at 200 degrees for 60 minutes. They should be fine. I didn't use primer on the brake rotors.
The parts look kind of glossy in that last pic, but that's because they were still wet. Once the VHT paint dries, they will have more of a satin sheen to them. As far as disposal of the contents of the bucket, it just got poured down the floor drain in the laundry room. That's another nice thing about this process: it doesn't produce any harmful results. The only things in the bucket were water, baking soda, and iron oxide. You put more "hazardous" materials down the drain every time you use the toilet!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I made an excursion to the local automotive recycling facility yesterday. Calling it a junkyard is terribly insensitive to all the vehicles that have given such faithful service over the years, and now spend their last days selflessly sacrificing themselves so that others may continue to live. Almost makes you want to have a cold beverage in their honor, doesn't it?
OK, enough of the mushy stuff. I got two front brake calipers and brackets from a Trailblazer EXT. These will go on my '04 EXT after being rebuilt and painted. They had to come off an EXT because the long wheelbase trucks have larger front brakes than the short wheelbase trucks. I want to have these cleaned up, painted, and rebuilt before I start rebuilding the suspension and adding the leveling kit. I have the rebuild kits and new pistons on the way. The brake hardware I purchased locally. I don't want my truck to be down any longer than necessary, that's why I want to have these ready to go.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the left front wheel of the wife's '06 had red dust on it. I took the wheel off and discovered that it needed new pads and rotors. The outer boot on the CV axle was ripped, and the sway bar links were shot. Further investigation revealed that the front suspension basically needs to be rebuilt. I have been accumulating the parts, and will do the job next weekend. I took next Friday and Monday off from work. The alignment is scheduled for Monday, so I basically have Friday and Sunday to get it done. I have an event on Saturday I have to go to.
While I was at the U-Pull-It, I also grabbed the steering knuckles from the same EXT. The knuckles are the same for the LWB and SWB trucks. I'll have these cleaned up, painted, and new ball joints pressed in before Friday. Then I'll do the same thing for the knuckles I take off of her truck, and put them on my '04 when I do it in July.
Here's a pic of all the goodies:
Wood Metalworking hand tool Gas Auto part Metal


Not shown is the brace rod I got that runs from the right side of the radiator support to the right fender. I noticed the wife's truck didn't have one, so I grabbed one.
The hardest part of this job is going to be getting the lower control arm bracket back in close enough to the right spot so that the truck can be driven to the shop for its alignment. The position of that bracket determines both caster and camber, so it needs to be close enough to be drivable, unless I want to pay to have it towed in, which I don't. Nathan Rohrbough came up with a good idea:
Nothing about this job is really HARD, it's just time consuming. But I'll git 'er done!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
I got the new front suspension components installed on the wife's '06 TB. The only things I didn't replace at this time were the front struts. While I was working with them I noticed a sticker on them that read "Bilstein". She's got better struts than i do!
The lower control arm brackets (video above) were a bit of a pain to get out of their pockets, but I got 'er done! OEM they came with the nuts on the inside and the bolt heads on the outside. That's fine for the front of the truck, but in the rear you hit the tie rod boot trying to get them out. When I installed the new control arms the nuts got put on the outside. A good way to tell whether or not the upper control arms have ever been replaced is to look at the sheet metal next to the front end bolt on the control arm. If it's nice and factory straight, they've never been touched. GM builds the suspension, then drops the body onto it, making it nearly impossible to get that bolt out without bending some sheet metal!
I took it in for an alignment today, The shop didn't give me the "We can't adjust the caster and camber because we don't have the special tool" story. (All you need is a breaker bar, a 21mm socket, and a pry bar.) It took them a bit longer than normal because they had to take mine off the rack, do another vehicle, and then put mine back on. But I wasn't waiting around on it, so I didn't mind. Total cost was $96.29, which I didn't think was too bad at all!
The caster and camber are determined by the position of the lower control arm in the frame pocket. Moving it fore and aft sets the caster, moving it in and out sets the camber. When I took it in, the left side camber was -0.4 degrees, the caster was 4.3, both in spec. The right side camber was -0.3 and the caster was at 5.0, so the caster was out of spec and the camber was in. So for just eyeballing it with a straight edge from the top of the pocket to the bracket, I managed to get 3 out of 4 measurements in spec! The toe in was out on both sides, but I expected that to be the case. After alignment, the respective measurements are -0.4 and 4.2 on the left, so they are basically unchanged. The right side is -0.6 and 4.2, so now they are both in spec. The toe in is spot on at 0.05 on both sides.
I set up an appointment for Snowball to go in for an alignment on July 5th. I have the week of June 28th off, so there won't be as much of a rush to get done as there was this past weekend. Now it's time to press some ball joints out of some steering knuckles and start de-rusting the knuckles! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Work continues on the project. The steering knuckles I removed from the wife's '06 TB have been cleaned, painted, and baked. A little barbecue sauce and they're not too bad. A bit crunchy, though.
I got the front EXT calipers rebuilt as well. After they were painted and cured, I installed the rebuild kit I purchased from Rock Auto. Rebuilding a brake caliper really isn't that difficult, you just have to take your time. A source of compressed air is a big help, as well. I saw one YouTube video where the guy used a modified foot pump. A small, inexpensive compressor from your local hardware store would do just fine.
Here's the painted caliper and the rebuild kit. The kit consists of two square cut seals and two rubber dust boots. I am using phenolic plastic pistons in the front calipers, as that's what GM used OEM. I am using Sil-Glyde silicon brake grease as the lubricant. The two black steel parts you see are from my ball joint installer kit. These are what I used to seat the dust boots. The dust boots GM used on these calipers does not seat into a groove in the caliper bore. The outer ring of the dust boot is very hard and stiff, I'm guessing it's a metal ring inside the rubber. The boot fits into the machined area at the top of the bore. The groove inside the bore is for the square cut seal.
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After giving the seal a thin coat of Sil-Glyde, insert it into the groove in the caliper bore. Make sure it isn't twisted.
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Give the piston a light coat of Sil-Glyde and install it past the square cut seal. It can be a bit frustrating getting the piston started, but it's doable. I found it helped to rock the piston side to side, front to back just very slightly while pushing on it. Once it starts it'll go easily.
Camera lens Camera accessory Automotive tire Cameras & optics Lens



Once the piston is started into the seal, install the dust boot into the groove of the piston. Push the piston down slightly and start working the base of the boot into it's recess. It's pretty tight, so you won't get it to seat all the way by hand. Use something on the base of the boot to drive it home. I had to use the two steel parts and a plastic hammer, but I got it to seat properly.
Tableware Drinkware Nickel Auto part Glass

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Here's one piston done, only three more to go!
Both calipers done. Some of the paint got knicked a bit, but I touched it up later.
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The calipers say PBR, but they are not made by the beer company. PBR is an Australian company that makes brake calipers for the OEM market.
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Now, I can just hear some of y'all saying "You shouldn't use anything but brake fluid to lubricate the seals!" Brake fluid is a good lubricant for the seals, and it is just fine to use it IF the caliper is going to be put into service right away. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which is a fancy word for "it will absorb moisture right out of the air". If the caliper is not going to be put into service for a while, use a good silicon brake grease, such as Sil-Glyde.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I also installed the caliper pin dust boots on the caliper brackets. You can see the high tech tools I used to install them. Unlike the rear brakes, the fronts use a dust boot that is driven into the bracket.
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The pins greased with Sil-Glyde and installed in the dust boots. The bolts in the back are caliper retaining bolts.
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The calipers assembled onto the brackets. The old bleeder screws are just there to help keep stuff out of the caliper until it can be installed. They will be replaced by new banjo bolts and copper crush washers.
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Last weekend I installed the new Raybestos calipers and brackets I had originally purchased for my '04 onto the wife's '06. The rear brakes are the same between the standard and extended versions of these vehicles, but the front brakes are different.
These are the calipers that were on her '06. I got them cleaned and painted. They will dry until tomorrow morning, then go into the oven for curing. I have rebuild kits for them as well, only these will get steel pistons.
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I ordered two front brake rotors from 1Aauto.com, and once they get here my parts acquisition phase will be complete! (Except for the BORA 1-1/2” aluminum wheel spacers, and a new set of tires.)
Here's the box that started all this, the leveling kit from ReadyLift (ReadyLift part #69-3065):
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The large white boxes have the lower control arm/bracket assemblies, lower ball joints included. There are new front hubs, CV axles, front brake pads for an EXT (which ARE different that the front pads ona standard wheelbase Trailblazer,no matter what some young pup at AutoZone tried to tell me!), rear shock and front struts. The Centric boxes new inner tie rod boots, the small package on top of them has two worm drive hose clamps I'll use to secure the inner end of the boots. No need to use special clamps as the boots don't rotate, just make sure the worm drive doesn't hit anything. The outer end will be secured with a small zip tie. The little red box has new sway bar bushings in it.
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Here are the rest of the parts from 1Aauto.com: two new inner and outer tie rods, front sway bar links, upper ball joints, and new upper control arms. I will be swapping upper control arms side to side and flipping them upside down. If you don't do that on a vehicle with a leveling/lift kit on it the upper ball joint will be at a severe angle, and the truck will eat them like popcorn! Swapping and flipping them restores a much more normal angle to the ball joint.
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I do wish that the parts were greasable, like the lower ball joints, but for now I have to do what the budget allows, and this job has to be done. The front suspension is creaking, groaning, and clunking. Sounds like me getting out of bed in the morning!
Here are the parts I've been working on “restoring”: two front dust shields, two strut mounts, and the two front brake calipers. All of these parts came off of the same Trailblazer EXT at the local automotive recycling facility. The rear caliper came off the wife's '06 Trailblazer when I put the new Raybestos calipers on hers last weekend.
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I have both rear calipers done, except when I was installing the rebuild kit I managed to rip the dust boot on the other one.
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These two steering knuckles also came off the '06. While I was scavenging parts from the TB EXT at the U-Pull-It, I grabbed the steering knuckles as well. I did this to those, and installed them on the '06 when I redid it's front suspension. These will go onto Snowball. The brake brackets in the box are from the rear of the '06. I'll clean them up and stash them away somewhere in case I ever need a rear bracket.
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It will be nice to have this project behind me!
My Craftsman 3-ton floor jack finally gave up the ghost, so I had to replace it. I got one of these: Masterforce™ 3 Ton Low Profile Floor Jack:

I had a store credit for $18, so it brought the price down a bit. Masterforce jacks are actually built by Torin, so that was another plus. The documentation in the box states that if warranty service is required to contact Torin, and then they give the contact info. I haven't had a chance to use it yet, but from what I've read it should be a pretty good jack. The Craftsman was at least 20 years old.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
I got the leveling kit and new suspension parts installed on Snowball! The only things I didn't replace were the CV axles. I have new ones, but once I got a good look at the “old” ones I decided to leave them on there. The boots aren't torn and they aren't making any noise, so I left them alone. If they go bad I have replacements on hand.
The measurements I took before installing the leveling kit are as follows (all measurements are from ground level to the bottom of the fender, taken at the center of the wheel):
Left front: 32-7/8”
Right front: 32-3/4”
Left rear: 33-7/8”
Right rear: 34-1/8”
I'm not sure how accurate these are, given that the concrete patio I'm working on does have a few cracks in it. I probably should have taken it somewhere else to measure it, but too bad.
After the leveling kit was installed, the measurements are:
Left front: 35-1/8”
Right front: 35-1/16”
Left rear: 35”
Right rear: 35-1/16”
I didn't get any "before" photos, but y'all know what a stock Trailblazer looks like!
Here are some after photos:
Automotive parking light Tire Automotive side marker light Sky Wheel


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I can tell a difference in how it rides. It does feel higher in the air, but not too tippy. I like it, and the best part is that there are no more noises from the suspension!!
Installing the leveling kit was not too hard. I wouldn't say it was exactly simple, but it wasn't too hard. For the rear, the directions say nothing about disconnecting the track bar, but if you don't you will not get the differential down low enough to get the springs back into place with the spacer installed. I found it necessary to use spring compressors to compress the spring enough to get it back onto its seat with the spacer installed. Other than that the installation of the rear spacer is pretty straightforward.
Here's a pic of the spacer installed. It's the silver disc on top of the spring.
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I put new shocks on the rear, as well. Here I'm bleeding the left rear brake because I also installed the calipers I rebuilt (well..... 3 of them anyway. More about that in a bit.)
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To bleed the brakes I use an empty pop bottle with some brake fluid in it and a piece of 1/4” ID tubing. I also use a small hose clamp to secure the tubing to the bleeder screw. I find a bit of grease around the base of the bleeder screw also helps prevent air leaks. I go the idea here:

The front end was a lot more work just because of the number of components that were replaced (everything but the CV axles).
I took everything off and started replacing components on the drivers side first. The first thing to go on was the inner bracket for the lower control arm. After that I installed the upper control arms, flipping them upside down and swapping them side to side to help maintain a good angle for the upper ball joints. I mounted the brake dust shield and new hub assembly on the steering knuckle, then installed the steering knuckle. I worked the CV axle into the hub and installed the nut onto the lower ball joint enough to keep the knuckle in place. I put a floor jack under the knuckle to support it, and proceeded to install the new strut/spring assembly, which has a 2” spacer now living on top of it.
At this point I learned something. It would have been a whooooole lot easier to install the strut assembly BEFORE installing the control arm and steering knuckle! In the John Wayne movie “Big Jake”, John Wayne busts the large end of a pool stick over the head of a big, burly oil-field worker, Mr. Sweet. Mr. Sweet looks at John Wayne and with a look of pity and sadness tells him “Oh, mister. You shouldn't of oughta done that.” That's what I kept telling myself at this point. But with the aid of a ratchet strap I got the thing in there!
On the passenger side I installed the lower control arm bracket, then the upper control arm, and THEN the strut assembly! It was much easier that way! I installed the lower control arm and steering knuckle assembly, and then used a pry bar to work the lower strut mount onto it's mount on the lower control arm. It probably took me 1/3 the time doing it that way.
You can see the spacer on top of the strut assembly. It uses 3 bolts instead of the stock strut's 2 bolts, but the hole for the 3rd bolt is already drilled in the strut tower.
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I next installed the inner and outer tie rods. I have this tool from Harbor Freight, and it works really well for removal and installation of the inner tie rods:

The next things to go on were the sway bar links and new sway bar bushings. Once those were installed I jacked up each side of the truck JUST until it started to come off the jack stand, and then torqued down everything with a bushing. For the upper control arms, there really is no way to get a socket and torque wrench on those bolts. I tried using a crows foot and torque wrench, but no joy. In the end I used the old standby German torque spec: Guttenteit.
Now it was time for the brakes. I installed the new rotors on each side, using a couple of lug nuts to hold them in place. I started with the passenger side and installed the bracket I had cleaned up and painted so nicely. Or rather, I TRIED to install it. It would not bolt to the steering knuckle. It was too short. It was like that line in the Johnny Cash song “One Piece at a Time”: When we tried to put in the bolts, all the holes were gone!
I couldn't figure out what was going on. I grabbed the old bracket I had removed and it fit just fine. I held the two of them up side by side and the new one was shorter than the old one! “Right there and then it came to me, wall to wall! Uh, huh!”
When I bought brake calipers and brackets from the U-Pull-It to restore and rebuild for this project, both calipers and the drivers side bracket came form the same truck. Someone had already gotten the passenger side bracket, so I had to get it from a different truck. I know that the front brakes are different from a standard and long wheelbase truck, so I made sure to get the bracket from a long wheelbase truck, which is what I have. Apparently, at some point in that trucks life it had brake components from a standard wheelbase truck installed, which is why my “new” bracket wouldn't fit! So I reinstalled the old one for the time being.
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I then went to install the brake bracket and caliper on the drivers side. The bracket fit just perfectly!
Remember earlier that I mentioned I had installed 3 of the newly rebuilt and painted calipers? Well, that's only partially accurate. I actually did install all 4, and all 4 would still be on there if Dr. Dipstick hadn't tried to turn the bleeder screw the wrong way and stripped out the threads in the aluminum caliper!
A move like that deserves 2 D'Oh's!
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Head Cartoon Gesture Yellow Happy


I tried to renew the threads in the caliper, but had very little hope that it would work. It didn't. BTW, the threads for the bleeder screw and banjo bolt are M10-1.0. As my grandfather used to say “That and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee.” So I put the old caliper back on for now.
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I went to U-Pull-It and got another bracket and caliper. I'm working on getting them cleaned up and painted, then new seals will be installed.
I've read the comment “Don't put a leveling kit on that uses spacers on top of the struts! It will put your CV axles at a severe angle!”
Here's a pic of the axle at full droop:
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Here's a pic of the axle with the wheel installed and the truck back on the ground. The angle doesn't look that severe to me! Maybe if you were putting a 4 or 5 inch kit on it would cause issues, but I don't think a 2” leveling kit is a cause for much concern.
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After everything was installed I took Snowball to the tire shop for an alignment and to have the headlights re-aimed. Since the front sits 2” higher now having the headlight re-aimed is important for the safety of myself and others.
As I said, I really like the way this rides. I can tell it is up higher when I get in and out.
I'm planning to get some Bora 1-1/2” spacers for this (a set of 4 will run right at $300 shipped). Not cheap, but Bora spacers are some of the best you can buy. I also plan to get some new shoes for this beastie. The old ones won't make it through another winter. I'm planning on 265/70R17 Firestone Destination A/T2's.

While I was having the alignment done, I asked about the cost of a set of 4. I was quoted $915 out the door. I was figuring right about $1,000 so I guess I was pretty close.
Once I get the tires and spacers I'll post some more pics, but it may be a few months before that happens, so I guess that's it for now!
Thanks for following along, and I hope maybe I've been able to help someone!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
It's been 3 weeks now since the suspension replacement and alignment, and I must say I like the way this truck rides! Getting in and out I can tell it's up a bit higher. It's not bad by any means, but I can tell a difference. I haven't had time yet to get the brake bracket and caliper replaced, although they are both ready to go on. I've just been busy with other things, and it's been pretty hot and humid around here as well. I don't take the heat as well as I used to did! Knowhutimean, Vern?
I did pull the trigger on something I've been wanting. The Ridgid mid-torque impact wrench did a good job on all the recent vehicle work I've been doing, but it did kind of struggle a time or two, even with the 3ah Octane battery. The 3ah Octane battery uses 21700 cells, instead of the 18650 cells used in the other Ridgid batteries. This is the video that alerted me to those batteries, and they really did wake up that impact wrench!

But as I said, it still struggled a bit on occasion, so I've been thinking of getting the high-torque impact wrench. I also own a 1999 Plymouth Grand Voyager, which is going to need some work. It is not as 'pristine' underneath as my TB, so I was a bit concerned that the mid-torque might not always be up to the challenge. After watching this video

I decided to go ahead and pick one up. We have two Home Depot's here in Lincoln, and HD's website said that neither store had any. :(
I found two of them at the south store! :)
Now, there's only one there.
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I also ordered the 1-1/2” wheel spacers from Wheel Adapters, Wheel Spacers, Hub Rings for your car! | Motorsport Tech
$300 for a set of 4, but they are some of the best you can buy! I expect them to ship in late August or early September. Sooner would be great, but they have a heavy workload right now, and most spacers are made to order. My plan is to have the P265/70R17 Firestone Destination AT/2's on by mid September. I'm still trying to decide if I want blackwall's out or the white lettering out. I have a parking area behind my house, so curb rash isn't a factor for me.
What do y'all think?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Just a comparison pic of the Ridgid mid-torque impact wrench on the right and the high-torque impact wrench on the left. I knew the high-torque would be larger, but I must say it's a bit bigger than I thought it would be! It's almost 6.5 pounds without the battery! I used the same battery on both so the comparison would be valid.
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The metal ruler is there to show that this is not a Photo-Shopped picture! I haven't had a chance to use it yet, but I'm sure it will do whatever I ask it to!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Never having been one to know when to leave well enough alone, I decided I wanted to add mirror mounted turn signals to Snowball. These are a plug-&-play upgrade. The connectors fit right into the socket that is already on the arm rest, and once the turn signal is activated they light right up!
I asked my wife if she would like them added to her '06 TB, and she said yes. So a few days ago after work I went to the local automotive recycling facility and got two pairs of them from a couple of Trailblazer LTZ's. Here is one of them on my workbench:
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The amber lenses on all four were absolutely filthy! I can tell that this is going to be a maintenance item!
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To remove the lens, you first need to swing the mirror away from the door. Yes, I know the door is not really there, but just pretend for a bit, OK?
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Once that is done you will see a small T-10 screw. This takes a #10 Torx bit, not an Allen bit like one YouTuber said in his video. Remove the screw.
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Now swing the mirror back towards the door and the lens will come off easily. If you try to take the lens off with the mirror swung away from the door, may God be with you!
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This is what it looks like once the lens is off the mirror. Kind of dirty, isn't it?
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The bulb housing is just rubber with two electrical contacts molded into it. Swing it towards the flat edge of the lens and it will be easily removable.
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The bulbs these take are #194 bulbs. I bought a 10 pack of the at O'Reilly Auto Parts for about $20. These are the same bulbs used in the front side marker lights, BTW.

In the next installment we'll take the lens apart and clean it up.
 

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Never having been one to know when to leave well enough alone, I decided I wanted to add mirror mounted turn signals to Snowball. These are a plug-&-play upgrade. The connectors fit right into the socket that is already on the arm rest, and once the turn signal is activated they light right up!
I asked my wife if she would like them added to her '06 TB, and she said yes. So a few days ago after work I went to the local automotive recycling facility and got two pairs of them from a couple of Trailblazer LTZ's. Here is one of them on my workbench:
View attachment 57809

The amber lenses on all four were absolutely filthy! I can tell that this is going to be a maintenance item!
View attachment 57810

To remove the lens, you first need to swing the mirror away from the door. Yes, I know the door is not really there, but just pretend for a bit, OK?
View attachment 57811

Once that is done you will see a small T-10 screw. This takes a #10 Torx bit, not an Allen bit like one YouTuber said in his video. Remove the screw.
View attachment 57812

Now swing the mirror back towards the door and the lens will come off easily. If you try to take the lens off with the mirror swung away from the door, may God be with you!
View attachment 57813

This is what it looks like once the lens is off the mirror. Kind of dirty, isn't it?
View attachment 57814

The bulb housing is just rubber with two electrical contacts molded into it. Swing it towards the flat edge of the lens and it will be easily removable.
View attachment 57815

The bulbs these take are #194 bulbs. I bought a 10 pack of the at O'Reilly Auto Parts for about $20. These are the same bulbs used in the front side marker lights, BTW.

In the next installment we'll take the lens apart and clean it up.
Nice! Yeah my lenses were very dirty as well, I just soaked them in soapy water and ran some water through them several times and they cleaned up well.

I also got heated mirrors from the junkyard when I did this.
 
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