The Mule: Adding Stability in the Corners

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photos by: the author

Keeping The Mule Planted in the Corners with the Help of Hellwig

It’s been a little while since we’ve brought you an update on our 2016 Silverado project, that we lovingly refer to as “The Mule.” Designed as a stylish, muscle car-themed Silverado pickup to haul our junk and well, our other junk, it has served us well for the last several months. However, it’s been quite a culture shock of sorts when your author hasn’t driven a truck in years and has been burdened driving pony cars for the last decade or so.

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After taking one too many corners faster than we should, it quickly became apparent that our Silverado project was woefully ill-equipped to handle the sharp corners that we’ve become accustomed to in more stout vehicles. As a result, we had to rectify that by giving our friends at Hellwig Products a call.

Looking for a new level of control, we knew we would need a rear anti-roll bar (the Silverado leaves the factory without one, completely) and if there was a way to improve upon the front piece, we would certainly do that as well. It might seem odd upgrading the suspension on a brand new vehicle but if the OEM hardware doesn’t live up to our needs, then it only makes sense to make it work.

The front (PN-5910) and the rear (PN-7735) come complete with everything you need, from the bushings, to the hardware. Everything is of high-quality and the bars come powdercoat in a black hammertone finish.

We got a late start on Saturday, but even in this shot you can tell that our body roll is clearly evident. This shot was taken with The Mule traveling at 25 miles-per hour and at a 90-degree lock of the wheel.

We chose Hellwig’s bars over some others due to the level of quality, fitment on the vehicle and the end results we’ve typically seen from other Hellwig products. For further proof, you can check out our C5 Corvette install and the results we’ve obtained from our sister title, Timeless Muscle Magazine. In addition, they have their roots in truck and RV suspension upgrades and have used their knowledge for other product lines. So naturally, our 2016 Silverado would be right up their alley.

Plus, we haul a lot of relatively heavy car parts, including engines and rear ends, in the bed of The Mule and we’re constantly hauling around Project Redrum or a new project car. Hellwig’s bars are not only designed to improve handling and stability in an unloaded vehicle, but when you’re also towing your race car or have a load of cargo.

During our off-time with Project Redrum and Project Wicked6, we had a Saturday evening to get The Mule on the lift and implemented with our new Hellwig sway bar kit. The install was straightforward, and a lift is highly recommended if you have access to one. That’s not to say that you couldn’t do this laying on your back in your driveway with the help of some jack stands, but for the sake of ease we’d recommend the lift.

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To add some additional insight in regards to the features and benefits of the Hellwig front and rear sway bar kits, we’ve included the official feature breakdown from Hellwig below.

Front Sway Bar PN-5910 Features:

  • Reduces body roll for better vehicle control
  • Greatly improves cornering traction for safer driving and turning capabilities
  • Distributes weight evenly to all four wheels
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Made in the USA
  • Fast, Easy “Bolt-On” installation
  • High quality hot formed and heat treated 4140 chrome moly spring steel
  • Polyurethane bushings
  • Includes all required mounting hardware
  • NOTE: If your vehicle has 6 Speed Transmission on 2007-2013, you must add Hellwig Spacer Kit # 7799

An easy and affordable way to upgrade your vehicles handling performance. The torsional effect of the sway bar will significantly reduce sway and body roll. The sway bar will help to transfer the pressure on the outboard wheels and apply opposite pressure on the inboard wheels. Weight is more evenly distributed to all four wheels helping your 1/2-ton pickup stay more level with the road — making for a safer, sturdier, and more enjoyable ride.

Rear Sway Bar PN-7735 Features:

  • 1-1/8” heat-treated 4140 chromoly solid steel
  • Polyurethane bushings
  • Adjustable for desired amount of sway control and handling
  • Easy installation with no drilling required
  • Made in the USA
  • Lifetime guarantee

Provides added sway control when hauling heavy loads or towing.  Greatly improves cornering traction for safer driving and better handling. The GM 1500 Rear Sway Bar from Hellwig Products features a 1-1/8 inch heat-treated 4140 solid chromoly steel bar for maximum sway control. The adjustable rear sway bar and mounting brackets are powder coated for durability and good looks. Includes all necessary hardware and does not require drilling to install.

The factory 1.34-inch diameter sway bar in the front is decent, but does offer room for improvement. The good thing about working on a new vehicle in the Midwest is that the road salt and rough weather hasn’t taken its toll on the undercarriage yet. We will be reusing the end links, but will be swapping out the factory bar’s rubber U-shaped stabilizer bar bushings for the poly units that come with the Hellwig kit. Not only does this firm up handling, but this is a necessary steps since the Hellwig’s larger diameter bar won’t squeeze through the OEM bushings.

 

To give you a better idea of the before and after front sway bar comparisons, we wanted to line them up next to each other show you the difference in size. The factory bar is 34mm (or roughly 1-1/4 of an inch in diameter). The Hellwig bar measures in at 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Not a drastic change, but it’s enough to make a difference, especially when paired with the rear sway bar.

 

As seen in the above gallery, the install is pretty straightforward. You remove the stock sway bar by removing the end links on each side, as well as the remaining bolts holding in the U-brackets that hold the sway bar in place. As we’ve mentioned earlier, they’re replaced by the hardware that Hellwig provides, including the bolts.

Hellwig also supplies the bushing grease that we applied both inside and outside of the poly business, that eliminates any squeaking as well as help prolong the life of the bushing itself.

It’s also important that you lube the sway bar bushing with the included bushing grease that Hellwig provides. They actually supply two tubes, and there’s typically enough to have an extra tube for maintenance purposes later, if you apply it sparingly.

Obviously there isn’t a sway bar to replace on the Silverado, since there isn’t one in the first place so Hellwig provides you with additional hardware to mount the rear bar. They include a pair of saddle brackets and dog bone-style, powder coated end links that connect the saddle brackets to the sway bar.

You want to be sure to grease the end link bushings, and on either end, use a vise to press-fit them into place, ensuring they’re mounted perfectly even on either side of the end link edge. You adjust them by turning them clockwise, or counterclockwise, depending on the length from the saddle bracket to the sway bar.

In the case our Silverado, we had to unbolt the E-brake cable to allow for more room for the U-bolt that mounts on the passenger side of the rear axle. You want to make sure that there isn’t any cables, wiring or hoses that could potentially get pinched during during tightening. Hellwig recommends removing the spare tire for ease of access, but oddly enough, our in-house technician insisted in working around it, proving that it was possible. Whatever, but if your have larger hands than the average bear we’d recommend it.

Hellwig also recommends installing the rear bar with the weight of the vehicle on the pavement — for ease of installation and maintenance. Essentially, the weight of the vehicle needs to be on the wheels. It should be noted that we used our ramps for the rear wheels, and only used the lift to get certain shots for the sake of this article.

Paired with the rear factory Rancho shocks, the Hellwig sway bar looks right at home underneath our 2016 Silverado. We actually took it out for a quick spin after hours to see how it rode, handled and just to ensure that nothing was amiss. After quickly determining that there weren’t any squeaks or rattles, we were immediately impressed with the ride and new cornering characteristics. As much as it pained us to wait until the next day to take our “after” photos, we had a blast with our “new” Silverado all the way home…

 

With daybreak upon us, we took The Mule to the same location to note the change in handling. Fortunately for the truck, but not our photographer, we actually had to take the corner in the truck at a much quicker pace just to get any monition out of it. In our previous test, we hit it at 25 mph and the roll was more than evident. Here, we had to pull the corner at nearly 50 to get close to any kind of roll and it wasn’t nearly as present. With such a simple modification and not a whole lot of effort, the Hellwig bars made a huge difference. We also noted additional stability in towing Project Redrum with the Mule to the road course recently. We had some sway and we sensed some disconnect in the truck and trailer in the past, but after the install, it was completely eliminated and provided us with plenty of confidence

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Being infatuated with cars since he was a toddler, GM EFI Founder and Editor, Rick Seitz, has a true love and passion for late-model GM vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.
FJP

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