Last year, we headed across the country for LS Fest West 2021 in the Dirty Bird. The 2000 model WS6 did give us some issues along the way, but it was solid for the most part. We managed to make it to and from Las Vegas to Texas, a 2,200-mile trip, without spending any downtime on the side of the road. However, if we’re being honest, prepping for this trip was nothing short of lacking. We didn’t do a very good job looking over the vehicle before our departure.
This year, we will be making the LS Fest trek in a 2007 Tahoe instead of Dirty Bird. While our WS6 made it to and from the event, traveling in the car was tight due to limited space. Also, I-40 is a long road and was relentless on the lowered machine. With the Tahoe, we won’t have these issues. Instead, we will have ample room, plenty of ground clearance, and air conditioning — yes, we lost the A/C in the Dirty Bird before leaving for Sin City.
However, as with any older vehicle, we decided to inspect the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) before leaving with a couple of goals. First, we wanted to replace anything that could cause us issues on the highway. Then, we thought it would be good to see if we could increase the fuel mileage since gas prices are super high.
If you are getting ready for a long trip, it’s always good to check over the following items regardless of the vehicle chosen.
- Engine Belts: Check for cracks and wear and replace if necessary
- Fluids: Make sure all of the fluids are topped off and look clean
- Leaks: A low fluid level means a leak somewhere
- Tires: Look for even treadwear and check for proper inflation
- Lights: It’s always a good idea to check and ensure all lights are working properly
- Brakes: Look for worn brake pads/rotors and replace them if necessary
- Battery: Check the battery date and voltage
- Noises and Vibrations: Noises and vibrations are a car’s way of telling you there’s an issue and needs addressing
- Windshield Wipers: It’s always a good idea to put a fresh set on in the springtime
Our 2007 Tahoe is in great shape and one of the cleanest SUVs we have seen. But don’t let the lack of grease and grime fool you. These machines can have issues, some of which you can easily avoid with proper maintenance. Fortunately, our Tahoe has a good service record, including a new 4L60E transmission, torque converter, and alternator. But, we did discover some issues that we need to address.
Coils and Plug Wires
While looking under the hood of the Tahoe, we noticed that the LS coils were factory units and the plug wires were mismatched. So rather than having a cheap plug wire or high-mileage factory coil fail on the road, we reached out to Performance Distributors. The company manufactures its high-performance Sultans Of Spark (SOS) coils and Livewire spark plug wires for the LS platform.
Performance Distributors SOS coils are designed for 1997-2019 General Motors LS/Vortec engines. Adding these coils will do a couple of things for our 5.3 LS. First, they will offer a dependable replacement for our old GM coils. Secondly, the new coils provide more firepower than the OEM coils when they are new. With 7,000 more volts per factory coil (56,000 total), this added energy allows for increased horsepower, better throttle response, and quicker starting. We can also open the spark plug gaps to .065-inches giving the combustion process a larger spark kernel. The more powerful spark will increase fuel mixture burn for added power and fuel economy.
The installation for Performance Distributors SOS coils and Livewires is standard. We first removed the factory parts before installing the coils and plug wires. Some of the wires were brittle due to excess heat and broke upon removal. Fortunately, the Livewires will never have this issue. These low resistance wires offer a unique sleeving that provides heat protection up to 1400-plus degrees Fahrenheit and offers excellent resistance to moisture and chemicals.
In And Out
With the ignition system buttoned up, we turned our attention to the air filter, which wasn’t that dirty. However, we ordered Flowmaster’s Delta Force unit (PN 615020) instead of running out and buying a new filter from the local auto parts store.
The Delta Force air filter is a fantastic way to add performance and filer protection to any 1999-2019 (Classic body) GM truck. These air filters are a direct replacement and dropped right into our 2007 Tahoe airbox with no fuss. And while we like the fact that this unit outflows the OEM filter, we appreciate that this is the last filter we will need to purchase since they are reusable. However, we did forget to add the Delta Force Performance filter refresh kit (PN 615001) to the order.
Getting air in the engine is essential, and so is getting it out. And the more efficiently this is accomplished, the better the performance and fuel mileage. So while GM probably incorporated some performance into its exhaust system, a subdued system probably ranked higher. And if we’re being honest, we prefer efficiency over the two. So, with that thought, we scrapped the factory exhaust system in favor of Flowmaster’s American Thunder cat-back system.
Flowmaster’s American Thunder cat-back exhaust system (PN 17430) is dyno-tuned for maximum performance and utilizes a 50-series performance muffler. The system uses 16-gauge aluminized steel, mandrel-bent for tight crimp-free bends, and easy installation. All of the hardware for the kit is included and installs using the factory hanger locations. And while all of these features are fantastic, what about the sound?
The instructions weren’t kidding when they said the American Thunder cat-back system is easy to install. First, we unbolted the factory exhaust and removed it by making one cut to the exhaust pipe. Next, we laid out the pieces before installing them under the Tahoe. The entire process only took an hour or two from start to finish.
Finally, it was time to fire up the 5.3 and see how it sounded. We’re happy to report that the exhaust tone is deep and moderately aggressive on the outside. But much to our surprise, there wasn’t much of a change with the exhaust sound in the interior. And best of all, there is no drone that we could tell.
We weren’t due an oil change, but we thought it would be better to perform an oil change before hitting the road. For this step, we turned to Torco and the company’s SR-1 synthetic oil. SR-1 synthetic motor oil retains maximum performance and exceeds the durability demands of domestic vehicles. Depending on the need, it’s also available in 0W-20, 0W-40, 5W-30, and 5W-40. Torco recommends SR-1 for stock, tuned, modified, turbocharged, and direct-injected high-performance vehicles.
Torco SR-1 Synthetic Oil
- The 100-percent synthetic formula balances engine power and efficiency with durability
- Shear-stable polymers for long-term engine protection even at high temperatures
- High solvency synthetic ester technology prevents deposit formation, keeping engines clean
- PAO base and advanced friction-reducing additives lower operating temperatures and enhance efficiency
- The proprietary antiwear package protects cams and lifters even at high loads
- Meets and, in some cases, exceeds manufacturer oil specifications
- Increases horsepower and torque up to 3-percent
It’s Evolution Baby
If there’s one thing road trips have taught us over the years, you can never be too prepared. And troubleshooting a vehicle on the roadside can be a nightmare. However, if you have the proper equipment, you can also quickly work on the issues found at a moment’s notice, which is one of the reasons we decided to order the EDGE Evolution CTS3 programmer (PN 85450-250). Granted, the Evolution CTS3 is much more than a code reader, but this tool is invaluable if the check engine light should illuminate. And if it does, we will be prepared to read and clear the codes at a moment’s notice.
Evolution CTS3 programmer also has a ton of different settings. You can program the ECU for everything from Economy mode to Performance Mode. And since we are looking for better fuel consumption, we chose the Eco tune in hopes of making as few fueling stops as possible. You can also adjust the transmission tuning, monitor engine vitals and data log, and customize the gauges and background.
EDGE's Evolution CTS3 Programmer
- State-of-the-art, multi-gauge/tuner touch-screen display
- Third-Generation design is faster and more capable than ever
- Power levels designed for economy, towing, and performance
- Simple installation (OBDII Port)
- Monitor key vehicle parameters like trans temp, boost, RPM, and more
- Five-inch full-color capacitive touch screen
- Unambiguous data at your fingertips
- Customizable gauges and backgrounds
- User-friendly interface
- Built-in performance tests
- Integrated data logger with export capability
- Add vehicle licenses to tune multiple vehicles with a single product
- Read and clear diagnostic trouble codes
- Wi-Fi capable
The Long Road
With all of the modifications complete, we’re ready to hit the road this week on our 2,200-plus-mile trek to Holley’s LS Fest West 2022. We are looking forward to the show, Valley of Fire Cruise, seeing old friends, and making some new ones. And we hope we see you out there.