Chevrolet Silverado: The Car Bible (1999-2007)
Like a rock, a GMT800 Silverado keeps on rolling.
Welcome to the GMT800 Chevrolet Silverado Car Bible. As you scroll down, you’ll learn all about this vehicle’s qualities, features, finer points, and shortcomings. If you’re thinking about buying one of these, want some help maintaining or modifying one, or just want to deepen your knowledge for the next round of car trivia, you’ve come to the right place.
This is a living document that’s updated as we learn (and confirm) new valuable information. Got something to add? Drop a comment or send us an email. Don’t be shy; the more dialogue we have the better this Car Bible will get.
–Andrew P. Collins, Car Bibles Editor-In-Chief
(Disclaimers, Disclosures: Some Car Bibles will have links to specific forums, groups, brands, shops, or vendors for parts shopping and such. We have no sponsorship deals or official affiliation with any of them unless explicitly stated. We also have to explicitly state that you should work on your own car and follow our advice at your own risk.)
There’s a lot of information packed into this Bible. If you’re looking for something specific, hit command/control-F, type one of these terms, and your browser should bring you straight in.
- The Short Story
- Fast Facts
- Spotter’s Guide
- Check This Car Out If …
- Important Trim Levels and Options
- Year-To-Year Changes
- General Reliability and Ownership Costs
- Obscure Details
- Red Flags and Known Issues
- Where To Buy Parts
- Aftermarket Support
- Popular Modifications
- Key Technical Details
- Fluids, Filters, and Capacities
- Factory Service Manuals
- Other References and Resources
- Professional Reviews
- Owner Reviews
- What They’re Worth Now
- Where To Find One For Sale
- What To Ask A Seller
- Competitors To Consider
- Photo Galleries
- Pop Culture References
- Enthusiast Inquiries
- Downloadable Paperback Car Bible
- Comments Disclaimer
The Short Story
Following the success of the legendary C/K trucks that ran for a marathon 40 years, Chevrolet debuted the entirely brand-new, first-generation Silverado, fully redesigned from the ground up, on dealership lots in 1999. As a solid next chapter in the brand’s place as a beloved truck manufacturer, the Silverado featured a wide assortment of new tech to haul it into the new millennium.
The Silverado featured styling that was a bit on the conservative side. North American consumers were used to the C/K’s unchanged looks over the course of a whole 11 years, and they didn’t want to pull the rug out from under their own success. Sure enough, it proved to be a solid, confident, and well-received next step, which would slowly morph into a truck for all kinds of people over the following generations.
If you’re looking for a deep collection of images, scroll on down to the Photo Galleries links toward the end of the Car Bible. Meanwhile, here are a few angles and versions of the Silverado in this age range.
- The Silverado name was previously a top-trim level on the Chevy C/K and is named after a small mountain town in Southern California. It’s also a town on the border of Texas in Mexico
- It was MotorTrend’s Truck of the Year in 1999
- The Chevy Silverado SS featured a 4.10 rear-axle ratio, ensuring its high card was glorious, block-long burnouts
- The first truck featured an automatic transmission with a tow/haul mode
- The first Chevy truck to feature a hydroformed frame
- The Silverado was the first 1500 Series Light Duty and Heavy Duty truck to come equipped with General Motors’s third-gen LS V8s (iron-block variant dubbed the L, LR, and LT, LS was reserved for non-truck duty), called the Vortec series of engines
- The first generation comes in three cab lengths and three bed lengths
- Automatic headlights were standard, as were intermittent windshield wipers
- The first Chevy light-duty truck to come with coil-spring front suspension
- The 4.3 V-6 allowed for a tow capacity of up to 5,000 pounds, whereas the 4.8 V-8 and other higher-power engines had at least a 10,000-pound tow capacity
In this day and age, the first-gen Silverado looks, well, like a truck. It’s sort of the litmus test, or even OG, for how all post-2000 trucks ought to be styled, especially those under the GM umbrella.
They’ve got various exterior accents along the bed and front end that make it look more muscular, they feature a rounded (but not bulbous) front grille, bumper, and headlight combo, and in general they just look very slick. They’re simple with a reserved appearance compared to the latest T1XX-generation Silverado (which, we must admit, does look quite good).
There’s an old saying that goes: You can always count on a GM product to be produced in absolutely insane numbers. OK, that isn’t an old saying. We just came up with it but holy crap did Chevy produce a lot of these things. In its final two years alone, Chevy produced more than 1.3 million units. With the number of options and packages available and as one of the top-selling trucks in the United States during its run, it’s easy to see why we still have so many options available on the used market.
Check This Car Out If …
You’re after an inexpensive, easy-to-work-on, reliable truck. They’re new enough that they’re easy to run OBDII diagnostics on, get respectable fuel economy, and they have improved modern safety equipment over trucks from the ’90s. Still, they’re old enough that parts prices are inexpensive, they aren’t really all that complex, and they can be found for quite cheap through private-party and used-car channels.
Important Trim Levels and Options
An automatic “shift on the fly” transfer case was optional.
The Z71 Package makes the Silverado into an off-road capable monster, with a locking center differential, skid plates, upgraded cooling, and more.
The 1500 trim level hierarchy goes from Base at the lowest, to LS in the middle, and LT up top. Each has slightly-better standard amenities than the previous. Most notably, consumers had to upgrade to the LS to get cruise control, as well as have a solid list of standard engines to choose from.
Let’s not forget about the GMT880 HD models: 1500HD, 2500HD, and 3500HD. These were strengthened versions meant to haul and carry more, with the 3500HD coming optionally equipped as a dually with four whole wheels attached to the back axle. Their tow capacity started at 10,300 pounds and maxed-out at an impressive 16,700 pounds.
1999: Silverado debuts on dealership lots
2000: Vortec 4800 and 5300 power bump, HD models go on sale
2001: No notable changes
2002: Vortec 6000 power bump
2003: Silverado SS introduced, Vortec 6000 power bump, new revised front fascia and taillights
2004: Vortec 4300, 4800, and 5300 power bump, Silverado Hybrid goes on sale
2005: Vortec 5300 power bump, no more step-side bed option
2006: Special edition Silverado Intimidator SS is released, honoring the late Dale Earnhardt, massive 6.6-liter Duramax power bump
2007: No notable changes
General Reliability and Ownership Cost
Since these are sturdy U.S. trucks, parts and consumables costs are very inexpensive. Just search some of the part numbers we list down below. Even if one were to trash an engine, a lower-mileage replacement is awaiting them in a junkyard for less than $1,000.
Aftermarket parts are also inexpensive, as there’s a lot of competition out there for your business, and the basic suspension and engine systems are pretty basic by modern standards.
Fuel economy isn’t terrible for each trim’s respective engine, either. It’s not as great as very new fair, but for its time the Silverado was commended for having better fuel economy than its competition by Ford and Dodge.
There isn’t much that is obscure about these old trucks. They’re for the most part no-frills, honest-to-goodness workhorses. It was the first mass-produced truck to feature a mild-hybrid model, however, which helped supply power to run tools, lights, and more on the job site.
Red Flags and Known Issues
Moody electrics and broken switches. While minor, it’s not uncommon to have electrical annoyances like non-functioning interior dome lights, dash lights, failed window switches, failed seat switches, etc.
Random misfires at idle. Intake gasket seals aren’t sealing properly, keeping out unmeasured air from the MAF. Updated seals should remedy this issue.
Rust. In climates that experience winter, especially with salted roads, body panels, frames, brake lines, and more get awfully rusty. It’s best to do a thorough inspection when buying a Silverado from a cold-weather climate.
They burn oil. It’s not uncommon for any gasoline engine under the hood of a first-gen Silverado to burn about a quart of oil over the course of an oil service interval.
Aluminum head issues. 2001-2006 5.3-liter engines’ Castech heads can crack, causing phantom coolant loss and more. Casting numbers 706 and 862 are easy ways to identify if you’ve got a problematic one. Heads with casting numbers 241, 243, 799, and 317 are good replacements.
Low-oil-pressure sender switch. Low-oil-pressure warning messages can be due to this pesky switch, which is difficult to replace since it’s in a cramped spot.
Spark-plug wear. Any new Silverado owner who’s just picked up an example with more than 100,000 miles ought to replace its spark plugs right off the bat. They tend to melt not too long after their service interval and can cause serious issues.
September 2014: Service brakes, master cylinder, faulty hose, lines/piping, fittings
May 2008: Suspension vibration
February 2008: Faulty rear suspension, defective steering shaft (clunking noise)
January 2007: Tire and wheel-size inspection
December 2006: Rear-drive axle (whine noise)
September 2006: Faulty left front-axle shaft
March 2006: Upper-arm-control replacement
Where to Buy Parts
What’s nice about Silverado is that they’re a beloved, made-in-the-U.S. platform, so parts can be found anywhere and in good quantity. Any brick-and-mortar parts shop should be well-stocked with normal maintenance items, otherwise online sources like AutoHausAZ, oempart.com, and buying direct from Chevy will keep you well covered.
The aftermarket is full of aesthetic, off-road, and performance modifications for personalizing a Silverado and making it your own. When it comes to engine upgrades, the sky’s the limit for tuning these iron-block beasts and for swapping engines around. Upgrading from a 4.8-liter LR4 V-8 to a much wilder lump, such as a 5.7-liter LS6 out of a Corvette, is much easier to do compared to engines by other automakers.
It seems like the most popular modification is installing a lift kit for off-roading and added tire clearance. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy sitting up nice and high? This can be accomplished via aftermarket air suspension, lift springs and dampers, or solid lifting blocks.
Intake and exhaust modifications are plentiful and easily add a sweet bump in horsepower and torque.
Key Technical Details
Vortec 4300 (4.3 liter) V-6 – 200 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque
Vortec 4800 (4.8 liter) V-8: 255-285 horsepower, 285-295 pound-feet of torque
Vortec 5300 (5.3 liter) V-8: 270-310 horsepower, 315-335 pound-feet of torque
Vortec 6000 (6.0 liter) V-8: 345 horsepower, 380 pound-feet of torque
Vortec 7400 (7.4 liter) V-8: 290 horsepower, 410 pound-feet of torque
Vortec 8100 (8.1 liter) V-8: 225-340 horsepower, 325-455 pound-feet of torque
Heavy Duty, GMT880 only:
6.0-liter Vortec 6000 V-8: 300 horsepower, 345 pound-feet of torque
6.6-liter Duramax V-8: 300-310 horsepower, 520-650 pound-feet of torque
Four-speed 4L60-E automatic
Four-speed 4L65-E automatic
Four-speed 4L80-E automatic
Five-speed New Venture Gear 3500 manual
Five-speed New Venture Gear 4500 manual
Heavy Duty, GMT880:
Five-speed Allison 1000 automatic (2000–2005)
Six-speed Allison 1000 automatic (2005–2007)
Five-speed New Venture Gear 4500 manual (2000–2007 6.0)
Six-speed ZF S6-650 manual (2000–2006 6.6 and 8.1)
2WD, 4WD (manual or electronic high-low transfer case with optional center locker)
Front coil spring or rear leaf spring
119 inches, 133 inches, or 143.5 inches
Standard cab, short box: 203.3 inches
Standard cab, long box: 222.2 inches
Crew cab, short box: 232.2 inches
Extended cab, short box: 227.8 inches
Extended cab, long box: 246.7 inches
OEM tire size: Too many to list. Fortunately, TireSize.com has this handy list.
Bed lengths: 69.2-inch short box, 78.7-inch standard box, 97.6-inch long box
Cab sizes: Two-door regular cab, four-door extended cab, four-door front-hinged crew cab
Fluids, Filters, and Capacities
Fuel: GM recommends 91 octane, but enthusiasts say 87 is just fine. Diesel engines, well, take diesel.
Battery size: Size 78, 700 CCA
Engine oil: Gasoline-fueled engines take six quarts of 5W-30 full synthetic (four and a half quarts for 4.3-liter V-6). Change every 3,000-7,000 miles. Enthusiasts recommend trucks with more than 100,000 miles should get an oil change every 5,000 miles or less. Diesel engines get 10 quarts of 15W-40 (in warm climates) or 5W-40 (cold climates). Enthusiasts recommend Shell Rotella or Amsoil Heavy Duty, change every 10,000 miles.
Oil filter: Gasoline engines take GM Part Number 19210283 or OEM quality equivalent. Change with oil. Diesel engines take GM Part Number PF2232 and 11569943. Change with oil.
Air filter: GM Part Number 22845992. Change every 30,000 miles.
Cabin air filter: GM Part Number 19257782. Change every 30,000 miles.
Automatic transmission fluid: Dexron VI, 4L60-E/4L65-E, 5.0 quarts; 4L80-E/4L85-E, 7.7 quarts. Change every 80,000 miles.
Manual transmission oil: Model New Venture 3500/4500, Syn-torq synthetic transmission fluid or equivalent, 3500: 2.2 quarts; 4500: 4.0 quarts. ZF S6-650, Trans-Synd synthetic transmission fluid or equivalent, 6.3 quarts. Change every 80,000 miles.
Automatic transmission filter: GM Part Number 29537965. Change every 80,000 miles.
Differential oil: Front: Selectable 4WD gets 80W90 GL-5 gear oil. Full-time 4WD gets 75W90 synthetic gear oil. Rear gets 75W90 synthetic gear oil. Change every 80,000 miles.
Transfer case oil: 2.5 quarts of GM Part Number 10-4017 Auto-Trak II Transfer Case Fluid. Change every 50,000 miles. Change fill/drain plugs, too: GM Part Number 15032997.
Coolant: 4.5 gallons of DEX-COOL, flushed and replace once per year.
Power steering fluid: ACDelco GM Part Number 10-5073. Replace every 75,000 miles.
Brake fluid: 2 quarts of DOT3 or better. Change every 50,000 miles.
Clutch fluid: Same as brake fluid.
Spark plugs: 8 ACDelco 41-962. Change every 90,000 miles.
Fuel filter: Gas engine gets GM Part Number GF481. Change every 30,000 miles. Diesel engine gets GM Part Number TP3018. Change every 15,000 miles.
For an idea of some good services to perform on higher-mileage examples, check out this great discussion over at ChevroletForum.com.
Factory Service Manuals
Factory service manuals aren’t terribly expensive and can be found at all fine online booksellers. Haynes is a valuable resource, too, and can be found here.
Other References and Resources
The Car and Driver team had very good things to say about the 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD back in April, 2003.
“The Allison transmission in tow/haul mode does a spectacular job of engine braking and holding gears when slowing and climbing. With the Duramax, high altitude has no perceivable effect on performance. This rig delivers a comfortable 400-mile cruising range–better than just about anything out there. “-Mark Williams
“There’s nothing that’ll make you feel more manly than the 2500HD, which would be considered a commercial-grade truck anywhere but here in the U.S. It delivers quite a bouncy, harsh ride unloaded, but that firm suspension also delivers surprisingly good handling characteristics.” -Chris Walton
“This Chevrolet works great and drives well, with good space and comfort inside. But the [diesel] racket would wear me out.” -Kevin Smith
“Gotta love that torque.” -David Newhardt
“Consider my Kenworth fantasy satisfied. This is one heck of a hauler that makes child’s play out of heavy loads and messy launch ramps.” -Scott Mead
As did Motor Trend with its long-term Silverado 1500 LS tester in December, 2000, after awarding it the 1999 Motor Trend Truck of the Year. As written by Chris Walton:
“Chevy faced a huge task when redesigning the Silverado: how to make it new/different/better without insulting an amazingly loyal customer base that loved the ’88-’98 version just the way it was. But GM pulled it off: A structurally stiff frame with hydro-formed steel rails, standard four-wheel disc brakes with four-wheel ABS, the largest extended-rear cab area available, and a new line of powerful Vortec V-8s were just a few of the reasons the new-for-’99 Silverado captured our Truck of the Year award.
Our Extended Cab Silverado LS, equipped with the 5.3L/270-hp V-8 and 2WD, proved just enough truck for the jobs our staff had in mind. Popular options included leather interior trim, a sound system with both cassette and CD players, cruise control, and the usual raft of power accessories. When it wasn’t being driven as a commuter, weekly chores for the Silverado at MT headquarters in Los Angeles included carrying a storage room full of testing equipment to and from our test facility some 50 miles away. Where we’d been making do by filling every cubic inch of available space in a sedan or sport/utility, this easy-to-load, full-size pickup made what’s typically a giant puzzle into the proverbial no-brainer.
Everyone who drove it remarked on how fast it was, with 0-60-mph times in the low 8-sec range. But one car-biased editor quickly learned how an unloaded cargo bed doesn’t exactly nail down the rear tires under a heavy right foot: “Lots of power and no rear weight with a touchy throttle means I spin the tires leaving stoplights.” No surprise there, and, of course, driving it in the rain only underscores this tendency. Note: Chevrolet began offering traction control on V-8 2WD trucks in ’01.”
Stay tuned. We’ll have some in here soon.
What They’re Worth Now
Own or owned one of these and want to share your thoughts? Hit up in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Values can vary quite a bit by spec; a Stepside, single-cab, short-box with a manual transmission is a very rare bird, and thus can command a lot of money compared to a standard, fleetside 1500 crew cab with an automatic transmission, and of the same vintage. It also doesn’t help that used car prices are pretty inflated at this moment in 2021, either.
The prime example: Fun trims, like the SS, currently don’t seem to drop below $18,000. 120,000 miles or less in good condition, regardless of trim, options, etc., seem to be anywhere from $12,000-$17,000 at dealers and via private-party. However, step up to an HD in similar condition, and it’ll be over $20,000.
A very clean driver: Via private-party, expect to spend around $8,000-$10,000 for a clean, 150,000-or-so mile 1500, with either a crew or extended cab. Higher-mileage HD models (over 200,000 miles) seem to sit in the upper-teens. Diesel examples that were spec’d to the gills seem to all be north of $25,000.
An honest car: Mid-cycle models with maybe some light body damage, OK amount of rust, faded paint, 180,000 miles or more, and a base spec, can be had for as little as $4,000. Earlier in the gen, they might go for less, but beware of mechanical and rust issues. Though, there could be a great fixer-upper in this echelon.
Where to Find One for Sale
Since the Silverado was made in massive numbers, there’s an endless number of used examples available through conventional dealerships and used-car lots.
Enthusiast groups are a good source for clean, cared-for runners as are various online auction sites.
Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace have a decent amount of listings, but as always, do your due diligence.
What to Ask a Seller
Have you experienced any mysterious coolant losses?
Does it have any rust?
Where has it lived most of its life?
Does it burn or leak any oil?
Does all of the interior switchgear work?
Has it been used as a tow vehicle?
Do you have service records or a history of work you’ve done yourself?
Have all recalls and technical service bulletins been remedied?
Competitors to Consider
When it comes to other U.S.-made pickups, the usual suspects are at the top of the list: the Ford F-150/F-250, and Dodge Ram 1500/2500.
You could look at a Toyota Tundra (very expensive) or Nissan Titan (perenially an also-ran, but has its advantages) if you’re sticking to half-ton (1500) trucks.
If you’re just looking for an inexpensive, fun, off-road capable platform, there’s a lot more to consider in vehicles sans-bed, such as any flavor of Jeep, the Toyota 4Runner, Land Rover Discovery, Toyota Land Cruiser, Mitsubishi Montero, and more.
Since the first-gen Silverado is a bit too old to be on GM’s media site anymore, but check out the wide variety of images on FavCars.com!
The first-generation Silverado hasn’t had as many iconic movie or TV roles as you might think. Apparently, the 2016 movie ‘Wildflower’ has a lot of GM products, including a fairly prominent GMT800.
That one Brad Paisley song ‘Mud on the Tires‘ opens with a line about “holding the keys to a brand new Chevrolet;” it had a GMT800 on the album cover, and since it came out in ’03, I guess you could say that’s a solid GMT800 Silverado reference!
When we start to find the same questions over and over about this vehicle, we’ll populate this section.
Downloadable Paperback Car Bible (Coming Soon)
If you’re old school and like to keep reference notes on paper, or you’re just a completionist and want a free accessory, you’ll be able to download and print out a paperback Car Bible soon.
Think of it like an owner’s manual supplement. Keep it in your car, and your days of waiting for slow internet on your phone at the auto parts store are over.
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