Performance Upgrades for Your GMC Sierra: Which Ones Are Worth It? Complete Guide

Looking to boost your GMC Sierra‘s performance? You want the best bang for your buck and know what upgrades are worth it, but don’t know where to start?

This guide has all the answers you need to upgrade your truck with confidence. Maximize your GMC Sierra’s performance while avoiding costly upgrades that won’t make a difference.

Are you looking to maximize your GMC Sierra’s performance? Whether you want to upgrade engine power, transmission, suspension, or all of the above, this guide will help you decide which modifications are worth it. We’ll start with an overview of the most popular upgrades and then go into more detail on each one. By taking the time to understand each option, you can make an informed decision about what is best for your truck.

We’ll discuss suspension first—how it can change your driving experience, why high-quality components are necessary and important factors to consider when shopping for replacements. We’ll then move onto upgrades for engine performance, including cold air intakes and exhaust systems—importance of proper installers/tuning—and software adjustments/tune-ups. Finally we’ll look at transmission upgrades and discuss gear ratios that can improve torque output and shift times.

GMC Sierras are capable machines with plenty of potential for increasing performance levels with just a few tweaks or major changes depending on the owner’s desires. This guide will provide a complete overview so that you can get up to speed quickly on the available options and make an educated decision backed by data.

Engine Upgrades

If you’re looking for bigger and quicker performance from your GMC Sierra, then engine upgrades are the first place to start. There are several options available that can significantly improve your truck’s power and acceleration, from back-end modifications to a full engine replacement. Before making any upgrades, it’s important to understand how each one will affect your vehicle’s performance, budget and longevity. Let’s explore some of the most popular engine upgrades for GMC Sierras:

Cold Air Intake – Adding a cold air intake is a cost-effective way to boost your Sierra’s acceleration and torque output without breaking the bank. These intakes replace the factory intake manifold with a high-flow unit that allows more air into the engine, enabling better combustion and more power. Cold air intakes usually install in minutes and are easy to maintain or clean when necessary.

Engine Tune Up – Regularly maintaining or tuning up your Sierra’s engine is an important part of keeping it in top condition for maximum performance. This includes replacing key parts such as spark plugs, distributor caps and rotors, as well as checking oil levels and other components of the fuel injection system. This tune-up will also allow you to identify any issues that may be reducing overall performance before they become major problems down the road.

Forced Induction – Installing a turbocharger or supercharger is one of the most popular ways to boost power in GMC Sierras. This modification gives vehicles an instant boost of 20 horsepower or more without having to do any internal modifications like installing larger pistons or connecting rods — you just need to bolt on the new turbocharger kit! Forced induction also offers great value for money compared with other upgrades: on average it costs less than $2,000 including installation labor costs!

Tuning and programming

Tuning and programming upgrades can be a great way to get the most out of your GMC Sierra. By safe-guarding and optimizing engine parameters to improve efficiency and performance, you can experience improved horsepower, torque, throttle response, fuel economy, and more.

Tuning is done via the ECU (Engine Control Unit), which is the on-board computer that controls both car’s ignition timing and fuel injection parameters. You can get this done by certified tuning professionals or do it yourself using pre-programmed chips or mobile apps.

When going through tuning optimization of your GMC Sierra, it’s important to check for any faults in the engine first and make sure various components are working properly before attempting any sort of upgrades. To get maximum results while avoiding potential problems down the line, you should always make sure that your GMC Sierra is in top condition before attempting any modifications or tunes.

Cold air intake

Cold air intakes are a popular upgrade for improving the performance of any GMC Sierra. These components replace the stock rubbing intake tube with a ducted or chilled version from which to draw cold, dense air into the engine. Colder, denser air means more oxygen per intake stroke and consequently improved horsepower and torque response.

In addition to improved throttle response, upgraded versions of this component feature superior filtration efficiency ratings providing superior engine protection when it matters most. Many brands also provide molded connectors and/or sealed ends for better compatibility with your vehicle’s particular setup as well as specialized air ducts custom designed to fit securely with your vehicle’s specific mounting points.

Cold air intakes are rapidly becoming a must-have aftermarket upgrade for GMC Sierras providing an enjoyable boost in both performance and efficiency while still being economical to purchase. If you’re looking to maximize your MPG without sacrificing the driving experience, cold air intakes have proven themselves time and time again as one of the simplest and most cost effective solutions available on the market today.

Exhaust system

For a competent exhaust system upgrade, you should look for components that will increase your GMC Sierra’s performance while also providing quality protection against rust and corrosion. The primary benefit of this type of upgrade is the improved exhaust flow, which adds more power throughout the RPM range.

There are several components you may want to consider for your exhaust system upgrades, including:

  • High-flow catalytic converters: These aftermarket parts act as your engine’s pollution control device and helps reduce emissions from your GMC Sierra. High-flow converters are designed to provide better exhaust flow than their OEM counterparts and are also more resistant to abrasions, vibrations and other environmental factors.
  • Exhaust headers: Aftermarket headers allow for more efficient scavenging of exhaust gases out of the engine cylinders, improving the engine’s overall air/fuel mixture and resulting in increased power.
  • Performance mufflers: Performance mufflers allow for improved tailpipe flow while also reducing noise levels thanks to their acoustic tuning design. For best results, you may want to consider an aftermarket cat-back system with a free-flowing muffler configuration.

When making any type of performance upgrade on your GMC Sierra’s exhaust system, be sure to look for high quality components that are designed specifically for your model year so that you can achieve the best possible performance results.

Suspension Upgrades

Upgrading the suspension of your GMC Sierra can make it better equipped to handle off-road terrain and have more performance on both the streets and the highways. Whether you’re looking for a lift kit to get more ground clearance, revalved shocks for softer landings over big jumps, or coils that add articulation along with some lift – when it comes to improving the ride of your truck, a good suspension upgrade is key.

When considering a suspension upgrade for your Sierra, you need to weigh various factors such as your workload and budget. Lift kits are available in various sizes and shapes while aftermarket shocks vary in type and quality. We’ll review several suspension upgrade options that may be beneficial if you’re looking to get more out of your truck.

Here is a list of most common suspension upgrades featuring their features and benefits:

-Lift Kits- Lift kits are designed to raise the height of your GMC Sierra while providing additional clearance so that larger diameter tires can be installed, improved approach/departure angles when dealing with off-road obstacles, as well as enhanced protection from road debris. In addition, increase ground clearance often translates into improved shock performance in rough terrain.

-Upper Control Arms – Upper control arms are an ideal way to maximize suspension upgrades for lifted trucks since they help reduce slop in control arms resulting from increased angle against factory arm locations so that greater angle range can be achieved which increases wheel travel during compression. These arms also assist with linking vehicles which improves stability on rough terrain.

-Shocks – Shocks help absorb bumps from terrain so that handling is smoother overall. Aftermarket revalved shocks have adjustable settings depending on load so you can adjust resistance levels if desired while higher end units offer rebound damping technology which reduces head toss during freeway driving especially at higher speeds thus significantly enhancing comfort level in everyday use regardless of road conditions encountered whether it be strewn rocks on fire roads or potholes experienced through rush hour traffic around town.

Lift kits

Lift kits are one of the most popular upgrades for GMC Sierra owners looking to improve their vehicles’ performance and capability. These modifications can increase your vehicle’s clearance and make it easier to traverse difficult terrain.

Lift kits typically consist of taller leaf springs, torsion bars, shocks, or spring spacers that are used to raise the body from the frame in order to achieve the desired lift height. Depending on your Sierra’s model year and configuration, you may need additional components such as traction control bars, control arms or brakes for complete installation of some lift kits.

When shopping for a lift kit for your GMC Sierra, be sure to pay attention to details such as track width and wheel base to ensure that you receive a kit that is appropriate for your particular vehicle.

Leveling kits

Leveling kits are a popular performance upgrade for GMC Sierra owners who want to raise the front of their truck and make it even with the back. This helps reduce glare, improve stability, and prevent it from bottoming out when you take turns or drive on rough roads. Depending on the size of your truck and its capabilities, there are several brands of leveling kits available. It’s important to research the best option as some may damage your suspension over time. It is also important to check if installing a leveling kit voids a manufacturer’s warranty coverage.

The most common types of leveling kits typically include:

  • Strut spacer lift kit – adds up to an extra 2’’ of height with access to bigger tires
  • Lift shackles – lifts between 1-3” for both the rear and front parts
  • Remote reservoir shocks – adjusts porportions on bumpy terrain
  • Torsion bar keys – can adjust truck height up to 3”

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X First Drive

Sway bars

Sway bars, also known as anti-roll bars, are aftermarket components designed to limit body roll around corners. An increased body roll in a vehicle can result in slower acceleration and decreased cornering performance. Installing aftermarket sway bars will help reduce body roll in your GMC Sierra, allowing it to turn tighter and handle better.

It’s important to note that too firm of a sway bar setting can cause premature tire wear and make your truck feel uncomfortable on the street. Therefore, it’s important to find a happy medium between firmness and comfort when adjusting the bars. It is usually recommended that you start with the mildest settings first and then adjust as needed for the best performance possible with the least amount of ride degradation.

Brake Upgrades

Your brakes are some of the most important components of any vehicle, and the Sierra is no exception. There are many brake upgrades available for your GMC Sierra that can help you improve your stopping power without damaging your vehicle’s performance, safety or reliability.

When it comes to brake upgrades, there are three main options: upgrading your existing brakes, installing new brakes or swapping out your existing braking system for a higher-performing version. Regardless of which option you choose, there are several factors to consider when evaluating potential upgrades. The most common considerations include cost, compatibility and expected performance gains.

Cost – Upgrading or replacing existing brakes can be expensive. If cost is a primary concern for you, then it’s wise to compare different brands and models before making a purchase decision so that you can select the best possible braking system for your budget.

Compatibility – Not all braking systems will be compatible with your GMC Sierra’s make and model year, so it’s important to select only those parts specifically designed for use on your truck. This will ensure that they provide optimal performance and won’t cause unnecessary wear or tear on other components of the vehicle.

Expected Performance Gains – Brake upgrades should provide tangible gains in stopping power as well as improved overall handling on both wet and dry roads compared to stock brakes. A quality aftermarket brake system should deliver noticeable improvements in terms of responsiveness and control when entering corners or breaking in emergency situations.

Brake pads

Brake pads are a common upgrade, especially for vehicles that are driven in hilly or wet conditions. The main benefit of upgrading to higher-quality brake pads is better performance. Brakes that provide consistent and balanced braking will be less likely to suffer from skidding or failing to slow the vehicle down enough when needed.

In addition, some aftermarket pads provide superior heat dissipation, reducing brake fade and decreasing stopping distances. When purchasing brake pads, be sure to check that they meet or exceed the factory recommendations for your GMC Sierra model year and have a good reputation for quality and reliability.

Brake rotors

Replacing your brake rotors is an important part of overall truck maintenance. Although brakes can last for many years, brake rotors can wear out prematurely if exposed to poor weather conditions, frequent stops on steep hills or other harsh road conditions. Replacing your worn out stock rotors with a superior quality rotor from a reputable brand will not only restore the vehicle’s braking ability but will also increase the life of your brake pads.

Typically, GMC Sierra owners upgrade to drilled or slotted rotors with improved heat dissipation abilities. Drilled and slotted rotors allow air and heat to escape between the center holes and slots, thereby reducing the amount of heat that can buildup on the surface of the disc and help prevent warping and improve braking performance in general.

Bigger brakes are also available as an option for better stopping power, bigger discs replace your stock brakes and provide better performance by increasing leverage which helps you get more out of each pedal press. Additionally, larger brakes are able to cope with higher temperatures than stock two-piece models which makes them ideal for trucks used in racing or off-roading applications.

Brake lines

Brake lines are one of the more straightforward and cost-effective upgrades you can make to your GMC Sierra. From regular road use to off-roading, a set of performance brake lines can help maintain consistent braking performance due to their higher pressure capacity and enhanced resistance to corrosion.

Performance brake lines on your GMC Sierra also provide a firmer pedal feel, which improves feedback and control every time you step on the brakes. Since they’re made using materials such as stainless steel and PTFE, performance brake lines generally have unmatched durability, so you don’t have to worry about them cracking and leaking under strain.

However, it should be noted that upgrading these parts does require special fitting tools and some mechanical knowledge. As such, getting help from experienced professionals is recommended when fitting these parts onto your GMC Sierra.

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Review | Expert Reviews | J.D. Power


In this guide, we have highlighted the best performance upgrades for the GMC Sierra. After considering your individual needs and goals, you can decide which of these upgrades are worth investing in for your vehicle. Upgrading your truck doesn’t need to be intimidating and with the right information, you can make the most out of this journey and help your truck reach its full potential.

From engine performance to suspension and wheels – there are plenty of options available and we hope that this article has helped narrow down some ideas for you. Good luck!


How can I get more horsepower out of my GMC Sierra?

There are several ways to increase the horsepower of your GMC Sierra, including upgrading the air intake, exhaust system, and engine tuning, adding a supercharger or turbocharger, and optimizing the fuel system.

Which GMC Sierra engine is best?

The best GMC Sierra engine depends on your specific needs and preferences. Some of the popular engine options include the 5.3-liter V8, 6.2-liter V8, and the Duramax 3.0-liter diesel engine.

Does a GMC Sierra hold its value?

Generally, yes, the GMC Sierra is known to hold its value well compared to other full-size pickup trucks. However, the actual resale value depends on various factors such as the model year, mileage, condition, and demand.

What is GFX package GMC Sierra?

The GFX package for the GMC Sierra is a special edition package that includes exterior enhancements such as body-colored bumpers, grille, and door handles, as well as 20-inch wheels and various interior upgrades.

What is the highest package on a GMC Sierra?

The Denali is the highest trim level package for the GMC Sierra, offering premium features such as the most advanced technology, upscale materials, and luxury amenities.

What is Z71 package GMC Sierra?

The Z71 package for the GMC Sierra is an off-road performance package that includes upgraded suspension, skid plates, hill descent control, and all-terrain tires, among other features.

Is GMC better than Chevrolet?

GMC and Chevrolet are both owned by General Motors and share many similarities. However, GMC is positioned as the premium brand with a higher level of luxury and features, while Chevrolet is marketed as the mainstream brand with a focus on affordability.

What does AT4 stand for?

AT4 stands for All-Terrain 4WD, which is a trim level offered by GMC that emphasizes off-road capability, with features such as skid plates, Rancho shocks, and all-terrain tires.

Is Z71 better than 4X4?

The Z71 package includes 4WD, so it is not a matter of one being better than the other. However, the Z71 package offers additional off-road capabilities and features compared to a standard 4X4 system.

Is 4WD more powerful than AWD?

4WD and AWD are designed for different purposes, with 4WD typically providing more power and traction for off-road or rugged terrain, while AWD is designed for better handling and performance on paved roads and slippery conditions.

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