Finally swapped a 7.4 454 for my 5.7 350 in my 97 Chevy 3500 4x4 crew cab

Discussion in 'The "Other" Bench' started by real82it, Dec 29, 2016.

  1. real82it

    real82it Silver Level contributor

    Finished the swap and started the truck today! Yeeee Haw! No codes, only one small fuel leak and a exhaust leak, both easily fixed this weekend.

    My 1997 truck had a 204,000 mile 5.7. It is a LWB 3500 4x4 crew cab. Always woefully underpowered with the 5.7. I even put a whipple supercharger on it for a few years. Truck caught on fire pulling a trailer back from Reno Hot August anights this summer. I didn't like the fact the motor was always in boost and still struggled pulling the trailer. I decided to sell the supercharger and pick up a low mile 7.4 L29 motor.

    In case anyone is interested in doing this swap, here is some info on it.

    Here is what I started with:

    Here is the motor cleaned up with new gaskets, injectors, etc

    Almost ready to install.


    This is what a stock 5.7 engine bay looks like (not mine, stock photo)

    7.4 Installed in truck:


    The swap was not too bad.

    I used my original 5.7 computer and harness because it was in better shape than the donee 7.4 harness. I had planned to use the 7.4 computer, but it was from a 2000. The 97 computer has an extra connection on the computer (5 plugs vs 4 on the 2000). Rather than modify to use the 2000 computer I decided to just use the 97. It fired right up, but I do plan on having the 97 5.7 computer reprogrammed to optimize the tune for the 7.4. (97 computer on top)


    I had to lengthen the egr/emissions, air conditioner, temp sensor, and throttle body wire length so the connectors would reach their new locations.

    I cut the fuel injection connector off the 7.4 harness and wired it into the 5.7 harness. Very easy to do. Just matched up the wire colors. Used 2 of the existing common 12v pink wires for the new connection and terminated all the others.

    The 5.7 only has one knock sensor, the 7.4 has 2. I had to cut the second knock sensor off of the old 7.4 harness and tap into the single wire of the 5.7 sensor wire. It would probably be fine if you just continued to run the one if keeping the 5.7 harness in place.

    I used the larger alternator from the 7.4. It has a different plug than the smaller 5.7 alt that was on there, so I cut the 5.7 one off and installed the correct one from the 7.4 harness.

    Motor Mounts:
    Motor mounts, upper and lower, swapped over and bolted up without modification.

    The exhaust took a little work. The 5.7 had 2 1/4 downpipe flanges that then expand into 3 inch pipes?? The 7.4 has 3 inch flanges at the exhaust header flange. I cut off both down pipes, cut off the reducers on the pipes, and then bought and welded in some 3 inch flanges/reducers on the pipes.


    Cooling System and AC:
    I had to modify the heater core hose to connect to the radiator rather than the water pump. I used a 90 degree section of the old hardpipe from the 5.7 and added a new short section of hose.


    The fan and fan shroud were weird. I pulled them from a 1999 3500 7.4 truck. When I installed on my 97, the fan hit the lower shroud....and not by just a little. I had to reduce the blade length by 1/2 inch to clear. (So fan diameter was reduced 1 total inch, from 20 inches to 19). I will see how the modified fan performs. I can't figure out why the fan/shroud did not fit in my truck, unless there was some type of change to the radiator support from 97 to 99?? Or, the 454 factory lower engine mounts are actually different compared to a 5.7 truck....the new motor in my truck sits about 1.5 inches lower than the doner 7.4 truck I compared it to...hence the fan hits the lower shroud. Motor mounts were in good condition, so not sagging...this is a head scratcher, but I got it all to work.

    The 7.4 has a taller radiator than the 5.7. (18 vs 20 inches). The radiator hold downs are unique to the 7.4. (7.4 laid on top for reference). I think the 5.7 radiator will work, and that is what is pictured below (5.7 radiator with 7.4 fan shroud) but keep this in mind if doing a complete swap....grab the 7.4 radiator and hold downs if you want the taller radiator. My 5.7 radiator is actually a larger capacity 3 inch core vs the 2.25 on the 7.4 doner. I am sticking with my original 5.7 radiator.


    The upper radiator hose from the 7.4 fits under the 5.7 AC manifold hose assembly. You can clear the oil filler neck by bending the line some. If doing this swap, you may want to grab the 7.4 AC hose manifold set, it would make it easier to install that way. Lower radiator hose swaps over 5.7 to 7.4.


    Fuel lines:
    You will need to get a set of 7.4 fuel lines. You may be able to bend the 5.7 lines to fit, but it is a pain to work in that area. Rock Auto sells a nice set of stainless lines for about $90.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016
  2. Buicksky

    Buicksky Silver Level contributor

    Thanks for sharing looking to do something like this with that vintage of the right truck. Not very experienced with any computerized engine versions. Surprised to hear the computer worked .
  3. Golden Oldie 65

    Golden Oldie 65 Well-Known Member

    Nice swap :TU: And in defense of the 5.7, 204,000 miles in a 1 ton truck(something that should probably never been offered by GM) pulling a trailer is a pretty good testimonial for it's durability. My `96 with a 5.7 had 263,000 on it when I sold it and still had no signs of weakening, and although it was a 1500 4x4 it pulled a trailer many, many times to Florida and back.
  4. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man Well-Known Member

    Ive been thinking of doing this swap too. Did you notice a big difference in power?
  5. real82it

    real82it Silver Level contributor

    I don't know yet....but I expect yes. I will get it on the road this weekend after I fix a small fuel leak. The L29 7.4 is known for torque. 410 ft/lbs at 3200 rpm vs 330 ft pounds for the 5.7. Guys out there with dyno proven improvement of 40+ ft pounds with a simple tune on the 7.4. It should pull very nicely. As far as engine change/swaps go, it was pretty easy.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016
  6. real82it

    real82it Silver Level contributor

    Fuel leak turned out to be a leaky #3 injector. Sort of a pain to fix with the injectors being under the upper manifold, but got it fixed today. (Replaced upper o ring). Glad it wasn't the fuel pressure regulator....that would have been worse to fix...hard to access.

    Took the truck for a 20 mile test drive today. Throughly pleased with the results. Power is noticeable better. Engine runs very smooth and quiet. Oil pressure is good: 25lbs at 700rpm idle, 65 lbs going down the road. Dropping down into passing gear at 70 mph produces nice acceleration without the engine laboring too much (the 5.7 would fall over flat trying to doing this).

    I will be interested in gas mileage and will post an update after my first tank. The 5.7 only averaged 9mpg in town, 12 on the highway. My guess is that the 7.4 will be close to that.

    I will get the new tune on the PCM in January and post any info on power improvements.
  7. real82it

    real82it Silver Level contributor

    Just did the first check on gas mileage- 11 mpg in town! I was guessing it would improve over the 5.7. Motor is not having to work nearly as hard around town. Good results so far. Not sure when I will have a chance to check highway mpg, I don't get it on the freeway much.
  8. Golden Oldie 65

    Golden Oldie 65 Well-Known Member

    I had an `88 Suburban years ago, 3/4 ton, 2wd, throttle body 454, TH400, 3.42 and 11mpg was what it got. Didn't seem to matter much if it was city or highway.
  9. 71skylark3504v

    71skylark3504v Goin' Fast In Luxury!

    Nice write up! I have a 1998 K2500 with the 454 and it is fun to drive. At 220k miles I've had a lot of little problems but it has never left me stranded.
  10. nekkidhillbilly

    nekkidhillbilly post whore

    yeah but the 80e will make it go up on the highway. 14 is what most pull highway.

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