Let’s talk LS swaps

AssBurns

will wheel for beer
Staff member
Joined
Oct 1, 2018
Messages
7,506
Age
29
Location
Yucaipa, CA
#1
Let talk about LS swaps. I barely know anything about swapping motors, but this is something that I’d really like to learn more about so that I can learn and plan for the future as I upgrade the drivetrain to handle more power and torque.

Let’s start with what I already know based on very little research.
Motor options:
Sounds like LM7 or LQ4 are the two best options for cost, ease of finding, and parts availability. The LM7 is the Vortec 5.3L V8, whereas the LQ4 is the Vortec 6.0L V8. I know there are better performing motors out there like the LQ9, but finding one isn’t as easy or cheap. From what I read the ONLY difference between the LQ4 and the LQ9 is the pistons are dished on the LQ4, whereas the pistons are flat on the LQ9 leading to higher compression ratios. That’s it! It’s a rare motor based on what I read and no point searching for one and paying the premium for something that can be done on my own down the line with upgraded pistons on an LQ4. The LQ4 also has stronger rods, crank and free-floating wrist pins that can handle more abuse and HP upgrades down the line than the LM7. Might be more benefits but that’s all I know of.

Transmission options:
This is something I know even less about. There are three main options 4L60E, 4L65E, or 4L80E. From my understanding (which I may be wrong), the 4L60E and 4L65E are only found on 1500 series trucks and SUV’s, whereas the 4L80E was found on the heavier duty models such as the 2500, 2500 HD, 3500’s, Vans and some Denali’s. Don’t quote me on that, but I think that’s what I remember hearing. The differences between the 4L60E and the 4L65E are not very significant (again based on what I’ve heard. Feel free to prove me wrong on any of this). The 4L65E was a newer and upgraded version of the 4L60E that is not able to stand up to any real abuse. Now the 4L80E is the one that everyone wants it sounds like. This one is much more capable of withstanding high HP and torque. (~600-700hp before it needs upgrading?) Pretty much everything I’ve heard says to just do it right and get the 4L80E.
The wiring harness and ECM are not directly interchangeable between the two transmissions but there are kits available to swap them out.

Based on what I’ve read, it’s best to just find a LQ4 that is already mated to a 4L80E. Gets you the most bang for your buck.

Now here is the part I have zero clue about:
Actually swapping the engines/trans and picking model years to look for.
Which years are best to get for my application?
Some are drive-by wire and others use throttle cables? What’s best and why?
Wiring harnesses? Where and what to get?
Different features such as alternator, power steering pump locations?
Different oil pans to look for? Or just do dry sump?
Intake and exhaust manifolds?

Making it fit, and fab work shouldn’t be too hard for me. I can handle all that. It’s the tech info I want to know about.

So who’s done an LS swap, or knows information about LS swaps they would like to share as much information as they can. I’d like to do my homework well ahead of time, so when I’m ready I know exactly what needs to be done.

Let’s not get too into performance upgrades here. Save that for another thread. This is for engine, transmission information and LS swap information mostly.


1557176282416.png
 
Joined
Oct 15, 2018
Messages
49
Age
28
#2
I like where this is going!

Keep it simple and go with gen 3 stuff in my opinion, so roughly 1996-2007. Somewhat weaker than gen 4 as in rods and pistols, but also older so around here starting to make it into pull and save type junkyards. 5.3 is a great middle of the road option, that with a good cam and decent tune will be able to power a small Toyota like ours really easy, I'd like a 4.8 just because most people dont want them and they supposedly can handle the higher rpm better, so I'm sold. There are an infinite amount of oil pan options out there for swapping an ls into anything, so it would just be a matter of figuring out what would work the best.

Don't even bother looking at the 4l60... They are notoriously weak and have problems. Took me 3 weeks to take out second gear in my 03 gmc... I would just plan on doing the 4l80, which can still have problems but way less than the 60. From what i have read the 4l80 is longer than the 4l60 though too so that's something to keep in mind when decided what transfer case options to go with
 
Joined
May 6, 2019
Messages
5
Age
28
#4
I added my notes in red.

Let’s start with what I already know based on very little research.
Motor options:
Sounds like LM7 or LQ4 are the two best options for cost, ease of finding, and parts availability. The LM7 is the Vortec 5.3L V8, whereas the LQ4 is the Vortec 6.0L V8. I know there are better performing motors out there like the LQ9, but finding one isn’t as easy or cheap. From what I read the ONLY difference between the LQ4 and the LQ9 is the pistons are dished on the LQ4, whereas the pistons are flat on the LQ9 leading to higher compression ratios. That’s it! It’s a rare motor based on what I read and no point searching for one and paying the premium for something that can be done on my own down the line with upgraded pistons on an LQ4. The LQ4 also has stronger rods, crank and free-floating wrist pins that can handle more abuse and HP upgrades down the line than the LM7. The LQ4 used the same non-floating rods and crank as the 5.3 until late 2004 or 2005 when it switched to gen 4 style floating pistons. All of the LQ9 6.0's however used floating pistons as far as I know. Might be more benefits but that’s all I know of. Gen 3 6.0L engines also used different heads with a #"317" casting that I believe are the same as the LS6 casting.

Transmission options:
This is something I know even less about. There are three main options 4L60E, 4L65E, or 4L80E. From my understanding (which I may be wrong), the 4L60E and 4L65E are only found on 1500 series trucks and SUV’s, whereas the 4L80E was found on the heavier duty models such as the 2500, 2500 HD, 3500’s, Vans and some Denali’s. Don’t quote me on that, but I think that’s what I remember hearing. The differences between the 4L60E and the 4L65E are not very significant (again based on what I’ve heard. Feel free to prove me wrong on any of this). The 4L65E was a newer and upgraded version of the 4L60E that is not able to stand up to any real abuse. Now the 4L80E is the one that everyone wants it sounds like. This one is much more capable of withstanding high HP and torque. (~600-700hp before it needs upgrading?) Pretty much everything I’ve heard says to just do it right and get the 4L80E.
The wiring harness and ECM are not directly interchangeable between the two transmissions but there are kits available to swap them out.

Based on what I’ve read, it’s best to just find a LQ4 that is already mated to a 4L80E. Gets you the most bang for your buck.
The 4L80e is definitely the best choice out of the three you mentioned. It is much stronger. It has a 32 spline rear output vs the 27 spline output on the 4l60e so that will affect transfercase choices. Swapping from a 4L60e to a 4L80e can be done by changing a couple wires, swapping a couple pins in the trans plug, and changing the tune in the ECM. Or it can be done by adding a couple external relays instead of changing the ECM tune. The 4L80e was introduced in 1991 and as far as I know you can use any of them with an LS, so that helps make finding one a little easier.

Newer transmissions that are getting more popular include the 6L80e/6L90e 6 speed auto with the low first gear and tap shift options. The 4wd 6L80e came as an option in 2007+ GM 1500 pickups and SUV's and has a 32 spline output. The 4wd 6L90e came in the 2007+ 2500 pickups behind the 6.0L and has large 29 spline output that is the same as the Allison transmission.

Now here is the part I have zero clue about:
Actually swapping the engines/trans and picking model years to look for.
Which years are best to get for my application?
Some are drive-by wire and others use throttle cables? What’s best and why?
This depends on what you want. The drive by wire has more wires but should allow cruise control fairly easily. Drive by cable has less wiring but you have to figure out a throttle cable and requires the external cruise control actuator for cruise to work.
Wiring harnesses? Where and what to get?
You can thin out the OEM harness using diagrams from LT1swap.com or buy an aftermarket harness already done.
Different features such as alternator, power steering pump locations?
There are different alternator options for the common truck accessories including 105 amp and 145 amp depending on applications. They bolt on the same, but require different belts I think. The alternators for the car accessories are different.
I believe the 2500 6.0L power steering pumps put out the most flow because are meant to work with hydroboost brakes.

Different oil pans to look for? Or just do dry sump?
The standard truck oil pan is meant to clear a driver's side diff. The Colorado 5.3 pan in meant to clear a passenger side diff. Several of the car pans are lower profile but I don't have experience with them.
Intake and exhaust manifolds?
Colorado 5.3 exhaust manifolds tuck in closer to the engine which may help for frame clearance. I won't talk about headers because I hate them.
The low profile car intakes can be swapped on but I think you have to cut the alternator bracket and relocate the idle pulley, but they make cheap brackets to do that.


Making it fit, and fab work shouldn’t be too hard for me. I can handle all that. It’s the tech info I want to know about.

So who’s done an LS swap, or knows information about LS swaps they would like to share as much information as they can. I’d like to do my homework well ahead of time, so when I’m ready I know exactly what needs to be done.

Let’s not get too into performance upgrades here. Save that for another thread. This is for engine, transmission information and LS swap information mostly.
 

AssBurns

will wheel for beer
Staff member
Joined
Oct 1, 2018
Messages
7,506
Age
29
Location
Yucaipa, CA
#5
Wow, thanks for all that info @Crawlorado and @yota864x4. Definitely helps put things into perspective. So a little background on what I'd really like to do at some point (This is goals that I hope to become reality after I get my own house and have a permanent garage to leave projects going for a longer period of time)
What I'm thinking I'll try to do is pickup a wrecked 2500 or 3500 Silverado and take the entire powertrain and put it in the 4runner. That will give me the LQ4 and 4L80E trans, along with the 9.25" AAM 1 ton front diff, and maybe use the 14b rear axle if I use large enough tires with a shave kit. I can part out what I don't use to help fund the project. So now that I have the engine and trans picked out, I would just need to determine the wire harness, and all the misc BS needed to get it put together and running. I should just be able to use the stock oil pan if I'm using the diff that came under it. Might need some modifications to clear though.
With the right wiring harness, is it fairly simple to just plug n play besides making the whole system fit? Obviously there would be things like exhaust work, new fuel lines, intake clearance, throttle (cable or dbw), and driveshafts to worry about, but as for keeping the engine running properly it should be fairly simple stuff with the right harness?

Will the 5.3l exhaust manifolds fit on the 6.0?
 
Joined
May 6, 2019
Messages
5
Age
28
#6
The wiring can be simple for the LS to run with a standalone harness... The tricky thing can be getting the little stuff to work. Like factory gauges, cruise control, air conditioning. That all involves mating the LS harness with the Toyota harness and possibly keeping the Toyota computer if it is necessary for AC control or gauges. I'm not familiar with the 3rd gen 4runner computer controls.

yes the 5.3L exhaust manifold fit the 6.0. You will find that the vast majority of parts will bolt on to most LS based engines.
 
Joined
May 6, 2019
Messages
5
Age
28
#7
also, the 9.25 AAM may be a tight sqeeze in your 4runner frame and probably be way to wide for your a-arm geometry unless you narrow the diff... but then it runs into the oil pan. It is a massive differential. I have the custom dana 44 diff in my Colorado and it was still tough to get it to fit and be tucked up high. I am very seriously looking the F-150 front 8.8 IFS diffs. I think they would be a good midsize diff. They are very common and have tons of locker and gearing options. They are a 31 spline carrier. @yota864x4 and another one of our friends are looking at fitting the 8" toyota IFS diffs in their tacomas also.
 

AssBurns

will wheel for beer
Staff member
Joined
Oct 1, 2018
Messages
7,506
Age
29
Location
Yucaipa, CA
#8
The wiring can be simple for the LS to run with a standalone harness... The tricky thing can be getting the little stuff to work. Like factory gauges, cruise control, air conditioning. That all involves mating the LS harness with the Toyota harness and possibly keeping the Toyota computer if it is necessary for AC control or gauges. I'm not familiar with the 3rd gen 4runner computer controls.

yes the 5.3L exhaust manifold fit the 6.0. You will find that the vast majority of parts will bolt on to most LS based engines.
Cool, so I can find the Colorado exhaust manifold to help with clearances if needed. Awesome to know most parts are interchangeable with most LS engines. Good to know when searching for parts.

also, the 9.25 AAM may be a tight squeeze in your 4runner frame and probably be way to wide for your a-arm geometry unless you narrow the diff... but then it runs into the oil pan. It is a massive differential. I have the custom Dana 44 diff in my Colorado and it was still tough to get it to fit and be tucked up high. I am very seriously looking the F-150 front 8.8 IFS diffs. I think they would be a good midsize diff. They are very common and have tons of locker and gearing options. They are a 31 spline carrier. @yota864x4 and another one of our friends are looking at fitting the 8" Toyota IFS diffs in their Tacomas also.
The good thing about the 9.25" is it is a high pinion so it should be able to sit fairly low in the frame rails like the stock diff. Worst case is I lose a little ground clearance, but I think I can push the engine up enough and clearance the oil pan enough to make it fit. And I would narrow the ADD tube to match the stock 7.5" diff and use either modified stock Silverado CV's or have RCV build custom ones. to fit my needs. I could even use the stock Silverado spindles modified to work with custom long travel suspension. There are a ton of little details to figure out, but those are all things that I am going to look into as I go.
 
Joined
Oct 15, 2018
Messages
49
Age
28
#9
Wow, thanks for all that info @Crawlorado and @yota864x4. Definitely helps put things into perspective. So a little background on what I'd really like to do at some point (This is goals that I hope to become reality after I get my own house and have a permanent garage to leave projects going for a longer period of time)
What I'm thinking I'll try to do is pickup a wrecked 2500 or 3500 Silverado and take the entire powertrain and put it in the 4runner. That will give me the LQ4 and 4L80E trans, along with the 9.25" AAM 1 ton front diff, and maybe use the 14b rear axle if I use large enough tires with a shave kit. I can part out what I don't use to help fund the project. So now that I have the engine and trans picked out, I would just need to determine the wire harness, and all the misc BS needed to get it put together and running. I should just be able to use the stock oil pan if I'm using the diff that came under it. Might need some modifications to clear though.
With the right wiring harness, is it fairly simple to just plug n play besides making the whole system fit? Obviously there would be things like exhaust work, new fuel lines, intake clearance, throttle (cable or dbw), and driveshafts to worry about, but as for keeping the engine running properly it should be fairly simple stuff with the right harness?

Will the 5.3l exhaust manifolds fit on the 6.0?
maybe im just weird but it seems silly to use the 14 bolt. they are cheap and strong, but they are just so big, bulky, and heavy. you could get just as much strength, or fairly strong anyways, out of a ford 9 inch and it seems the aftermarket options for one are just about endless. just my .02 cents on that part
 

AssBurns

will wheel for beer
Staff member
Joined
Oct 1, 2018
Messages
7,506
Age
29
Location
Yucaipa, CA
#10
maybe im just weird but it seems silly to use the 14 bolt. they are cheap and strong, but they are just so big, bulky, and heavy. you could get just as much strength, or fairly strong anyways, out of a ford 9 inch and it seems the aftermarket options for one are just about endless. just my .02 cents on that part
Yeah I'd 100% rather have a 9", but this whole project will get super expensive super quickly, so for cost savings, it could be worthwhile to just toss a luchbox locker in the 14b and run it until I can build a full float 9" with a fabricated housing. Would probably end up to be around $4k just for a damn axle. I doubt I would have the funds for that after I spend money on an LS swap, long travel, custom CV axles, ect. I'd also like to have a 4 speed Atlas, but I might just try to use the stock chevy t-case to start.
 
Joined
Oct 15, 2018
Messages
4
Age
33
#11
I'm in the same boat here, my 5VZ just took a dump on me and now I'm looking locally at an LM7 ($750) and 4L80E ($450). The wiring seems like it would be fairly simple to splice together, but I'm concerned with T case and driveshaft. Would using LM7/4L80E allow use of the factory transfer case (02 w the push button/Center diff lock)? And would I need to get a custom driveshaft? I'm trying to swap the motor, not messing with diffs at all.

Caveat, there's a free 1UZ at my buddy's shop that's an option as well
 
Last edited:

AssBurns

will wheel for beer
Staff member
Joined
Oct 1, 2018
Messages
7,506
Age
29
Location
Yucaipa, CA
#12
I'm in the same boat here, my 5VZ just took a dump on me and now I'm looking locally at an LM7 ($750) and 4L80E ($450). The wiring seems like it would be fairly simple to splice together, but I'm concerned with T case and driveshaft. Would using LM7/4L80E allow use of the factory transfer case (02 w the push button/Center diff lock)? And would I need to get a custom driveshaft? I'm trying to swap the motor, not messing with diffs at all.

Caveat, there's a free 1UZ at my buddy's shop that's an option as well
Might want to start with google to see if there are any adapters that fit the chain drive case to the 4l80e. Worst case your can use a Chevy or hummer t-case since they are LH drop. And you’ll most likely need to either modify or make custom driveshafts. Probably the least difficult part of the project.

Share more info if you find any important info l.
 

AssBurns

will wheel for beer
Staff member
Joined
Oct 1, 2018
Messages
7,506
Age
29
Location
Yucaipa, CA
#18
Truck engines - Iron Block
Car engines and TBSS - Aluminum block
Good to know.
Yeah, the biggest obstacle would be figuring out how to keep the 4WD. His Tacoma is just 2WD.
Yeah I can make it work. Just gotta cut enough stuff out of the way, right? I could even use a GM t-case if I wanted.
Sell you one of our LS3 motors from our 6100 truck. We only get 3-4 races out of each motor. Per class 6100 rules, the motor has to be sealed and cannot be rebuilt. New motors must be bought direct from General Motors and dropped shipped to Turn Key Engine Supply.

View attachment 8197

View attachment 8194 View attachment 8195
That’s such a crazy rule to me. I get it makes competition tighter but still blows!

I wish I could afford an LS3! That’s just more engine than I really will ever need in a toy like this. How much would something like that sell for?
 

weekendclimber

I can't spell.
Joined
Dec 2, 2018
Messages
22
Location
Seattle
#19
Top Bottom