One of the most common modifications that us 4X4 Enthusiasts make to our vehicles is the upgrading of suspension componentry. It is also one of the upgrades that makes the biggest impact towards making our chosen fourby fit for purpose. The impacts range from improved clearance to allow for a better approach, ramp-over and departure angle; to improved articulation for navigating more extreme obstacles; to improving load carrying and towing capacity by way of GVM upgrades.
One thing’s for sure, the right suspension setup requires a lot of thought. Like most upgrades, modifications, or accessories, you do need to start with the end in mind. What are you trying to achieve with the change and how do you use your rig? Are you looking to improve clearance for general off-roading? Do you tow a large trailer and would better like to control the way the vehicle tows and rides when loaded? These questions are important and should be considered in the process.
I will say, the process of determining what to do with the Raptor was very time consuming; not because there’s a lack of product or options, but because the requirement set was specific. I’ve said it before, the Ford Ranger Raptor is one of the sweetest off-road vehicle setups you can buy off the showroom floor. What I wanted to ensure was that anything we did wasn’t just for the sake of it. Any additions to this vehicle need to maintain the superb characteristics it had from the factory and improve it.
We’ve been told that the suspension setup on the Ranger Raptor from factory is worth nearly $3,000 per corner. That means you’d need to spend big to really get a lift right without compromising it!
Suspension is a big part of what went into the Raptor’s development. Remote reservoir Fox Racing shocks in each corner are the equivalent of suspension royalty for most, so the sorts of question rolling around were:
- Do we lift?
- Do we keep the shocks?
- What wheels and tyres are we going to run and does that impact our decision? (more on this later).
We did do a fair bit of research and spoke to different mates in the industry who all pointed us to Tough Dog. The initial thought was 35’s and an inch of lift to keep everything legal in NSW (yes, that would’ve been legal), but were recommended against that by Dave from Tough Dog due to where that sort of lift would put us in the optimal shock operating range, or “ride zone” of the shock (see the video for a great demonstration of what this means!). Not satisfied with doing what we were told to 😊 I did do a test fit of the 35’s (real 35’s – not 315’s) and quickly found it would’ve rendered the vehicle undriveable without “decent alterations of the grinder persuasion” and a significant lift. Ultimately we decided on a 295/70R17 Open Country R/T from Toyo Tires, a decision we’ll talk about in detail during an article on Ranger Raptor tyre fitment.
After spending time with the team at Tough Dog, it was clear the best option as to go with a levelling spring front and rear. This promised to bring us back to what the factory ride height was; an important consideration given that we had added a fair bit of weigh to the ends of the vehicle in the form our Rhino 4X4 barwork and Bushranger winch.
Spending the morning at Tough Dog’s very impressive facility in Marsden Park it was clear the guys really had a handle on things. German steel, bar peeled on the front to create a progressive spring rate, double reduction in the rear to match the factory setup and allow clearance for the shock bodies.
The end result was impressive. It returned the vehicle to near stock height on the front, with the rear slightly higher, creating a fair bit of rake. Many Raptor owners put in more lift in the front to remove that rake, but in this case function beat form. The intent is to add drawers to the tray down the track and when towing the Track Tvan down to Ben Boyd National park a few weeks back, the entire setup was completely level even with a load in the tray; a massive improvement over the factory springs with the current mods and accessories. And the ride? Well what the guys promised was 100% true.
With the vehicle loaded and drooping on the stock springs it was truly evident that the ride was much harsher with the shock moving into its firmer valving much sooner. Getting that piston in its optimal operating range by swapping to their springs returned the smooth and controlled damping characteristics that were missing both on and off road. In addition, the extra clearance was well appreciated on a trip out to some rutty and rocky trails we also experienced on a recent shoot with Michael Ellem from Offroad Images.
I’d say we’ve hit the mark! A big thanks to David and Simon from Tough Dog…
Given how specific and special the suspension setup on the Ford Ranger Raptor is, it is very sensitive to weight changes. If you do decide to consider a levelling kit, it is critical that you have all planned modifications complete prior to levelling the vehicle out – if you don’t, you may find that any changes to weight made after the levelling kit is installed may push the shocks to operate outside the optimal zone and give you a less than ideal result. If you have questions, please speak to your suspension installer, or feel free to contact Tough Dog