I’m putting the gold at the top, as if I knew this, it would have saved me thousands and it could save people’s lives. Go to a 4WD suspension specialist. In my opinion the market leaders in off-road suspension are Koni and Bilstein, not those that you find stocked at your general 4WD store. People at the suspension shop will set the new suspension up to suit your exact car, accessories and your weight distribution.
Suspension, it is the only thing that keeps your wheels on the road and your car upright. The better your suspension is working, the safer you are.
I personally do not think you can beat genuine suspension set-ups on stock cars that are driven mostly on the blacktop. Car companies don’t sink all that time and research specifically for your car and not get a good job done. The issue is… who’s car is the same as the day they drove it off the show room floor. Once you start changing tyres, adding additional weight, then its time to look at throwing away your old suspension and make a big investment.
Other than keeping your wheels on the ground and your car upright, your shocks protect every dollar you have ever spent on your car. It reduces the shakes over corrugations and absorbs those big hits, so if you want to avoid needless damage on your next trip, make sure your suspension is ready for what you are going to throw at it!
Suspension determines how much travel your car has. Travel is how far each wheel can move up and down individually.
Clearance is a major one for people heading off-road. It’s a real balancing act as the higher your car, the better approach and departure angles you have (see picture), meaning you are less likely to do damage on the track. However the higher you go, the higher your centre of gravity and in my opinion, the worse the ride gets. Whilst a lift kit will give you more clearance at the bull bar and rear bar it does not move your diffs or axles further away from the ground the only way this can be done is by larger wheels and or tyres. For more information on this see my tyre guide. Make sure you have adequate clearance for the trip you’re about to take on.
Your suspension may feel good around town, however it will never be put under the pressure around town that it will get put under on the track. For any doubters here is why (in its most basic explanation), suspension stops you’re springs from bouncing uncontrollably, thus keeping your wheels in contact with the ground as much as possible. As the wheel moves up it forces hydraulic oil through tiny holes from one chamber to another, as the wheel moves back down the process repeats. The more this happens the more the oil heats up, the more the oil heats up the thinner it gets, thus allowing your shocks to bounce more and more. This is known as shock fade.
So do you need to upgrade your suspension? If you can feel something not quite right about your ride when you drive around town the answer is YES and you should have done it yesterday. If you’re not quite sure, you need to take it to someone you know and trust to give you an unbiased opinion. This can be hard, as the people who know the most generally are looking to sell you something.
Once you have decided it’s time to upgrade, where do you start? I learnt some lessons the hard way! I went to the 4WD shops and bought their packages. The problem is the people I bought from knew as much about roof top tents and spotlights as they did about suspension. They sold me springs that were too light and suspension that was never going to cut it. After having 2 sets of Old Man Emu shocks replaced, I had been through enough. My car was nicknamed “Dolphin”, it bounced like a dolphin jumping out of the water all the way to the blacktop! I got some great advice off my uncle; he said if you have a heart operation do you go to an optometrist? He then gave me the number of a guy who only sells suspension.
I rang Deano and told him about my car and my issues, he asked me what I wanted, I said I wanted to drive at 100km/hr for 8 hours on corrugated roads and have my car sit firm the whole time. Deano told me that this was going to cost money and I was more then happy to pay the premium. He gave me two options; to achieve what I described I needed a sports set up, the issue was it is not as durable. In my case durability comes first given where I live and drive. Deano then suggested the 89 series Koni Shock Absorbers (the same shocks as Connie Sue recommends). If it’s good enough for Connie, it’s good enough for me. Deano then made me send a list of all my accessories, their location and their approximate weight. he wanted to know what I tow behind the car and every tiny detail. Deano tuned the shocks to my car and conditions and selected the appropriate set of springs. He packaged them up and sent them out to Yulara Autos to fit. My verdict…. perfect! The car has not felt this good since it was new. It still does not handle or feel like it did that first day, however it never will. I do experience shock fade on hot days when the car is loaded, however if I get out do a wee and stretch the legs are good to go again.
No one can give you a rule of thumb for the best shocks. It’s all about your car, its modifications and where you drive. Please next time you want to upgrade call someone like Deano, it may save your life.
Article from Your Trip Right