Jeff Bathke (Jeff the Marmot)
Toyota Tech: Toyota SUV Suspension Lift Collaboration
|4x4Wire Toyota Tech||Short Cuts|
|2000 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Highlander, 4WD, Supercharged 3.4 Liter, 6 Cylinder, Automatic|
Rockstomper front sway bar disconnects
Front SMC Brake Lines
Heavy Duty Old Man Emu Springs and Shocks
Rear Braided Stainless Brake Line
|Fabtech/Fox adjustable coil-over-shocks. (Front only)|
I originally wanted an adjustable lift so I could change the amount of lift in front while gradually adding more modifications, such as an aftermarket front bumper and winch. In July, 2000, I selected the Fabtech/Fox adjustable coil-over-shocks for the front. At the time I believed it was the highest quality coil-overs on the market for the 4Runner. I quickly learned that Fabtech did little or no testing of their coilovers prior to putting it on the market. It had at least a few problems, which can mostly be resolved if you already own these, but I have a hard time recommending them new:
1). The springs sagged a total of 2 inches over the course of 10 months. I had to crank them up a few times to maintain my simple 2 inch lift.
2). The Fox shocks were initially valved way too soft. I talked directly to Fox about this and found them to be extremely helpful. ( Their website is www.foxracingshox.com ) Fox has a 60-day free revalving period on their shocks. Fox revalved them 30% stiffer. This was a very good improvement, although still slightly too soft. In January, 2002, I learned that the shock valving now already comes with the stiffer (or, nearly correct) valving if you would purchase this setup new.
3). The Fabtech springs were slightly too soft, which allowed the tires to fully compress in the wheel wells a bit sooner than expected while off-roading in a rock garden. This was especially noticeable when using 33" tires (285/75R16). I've heard that the springs are in the range of 500-550 pounds per inch, but that's unconfirmed. Capability for full compression is a great thing, but it was too soft. I later learned that they use a very standard 14" spring size, so common replacement springs fit it, such as Sway-A-Way or Eibach springs.
4). The original lower Fabtech bushings for the shock mount were two-piece rubber that deteriorated fairly rapidly. After 10 months, the original bushings were totally deformed to one side of the mount. (See picture). I contacted Fabtech about a replacement bushing. They said it's a wear item and isn't their problem so I should contact the retailer where I purchased the coilovers. So I contacted Northwest Off-road where I bought them, but they said it's the problem of the manufacturer (Fabtech) and it's not their problem. I next contacted Fox and they were very helpful in pointing me to Off-Road Warehouse in San Diego that carries a replacement one-piece polyurethane bushing. Problem fixed, thanks to Fox and ORW.
5). There is a rubber spacer/bumpstop on the top of the Fox shock. It might be for the purpose of centering the coil spring, although no other coil-over setup uses that. It might be a compression bumpstop. All that I know about it is it moans a lot against the spring. I had to re-grease this rubber spacer thing at least once a month to avoid hearing an annoying frog-in-a-swamp moaning sound during articulation. I discussed this with Fox and they said whatever it is, it's not on there when it leaves the Fox factory for the Fabtech factory. I intended to take a power sander to the outside of that thing to make it a smaller diameter, but never got around to it.
I ultimately replaced the Fabtech/Fox coil-overs with the superior design and less expensive Sway-A-Way coilovers. The only thing I miss is Fabtech's spring base with threaded double rings and 8 notches. It was slightly easier to crank them up than the Sway-A-Way's that replaced them.
|Sway-A-Way Racerunner adjustable coil-over-shocks (front only)|
I'm very happy with the Sway-A-Way coilovers in front. They are an excellent design and are ideal for people that want to fine-tune their front lift height, especially if heavier modifications are to be added later, such as a bumper or winch. ; A few years ago, Fabtech contracted Sway-A-Way to provide the shocks for the Fabtech/Sway-A-Way coilovers. Problems with bushings and other things caused disagreements between the companies. The two companies ended up going their own directions. Sway-A-Way decided to make their own coil-over setup for Tacomas and 3rd generation 4Runners. In my opinion, Sway-A-Way fixed all the problems of the Fabtech coil-over design. Sway-A-Way thoroughly tested them and even delayed their initial market date to refine them. The Sway-A-Way's are also less expensive than the Fabtechs or the Downey coilovers. Both on-road and off-road the Sway-A-Way's perform great. It is definitely an improvement over the feel of the stock suspension. The Sway-A-Way's are stiffer than stock, but appropriate. The coils are standard 14" length, 650 pound per inch springs. It can't quite reach full compression while stopped at full articulation in a rock garden. I need a little momentum to fully compress them. In my opinion, around 600 ppi springs are ideal, but it's a minor issue. If you plan on using 285/75R16 tires off-road, the stiffer springs can be a good thing, since you'll get less rubbing, although you'll loose a very small amount of upward travel due to the springs. It's well suited to the extra weight of a winch and aftermarket bumper, but should also ride fine without extra weight. The shock is a high quality 2" diameter racing shock, which can be revalved if needed. The entire outside of the shock is threaded. The internal oil is kept from cavitating the shock valving by an area of 200 psi nitrogen. 4Runners use the "Tacoma" version of the Sway-A-Way coilovers. The Tacoma shock valving is good, but just slightly soft. I later requested the stiffer Tundra valving for my 4Runner/Tacoma coilovers, but I think it is now a bit stiff, although acceptable with the added weight of the bumper and winch. I think halfway would be ideal, but I'm not certain they can be ordered that way. Note that even the softer Tacoma valving would be stiffer than stock shocks. Installation is easy. No spring compressor needed. I did use a crowbar to pry the bottom of the shock up a little to get the lower bolt in place. However, it does take quite a while to crank/thread up the lift. I have 3" of thread showing below the spring base to give a little more than 2" of lift with the extra weight of my front bumper and winch. Sway-A-Way now includes a basic spanner wrench. Be careful to not lose the rather rare 4.5mm allen wrench for tightening the spring base. I did use a drill press to add a few more shallow holes in the spring base for the spanner wrench. Adding more holes just makes it easier and faster to crank them up. The only problem I had was shearing off the schraeder valve while at full extension and full steering lock. The schraeder valve is there for pressurizing the nitrogen. The brake caliper and brake lines contacted these valves. Sway-A-Way was very helpful in resolving the problem and now always sells them with recessed valves, but it is still very important to mount them with those valves pointing AWAY from the tires.
|Downey Rear Springs|
I purchased the so-called 3.5" heavy duty rear springs for 3rd generation 4Runners with a tow package. They are excellent springs. I really have no complaints about the springs. They gave me exactly 2" of lift without any extra weight of trail gear and other modifications. After I installed my custom rear bumper and added a lot of trail equipment, the lift was down around 1.25"-1.5". They are very close to the same uncompressed length as the stock springs, but are a stiffer spring rate. They would be excellent for people interested in towing or carrying some extra weight with a small amount of lift. I sold them and purchased Old Man Emu heavy duty rear springs and shocks only because I wanted more lift. You'll get better articulation and a better on-road ride if you also replace the stock shocks with any of several possibilities of aftermarket shocks. I think the Old Man Emu "comfort" shocks would be a good match for these springs.
|Old Man Emu HD rear springs|
It sounds like most people get about 2.75"-3" of lift from these springs. I got 2" only due to all the extra weight of my custom rear bumper and other trail gear. I am very happy with these springs. They perform great on-road and off-road. The uncompressed length is just slightly longer than stock, so it achieves the lift with a stiffer spring rate than the stock springs. I have the SAW coil-overs in front. This is a good match. If you order OME springs, be aware that they are categorized by OME as 1" lift springs because they were originally designed for the Prado, which is heavier than the 4Runner.
|Old Man Emu HD rear shocks|
These are good quality shocks that allow a little more axle travel than the stock shocks. They are intended to go with the OME HD rear springs. The "heavy duty" shocks are definitely stiff. I'm glad I have the extra weight of the custom rear bumper and other trail gear, or the ride might be a bit harsh. The way these shocks ride is a fairly good match to the Tundra-valved shocks in my front SAW coil-overs, but that's also to say that they are both a bit stiff. I'm guessing the average person would prefer the "comfort" valving of the OME shocks instead.
|Who should buy an adjustable lift?|
I'd recommend that someone spend the extra on an adjustable lift only if you meet any of these reasons:
1). You want to fine-tune the lift in front for whatever reason or you don't trust how much lift you'll get from an off-the-shelf lift.
2). If you ever plan on adding the extra weight of a winch and winch bumper. You'll prefer to be able to re-adjust the height at the time of installation.
3). If you are picky about the ride and want the extra flexibility of being able to change the shock valving and/or the spring rate. With a bit of work SAW shocks can be re-valved by the customer, or you can have SAW do it. For rock crawling I'm learning that I'm tending toward slightly softer springs (550-600) with slightly stiffer shocks (Tundra valving). Personal preference will vary a lot here.
|Fabtech/Fox||Fabtech/Fox vs SAW|