Everything You Need to Know About 4WD Suspension

The suspension is important for how you can handle your vehicle, comfort while driving, and its performance. So, taking the time to choose a suspension kit that is compatible with your vehicle can also affect the trips that you will take. In addition, you will also save a lot of money because you picked the right suspension that wouldn’t make you uncomfortable or don’t have the specifications that you need. 

So, first things first, how do suspensions? They are designed to lessen the impact of bumps, keep the wheels planted, and improve how the vehicle handles. When you encounter a bump, the suspension would absorb the impact rather which can lessen the tumble on the interior. When the suspension is improperly set up or gets very worn out, it can hinder your ability to control the vehicle properly. This can make you and your passengers very uncomfortable. The suspension is also designed to keep your 4WD vehicle drive at body level while the chassis and differentials move towards and away from the bumps.

Want to learn more? We have a whole blog for you!

How Will I Know the Right Suspension System for My Vehicle?

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the right 4WD suspension for you. Here are some of that might help you to choose the system which will give you the best results:

  • Weight capacity
  • 4WD flex
  • Comfort
  • Durability
  • Terrain
  • Improving your flex

You need to remember that most suspension systems have their drawbacks. So, you will have to make a compromise to get what actually fits your needs.

Weight Capacity

This is one of the most important factors that should be considered. It is commonly recommended that most heavy modifications should be removed first before proceeding. These modifications include:

  • Bullbars
  • Rear bars
  • Dual fuel tanks
  • Roof racks
  • Fridges
  • Water storage

If you think that you’ll need to carry a lot of things, you will need a suspension that will be planted on the ground and weighs correctly. However, without the extra weight, your vehicle might be a bit more uncomfortable to drive on. 

4WD Flex

Finding the right capacity is one of the common problems for off-road enthusiasts. Even getting springs that are too stiff will result to a very bumpy ride when the vehicle is empty. So, you should seriously take the time to determine the weight capacity that you need and consult an expert if you need help.

Flex is the amount of movement that your wheels can have. It is an important thing to consider for more avid 4WD enthusiasts. Flex determines whether your tyres are planted on the ground (which affects traction) or it is off the ground. In addition, it also influences the manner to which your vehicle tilts. 

4WD vehicles with a generous amount of flex will be able to drive through massive ruts while decreasing the tendency of your vehicle to tip. If it is the otherwise, your vehicle will tend to move over the chassis which is extremely dangerous. 

Comfort

Your main goal in selecting the right suspension system is to improve comfort for you and the passengers. You should also prioritise it and make sure that you get a kit that will deliver comfort because it will make your trips a lot more enjoyable. Nobody wants to stop driving now and then because their backs or bums are aching!

Durability

Go for a suspension system that you think will survive a beating (and more). Take into account the terrain that you’ll most likely frequent to like corrugated gravel roads. Sometimes, getting a cheap option will not always mean a better value. 

For example, a shock absorber is designed to lessen the springs’ movement which causes friction. Friction then becomes heat which will slowly degrade or wear out the shock absorber. When you are in the Australian outback or wilderness, cheap shock absorbers might do the job at first but they will fail faster because of the undue heat. So, if you plan on taking extended trips, then a heavy-duty shock absorber is required.

Terrain

As mentioned above, the terrain that you will drive on is also an important factor to consider. If you plan on driving your brand-new 4WD vehicle only on your daily commute to work (you’re better off with a 2WD), you probably won’t need to purchase more expensive and heavy-duty suspension. However, if you plan on torturing your vehicle by taking them to the roughest track, then installing a heavy-duty suspension makes sense.

Improving your flex

If you really want to improve your flex, you should determine the thing that is limiting it. Doing so will potentially save you a lot of money before you spend your hard-earned money. Usually, the weakest link is the shock absorber because the springs will tend to flex more than them. You can solve this by getting longer shock absorber and you will immediately feel the difference.

However, doing so can cause another huge problem. Coil springs can be detached when the wheel drops more than it needs to because the shock absorbers are not there to limit the flex. So, make sure that you adjust the bump stops when you encounter this problem. Having stiffer springs tend to have much less flex but it can reduce the vehicle’s weight capacity.

How Can I Choose the Right Suspension System?

As you have read earlier, there are a number of things to consider when it comes to choosing the right 4WD suspension. It’s too much to learn all of it but having some idea about suspensions is a good start. When you head to a shop, you’ll rely on the opinion of the staff and you need to make sure that their suggestions are the best for you. If they don’t ask the important questions like your driving habits, your intended carrying capacity, and the destination that you’ll likely visit, then walk away. A good suspension shop will suggest products tailored to your needs.

What Are the Components of A 4WD Suspension?

The majority of suspension kits are made up of these following parts:

  • Shock Absorbers;
  • Springs; and
  • Linkages.

However, there are a lot of other components that are found in a myriad of suspension kits.

What Are the Different Types of 4WD Suspension?

There are two major types of suspension systems:

  • Solid axle
  • Independent suspension

Within those categories, there are further subcategories like coil springs, leaf springs, coil-overs, and multi-link among others.

What Are Shock Absorbers?

First of all, shock absorbers do not absorb the impact of bumps. They are meant to lessen the movement of the spring (literally to absorb the shock). Without shock absorbers, the spring wouldn’t stop moving. So, when you are driving your 4WD vehicle and encounter a bump, you will notice the movement of the car (it will go up and down) but it will only happen once. This is the shock absorbers at work and they are extremely important for you to have a comfortable ride.

What Is the Purpose of Springs?

The springs in a suspension system take the weight of the whole vehicle. They are also designed to take the impact usually encountered on uneven roads or rough terrain. Without them, you will have a very unstable ride.

What Is an Independent Suspension?

An independent suspension or an IFS/IRS (Independent Front Suspension or Independent Rear Suspension). The main feature of this system is the suspension on a differential is not joined together. One side may experience movement but the other may not move at all. However, they are limited by the limited flex and their strength. You can’t also lift it more than 2 inches without a great deal of work. 

But they do offer better clearance than solid axles and they offer a more comfortable ride. It’s up to you to decide if the pros outweigh the cons.

What Is A Solid Axle Suspension?

They are suspension systems that are located on both sides of a differential which are joined together. So, when one side moves, the other also moves along with it. On the road, you will feel the bump on both sides. Most enthusiasts agree that solid axles are ideal for serious off-road driving and for installing larger lift kits or bigger tyres in the vehicle. This system also has a better range of flex and they are stronger than independent suspension systems.

Which Suspension System Is Better?

Most 4WD vehicles have independent suspension system and they can limit the options for modifications and the tracks that you can travel to. They may offer more comfort but if you plan on using much larger tyres, you’re out of luck. A solid axle is better for you because of the freedom to install bigger lift kits and the flex. 

How Long Does Suspension Systems Last?

The suspension should be checked regularly or before you go on a trip at the minimum. If you’re asking how long it takes before it gets worn, that depends upon your driving style and places that you’re travelling in. Driving on poorly maintained roads will surely wear out your suspension much faster than if you stick to the bitumen. 

The springs are more noticeable when they are worn. On the other hand, shock absorbers might not be too obvious. It really pays if you religiously check your suspension to ensure that it still performs normally. Other parts of it can be easily changed like the rubber bushes (which lets out squeaks when they get worn).

How to Install 4WD Lift Kits?

Lifting a brand-new 4WD vehicle is almost always at the top of the lists of many enthusiasts. 4WD lift kits are the best way to add more clearance, more flex, and a more reliable suspension system overall. However, you should do a lot of research before you add one as there might be more to things to consider than you realise. 

One of the most important things that you should look up is the traffic rules in your state about lifting vehicles. This is also important when you consider your vehicle’s insurance. Lifting vehicles greater than 2 inches will also require you to add a different gear like sway bars, steering dampeners, Panhard rods, and extended lines (breathers and brake lines among others).

What Is A 4WD Air Bag Suspension?

One downside of suspension systems is that you’ll have to compromise to achieve your desired goal. It is impossible to find the perfect balance between comfort and weight capacity. Suspension systems come in a myriad of models which are designed according to the weight that you want to carry. When you fit soft springs to have maximum comfort, then you won’t be able to carry heavy load easily. 

Airbags might add a significant cost but they are worth it in many situations. These are small bags that can be inflated when you need to add more weight to your vehicle. Airbags are one way to ensure that your ride is comfortable and level. A bouncy rear won’t do you any good and it doesn’t look that great either! If you don’t want to install airbag suspension, you can fit larger springs on the rear instead of the front. But this will make your vehicle tilt forward when there isn’t enough weight on the back.

Another important thing that you should consider is that dual cab Utes are very vulnerable to bent chassis whenever airbags are installed. When airbags are added to a vehicle with coil springs, the weight will be distributed over the two stock spring mounts. On the other hand, if airbags are added to a vehicle with leaf springs, the weight distribution is altered and the load on the stock load bearing points are removed. Instead, the weight will transfer in the middle of the springs which will result in a pivot on a location not specifically designed for it. Simply looking up photos of bent Ute chassis will give you nightmares. This happens more often than you know and you should take extra care.

What Brands of Suspensions Should I Get?

Some of the brands that we recommend are:

  • King Shocks: they are a manufacturer and installers of custom-made, adjustable, and reliable shock absorbers and other performance products for a number of utility vehicles. 
  • Fox 4WD Suspension: the brand is one of the biggest manufactures of off-roading gear in Australia. They have the Performance Series shock absorbers with advanced technology and features that will greatly improve comfort and durability. 
  • ARB Old Man Emu 4×4 Suspension: the brand claims that their suspension systems will perform well across all terrain. It will also add to the performance, weight capacity, and handling of the vehicle. 

You should also read the posts of 4WD forums to gauge what other people are saying about the particular suspension system that you like or people who have the same vehicle as you. By doing so, you’ll learn if your vehicles are compatible with certain models of shock absorbers or spring lengths. There is a lot to learn from the experiences of other people.

Related Questions

How Long Do Shocks Last?

Those variables make it impossible to know the number of years or miles as a broad stroke, though we expect shock absorbers to last at least four or five years unless there are other factors that affect it.

How Often Should Shocks Be Replaced?

Like all car parts, your vehicle’s shocks and struts follow a maintenance schedule. Experts say that shocks or struts should be replaced every 50,000 to 100,000 miles. However, that’s just a recommendation.

Do Bigger Tires Ride Smoother?

While larger-diameter wheels and tires should improve handling and high-speed performance, lower-profile tires also tend to have a firmer ride and may be noisier than the smaller, standard rubber. Bigger wheels cost more money. The bigger it is, the more expensive the wheels and tires.

What Is Better A Suspension Lift or Body Lift?

A body lift utilises blocks and spacers to lift the body higher onto the frame of the vehicle without altering any of the suspension geometry. With a body lift kit, your ground clearance remains unchanged, but the extra height allows you to run larger wheels and tires.

Does A Suspension Lift Give More Ground Clearance?

The main objective of a suspension lift is to increase ground clearance under the axle than an F-150 suspension lift along with raising your tire size. An F-150 lift kit will provide you the most ground clearance while also providing you more room for bigger wheels.

Does A Body Lift Affect the Ride?

Body lift kits tend to be cheaper than suspension lifts. They are also more predictable in terms of lift height. Installing a known height block between the frame and body gives an exact amount of lift. A body lift will not change driveshaft angles, suspension or steering geometry.

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