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When a vehicle manufacturer designs a 4WD, they’re designing it for a mass market that has a variety of uses for that vehicle.
It may be a daily driver picking up kids from school and doing the grocery shopping, it could be a tradesman’s vehicle carrying a variety of tools and equipment, or it could be a touring vehicle towing a camper, caravan or boat. Additionally, it could be a weekend warrior, tackling harder off road tracks and trails. Hours, weeks, months and even years have been spent developing and testing that vehicle and to be able to satisfy the varied uses, many aspects of the design of that vehicle become compromised.
A vehicle’s suspension system is one area that is compromised between the need to carry additional loads while retaining high levels of comfort and precise handling characteristics as expected in today’s modern vehicles.
A suspension kit usually refers to replacement shock absorbers/struts and springs, as these are the simplest items to change in order to enable a vehicle to handle the additional requirements you are placing on it. However, that’s not where a suspension kit stops.
Depending on the type of suspension design your vehicle has, there are other components that may be complementary to the fitting of the shocks/struts/springs or require replacement as the components wear or the vehicle ages.
These components include but are not limited to:
If you’re planning to drive your vehicle in its standard configuration, there’s nothing wrong with using factory supplied OE suspension.
Ultimately, the suspension has been designed to do a job and it will do so for many thousands of kilometres. However, if you are planning on modifying your 4WD with a range of accessories, plan to carry regular constant loads, tow a trailer or need more ground clearance for that off-road adventure, the O.E suspension on your vehicle may not necessarily be the best solution.
Although it’s designed to carry up to the GVM (gross vehicle mass) of the vehicle, standard suspension can begin to sag the moment you start fitting accessories or carrying a load of any considerable weight. This can cause steering vagueness, effect cornering and braking performance, as well as issues with headlamp and driving light alignment.
Any accessory or substantial load that’s permanently affixed to the vehicle should have its weight compensated for with a constant load spring and shock specification.
With the rear of the vehicle sitting lower under a heavy tow ball load, a vehicle can start to pitch fore-and-aft; causing the steering to float as the weight on the front of the vehicle is lessened.
Not only can this ride be uncomfortable, but in a situation where evasive steering or sudden braking is required, the vehicle will be unstable. Although a weight distribution hitch can help in this situation, they’re not designed for off road driving where the vehicle needs to negotiate undulating terrain such as ruts, spoon drains and other obstacles.
Fitment of upgraded springs and shock absorbers will help carry the load, whilst maintaining correct vehicle rake and handling characteristics.
Clearance isn’t just about the distance between your vehicle and the ground.
Once your vehicle is loaded and the suspension settles down, the clearance between your axles and their bump stops is reduced; resulting in less upward suspension travel. This can lead to harsh bottoming out on undulating terrain, less wheel articulation off road and poor handling on road.
Upgrading to an increased ride height suspension can allow for longer suspension travel and unhindered wheel articulation, as well as giving more body clearance to obstacles and allowing the fitment of larger off road biased tyres.
Modern 4WDs are being designed to be more ‘car-like’ in their handling and appointment level, and as such their suspension systems tend to be biased toward comfort – leaving them lacking when off road performance or load carrying is required.
Customising a suspension package to suit your vehicle and driving style doesn’t have to mean you can’t have the best of both worlds.
Whilst your local mechanic is highly qualified in fitting suspension systems and diagnosing any issues with wear and tear on components, if they are not a licensed OME fitter, then chances are they will be fitting components that may just be original equipment replacements or be a mix of components from different brands that were never designed to be used together, not suiting your more specific 4WDing needs.
OME suspension systems are engineered as a complete package, fully tested to ensure compatibility with both your vehicle and your off road requirements. The fitment of just heavier (higher rate) springs without matching to the correct shock absorber can not only adversely affect the handling characteristics of the vehicle, but may also result in damage to associated components.
ARB designs and engineers Old Man Emu (OME) suspension components in house and sources from reputable manufacturers that meet our stringent quality control requirements both in Australia and internationally. ARB’s premium internal bypass shock absorbers, the BP-51, are manufactured entirely by ARB in our Thailand plant.
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