Just another "recommend me a suspension kit" post (7 Viewers)

Joined
Aug 13, 2020
Messages
23
Location
New Mexico
Whelp, my airbags are officially leaking, so I think it’s time to spring for an aftermarket suspension. I'm going a bit crazy trying to decide on a kit and could use some advice.

Uses:
  • Daily driver, but currently only a 0-5 minute commute. Were this to increase significantly, I’d get a separate car for the commute.
  • Ski trips (winter mountain driving)
  • Long road trips, loaded down with gear/ppl, e.g. for camping
  • Overlanding / off roading, again filled to the brim with gear
    • Not going out of our way to tackle difficult terrain just for the challenge (i.e. not trying to build a jeep style rock crawler here), but at the same time want to have enough clearance / protection to still make it through a lot of cool overlanding trails / camping spots
  • Short off road adventures, mainly locally
    • Live ~15 minutes from public dirt desert/hilly roads that have many side roads / washes that spin off the main road of various difficulties
  • Rare towing
    • Maybe once or twice per year. Most likely a cargo trailer, but possibly eventually a small camper as well.
So long story short, will be driving the highway 90-95% of the time, so I’d like to maintain my handling and MPGs as much as possible, while still having a capable rig for moderate off roading.

I’m super anal about my car handling/feel (I’m constantly adjusting the damping depending on the road conditions and my speed/load using the stock electronic adjuster, did a bunch of suspension mods on my previous car, etc), so I’m leaning toward an adjustable setup so I can really dial in the handling rather than just hoping for the best with a non-adjustable kit. I also do like to drive fast at times, and embrace the "buy once cry once mentality" to an extent, so I'm not necessarily opposed to spending an extra $1k or w/e for a setup that will ride well at speed (on or off road) as opposed to something that will be just "good enough" to get me where I want to go. At the same time, I don't want to be throwing away money on a setup that will be completely overkill for what I plan to do. I'm somewhat struggling to figure out where the "gets the job done" vs "worth the extra $ for improved handling" vs "completely overkill" lines are drawn.

Added weight
Currently stock, but planning on adding the following within a few months:
  • Sliders
  • Skid plates (maybe even aluminum as I'm not aiming to rock crawl)
Currently not planning on adding a RTT, though still might load the roof down w/ a cargo carrier and other gear on some trips (but not for DDing)

Far in the future I may consider a hidden winch mount / winch (or other some other lightish front setup that for the most part keeps the stock bumper) as well as a light weight rear bumper / tire carrier (e.g. something like the mountain passes OR min-max "bumper"), but I don't think I should consider these possibilities when choosing springs right now.

Current thoughts and questions
Springs: given my weight plans (not much permanent additional weight), I'm thinking I should be choosing the lightest springs offered in most cases, rather than springs designed for people adding full steel bumpers and such.

Lift: I'm thinking 2" to 2.5" is probably plenty. How much downside in terms of MPG and on road handling would going with 2.5" rather than 2" give me?

Coilovers/shocks:
  • Currently leaning toward Dobinsons MRA for the low/high speed compression adjustment
  • Cheaper, non adjustable options I'm also considering:
    • Dobinsons IMS
    • Ironman Foam Cell Pro (seen some reports that the twin tube design is inferior to the monotube IMS', but I've also seen a lot of good reviews for the Foam Cell Pros)
    • Boss Aluma or Aluma 2.5 (though the 2.5 kit is barely any cheaper than the MRAs, is there a reason to consider those over the MRAs?)
    • Radflo 2.0 or 2.5 (haven't seen nearly as many reports on these, but the few I have seen have been very positive)
  • Other adjustable options:
    • Elka: both high and low speed compression adjustment, but very expensive
    • King: only can be bought with a single compression adjustment, also very expensive
This is the million dollar question. Ignoring the adjustability, will MRAs ride significantly better than the ~$1500 options, or is the price difference mainly due to the adjustability? In the $1500 range: Dobinsons IMS vs Ironman Foam Cell Pro vs Aluma 2.0? Are 2.5s worth the extra cost? Any reason to consider the unadjustable Aluma 2.5s over the Dobinsons MRA given their similar price range? How much better really are the top end options like Kings or Elkas compared to MRAs? x_X

Stock rake
(higher rear ride height with no load): keep it so the rear end won't sag when I load the truck down with gear, or for the rare occasions when I tow.

Tires: eventually will go bigger, but the truck came with almost brand new Michelin Defender LTX M/S in stock size, so I figure I should get some use out of those first and punt on the tire sizing question for now.

Aftermarket UCAs: I know these aren't required with only a 2" or 2.5" lift, but from what I gather even @ 2" aftermarket UCAs are required if I want to keep my caster in spec, so I'll probably spring for UCAs too.
  • The go to recommendations seem to be SPCs for maximum adjustability for not much more money. Is there any reason to consider going with other options like Dobhinsons, Apache Offroad or Ironman? Is the main benefit (other than price) to those options that a lot of alignment shops won't know what to do with the adjustability of the SPCs?
LCAs: my bushings are shot, so I'm also planning on replacing these with either OEM LCAs or SuperPros.

Maintenance: I’ve heard some of the high end racing brands ride really great, but have the downside of needing to be rebuilt relatively often. E.g. I’ve seen reports of people needing to rebuild Icons every 20-30k, which is the main reason I didn't include Icon in my list above. I’d ideally like to go with something that can make it more like at least 50-75k before needing a rebuild/replacement. Are there any brands in particular that requirement rules out? Do the MRAs fall into the "need frequent rebuilds" category?

Long travel rear options: A lot of kits offer rear long travel shocks for not that much extra, but my impression is a) requires a decent amount of additional upgrades (e.g. extended end links and brake lines) and maintenance (e.g. re-torquing) and b) isn’t necessarily ideal if a big goal is to maintain on road handling / NVH, so I'm not planning on springing for the rear LT options if available. Is that an accurate assessment?

I appreciate any input, thanks!
 
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
Messages
11
Location
Bay Area, CA
I look forward to seeing the responses on this. Adding to the list, I’ll also like to know:

Diff drop - yea or nah? My mechanic says it’s needed but many online posts say otherwise. If dropped, he also recommended new rear sway bar endlinks.
 
Joined
Aug 13, 2020
Messages
23
Location
New Mexico
I look forward to seeing the responses on this. Adding to the list, I’ll also like to know:

Diff drop - yea or nah? My mechanic says it’s needed but many online posts say otherwise. If dropped, he also recommended new rear sway bar endlinks.
From what I've gathered, they're not truly necessary for typical 2-3" lifts, especially on the shorter side of that range, but opinions (and recommendations on store pages) seem to be mixed. People tend to report the CV angles aren't bad when skipping the diff drop kit. There's at least one poster here that goes as far as saying the kits are determinetal on GXs, as they lower ground clearance for no needed benefit, but from what I can tell the diff will still be above level of the skid plates even w/ a drop, so I'm not sure that's actually a big deal. FWIW I'm planning on skipping the diff drop for now.

Use that there search button. :bang:
I mean I've done a ton of searching both here and all over the internet in general. They've informed a lot of my current thoughts and leanings, but everyone has different requirements/priorities/cares so that's why I came here looking for any additional advice prior to pulling the trigger. Also, some of the parts I'm looking at are relatively new, so they aren't mentioned or considered in older posts.
 
Joined
Feb 16, 2018
Messages
148
Location
Los Angeles
There's a ton of info on this out there (hence the search recommendation above). That said, I had a similar moment of feeling overwhelmed recently. I had relatively similar needs, though perhaps a smaller budget. I don't tow, drive mostly on road, but wanted something that I could confidently take offroad and not have to worry too much about.

For a budget build, I went with the Eibach kit (some people frown on it, but honestly the reviews from owners are pretty stellar, esp. for the price) along with Freedom Offroad UCA's. That setup will run you in the $1200-1350 range depending on whether you catch a sale. I figure it's a good starting point for my needs and I can upgrade if/as needed later. I'll also add that the service and responsiveness from Eibach has been stellar.
 

little_joe

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Joined
Oct 22, 2006
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RDU, NC
It's refreshing to see a post where the desired outcome is very clearly articulated, rather than the "which one is best" ad nauseum posts. That said, some random thoughts you may or may not find useful:
  • Lift will have negligible impact on MPG. Tires will.
  • Any lift changes your center of gravity, which impacts handling. Whether you find it acceptable or not is purely subjective.
    • The suspension I had on my GX made me smile on long, sweeping on/off ramps - so stable, planted, confident. It made me grimace on city streets and slow-going offroad and forest roads.
  • SPC arms are awesome for their adjustability. When I installed mine (with Radflo 2.5" shocks/coilovers), I made best guess on setting: took it to shop for alignment, gave the tech the SPC instructions and told him how I set it, no issues whatsoever getting to factory specs.
    • Last weekend, someone said to me they went with JBA because they're forged. He also is having trouble getting things dialed in and has rubbing. Considering the stock arms are stamped and hold up very well (unless rusted or high-speed desert running), SPC's adjustability and bushings win over a non-adjustable forged arm.
  • It's also refreshing to hear someone very in tune with spring rates. I did the 600 in/lb springs in front w/ my Radflo and thought that was too much (no added weight up front). Again, subjective, but unless you add hundreds of pounds of weight, your ride may be rough with the higher spring rates.
  • I suggest casting a suspicious eye at the systems that come from the desert-racing scene, unless you race or drive everywhere at 75mph.
  • If you're dead-set on real-time adjustment, I'm not sure whether digressive vs linear vs progressive shock valving will matter? (I genuinely don't know) This again is subjective, but I've found digressive valving is absolute s*** to me (East Coast, slower going offroad == pogo'ing, rough on city streets; great on highway at 75mph). But having a base from which to start and understanding the effects of adjustment should help you make an even more informed decision?
  • I got sucked into the "I did my research and paid a s***-ton of money" affirmation of my Radflo suspension, and I bet many many people do the same for every brand - which basically makes reviews meaningless to me. Truth be told, I was never really happy with that suspension and will never do a suspension like that again. (I also find it maddening how many folks are sponsored or affiliated with a mfgr or retailer, and how that colors their reviews. I try to find reviews where the reviewer's 4x4 has no stickers or other crap pimping things.)
  • Consider the Whiteline lower control arm bushings. I've used them in previous vehicles and they are perfect: similar durometer to the factory rubber, with the benefit of not falling apart.
  • Long travel is of no tangible benefit for what I interpret your use case to be.
  • I would strongly suggest adding something like Wheeler's Superbumps to replace factory bumpstops. I was amazed the difference they made offroad and on.
I have no recommendations, sorry. I wanted to compliment you on your thought process, hopefully add a few more things to consider; and ultimately suggest sharing your thoughts and desired outcomes directly with the suspension manufacturers. It's time well spent for the investment. Having just gone through this for my 4R (also a 120 platform), I landed on what I'm hopeful will be a system to achieve exactly what I want, and surprisingly it's a mid-price (well under $1k) system.
 
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
Messages
11
Location
Bay Area, CA
Apache Offroad is having a sale on Dobinsons, so I just took the plunge. Dobinsons IMS 2” lift, 2” rear rake, comfort springs, UCAs, diff drop, airbag conversion kit, rear sway end links, rear 15mm level spacer. All Dobinsons parts, just under $2,300 before tax and freight. Main reason for not going with a bigger lift was to keep road handling better (I hope). I’ll report back in a month or so once things are installed.
 
Joined
Apr 23, 2008
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So Cal
@KayGX nice job getting everything at once. The suspension is one of those systems that it’s better to try dial it in all from the start.

@Casezilla you have done a lot of research. It’s very difficult to dial in the rear springs when you vary the weight from empty to heavy loaded. I ride mostly empty and medium load when going on family trips to the mountains. Just the luggage, supplies, passengers, and gear for four seems to max out my variable rear dobinson coils 675V and my rear rake disappears. Variable rate rear coils seem like an option to consider, but they are tall and start at like 2.25” lift from stock.
 
Joined
Mar 11, 2018
Messages
578
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USA
Having adjustability give it some room to adjust for the load, road conditions, tire and subjective preference. But can perform badly too when you get wrong setting. Low end suspension does not give best performance but they are so simple and does not need any maintenance.

I have Toughdog adjustable that are one step above basic. I been thinking to upgrade to Dobinsons MRR Adjustable but don't really like the way the hose come from bottom part. The bracket are so generic I am concerned the hose get easily damaged due to wrong install.
 
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Joined
Jan 17, 2020
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Based on you philosophy of use I would buy the least expensive suspension setup you can find on Black Friday and spend the extra money on gas or better tires for adventures. Or just buy a new set or gently used set of airbags and get better AT tires and your stock GX will do everything you want it to.
 

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