From rough bush tracks and tough work sites to freeway and city driving, 4WDs are broadly designed to be able to handle a wide range of driving conditions. Because of this, 4WD factory suspension systems are designed and calibrated to cope with all types of driving without being specifically optimized to any. While the suspension will do its job well, there is plenty of room for improvement depending on the type of driving you do.
Whether you do a lot of off-road driving or you use your 4WD for towing or carrying heavy loads, upgrading and customizing your suspension system can offer a wide range of benefits from improved safety and handling to better ride comfort or increased towing capacity.
There are a number of ways to customize your 4WD suspension system including upgrading the shock absorbers/struts and springs, adding coilovers, installing airbag suspension, adding anti-roll bars or sway bars, or upgrading wheels and tyres.
It’s important to note that upgrading a suspension system can affect the vehicle’s ride height and most states and territories have specific rules regarding how much you can increase a vehicle’s ride height. Talk to your mechanic and check with your local vehicle registration body (like VicRoads) before making any upgrades.
In the meantime, let’s have a look at some of the benefits to upgrading your 4WD suspension.
Makes towing safer and easier
Towing a heavy load can affect how your vehicle handles, as well as its braking capacity and ride comfort. With a heavy tow load, the rear of the vehicle will sit lower, which can cause the vehicle to pitch forward and back while driving. This can affect the steering as the weight on the front of the vehicle moves about. This floating effect in the steering can seriously impact the vehicle handling and destabilize the vehicle during sudden braking.
Upgrading suspension springs and shock absorbers can help to support the load at the rear of the vehicle, better distributing the weight and keeping the vehicle level. This will make heavy loads easier to tow while significantly improving vehicle handling and ride comfort.
Carrying heavy loads
Besides towing, adding a heavy load to your vehicle, whether it’s carrying a large number of passengers or fully equipping the vehicle for a camping trip, can also affect vehicle handling and performance.
Adding extra weight to your vehicle will cause the suspension to settle down, leading to reduced clearance between the axles and bump stops. This can dramatically reduce the amount of suspension travel, causing the vehicle to more easily bottom out, especially over rough terrain. It can also affect vehicle handling and safety.
Upgrading your suspension can give your vehicle greater suspension travel even under heavier loads, improving ground clearance and handling especially on rough or undulating terrain.
Improved off-road performance
A serious 4WD is designed to handle all types of off-road driving. However, a stock suspension system won’t give you the optimal performance you need to handle the harshest of off-road terrain.
Standard shock absorbers can be subject to shock fade on, particularly rough roads. Shock fade can happen when the oil in the shock absorbers heats and becomes aerated, reducing their ability to dampen.
Aftermarket off-road shock absorbers will have larger oil capacities, which help to reduce heating and additional components designed to prevent oil aerating.
Not only will upgrading your suspension help to reduce shock fade, but it will also help to stabilize your vehicle when navigating rough terrain.
Increased ground clearance
When offroading, ground clearance is vital for driving over rough terrain and protecting the underbody of your 4WD. A larger set of springs can increase your ride height, providing more ground clearance.
Reduce wear and tear
Off-roading can really take its toll on your rig. The rough road surfaces, vibrations, and intense driving can lead to some serious wear and tear on a wide range of components. Upgrading your suspension system can greatly improve ride comfort, minimize vibrations and provide a cushion between the rough road and your vehicle chassis. This can help to reduce the wear and tear on mechanical components caused by vibration and the excessive physical movement that comes with rough driving.
Whether you’re an off-road enthusiast, you regularly tow a trailer or you use your 4WD on the worksite, upgrading and customizing your suspension can help you to get the best out of your vehicle.