Upgrade for improvement
Modifying factory-standard suspension can bring better performance from your 4WD.
Chris Leybourne, at Driven 4x4 in Jandakot, reckons almost all his customers think about modifying their factory-standard suspension sooner or later.
“They want to pack it to the brim for a holiday or tow a caravan or boat, ” he says.
Which means Chris has had plenty of experience at explaining just how four-wheel-drive suspension works — and how it can be modified to improve performance.
“Shocks are designed to control the bounce, springs hold the vehicle up and, when you add weight, how the springs cope with carrying the extra weight depends on how they are tuned, ” he explains.
Mr Leybourne warns that adding accessories, throwing a boat or caravan on the back, or just adding the family and all their stuff for a long run adds a big amount of extra weight to the vehicle.
“What does this mean? Well the back end of the vehicle tends to sit lower and the front end higher, ” he says.
“This means that the weight is lessened over the front wheels and steering can feel light and vague, increasing the chances of understeer or locking up the front in an emergency and resulting in the inability to correct a skid.”
After-market suspension is generally designed to assist your vehicle to handle more weight than standard.
An experienced 4WD expert can calculate the degree of suspension change required to cope with the plans you have for your fourbie.
It should always be remembered that different suspension options are designed for different purposes.
Before considering any form of suspension upgrade, make sure your local team has all the bases covered.
Mr Leybourne says your suspension adviser should be asking three key questions: what do you use the vehicle for every day; what are you planning to use the vehicle for; and what accessories are you planning to add and in what time frame?
A bull bar and winch put weight on the front of the vehicle. A toolbox filled with tools on a daily basis can affect the rear handling. A long-range full tank can add 200kg to the weight of the vehicle.
Chris leybourne's other top tips include:
Even though you have a stronger suspension than standard you still can overload the vehicle. Heavier-duty suspension doesn’t mean you can pack the kitchen sink. Think carefully when you are packing.
Don’t exceed the legal gross vehicle mass. The GVM is the maximum weight your vehicle should be when fully packed.
If you are travelling on corrugations, rest your four-wheel-drive regularly to let the shocks cool down. They can overheat and explode. It’s also the perfect opportunity to check how the cargo has travelled and to tie anything back down if it has come loose.
No suspension is indestructible but some perform better than others. Talk to your local 4WD suspension expert to understand the options that are available to you and, more importantly, to gauge what is appropriate for your vehicle and your needs.
© The West Australian