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Old 06-19-2011, 01:46 PM   #1
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Suspension replace question

I have a '97 2wd tacoma, all stock. I've want to replace the suspension for some time now, there's a lot of bounce in my truck, takes very little effort when pushing down anywhere on the truck and it bounces up an down a few times before it recovers. I don't know anything about suspension, a friend of mine said its time to replace it. Im not sure of what the front end uses in terms of struts or coilovers and as for the back, they look like regular shocks. Can anyone recommend a good brand and maybe a ball park price if I were to do it myself? Thanks.
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Old 06-26-2011, 11:28 AM   #2
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More answer than you probably wanted...

Hey.
I was in your shoes last year when I bought my '98 with original suspension. I found this user group and have learned a LOT since then.

In short, you'll be asking yourself a couple of questions about how you drive, because the answer to that question will dictate your next steps.

First question: what kind of a driver are you? Where will you drive this thing: on the road most of the time, or in the mountains on dirt roads? If you're a city/street use driver, you

Second question: Are you planning on hauling a lot of weight often, or only occasionally?

Keeping in mind that what constitutes "a good ride" to one, is different for another. Some people look for comfort/cushy, not wanting to feel road irregularities, others want the truck to handle firmer, stiffer with little sway in the corners. Which do you want? Stock suspensions feel smooth and comfy, but they're not built for the long haul, they're compromises, and they wear out quickly...like within a couple of years. Less is you use your truck hard.

A good suspension does two things well: it keeps the wheels on the road much much better than a worn-out one, and second, it returns the vehicle to a normal state quickly. No bouncing around. From a safety point of view, those two things usually trump comfort. It's odd and rather rare that someone buys a pickup truck and wants it to ride literally like a Cadillac.

What gets replaced when it's worn out completely:

Front end: Springs, shocks, bushings. And if you're going to go the extra step because you want to use it off-road and increase its travel, Upper Control Arms (UCAs).

Options: Stock replacements: head over to the parts department and order new parts.

After market upgrades:

Springs determine ride height and overall firmness. Shock absorbers control the springs. They work together, as a unit. Tuning a 4x4 suspension system so complex, it's a bit of a black art: it truly is difficult to figure out what you want to do based on other people's accolades. Given the current worn-out condition of your existing suspension, just about any improvement you make will make the truck seem "stiffer" or "firmer," but that being said, your truck will be much much safer. (even your braking distances will decrease because your rear end won't bounce).

Old Man Emu (by Australia's ARB company) is out of Australia. They've been designing shocks for their terrible washboarded roads for 30 years. The Aussies don't allow people to jack up their trucks very high, so Old Man Emu's suspensions are typically designed for only a couple of inches of lift. Lift, it would seem to OME, is something of an afterthought: considering the thousands of miles of worn-out roads they frequently drive and the heavy loads they carry into the outback, OME has done a LOT of independent R & D to determine what works for their trucks. The good news about OME is that their springs and shocks are "paired" with one another: they ride really, really well given the price. OME products are not what's called a "coilover," The spring and shock are matched and assembled independently, but, like a coilover, are installed as a unit.
The second bit about OME is that since their stuff doesn't raise your truck too high, the all-important suspension geometry isn't too messed up: your truck won't require much, if any, adjustment to other suspension components (like lowering your front differential to lessen the stress on your CV joints).

Designed in Melbourne, OME has been contracting with Monroe in Adelaide, Australia for the actual manufacturing of their shocks. They are NOT "glorified Monroes," they are totally over-built and their insides are completely different. OME has merely rented Monroe's assembly line for their manufacture.

OME's springs come in various stiffnesses for different purposes: 880, 881 and 882. Same strength of spring, but different lengths. 880s if you want stock ride height and coupled with the right shock, a little softer ride. 881s if it's okay to raise it up a couple of inches or if you have the heavier V6 engine, and 882s if you plan on adding at least 200 lbs of accessories to the front end. Accessories like an aftermarket steel bumper and winch and/or an additional battery.

Old Man Emu pairs their springs with several different stiffnesses of shock absorbers. Older Nitrochargers for more cushy comfort, and their newer Nitrocharger Sports, which are more firm than their earlier stuff, as they've added a third valving stage in the insides. If you were comfort minded and wanted to upgrade your existing system but keep a comfy road feel, you could go with 880s coupled with Nitrocharger comfort-rated shocks. If you planned on using this thing as a work truck, you'll probably want a little bit taller/stiffer spring, the 881, together with the Nitrocharger Sport. The 881/Nitrocharger sport combination will make your truck handle and feel like a truck again. And you'll have a higher weight handling capacity too.

Call Dan at Wheeler Offroad in Oregon, and have this discussion with him. Be honest about what kind of driving you plan on doing. He's excellent, and will steer you the right way. He's here on this forum as YotaDan. Look him up.

Eibach springs are sold independently and often matched around here with a heavy duty shock made by an excellent German company called Bilstein. They pioneered a system called high-pressure monotube design that is well-proven on the racetrack and on RVs. Bilstein builds excellent stuff. People like to combine the Bilstein 5100 shock with Eibach springs. People like to combine Bilstein shocks with OME springs too.

If you plan on doing the work yourself, PLEASE BE CAREFUL IF YOU PLAN ON ASSEMBLING YOUR OWN SPRINGS/SHOCKS. There's enough spring pressure stored in a compressed spring that if it lets go on you, it can KILL YOU. In other words, it might be worth your while to have someone else assemble your springs/shocks. Money well spent.

Coilovers, by comparison, are a single unit, generally both adjustable for ride height/firmness and rebuildable. Usually excellent coilover systems are made in the USA from really, really high quality boutique manufacturers and run about/at least $1000 for a front end set. Having never been in a truck with excellent coilovers, I cannot say how they differ from a stock or OME set up, but they're generally considered the highest quality/most expensive system.
Reputable coilover manufacturers are Icon, Camburg, King, Fox and Sway-A-Way (SAW for short). The consensus is that you won't be disappointed, but get out your wallet.

Note that these combinations will drive much more firmly than stock springs/shock combination: you'll feel the road beneath you, your truck will hold corners MUCH better and all these combinations are considerably tougher than stock suspensions. They'll handle dirt/rocks much much better (and more weight too).

I'm tired of typing so I'll be brief:
Rear end:

You've got a couple of options for your rear suspension too. The entire leaf pack can be replaced for between $400-$600, or you can squeeze a little more life out of your existing tires springs by adding what's called an Add-A-Leaf to your existing leaf springs. If you replace your entire leaf set, you should replace your rear shackles too, with greasable ones.

Additionally, you have another couple of options as well: installing glorified bump-stops between your frame and rear axle in the form of either air bags (adjustable rubber balloons like what the 18-wheeler's cabs ride on), or something called a "Timbren." Both are made for weight management and can carry/control far more weight that your truck is rated for. Air bags are NOT designed for rock-crawling use, but they can take quite a beating. Timbrens, you can take off-road with no worries, as they're not inflatable.

I recently installed an OME system (881s and Nitrocharger Sports all around), and coupled it with Firestone Ride-Rite airbags for taking me and my stuff to Alaska along the famously harsh Alcan highway. Recently, on the way back down, fully loaded, the truck weighed 6100 pounds, 1000 pounds more than the absolute maximum. I averaged 51 miles per hour carrying that kind of weight on my new suspension. And, luckily, I dodged a bullet and didn't blow out my rear axle seals. Admittedly, this was stupid: I should not have carried that much weight. I couldn't have been able to do that had it not been for the suspension upgrades.

Costs? I shopped around and paid – let's see, where's my receipts – $556.87 for two 881s, four Nitrocharger Sports, and a trim packer. My family shipped it up to me in Alaska. I didn't order leaf-packs because the shipping would have been prohibitively expensive.

This answer is more than you probably wanted. And it's more than I intended to type. But I teach for a living, and I hate not being thorough. Sorry.
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Old 07-01-2011, 10:24 AM   #3
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Thanks for the info. I only drive on pavement but my suspension is too squishy. Also, you wouldn't happen to know if the suspension in front is struts or coil overs would you? An if they are coil overs do I just need to replace the shock or do I need to replace both the spring and shock?
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Old 07-01-2011, 02:50 PM   #4
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Front struts are coilovers. Replace the coilover assembly. Springs sag over time. The strut wears out and doesn't dampen the bumps/keeps bouncing.

New rear springs and shocks will help too.
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Old 10-23-2011, 03:36 AM   #5
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James, thanks for the great write up. Lots of useful info packed into a small space.
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Old 01-07-2014, 06:00 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by james View Post
Hey.
I was in your shoes last year when I bought my '98 with original suspension. I found this user group and have learned a LOT since then.

In short, you'll be asking yourself a couple of questions about how you drive, because the answer to that question will dictate your next steps.

First question: what kind of a driver are you? Where will you drive this thing: on the road most of the time, or in the mountains on dirt roads? If you're a city/street use driver, you

Second question: Are you planning on hauling a lot of weight often, or only occasionally?

Keeping in mind that what constitutes "a good ride" to one, is different for another. Some people look for comfort/cushy, not wanting to feel road irregularities, others want the truck to handle firmer, stiffer with little sway in the corners. Which do you want? Stock suspensions feel smooth and comfy, but they're not built for the long haul, they're compromises, and they wear out quickly...like within a couple of years. Less is you use your truck hard.

A good suspension does two things well: it keeps the wheels on the road much much better than a worn-out one, and second, it returns the vehicle to a normal state quickly. No bouncing around. From a safety point of view, those two things usually trump comfort. It's odd and rather rare that someone buys a pickup truck and wants it to ride literally like a Cadillac.

What gets replaced when it's worn out completely:

Front end: Springs, shocks, bushings. And if you're going to go the extra step because you want to use it off-road and increase its travel, Upper Control Arms (UCAs).

Options: Stock replacements: head over to the parts department and order new parts.

After market upgrades:

Springs determine ride height and overall firmness. Shock absorbers control the springs. They work together, as a unit. Tuning a 4x4 suspension system so complex, it's a bit of a black art: it truly is difficult to figure out what you want to do based on other people's accolades. Given the current worn-out condition of your existing suspension, just about any improvement you make will make the truck seem "stiffer" or "firmer," but that being said, your truck will be much much safer. (even your braking distances will decrease because your rear end won't bounce).

Old Man Emu (by Australia's ARB company) is out of Australia. They've been designing shocks for their terrible washboarded roads for 30 years. The Aussies don't allow people to jack up their trucks very high, so Old Man Emu's suspensions are typically designed for only a couple of inches of lift. Lift, it would seem to OME, is something of an afterthought: considering the thousands of miles of worn-out roads they frequently drive and the heavy loads they carry into the outback, OME has done a LOT of independent R & D to determine what works for their trucks. The good news about OME is that their springs and shocks are "paired" with one another: they ride really, really well given the price. OME products are not what's called a "coilover," The spring and shock are matched and assembled independently, but, like a coilover, are installed as a unit.
The second bit about OME is that since their stuff doesn't raise your truck too high, the all-important suspension geometry isn't too messed up: your truck won't require much, if any, adjustment to other suspension components (like lowering your front differential to lessen the stress on your CV joints).

Designed in Melbourne, OME has been contracting with Monroe in Adelaide, Australia for the actual manufacturing of their shocks. They are NOT "glorified Monroes," they are totally over-built and their insides are completely different. OME has merely rented Monroe's assembly line for their manufacture.

OME's springs come in various stiffnesses for different purposes: 880, 881 and 882. Same strength of spring, but different lengths. 880s if you want stock ride height and coupled with the right shock, a little softer ride. 881s if it's okay to raise it up a couple of inches or if you have the heavier V6 engine, and 882s if you plan on adding at least 200 lbs of accessories to the front end. Accessories like an aftermarket steel bumper and winch and/or an additional battery.

Old Man Emu pairs their springs with several different stiffnesses of shock absorbers. Older Nitrochargers for more cushy comfort, and their newer Nitrocharger Sports, which are more firm than their earlier stuff, as they've added a third valving stage in the insides. If you were comfort minded and wanted to upgrade your existing system but keep a comfy road feel, you could go with 880s coupled with Nitrocharger comfort-rated shocks. If you planned on using this thing as a work truck, you'll probably want a little bit taller/stiffer spring, the 881, together with the Nitrocharger Sport. The 881/Nitrocharger sport combination will make your truck handle and feel like a truck again. And you'll have a higher weight handling capacity too.

Call Dan at Wheeler Offroad in Oregon, and have this discussion with him. Be honest about what kind of driving you plan on doing. He's excellent, and will steer you the right way. He's here on this forum as YotaDan. Look him up.

Eibach springs are sold independently and often matched around here with a heavy duty shock made by an excellent German company called Bilstein. They pioneered a system called high-pressure monotube design that is well-proven on the racetrack and on RVs. Bilstein builds excellent stuff. People like to combine the Bilstein 5100 shock with Eibach springs. People like to combine Bilstein shocks with OME springs too.

If you plan on doing the work yourself, PLEASE BE CAREFUL IF YOU PLAN ON ASSEMBLING YOUR OWN SPRINGS/SHOCKS. There's enough spring pressure stored in a compressed spring that if it lets go on you, it can KILL YOU. In other words, it might be worth your while to have someone else assemble your springs/shocks. Money well spent.

Coilovers, by comparison, are a single unit, generally both adjustable for ride height/firmness and rebuildable. Usually excellent coilover systems are made in the USA from really, really high quality boutique manufacturers and run about/at least $1000 for a front end set. Having never been in a truck with excellent coilovers, I cannot say how they differ from a stock or OME set up, but they're generally considered the highest quality/most expensive system.
Reputable coilover manufacturers are Icon, Camburg, King, Fox and Sway-A-Way (SAW for short). The consensus is that you won't be disappointed, but get out your wallet.

Note that these combinations will drive much more firmly than stock springs/shock combination: you'll feel the road beneath you, your truck will hold corners MUCH better and all these combinations are considerably tougher than stock suspensions. They'll handle dirt/rocks much much better (and more weight too).

I'm tired of typing so I'll be brief:
Rear end:

You've got a couple of options for your rear suspension too. The entire leaf pack can be replaced for between $400-$600, or you can squeeze a little more life out of your existing tires springs by adding what's called an Add-A-Leaf to your existing leaf springs. If you replace your entire leaf set, you should replace your rear shackles too, with greasable ones.

Additionally, you have another couple of options as well: installing glorified bump-stops between your frame and rear axle in the form of either air bags (adjustable rubber balloons like what the 18-wheeler's cabs ride on), or something called a "Timbren." Both are made for weight management and can carry/control far more weight that your truck is rated for. Air bags are NOT designed for rock-crawling use, but they can take quite a beating. Timbrens, you can take off-road with no worries, as they're not inflatable.

I recently installed an OME system (881s and Nitrocharger Sports all around), and coupled it with Firestone Ride-Rite airbags for taking me and my stuff to Alaska along the famously harsh Alcan highway. Recently, on the way back down, fully loaded, the truck weighed 6100 pounds, 1000 pounds more than the absolute maximum. I averaged 51 miles per hour carrying that kind of weight on my new suspension. And, luckily, I dodged a bullet and didn't blow out my rear axle seals. Admittedly, this was stupid: I should not have carried that much weight. I couldn't have been able to do that had it not been for the suspension upgrades.

Costs? I shopped around and paid – let's see, where's my receipts – $556.87 for two 881s, four Nitrocharger Sports, and a trim packer. My family shipped it up to me in Alaska. I didn't order leaf-packs because the shipping would have been prohibitively expensive.

This answer is more than you probably wanted. And it's more than I intended to type. But I teach for a living, and I hate not being thorough. Sorry.
The Timbren info I was interested in. Thanks for that. I'd like to get a set of those and I think I will do so.


"Timbrens, you can take off-road with no worries, as they're not inflatable."


That's what I've been looking for. I need some help with the stock rear springs towing (4-leaf stock tow package), but don't want to compromise the ride when the trailer is unhitched.



And thanks for your profesor method, answering all questions in one post.
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