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Suspension Lifts for Your Overlanding Vehicle

In the first article in this series, we looked at tyres and the importance of choosing the correct tyre for your needs. In this article, we look at suspension, the modifications that you can make and how they will affect your vehicle.

Really, tyres and suspension could be one topic. Many people, when they decide to start Overlanding, will opt for a larger tyre than the factory standard and this will reduce the amount of wheel arch clearance that you have. On the 4x4Explorer vehicle, we have stayed with the factory standard 16” rims, but have added a two inch suspension lift.

Apart from a change in tyre size, why give a vehicle a lift? Simply put, a suspension lift, will give you greater clearance. What you are effectively doing is lowering the wheels and thereby lifting the body. If you’re looking at fitting larger tyres than standard, you should look at getting a suspension lift at the same time.

Photo 1 of Suspension Lifts for Your Overlanding Vehicle
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Now as everyone who knows me personally appreciates, my mechanical knowledge is limited, so the content of this article is for guidance only and we highly recommend that you visit a specialist 4WD mechanic before making any changes to your suspension setup.

If your vehicle is reasonably new, the chances are that it already has very good suspension as standard. Be very careful changing perfectly good factory suspension for a cheap aftermarket setup. If you’re planning on doing a lot of off road driving, investing in good suspension is money well spent. Not only will it give you greater capability but it will also diminish the wear and tear on other parts and give you a much better ride. Again, speak to your mechanic and make sure that what you are having installed is better than what you’re taking off.

If your vehicle is older, it’s probably time to change the suspension anyway, as, over time, the shock absorbers will become less performant and springs and coils tend to sag.

There are many things to consider when you thinking about a suspension upgrade and one of them is weight. It’s surprising how much weight you will add to your vehicle as you move through the  build process. When we started with our vehicle, we changed to All Terrain tyres and had a two inch lift kit installed.

Since then, we have added a bullbar and a winch, under body protection, rock sliders, armoured the fuel tank, roof rack with awning, recovery boards, a fridge, dual battery system, high lift jack and a full drawer and storage system. It’s amazing how the weight can pile on without you really being aware of it. After a couple of years, we were parked next to another Prado on a trip and the difference in vehicle height was surprising! I asked the owner what he had done to his and he told me that he only had a two inch lift.

Photo 2 of Suspension Lifts for Your Overlanding Vehicle
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The next time I visited my mechanic, I mentioned the suspension and was told I was now probably lower than factory! All this was due to the amount of weight that had been added to the truck over the years. The shocks were still in good condition, so all that needed doing was upgrading the springs to cope with the extra weight.

I measured the truck before and after and was pleased to have gained 20mm at the front and 50mm on the back.

Fortunately, springs are not that expensive but it if you’re going to carry out a comprehensive build, it’s worth considering the amount of weight that you’re planning on adding before you splash out on an expensive suspension upgrade.

Photo 4 of Suspension Lifts for Your Overlanding Vehicle
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For general Overlanding, a good quality two inch lift is more than adequate. If your determined to take on very hard tracks and highly modify your vehicle there are a number of other things to consider. Your truck was designed and built for the tyres and suspension that it was supplied with. Again, I’m no mechanical expert, but I do know that the more you change with your tyres and suspension, the greater the number of other things you will have to change increases. The other thing to consider is the legality of the modifications that you make. In New Zealand, extreme suspension and body lifts will require Certification and this may lead to further expense and aggravation.

This article is part of the Building an Overlanding Vehicle Series.

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