4th Gen 4runner suspension refresh, calling all suspension guru's

arctic04trd

Member
Utilitarian does not mean running at GVWR. It means it functions for what you need it to, and doesnt compromise. I dont think this is true for your setup, as you pointed that it is setup for carrying weight and "happens to suffice". I prefer when spending any significant amount of money for it to more than suffice. I expect it to perform to what I need. Again, not sure what makes OME more "serviceable"....its a throw away part that can not be rebuilt. Yes, the replacement is cheaper, but thats it. They mount in identical fashion. I can replace an Icon or Fox or King in the same amount of time as an OME. Also, you could carry a cheapo spare if cost is a concern. And have the other rebuilt when you get home. You wont need to purchase another replacement shock.

Im not saying the higher price means it must perform better. Im saying I tried different than OME shocks and was impressed. And you can not possibly disagree that by design, monotube shocks have better dampening and rebound characteristics over twin tube. Better non fading characteristics too. Better for miles of washboard or gravel roads, which has been part of every camping trip I have taken. I live in the PNW, not the desert. The better performance works here as well. I dont have long travel shocks by any means. There is a difference. I didnt opt for reservoirs because I dont run that fast, like under 90km/hr, and the shock should have time to cool. On the highway the smoothness of the road doesnt exercise the shock all that much. A desert application would probably require more fluid capacity, and they could justify the further expense of resis.

Further, the Icon suspension handles great at GVWR as well as empty. It is definitely not too soft. My OME handled a bit stiff empty, although loaded down it got "better". I think its due to linear spring rates versus digressive or progressive.

I also dont have instagram. I sounded alot like youself a few years ago before trying Icon. Im not justifying my purchase, Im genuinely surprised. My fiancee was very amazed at the difference over speed bumps, pot holes, and washboard gravel. She was not convinced before the purchase. She has since agreed it rides way better, handles the canopy, tent, and camping gear better. As she says, ofcourse its not a requirement for camping or exploring, but it is definitly a good product and possibly even worth the money over OME. If you can afford it, I would recommend a serviceable monotube shock like Icon, Fox, King. It may not be for everyone, but dont tell people Icon is identical to OME ride. It is not. Also, just because alot of people do something doesnt mean its the best way. OME may be mass produced in Australia and everyone uses them, doesnt mean it rides the best or lasts the longest. F150 is the best selling pickup, yet historically it has alot of faults in the reliability catagory. I buy Toyota not because I think the prices are worth it, I buy and drive Toyotas because they are more reliable than the competition generally, and are very outdoor motivated vehicles and fit my lifestyle. Do I want to pay 50k for a midsize truck. Hell no. Thats why I drive older ones 😁

See you on the trails!

Edit: LT or 10ply tires are designed for max loads far exceeding the Tacomas or 4runners GVWR. Im no tire expert, but a lower rated tire would ride better and be better matched to the truck. The lower the unsprung weight you have, the easier on the truck components and ride quality. And the 4runner is designed to ride sofisticated and car like..not like a 1ton domestic. So is the tacoma to some degree. Please don't "expect" it to ride like crap. Also one could argue that the OEM susoension is designed to run up to GVWR, so not sure what the benefit of OME would be....if the ride is still stiff.
 
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tacollie

Explorer
I hated my Icons. They rode like crap once I left the pavement. They also rodr like crap on road but the truck handled really good. They also looked like crap after the first winter I feel that for the money the basic OME performs well. I always thought they rode decent I currently have Radflo in the front and Fox in the rear. It rides/handles better than OME but I still wonder what I could have done with the $2000 I could have saved.

I have a buddy that rebuilds suspension. He talked me into the Radflos. He also said the Dobinsons are really well thought out.
 

Neosapian

Member
@arctic04trd

“Running at GVWR” does in fact “mean utilitarian” in my particular application. You could say the stock suspension is rated to carry the 1200lbs max payload, but on an expedition vehicle forum it’s an impractical argument for many obvious reasons.

You love your suspension. That’s awesome. I wouldn’t sacrifice load bearing performance for daily car-like ride quality. One must trade load capacity for comfort. Them’s the rules. We run LT tires for their durability, again trading comfort for off road functionality.

A short wheelbase pack mule of a truck that supports and extends camping adventures with an off-road focus is what my 4runner’s set up for. I suspect when we get into a Travel Trailer with 550-600lbs of tongue weight and haul the thing around for a 4 month road trip the stiffer OME budget setup will prove optimal. If i need a soft comfy ride to the grocery store I drive the Mk7 GTI. Two seperate missions.

The money I saved on the OME kit went into the gas tank, into the National Parks & into many thousands of miles of unforgettable cross-country & trail experiences. Money that I would never trade for a more refined, softer suspension.
 
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arctic04trd

Member
@arctic04trd

“Running at GVWR” does in fact “mean utilitarian” in my particular application. You could say the stock suspension is rated to carry the 1200lbs max payload, but on an expedition vehicle forum it’s an impractical argument for many obvious reasons.

You love your suspension. That’s awesome. I wouldn’t sacrifice load bearing performance for daily car-like ride quality. One must trade load capacity for comfort. Them’s the rules. We run LT tires for their durability, again trading comfort for off road functionality.

A short wheelbase pack mule of a truck that supports and extends camping adventures with an off-road focus is what my 4runner’s set up for. I suspect when we get into a Travel Trailer with 550-600lbs of tongue weight and haul the thing around for a 4 month road trip the stiffer OME budget setup will prove optimal. If i need a soft comfy ride to the grocery store I drive the Mk7 GTI. Two seperate missions.

The money I saved on the OME kit went into the gas tank, into the National Parks & into many thousands of miles of unforgettable cross-country & trail experiences. Money that I would never trade for a more refined, softer suspension.
We clearly have different perspectives about what we want out of our 4runners. Im glad OME suits you well. I enjoyed my 1st gen tacoma with OME alot as well and traveled the country with it. Hope it serves you as well as it served me. Ive discovered what works best for me and my wants and needs. Hope the OP does too. Cheers
 

PSea

Active member
My 4run is my daily driver. Have OME 890's w bilstein 5100's and airlift 1000 airbags. LOVE the setup. Airbags only used when towing my trailer. I find the body roll minimal for a truck. Works great on the hwy and wheeling.

Good luck.
 

Neosapian

Member
We clearly have different perspectives about what we want out of our 4runners. Im glad OME suits you well. I enjoyed my 1st gen tacoma with OME alot as well and traveled the country with it. Hope it serves you as well as it served me. Ive discovered what works best for me and my wants and needs. Hope the OP does too. Cheers
For sure. Also, remember we’re talking about a leaf sprung rear on a Tacoma vs. coil rears on a 4runner. All else being equal, coils are generally going to be more compliant and comfortable under most circumstances.

@PSea

Do you notice any difference in ride when your airbags are deflated to minimum PSI? I anticipate adding Airlift 1000’s to my 4th Gen for towing, if a weight distribution hitch doesn’t do a good enough job leveling the headlights.

I’d really appreciate some comments on your experience running bags and what you’re towing.
 

PSea

Active member
For sure. Also, remember we’re talking about a leaf sprung rear on a Tacoma vs. coil rears on a 4runner. All else being equal, coils are generally going to be more compliant and comfortable under most circumstances.

@PSea

Do you notice any difference in ride when your airbags are deflated to minimum PSI? I anticipate adding Airlift 1000’s to my 4th Gen for towing, if a weight distribution hitch doesn’t do a good enough job leveling the headlights.

I’d really appreciate some comments on your experience running bags and what you’re towing.
I switched from stock to the '99tall springs first. Despite adding some lift, it really did little to address the rear squatting. So switched to the 890s. It's a bit stiffer exclusive of airbags but I honestly don't notice too much difference vs stock until I connect the trailer. I tow a black series dominator. 3100lbs dry. Probably 3600lbs loaded. Air bags/890's do a great job of keeping the rear from squatting much at all. Betw a bike rack, heavy duty hitch and the trailer, id guess I'm very close to 500lbs tongue weight. Will be making some changes to the trailer to address that. But again, I'm really happy w the balance I've struck betw daily driving and overlanding. Keep in mind you can go w a diff OME based on what u expect to tow.

Right now my airbags utilize one valve to inflate both but I'm going to change that too. I think the t-fitting is causing a slow leak. So I'm installing a second valve (included in purchase) and removing the t.
 

BC Adventurist

New member
Interesting to see where this conversation went... There's always more than one way to solve a problem but typically each solution has a compromise. As I always wonder what the OP ends up doing, I thought I'd follow up my own thread with 'progress' so far as I haven't actually decided on the final solution. I ended up replacing the rear Icons with the 5100 bisteins I pulled out, one which is already leaking. This actually made a pretty significant improvement to driveability, so it's clear the Icons were in tough shape. I had a go at tearing down the Icons, which was actually pretty easy if I ignored the advice that they need heat to separate the tube from the top mount. Unfortunately, instead of thinking things through logically (aluminum galls very easily, and heating things up tends to screw with thread clearances) I managed to mangle one shock at the top mount, and the 2nd shock actually had a pretty good dent in the lower tube, enough so that there was obvious rubbing damage between piston and cylinder wall. So, unfortunately, both shocks are effectively scrap metal and I can't experiment with a cheap rebuild and re-valve.

This brings me back to the original question, or debate as it became. The balance between performance and cost is difficult to look at objectively, they never have a linear correlation and often are pretty steep curves. I appreciate the approach/justification that Neosapian makes for going OME/Dobinsons, the performance is 'pretty good' and the cost is very reasonable. I sure would love to spend the $2k saved on travel or other hobbies. But I likely align more with arctic04trd, I typically want to spend more for the slight increase in performance as I tend to notice the small differences. I also have a fiancee who's becoming less tolerant of rough roads and at times ends up getting carsick, another tick for going high end. Lastly, there's a nagging feeling in the background that suggests the 4Runner may not be the ideal truck for us going forward, I find the RTT to be a pain in the rear but my partner has become used to that sort of luxury; I also see a dog in our future, which is going to create cargo space issues. I could see some form of truck + GoFastCamper (or similar) combo being more flexible for us down the road.

I continue to debate the pros and cons of the different options out there, but I'm starting to wish more and more I could find some people locally who are running these setups! My only other option is buying some dobinson rear shocks as a trial, but without doing the front too, it's going to be hard to say for sure that is the correct solution for us. Lots of money to lose if I buy the 'cheap' stuff and I'm not happy with it and historically for me, cheaping out has typically cost more in the end. The dilemma continues...
 

Neosapian

Member
Good of you to update the thread with your results.

I can relate to your long term consideration for space, comfort and plans for a dog, especially if you plan to adopt at a larger breed. My Girl and i decided that our next step will be a hard sided travel trailer with HVAC and a bathroom that can serve as base camp from which to launch our multi-day backpacking and 4x4 activities. It’ll extend the camping season a bit, I won’t have to start a new truck or van build, and we’d retain whatever benefits come along with the short wheelbase platform.

Towing will be an entirely different highway experience that I am not particularly excited about, but it will solve the interior storage limitations we (she) runs into on longer 20+ day camping trips and frees up space for future dog/child. We don’t stay in air bnb’s or hotels en-route, so an RV will solve the perpetually wet tent issue as well. We’ve oriented our jobs and lives toward the goal of a 5 month road trip so that’s also a factor at play.

The off road trailer + RTT combination appears to be a practical middle ground, but not my first choice for bear country, cold climate, or long term camping.

The move from 4runners & Tacos up to full size trucks seems to be growing in popularity and I understand why it’s so compelling. I reckon you’d be wise to plan in that direction, get your suspension setup to the point where it’s “good enough” and start penciling out the next truck build 🍺.
 

tacollie

Explorer
Interesting to see where this conversation went... There's always more than one way to solve a problem but typically each solution has a compromise. As I always wonder what the OP ends up doing, I thought I'd follow up my own thread with 'progress' so far as I haven't actually decided on the final solution. I ended up replacing the rear Icons with the 5100 bisteins I pulled out, one which is already leaking. This actually made a pretty significant improvement to driveability, so it's clear the Icons were in tough shape. I had a go at tearing down the Icons, which was actually pretty easy if I ignored the advice that they need heat to separate the tube from the top mount. Unfortunately, instead of thinking things through logically (aluminum galls very easily, and heating things up tends to screw with thread clearances) I managed to mangle one shock at the top mount, and the 2nd shock actually had a pretty good dent in the lower tube, enough so that there was obvious rubbing damage between piston and cylinder wall. So, unfortunately, both shocks are effectively scrap metal and I can't experiment with a cheap rebuild and re-valve.

This brings me back to the original question, or debate as it became. The balance between performance and cost is difficult to look at objectively, they never have a linear correlation and often are pretty steep curves. I appreciate the approach/justification that Neosapian makes for going OME/Dobinsons, the performance is 'pretty good' and the cost is very reasonable. I sure would love to spend the $2k saved on travel or other hobbies. But I likely align more with arctic04trd, I typically want to spend more for the slight increase in performance as I tend to notice the small differences. I also have a fiancee who's becoming less tolerant of rough roads and at times ends up getting carsick, another tick for going high end. Lastly, there's a nagging feeling in the background that suggests the 4Runner may not be the ideal truck for us going forward, I find the RTT to be a pain in the rear but my partner has become used to that sort of luxury; I also see a dog in our future, which is going to create cargo space issues. I could see some form of truck + GoFastCamper (or similar) combo being more flexible for us down the road.

I continue to debate the pros and cons of the different options out there, but I'm starting to wish more and more I could find some people locally who are running these setups! My only other option is buying some dobinson rear shocks as a trial, but without doing the front too, it's going to be hard to say for sure that is the correct solution for us. Lots of money to lose if I buy the 'cheap' stuff and I'm not happy with it and historically for me, cheaping out has typically cost more in the end. The dilemma continues...
Take for a test drive in a Tacoma. Then she'll think the 4Runner rides great!

The best riding suspension I've had was my Toytec Boss 2.0. The truck didn't handle as good as it did with Icons but it rode better. It may be good middle ground for your truck.
 

Okie Preacher

New member
Just replaced my Stage 1 Icon struts/shocks with a set from Dobinsons on my '17 4Runner. I am always amazed at how good a new suspension feels...mostly because at 53K on the Icons, I doubt there was a drop of oil in any of them (seals seem to be an Icon weak point).

That said, the ride quality was "better" with the new Icon's vs the Dobinsons...the Icons really generate a plush ride. But at double the price and given the first leak showed up on the Icons at under 20K miles, I thought the Dobinsons were worth trying as an experiment.
 

BC Adventurist

New member
Thank you for the input Okie Preacher, your the first that I've seen who's gone from Icon to Dobinsons. I suppose your findings are what I would have expected, but it's too bad about the reliability you saw in the Icons. Believe it or not, I had zero oil leaks out of mine, but it was obvious that the nitrogen charge had gone and they'd been ridden hard, the drained oil was nasty when I pulled them apart. I've read several posts that go from various high-end coilovers to OME in the quest for simplicity, cost savings, and better life expectancy but I haven't been hugely impressed with the ride quality from OME equipped trucks I've been able to ride in. That said, I have yet to ride in an OME equipped 4runner (my limited experience is in Jeeps and Land Cruisers). I know that Dobinsons is marketed a bit more towards the refined side of things vs OME.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the Elka kit develops over time. A trusted shop with a lot of experience with most of the big brands (King, Fox, Icon, Radflo) seems to hold Elka as the best ride quality out of the box. Seems the other brands don't spend quite as much time/effort tuning the OEM replacement lineup for the application. The 2.5" aluminum bodies are interesting as well given that I deal with winter for quite a bit of the year. I haven't been impressed with their IFP shock lengths though, particularly in the rear. 16.9" compressed length with only 7.9" of travel. Compare that to Icon 2.0 IFP at 14.8" compressed length with 9.7" of travel. Seems like you'd need bump stop spacers with the Elka, though no mention of that anywhere.

The thought of going for a truck seems appealing, but setting aside the $$'s to buy and build a full size with an integrated sleep system is easily 10x more than buying the most bling suspension on the market. Also, we have another car to replace long before the 4Runner so it's replacement is low on the priority list. Luckily we don't drive much locally and it is easy for us to rely on one car for a week, so the thought of rebuilding suspension every year or two isn't that daunting. Looks like I'm talking myself back into the high-end gear!
 

arctic04trd

Member
For sure. Also, remember we’re talking about a leaf sprung rear on a Tacoma vs. coil rears on a 4runner. All else being equal, coils are generally going to be more compliant and comfortable under most circumstances.

@PSea

Do you notice any difference in ride when your airbags are deflated to minimum PSI? I anticipate adding Airlift 1000’s to my 4th Gen for towing, if a weight distribution hitch doesn’t do a good enough job leveling the headlights.

I’d really appreciate some comments on your experience running bags and what you’re towing.
Absolutely. Coils are generally more plush. However, I find the 4runner on OME rides rougher than the tacoma on Icons. I think its partly due to the shorter wheelbase though.....

Interesting to see where this conversation went... There's always more than one way to solve a problem but typically each solution has a compromise. As I always wonder what the OP ends up doing, I thought I'd follow up my own thread with 'progress' so far as I haven't actually decided on the final solution. I ended up replacing the rear Icons with the 5100 bisteins I pulled out, one which is already leaking. This actually made a pretty significant improvement to driveability, so it's clear the Icons were in tough shape. I had a go at tearing down the Icons, which was actually pretty easy if I ignored the advice that they need heat to separate the tube from the top mount. Unfortunately, instead of thinking things through logically (aluminum galls very easily, and heating things up tends to screw with thread clearances) I managed to mangle one shock at the top mount, and the 2nd shock actually had a pretty good dent in the lower tube, enough so that there was obvious rubbing damage between piston and cylinder wall. So, unfortunately, both shocks are effectively scrap metal and I can't experiment with a cheap rebuild and re-valve.

This brings me back to the original question, or debate as it became. The balance between performance and cost is difficult to look at objectively, they never have a linear correlation and often are pretty steep curves. I appreciate the approach/justification that Neosapian makes for going OME/Dobinsons, the performance is 'pretty good' and the cost is very reasonable. I sure would love to spend the $2k saved on travel or other hobbies. But I likely align more with arctic04trd, I typically want to spend more for the slight increase in performance as I tend to notice the small differences. I also have a fiancee who's becoming less tolerant of rough roads and at times ends up getting carsick, another tick for going high end. Lastly, there's a nagging feeling in the background that suggests the 4Runner may not be the ideal truck for us going forward, I find the RTT to be a pain in the rear but my partner has become used to that sort of luxury; I also see a dog in our future, which is going to create cargo space issues. I could see some form of truck + GoFastCamper (or similar) combo being more flexible for us down the road.

I continue to debate the pros and cons of the different options out there, but I'm starting to wish more and more I could find some people locally who are running these setups! My only other option is buying some dobinson rear shocks as a trial, but without doing the front too, it's going to be hard to say for sure that is the correct solution for us. Lots of money to lose if I buy the 'cheap' stuff and I'm not happy with it and historically for me, cheaping out has typically cost more in the end. The dilemma continues...
Cheaping out does cost more in the long run. But OME is reliable enough, and its more what level of performance you are looking for rather than quality of parts, in my opinion. We also have dogs and the fiance loves the ICONs on the Taco. She bombs down gravel roads and hits speed bumps and potholes without needing to slow to a crawl. Although hopefully the rest of the truck is ipnto the abuse...

Good of you to update the thread with your results.

I can relate to your long term consideration for space, comfort and plans for a dog, especially if you plan to adopt at a larger breed. My Girl and i decided that our next step will be a hard sided travel trailer with HVAC and a bathroom that can serve as base camp from which to launch our multi-day backpacking and 4x4 activities. It’ll extend the camping season a bit, I won’t have to start a new truck or van build, and we’d retain whatever benefits come along with the short wheelbase platform.

Towing will be an entirely different highway experience that I am not particularly excited about, but it will solve the interior storage limitations we (she) runs into on longer 20+ day camping trips and frees up space for future dog/child. We don’t stay in air bnb’s or hotels en-route, so an RV will solve the perpetually wet tent issue as well. We’ve oriented our jobs and lives toward the goal of a 5 month road trip so that’s also a factor at play.

The off road trailer + RTT combination appears to be a practical middle ground, but not my first choice for bear country, cold climate, or long term camping.

The move from 4runners & Tacos up to full size trucks seems to be growing in popularity and I understand why it’s so compelling. I reckon you’d be wise to plan in that direction, get your suspension setup to the point where it’s “good enough” and start penciling out the next truck build 🍺.
Now who is spending lots....:p

Thank you for the input Okie Preacher, your the first that I've seen who's gone from Icon to Dobinsons. I suppose your findings are what I would have expected, but it's too bad about the reliability you saw in the Icons. Believe it or not, I had zero oil leaks out of mine, but it was obvious that the nitrogen charge had gone and they'd been ridden hard, the drained oil was nasty when I pulled them apart. I've read several posts that go from various high-end coilovers to OME in the quest for simplicity, cost savings, and better life expectancy but I haven't been hugely impressed with the ride quality from OME equipped trucks I've been able to ride in. That said, I have yet to ride in an OME equipped 4runner (my limited experience is in Jeeps and Land Cruisers). I know that Dobinsons is marketed a bit more towards the refined side of things vs OME.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the Elka kit develops over time. A trusted shop with a lot of experience with most of the big brands (King, Fox, Icon, Radflo) seems to hold Elka as the best ride quality out of the box. Seems the other brands don't spend quite as much time/effort tuning the OEM replacement lineup for the application. The 2.5" aluminum bodies are interesting as well given that I deal with winter for quite a bit of the year. I haven't been impressed with their IFP shock lengths though, particularly in the rear. 16.9" compressed length with only 7.9" of travel. Compare that to Icon 2.0 IFP at 14.8" compressed length with 9.7" of travel. Seems like you'd need bump stop spacers with the Elka, though no mention of that anywhere.

The thought of going for a truck seems appealing, but setting aside the $$'s to buy and build a full size with an integrated sleep system is easily 10x more than buying the most bling suspension on the market. Also, we have another car to replace long before the 4Runner so it's replacement is low on the priority list. Luckily we don't drive much locally and it is easy for us to rely on one car for a week, so the thought of rebuilding suspension every year or two isn't that daunting. Looks like I'm talking myself back into the high-end gear!
I was offered Elkas by the vendor, but they were more than the ICONs, and farily new. Would like to see reviews after more time of being on the road.
 
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