Yes, you guessed it, the suspension on your vehicle can make or break a trip.
Many of the blogs I have written have been on vehicle preparation. In these blogs I talk about loading up our vehicles with all the stuff that we take away with us when travelling the outback.
I also mention the significance of not overloading the vehicle to the point that it adds stress to all the components supporting it. It’s also important not to go over the gross vehicle mass or GVM for obvious reasons.
Too much weight can limit the suspension travel and in doing so, place stress on other parts of the car. It can also make the vehicle handle badly which can add to any adverse situation that may occur while travelling.
OEM parts are those fitted at the time of manufacture. Manufacturers build a vehicle to appeal to a range of uses and users so they are not always built to suit enthusiasts or people that spend a lot of time doing just one aspect of what the vehicle is capable of doing.
A 4WD is not only built to take on offroad travel but it is also designed to be able to perform comfortably in urban environments. It’s not always possible, within a cost, to make it do all tasks just as well.
Original suspension components give good all round performance. They are often a little softer to make the ride better when not being used offroad and it’s also a good selling point.
This makes for a comfortable ride but often doesn’t allow for you to load up everything into the vehicle without it sagging somewhat.
After Market Suspension
As we need to be pretty well self sufficient when travelling the outback it means we have to take more gear, spare parts and camping equipment. You might even be towing a trailer or van.
This all adds up to more weight on the poor old suspension.
After market suspension is built to cater for this extra weight and to keep the vehicle level and provide adequate wheel travel for safe handling in all types of conditions.
Serious 4WD’ers are not only travelling with more gear and other accessories than they ever did but they are travelling over harsher terrain to get to where they want to go.
The thing you have to do though is to choose from a range of different manufacturers to find the suspension that you want for your vehicle.
Dobinson’s Spring and Suspension
Why did I choose Dobinson’s? I’ve spent a lot of time around 4WDs and I’ve seen a lot of different suspension setups.
It’s like anything where choice is involved. People will have different wants, needs and opinions but ultimately it is you who has to part with your hard earnt money to get what you want.
Like anything I purchase for my vehicle I generally research as much as I can and even get onto online forums to hear other people’s opinions on the topic. You can only do so much though before you have to make a personal judgement.
I also like companies who do their own research and have a long history in doing what they do. Dobinson’s started off small, developed into a family run business and now sells springs and suspension across the world.
Given this commitment to quality control, testing and ongoing research I couldn’t help being impressed.
Getting My Kit Fitted
Recently we set up base in the southern outback and Adelaide is my closest centre in which a Dobinson’s Spring and Suspension outlet is located.
I caught up with the Holden Hill manager Danny Judge firstly at one of the camping shows in Adelaide where I first spoke about what I was after. I carry quite a bit of gear in my 2014 Prado including a double drawer homemade cupboard setup and also a full spare up on the roof rack.
Often I also carry my OzTent up there as well. All up there is enough onboard to weigh down the OEM suspension and limit suspension travel.
So I decided to get a lift kit fitted to ensure I could get the body of the Prado up off the ground a little higher. This would mean that my underside wouldn’t hit the mound between the tracks as often as they had done last year!
With more outback travel coming up I decided to book my Prado into the Holden Hill workshop to get the lift kit fitted.
We went with heavier springs up front as I have a steel bullbar and it is likely I will fit a winch one day soon. On the rear we added plus 400kg coil springs to support the weight that I normally carry.
For dampening I went with the Dobinson’s Monotube Remote Reservoir shock absorbers which should be able to handle the most severe terrain and those damn corrugations that we often face in the outback.
When I arrived back at the workshop I said it was like looking at a monster truck, kidding though I was, I could immediately see the lift and how much higher it was sitting even with all the weight on board.
After a wheel alignment I got to drive the Prado home and even though I could feel the difference I was surprised the ride was not as harsh as I expected. The Prado didn’t bounce like previously and it sat true in corners without the bit of a wallow you sometimes get with softer suspension.
The proof will be when I take it offroad for the first time. I’ve got to say, I am looking forward to this!
If you’re looking to upgrade your suspension then take a look at Dobinson’s Springs and Suspension and if you happen to be in Adelaide then I recommend dropping into see Danny from Dobinson’s Springs and Suspension at Holden Hill and talking about your needs. If you’re not sure where your nearest Dobinson store is located then look here.
The team there did a great job on my Prado and even fitted a pair of Roadsafe recovery points on the front end.
In the Future
Once I’ve taken the Prado offroad and given it a good run across all environments I’ll get back on here and provide a bit of a review on just how well the suspension has been performing.
Here’s hoping the suspension does a great job and gets me comfortably to where I want to go and back again.