Aftermarket suspension is one of the few upgrades that your vehicle uses constantly – an upgrade that you are always feeling and handling. You either rarely notice your suspension, which is a good sign, or you notice it every time you’re in your vehicle, typically a bad sign. For this reason, it is something to research and budget for accordingly.
There are plenty of aftermarket suspension options to choose from, but determining which will handle the abuse of rocky and uneven terrain can be tricky. You’ll want a system built with quality parts, that can be tailored to suit your rig while remaining comfortable both on and off-road. The challenge is finding options that check all the boxes. In this post, we break it down into four deciding factors.
Quality is key for anything off-road. We need our parts to handle off-road abuse to ensure we make it back home safely. But in the event that we do encounter a failure, we know that we’ll be taken care of. For this reason, it is important to research the company that you are considering.
A quality aftermarket suspension system will also include all the necessary components to ensure your vehicle drives just as well, if not better, than before. On top of the basic components to lift your vehicle, a quality kit should include any additional necessary components if required; because when lifting a vehicle, you are also impacting other components. These components include but are not limited to correction brackets, control arms, brake lines, sway bar links, and steering stabilizers.
Suspension systems, especially for four-wheelers are extremely complex. Old Man Emu has been developing suspension systems since the 1980s. Old Man Emu suspension provides a range of tuned, matched, and integrated systems. Each is optimized for comfort, load, and control.
The complete Old Man Emu Suspension range incorporates more than just 4×4 shock absorbers and springs. ARB takes integration to the highest level with its selection of bushings, U-bolts, center bolts, spring liners, trim packers, and suspension fitting kits.
Many lift kits on the market are considered “one-size fits all” meaning they are “good enough” to lift the vehicle but lack in all other categories: comfort, steering, load capacity, etc.
Some aim for the lightest build possible (bumpers, racks, gear, etc.) to save mpg for the daily commute, while others will load it with all the latest and greatest gadgets for the best possible experience when off the grid. Neither of these cases, and you could argue most in-between, are suited for one-size-fits-all suspension.
Old Man Emu allows you to configure springs and shocks to accommodate any variation of additional constant load. Failure to compensate for this load results in sagging suspension, tire rubbing, blown shocks, and terrible ride quality to say the least.
For many applications, Old Man Emu offers light, medium, and heavy load springs for your front end. Each of these configurations refers to constant load capacity. Generally, the light load is for vehicles with no added weight. Medium is best for vehicles with a bumper setup, and heavy is ideal for bumper and winch combinations.
The rear shouldn’t be neglected either, especially since that is most often where gear is loaded. If you have installed or plan to install a rear bumper, roof rack, cargo drawer system, etc. be sure to choose a setup that will compensate for that constant load.
Constant load refers to parts that are permanently installed in your vehicle. These parts include but are not limited to bumpers, winches, roof racks, rock sliders, power solutions, fridges, etc.
Items that are not considered constant load and should typically not be accounted for when choosing suspension (unless the vehicle is strictly for off-road use only) tool bags, recovery gear, camping gear, extra fuel, passengers, etc.
Adjustability isn’t a necessity, but it makes a huge difference. Of course, an adjustable suspension will come with a hefty price tag, but it is well worth it for many of us.
Old Man Emu BP-51s are a bypass racing suspension packed into a single body shock with a reservoir. Bypass technology is considered some of the best shock technology around because its ability to absorb impact and control rebound are unmatched.
BP-51s are adjustable in both compression and rebound. The 10 different settings for each allow you to fine-tune the suspension to your liking. This easy adjustment permits you to change settings in just a few seconds. Meaning you can compensate for different circumstances such as off-roading at high speeds in the desert, rock crawling in Moab, additional weight when overlanding, and even daily driving.
For those IFS vehicles, BP-51’s coil overs are also adjustable in preload. This allows users to adjust for different load ratings and lift heights on their front end which is ideal for those that plan to make changes to their build in the future. If you decide to add or upgrade the bumper/winch in the future, you can simply adjust the preload to compensate for the additional load rather than having to buy and replace current coil springs for a set with a higher load capacity.
If an adjustable suspension is not available for your vehicle or isn’t within your budget, we highly recommend pairing a set of coil springs and shocks from the same manufacturer. Often, the shocks and coils are tuned and designed to work together.
When undertaking remote-area travel, the need to carry sufficient fuel, water, vehicle spares, and safety equipment invariably means that your 4×4 will be fully loaded, placing a lot of strain on suspension components. Combine this with punishing off-road conditions, and the limitations of standard springs soon become apparent.
There is a misconception behind the meaning of a light, medium, or heavy spring. Some assume that this refers to the type of strain that the vehicle goes through. For example, a light spring for highway use or a heavy spring for extreme off-roading; this is incorrect. The front spring should account for accessories such as a bumper and/or winch. The rear spring option should account for accessories such as bumpers, tire carriers, canopies, drawers, etc. Rock slides, side steps, and roof racks distribute weight to both the front and rear of the vehicle.
In order to maintain ride quality and control, it is best to base your spring selection around constant weight rather than loaded weight. Accessories that are on your vehicle at all times such as bumpers, winches, roof racks, etc. are considered constant weight. Accessories such as gear, tools, tents, fridges, etc. would be considered loaded weight unless mounted to your vehicle 100% of the time.
Old Man Emu offers a shock range that is meticulously engineered to be installed with Old Man Emu springs. Options such as Nitrocharger Sport and BP-51 Internal Bypass shocks are available for certain applications.
Nitrocharger Sport shocks are twin tube, nitrogen filled shocks. The Nitrocharger Sports are valved with more discs which help control the vehicle at all speeds. OME Engineers have precisely valved each shock to match the weight and Old Man Emu spring selection. In the vehicle application guide, firmer shocks are available and are marked with an *asterisk*.
BP-51 Internal Bypass shocks allow for on-vehicle, independent adjustability of both rebound and compression to offer class-leading ride customization that is tailored to an individual vehicle and can be adjusted for trip requirements.
Lifting a vehicle isn’t as simple as increasing its height. You are also impacting the other components such as the steering geometry. Consequently, it is important to get an alignment after altering your suspension. Unfortunately, with factory control arms, it isn’t guaranteed that the vehicle can be aligned to the OE specification range. This results in unresponsive, delayed, and wandering steering along with premature wear on your tires and ball joints.
Aftermarket control arms that are either adjustable or include additional camber and caster will ensure that your vehicle can be aligned to the factory specifications.
The value of upgrading suspension pays back tenfold in the comfort and enjoyment of your vehicle. Weigh your options until you’re confident in an aftermarket suspension system that suits your vehicle setup and use case.