Should you install a lift kit at home, or leave it to the professionals? We find out after fitting an Outback Armour suspension kit into Ev’s HiLux
We all know that a good aftermarket suspension lift kit is money well spent. It’s something you will benefit from each and every time your bum lands in the drivers seat. But it’s not a simple case of just installing a heavy-duty kit and calling it good, with so many options out there how do you know where to start? Do you need adjustable suspension? Do you need heavy-duty? Should you install it yourself or pay a professional? Even though the vehicle in question already had an aftermarket lift kit, we wanted something better that could carry the weight of the slide-on camper, cater for varying loads (100L of water and 170L of diesel capacity), be more comfortable and hopefully flex better off-road. A lofty goal, but one that is achievable if you ask the right questions.
DO YOU NEED ADJUSTABLE SHOCKS?
This is a question that I guarantee is asked daily in 4WD accessory stores nationwide. The answer is yes, and no (or nah, yeah, nah if you are from QLD). If the shock absorbers and springs you are looking at are tuned to suit your vehicle, and you aren’t changing the amount of weight carried often, you’ll probably set the adjustable shocks to where you’re happy and never play with them. If this is you, I’d save your money and not bother with adjustable shock absorbers.
However, if you are driving different terrain regularly, are carrying varying loads such as tools during the week and not much on the weekends, adjustable shocks FTW! The Outback Armour Adjustable Bypass shocks we fitted to the mighty HiLux have up to 30 points of adjustment, so when driving at highway speeds with full water and diesel tanks, they are dialled up for a sportier ride. Once the road turns to dirt, they are softened with the twist of a knob. So far, all the way up and 10 clicks back seems to be the happy place for every day driving in this vehicle.
DO YOU NEED HEAVY-DUTY?
Heavy-duty suspension doesn’t mean tougher it means rougher. If you ask for heavy-duty suspension, it has everything to do with spring rate. So you don’t need heavy-duty suspension, you need the right spring rate to match the loads you carry, be that accessories or towing a trailer. Weigh your 4WD, or estimate what you are carrying. If you have a winch, dual battery system, steel bull bar, rear bar and storage drawers, that’s a lot of weight to be carting around, so you’ll need a suitable spring rate to physically hold the vehicle up.
Let your suspension supplier know so they can determine the best spring rate for you. In this application, a constant load 300kg leaf spring was chosen, as the canopy on the back weighs an estimated 250kg when empty. A front strut able to cope with a winch and steel bull bar was also selected, Outback Armour knew the right questions to ask, and as a result they nailed the ride height and handling. This took many emails and phone calls to ensure we were on the same page, if someone just offers you a 2” lift without any more questions, walk away.
DIY OR PAY A GUY?
It’s not a hard job, nor do you need any real specialist tools, but it is physically demanding and you need to know how to spin a spanner. If you don’t know how to do it, or don’t own the tools… don’t even bother trying at home. Leaf springs are heavy suckers, and even though the front struts came pre-assembled, it’s still a decent job to get the old gear out and new gear in. Luckily Brad from Outback Armour was happy to lend a hand installing this suspension, which still took us close to six hours (filming adds so much time) with a hoist and a decent supply of tools. Now, if you were to have suspension installed professionally, it would be approximately a 4-5 hour job, and say $100 an hour… not cheap, but neither are chiropractors for when you slip a disc lifting those leaf springs into place.
MORE SUSPENSION TRAVEL
The brief here was increased comfort, increased load carrying capacity and more suspension down travel in the rear. Comfort comes in the form of adjustable bypass shock absorbers. Tick. Load carrying capacity comes from the correctly selected spring rates. Tick. More down travel comes from a well-engineered leaf spring that is longer than what came out (cheap eBay crap basically). I was sceptical, but with the new leaf springs installed, the stock brake lines are tight at full droop now, and they weren’t before. Luckily, the Outback Armour Kit is absolutely complete, and came with a spacer to raise the brake lines so they aren’t stretched, as well as progressive bump stops (Jounce stops) that again add to the comfort aspect of this upgrade.
Check out the video to see what goes into a 2” suspension lift install for a Toyota HiLux; it’s basically the same for most dual-cabs on the market. This isn’t a step-by-step DIY on how to do the job, but it shows you what goes into a proper install, and some questions you should be asking your supplier/installer if you decide to let some moths out of your wallet and upgrade your suspension. Trust me, when you get it right, it will be one of the best improvements you will make to your vehicle.