ARE AFTERMARKET SHOCKS WORTH IT?
For the answer, we dyno them after 120,000km.
Is your ‘out of the showroom’ 4WD a bit too soft? Perfect for picking the kids up from soccer but steers a bit like a boat out in the dirt? You are not alone.
Now this gets personal. I drive one of the first FJs off the boat from Japan and have done so since new. I wanted a lift for extra ground clearance, and beefier suspension to carry the essentials such as a bullbar and an extra fuel tank.
I had a few mates who had installed new aftermarket suspension for the same reasons so I got a chance to travel in their vehicles. If you get the chance to check out other people’s suspension, definitely do it. What suits them may not suit you. I found one brand a bit too stiff for my liking. Great if you are racing F1s – but I didn’t want too much of a harsh ride for touring thousands of kilometres of corrugations.
In the end, I got a 50mm lift from TJM with XGS Gold shocks and Polyair air springs for the rear. That was around 120,000 kilometres ago. Have I been happy with the upgrade? You bet! The ride is comfortable, the suspension has great travel and the Polyairs let me adjust for the load I’m carrying.
After five years, I recently replaced the XGS Gold shocks after travelling across the Simpson, along the Plenty Highway, through the Vic high country and on Fraser Island (and too many other journeys to list). To say the TJM shocks and suspension have served me well would be an understatement. At a recent vehicle service with Toyota, the service people said the shocks needed replacing and asked if I’d like them to do it. Not a chance… as they would have just bolted on the standard Toyota shocks.
In the time since I had the first TJM shocks fitted, technologies have improved and testing has improved so I would expect the current batch of shocks would be even better than the last. Although after serving me well for 120,000km, it’s hard to imagine how they could be.
There are plenty of specs to list about valving, nitro-charging, larger piston diameters, and multi-stage velocity-controlled valves – but what I want to know is: “Are they going to last the distance?” In my case the answer has been yes. It’s taken me a few years to test them which is not really a commercial option for a company. To speed up the testing process, TJM has built a hydraulic test facility. It was designed in-house and is used to evaluate hydraulic durability (shock absorber valving components), structural durability (shock absorber spring seats/body structure and coil springs), vibration durability (shock absorber stone guards) and bushing durability. Instead of me driving around the countryside for a few years, this test facility has programmed comprehensive customer usage profiles and test cycles that simulate a useful life of 100,000km.
I’ve gone for the new XGS 4000 shocks for the FJ and I am very happy with them. They ride really well in the rough and on the tarmac, and they certainly had plenty of travel when I tested them in the Glasshouse Mountains area recently.
TJM has recently teamed up with Fox Shocks (another prestige brand of high-end shocks in the racing world). TJM has specifically tuned Fox Shocks for Australian vehicles and conditions – they are available now for a number of vehicles (but not for the FJ or Prado at present). If there are some available for your vehicle and particular needs, it would be worth checking them out.
There are shocks and there are lesser shocks. I know what has worked for me and where mine have been without ever having let me down. I’m very happy with my choice of TJM XGS.
For those interested in the nitty gritty:
- 20mm hard chromed piston rod
- Larger diameter increases the piston rod strength
- High pressure threshold oil seal
- Banded seal improves the durability of the seal
- Flared seal improves the rebound damping performance
- 20mm hard chromed piston rod
- N2 gas charged
- Twin tube construction
- 40mm piston
- Larger diameter results in lower internal pressure and heat for improved shock durability
- Larger diameter delivers faster damping response for improved vehicle body control and steering response
- Banded Teflon piston seal
- Prevents oil leakage
- Dust cap protects the oil seal improving durability
- Anti-drain back valve prevents de-priming of the shock
- 1.6mm outer tube wall
- Increased strength and minimised damage due to rock strikes
- 40mm piston
- Multi-stage velocity controlled valved
- Durable rubber bushings
- Higher flexibility to improve longevity
- Multi-stage height-adjustable strut spring seat
- Allows for easy height adjustments when faced with undetermined loads
- For more info visit: tjm.com.au