4WD MODIFICATIONS - SUSPENSION & BRAKES
We asked the Australian Koni distributors, Toperformance Products, for a set of dampers to test on our LandCruiser 75 Series, but they refused, so we’ve used OTA Team vehicles for the purpose.
We always prefer to test dampers and tyres on our control vehicles, so that we’re comparing apples with apples, but if we can’t do that we take the next-best step of evaluating gear that’s fitted to OTA Team vehicles.
Fortunately, two OTA Team members have Konis on their vehicles. Our Team 79 Series has had Konis fitted since a GVM upgrade and has done 60,000km, of which around 70-percent were severe off-road klicks. This machine carries a slide-on camper and operates at 3.78 tonnes GVM all the time.
Konis have an adjustment system that really works, unlike most of the so-called adjustable shocks we’ve tested over the years. With the shock pushed closed the adjustment to damping rate can be made and then it’s re-installed on the vehicle.
The owner has set his Konis at around half adjustment range up front and a little over half adjustment range at the rear. They’ve performed without drama to date and ride and handling are much better than provided by the woeful standard shocks and a previous after-market set.
The second test vehicle family consists of Koni-equipped Commodore sedan, Falcon one-tonne ute, Nissan GQ coil cab ute (88 Series shocks), LandCruiser 100 series turbo (90 Series shocks) and Vista RV Crossover van (factory fitment 88 Series). The shocks on the Commodore and Falcon have done more than 100,000 km.
Behind the fully loaded GQ the Vista crossover van did a trip through Central Australia, the Kimberley and Pilbara areas- around 19,000km. All the vehicle and van shocks appeared to have survived without issue.
However, after a layup of a few months and a gentle highway trip the right-side Koni on the van was seen to be coated in oil and dripping. It looked like an old fashioned toffee apple left out in the heat!
Toperformance assessed the shock, with a view to a rebuild or warranty replacement, as the shock had only done about 25,000km. Strangely, it was found to be within normal operational spec’s and was also hung upside down for a couple of weeks and did not leak.
Toperformance said that it had experienced a normal issue called ‘misting’ and there was nothing wrong with it. ‘Misting’ is a very light haze of oil on the outside of a shock body.
However, our OTA Team member was not confident of its capacity to survive another rigorous trip in hot conditions, so Toperformance provided details of the workshop now doing the shock rebuilds, because the distributors no longer rebuild in-house.
Wayne runs Smooth Suspension at Lilydale, in Victoria. He’s an ex-employee of Toperformance, where he did rebuilds for them, for about 16 years. Wayne stated that if the oil reaches the bottom shock mount, it’s not misting: it’s leaking. The required rebuild was $135, compared with the retail price of a new 88 Series shock at about $350.
Smooth Suspension can also supply new and second hand shocks.
Wayne said that when he pulls a shock down and finds the oil ruined, it’s obvious that the other shock also needs a rebuild, because they’ve both had the same life. He pointed out that van shocks work very hard and although 25,000km seems early for a rebuild it was not unheard of.
Smooth Suspension reckons it’s good preventative maintenance to have rebuildable shocks like Konis pulled down and checked before they fail. People service their engines, transmissions, diffs, aircons and cooling systems, but bolt the shocks on and forget about them until they do fail. A shock failure in a remote area can be a trip-ending event.
(OTA has no business connections with either Toperformance or Smooth Suspension.)