Ride & Handling Enhancements

A guide to gear that will put some spring in your truck's step

Sue Elliott-Sink
Jun 15, 2004
Photographers: The Manufacturer
It's not easy to design a truck suspension these days. We want our trucks and SUVs to ride comfortably over uneven streets, even off-road. But we also want them to tow our toys and haul home-improvement supplies without breaking a sweat--or any suspension components. Sometimes that means truck designers have to sacrifice comfort for towing capacity or hauling ability for on-road finesse.

Want your truck to ride more like a Cadillac, sit level while you haul gear from here to there, or handle better around corners? Check out this selection of suspension accessories designed to make your pickup or SUV more plush or more practical, according to your needs.
If you want to improve the handling of your 2002-2003 Dodge Ram, Hotchkis Performance's Total Vehicle System may be the answer. It includes tuned anti-roll bars, sport coil springs, sport leaf springs, bump stops, and fabricated TIG-welded end links with polyurethane bushings. The system also features Hotchkis-tuned, specially valved Bilstein shocks to provide increased ride control and handling. The Total Vehicle System lowers the truck two inches in front and four in the rear. Hotchkis Performance, Dept. TT, 12035 Burke St., Ste. 13, Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670; 562/907-7757.
www.hotchkis.net
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Some suspension kits use air springs as helper springs to aid in hauling and towing. This setup from Kelderman Manufacturing goes a lot farther: It replaces the rear leaf springs on 2003 two-wheel-drive Dodge Rams with a pair of Firestone airbags. According to Kelderman, the four-link Air Ride suspension system improves ride quality and load-carrying capacity. The air springs are mounted on a panhard bar above the rear axles, and the system's air tank adds compressed air to the bags as needed. The bolt-on system includes an air compressor, air tank, and height-control valves. Kelderman Manufacturing, Dept. TT, 2686 Highway 92 E., Oskaloosa, IA 52577; 800/334-6150.
www.keldermanmfg.com
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If you're a serious off-roader or do serious work with your pickup or SUV, you'll appreciate Rancho's bolt-on multiple-shock kits. They make steering more precise and enhance rebound and damping performance. These systems are designed for use with Rancho's popular 4-inch lift kits. They retain the original, single shock in its normal position, while adding two Rancho shocks per side. Rancho Suspension, Dept. TT, 1 International Dr., Monroe, MI 48161; 734/384-7804.
www.gorancho.com
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RollGard was designed for general suspension enhancement and to reduce the risk of rollovers. According to AmTech, this suspension stabilizer system reduces sway around turns and helps your truck hug the road, even in strong winds. The counterspring design is said to provide better control when towing, smooth out the ride, extend shock life, and reduce tire wear. AmTech, Dept. TT, 3120 Venture Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89101; 888/880-8949.
www.rollgard.com
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Donahoe Racing spent months developing and perfecting this coil-over suspension conversion for 2003-2004 two- and four-wheel-drive Expeditions and 2004 4WD F-150s. The company says this system provides unbeatable ride quality. The coil-over is adjustable to allow for ride-height changes from zero to three inches. It features 2.5-inch-diameter nickel-plated, nitrogen-charged race-style shocks, billet-aluminum upper mounting brackets, and silicon chrome-vanadium springs. Donahoe Racing, Dept. TT, 2841 E. White Star Ave., Ste. E, Anaheim, CA 92806; 714/632-3033.
www.donahoeracing.com
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KYB's MonoMax shocks are designed for better handling and control in heavy-duty conditions. They feature a high-pressure monotube design for a safer, more stable ride. Plus, their extra large piston and piston rod can handle even the most demanding driving conditions. KYB also offers shocks and struts for truck owners in search of more comfort or the ultimate in performance handling. KYB America, Dept. TT, 140 N. Mitchell Court, Addison, IL 60101; 630/620-5555.
www.kyb.com
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If you want help supporting 3000 to 5000 pounds of extra gear, you can call on Firestone's air-spring helper setup. Ride-Rite suspension systems use double-convoluted air springs for increased load-leveling and carrying capacities. They also provide increased ride comfort and handling. Each air spring mounts between a truck's frame and its suspension in less than two hours. Firestone Industrial Products Co., Dept. TT, 12650 Hamilton Crossing Blvd., Carmel, IN 46032; 800/888-0650.
www.ride-rite.com
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SuperSprings' helper springs are only noticeable when you need them for more hauling or towing capacity and want to get rid of rear-end sag. You'll also notice them when you take a sharp turn or during a panic over-correction. But they don't stiffen your truck's ride--rather, they reduce wheel hop, and their anti-sway feature gives you more cornering control. SuperSprings work with the existing suspension, attaching to the factory leaf springs. SuperSprings, Dept. TT, 5045 6th St., Carpinteria, CA 93013; 800/898-0705.
www.supersprings.com
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Are the leaf springs on your Chevy S-10 saggy or too stiff? Either way, Eaton Detroit Spring can make a new set of rear leaf springs just the way you want them. You can get same-as-stock replacements or choose springs to improve your truck's ride quality. You can even swap in springs to raise or lower your truck. Eaton Detroit Spring, Dept. TT, 1555 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48216; 313/963-3839.
www.eatonsprings.com
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Rock Dancer Products is a company built by and for hard-core off-road enthusiasts, and its suspension bushings are designed to endure serious rock-crawling torture, such as regular trips over the Rubicon. The green 1.5-inch-diameter bushings are CNC-machined from a cast, self-lubricating polymer. Rock Dancer Products, Dept. TT, 2110 Rheem Dr., Pleasanton, CA 94588; 925/846-1850.
www.energysuspension.com
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Koni's line of adjustable shocks for two- and four-wheel-drive pickups and SUVs includes monotube high-pressure gas, twin-tube low-pressure gas, and twin-tube hydraulic designs. The key is choosing the right type for your needs. These shocks are adjustable, allowing you to optimize ride and handling on your truck, whether it's stock or highly modified. Koni North America, Dept. TT, 1961 International Way, Hebron, KY 41048; 859/586-4100.
www.koni-na.com
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If you're into off-roading, you'll appreciate Edelbrock's new Xtreme Travel remote-reservoir shocks. While Rod Hall's H2 race team uses them, they're also appropriate for weekend rock-crawlers. The remote reservoir provides increased oil capacity for cooler operation--they won't overheat and break down when you're getting serious. They also feature Edelbrock's patented Ricor Inertia Active System, which delivers improved steering response around turns and a smooth ride, whether you're dealing with potholed pavement or washboard fire roads. The 46mm IAS valve also helps keep the tires on the ground and the chassis stable in demanding off-road conditions. Edelbrock, Dept. TT, 2700 California St., Torrance, CA 90503; 800/416-8628.
www.edelbrock.com
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If you're making a lot of power or running tall tires on your four-wheel-drive truck, you may need a set of traction bars. Pro Comp's bars are designed to improve stability and eliminate axle wrap. The latter happens when you stomp on the throttle and the rear pinion pivots upward, causing the rear leaf springs to deform, potentially causing breakage. Pro Comp's traction bars improve drivetrain and suspension durability and reduce wheel hop for improved traction when climbing hills or traveling over rough terrain. Explorer Pro Comp, Dept. TT, 2360 Boswell Road, Chula Vista, CA 91914; 800/776-0767.
www.explorerprocomp.com
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Do you feel a lot of shimmy in the steering wheel? Perhaps a shimmy shock would make your life easier. Officially known as a steering stabilizer, Skyjacker's shimmy shock will dampen vibration through your steering system, reducing harsh road feel and making it easier to turn big wheels and tires on- and off-road. You can add a steering stabilizer to trucks that didn't come with one or upgrade from the factory unit to a single or dual-shock setup. Skyjacker Suspensions, Dept. TT, P.O. Box 1678, West Monroe, LA 71294; 318/388-0816.
www.skyjacker.com
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Explorer ProComp recently entered the world of adjustable shocks with its new MX6, and now it has the six-way adjustable remote reservoir mono-tube shock for more aggressive suspension modifications. The MX6 R Series is available for long- or standard-travel applications and with your choice of soft or medium valving, ideal for many pickup or SUV use. Part numbers are available for Ford, GM, Dodge, Toyota, and Jeep vehicles. Explorer Pro Comp, Dept. TT, 2360 Boswell Road, Chula Vista, CA 91914; 800/776-0767.
www.explorerprocomp.com
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Anti-roll bars help keep your tires in contact with the pavement when cornering--a clear plus when you're interested in handling and overall control of your truck. Unfortunately, most factory units come with mushy rubber bushings that deflect under use and often age prematurely, due to the effects of the elements. Prothane offers a wide range of polyurethane bushings that can enhance the effectiveness of your factory anti-roll bars. They feature grooved bores designed to hold Prothane's Super Grease for quiet operation. Prothane also offer larger-diameter bushings for aftermarket bars. Prothane, Dept. TT, 3560 Cadillac Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626; 888/PROTHANE (776-8426).
www.prothane.com
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ARB's research and development teams literally spent 12 months engineering this complete Old Man Emu integrated suspension system for the Jeep Liberty KJ. According to ARB, it provides a noticeable improvement in on- and off-road handling as well as a dramatic improvement in high-speed stability. The system also gives an additional 1.5 inches of ground clearance with increased suspension travel. ARB offers different spring and shock combinations for those who have added a winch, a bull bar, or both. ARB USA, Dept. TT, 20 S. Spokane St., Seattle, WA 98134; 206/264-1669.
www.arbusa.com
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Air Lift's Ride Control helper springs add up to 2000 pounds of load-leveling support for half-ton and smaller pickups as well as for SUVs and vans. This air-sleeve design is said to provide a comfortable ride, loaded and unloaded. It also helps eliminate sag, sway, and bottoming out when hauling a big load. The system can be installed in an hour, and the addition of a SmartAir Automatic Leveling System will keep a truck level at all times without the need for in-cab controls. Air Lift, Dept. TT, P.O. Box 80167, Lansing, MI 48908; 800/248-0892.
www.airliftcompany.com
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Ground Force's shocks are specifically designed to enhance the ride and handling characteristics of lowered pickups and SUVs. These heavy-duty, high-pressure nitrogen-charged shocks help maintain tire-to-road contact by reducing aeration. The 10-stage full displaced valving controls the shock's compression and extension cycles for a smooth, comfortable ride. They feature long-lasting urethane bushings as well as internal bump stops that cushion full rebound impact. Ground Force, Dept. TT, 714 Braddock View Dr., P.O. Box 149, Mt. Braddock, PA 15465; 724/430-2068.
www.groundforce.com
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Replacing the soft, stock rubber bushings with polyurethane can improve a truck's ride and handling. Energy's Hyper-Flex polyurethane bushings tighten up the suspension and reduce body roll. They also reduce wheel hop, enhance stability on uneven surfaces, and provide more control when towing and braking. Energy Suspension introduced Hyper-Flex sets for the 1997-2002 Ford F-150, 1999-2002 Chevrolet/GMC C1500, and 1994-2001 Dodge Ram. Energy Suspension, Dept. TT, 1131 Via Callejon, San Clemente, CA 92673; 949/361-3935.
www.energysuspension.com
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