Shocks may not get the attention of other, more recognizable off road parts like lift kits or tires, but shock absorbers are actually one of the most essential off road components you can upgrade.
Sure, plenty of vehicles may have a suspension lift or some large tires for looks, but who knows how well these rigs perform off road without the right set of shocks.
Naturally, being outside of the spotlight means that shocks may not get as much tech attention as other parts. So for the inexperienced beginner, we present a quick glance at shock absorbers.
Shocks or “struts,” are parts within your vehicle’s suspension that work in conjunction with springs and other components to help dampen impact and vibration during driving while also making sure that the tires are always in contact with the ground.
In other words, as your vehicle drives over all the bumps, lumps, and uneven surfaces on the ground, shock absorbers minimize the impact and vibration to your suspension. A working set of shocks successfully lessens the wear of your suspension, wheels, and tires.
In essence, situations where there is an increased level of ground variation — such as racing or off road driving — require shocks that are built for significantly greater impact dampening.
Upgrading your shocks can provide a variety of benefits, ranging from better vehicle stability, to improved control, and in some cases, a smoother ride.
A Common Misconception
Dampening impact and vibration may seem like easy enough concepts to grasp. However, many tend to make the mistake of misinterpreting the true function and purpose of shock absorbers.
Many believe that upgrading to premium shock absorbers will give a vehicle a softer, smoother, and all-around better ride feel. While this may be the general consensus, in actuality ride quality is dependent on a number of factors and components other than just the type of shocks you have.
While upgrading your shocks may offer a different or improved ride quality, the truth of the matter is that shocks are created more for improved drivability, control, and vehicle stability, but these conditions are terrain-dependent.
On one hand, a set of shocks that performs well on the highway won’t handle off road terrain very well. Conversely, off road shocks won’t perform at their peak on the highway. This is, of course, assuming that adjustments aren’t made to your shock absorbers when switching terrain.
Thus, while the fundamental intent of shocks is to improve your ride quality, shock absorbers serve a variety of purposes, so pinpointing a measurable definition of the amount or type of improvement is difficult.
A Brief History of Shock Absorbers
All shocks are designed as hydraulic devices to some degree; that is, they require the movement or motion of some form of liquid in order to operate.
In fact, early units were pure hydraulic shocks, meaning that they contained only fluid. Unfortunately, these designs offered restricted performance, as the liquid inside shock absorbers tended to foam or form bubbles, thus reducing the effectiveness of the shock and accelerating wear.
Now thanks to advancements in technology, shocks contain pressurized nitrogen gas in addition to hydraulic liquids. Not only does nitrogen gas offer significant improvements over pure hydraulic predecessors, but it is inert and completely safe as well.
Common Types of Shocks
Although there are many different types and combinations of shocks, this guide will focus on a few of the more common and abundant types, particularly when it comes to off road vehicles.
Twin Tube Shocks
Intended as a factory-style replacement, twin tube shock absorbers have remained a dependable and long-lasting option for several decades.
The base design revolves around hydraulic oil and nitrogen gas. The oil dampens shock while nitrogen gas is pressurized (100 PSI or lower) to help prevent foaming of the liquid. Softer valving also makes these shock absorbers more cost-efficient to make.
All in all, Twin Tube Shocks represent an excellent value for the street grinder or occasional mild off road enthusiast, and are often known to be factory original equipment in many domestic passenger cars and trucks.
These shocks offer closer tolerances in a monotube design that produces both cooler operation temperatures, and better resistance to the rigors of racing or off road driving.
Monotube shocks are typically high pressured around 200-350 PSI, while hydraulic fluid and nitrogen gas are relegated to separate chambers, divided by a floating piston to reduce foaming.
The end result is a set of shock absorbers with more controlled valving, making them ideal for racing and off road use, and are even used in many professional racing circuits like NASCAR and Formula One, and are quite common in performance vehicles.
Reservoir shock absorbers offer many of the same benefits and features as Monotube shocks, but with a few extra twists.
Built with an added fluid reservoir, these shocks offer less cavitation with enhanced cooling ability. In essence, these shocks will maintain top-tier performance for extended periods, even in hardcore off road situations.
As an added bonus, nothing beats the look of Reservoir Shocks. The impressive and slick dual shock-mount look is a surefire style statement of any off road enthusiast.
4 Wheel Parts offers a vast assortment of high performance shock absorbers for your off road-tuned rig. Choose from all the best and hottest name brands, including Pro Comp, Bilstein, Rancho, Fox,Fabtech, and more.
Whether you’re looking for an exceptional value to replace factory shocks, or a set of premium shock absorbers to conquer off road terrain, you’re sure to find exactly what you need thanks to 4 Wheel Parts’ unrivalled selection of shocks.
Leveling Kits: All About Truck Leveling Kits
Typically, leveling kits are the unsung heroes of vehicle performance: a finished painting that is complete in every way, but hangs on your wall slightly crooked. This is where truck leveling kits step in to do their part.
Problem is, however, that leveling kits are truck parts that fly relatively under the radar. Sure, most people know their general purpose and premise behind them, but rarely does someone know about the various types or appropriate application of truck leveling kits.
Thus, we are pleased to bring you our resource guide for leveling kits. Herein, we’ll attempt to cover as much as we can to help familiarize you with truck leveling kits, and hopefully guide you down the right path to getting the one you need.
Types of Leveling Kits
As far as standard truck leveling kits go, there are 3 primary types, each of which has its own application and benefits.
Of course, these are not to be confused with air leveling kits, which serve a different purpose entirely, and most definitely should not be considered as an alternative to true truck leveling kits.
Strut Extension lifts are for vehicles that utilize a coilover strut for the front suspension, which typically include late-model half ton trucks and SUVs.
These leveling kits operate off of the simple premise of applying a spacer on top of a factory strut. In this way, modifying your rig requires no modifications of factory parts, and therefore costs less. Plus, strut extensions are easily removed if need be.
Torsion keys replace factory pieces, allowing you to produce lift by manipulating a vehicle’s torsion bar. Usually, aftermarket torsion keys are built stronger and sturdier than factory units to ensure that this is a safe and effective method of achieving lift.
It is usually a wise decision to purchase a torsion key adjustor tool along with the leveling kit for future modification.
Coil spacer leveling kits are similar to strut extensions, only the spacer is added to the top of factory spring buckets. This allows you to enjoy all the benefits of truck leveling kits while maintaining a factory stance and OEM ride quality.
In order to compensate for the additional lift, some coil spacer applications will require the installation of shock extensions, which are usually included with these leveling kits.
Coil Spacer leveling kits are available from Readylift.
Not to be confused with standard leveling kits, block kits are the preferred method of altering the ride height of the rear end of a vehicle, whether you’re looking for a rear-high stance, or just want to put the rake back into your truck for hauling or towing.
Why Leveling Kits?
It’s easy to get confused when it comes to the many different truck components out there, and leveling kits are no less intricate than most other pieces of truck hardware.
At its core, a leveling kit functions similarly to a body lift kit, but with a slightly alternative purpose in mind.
But whereas a body lift is intended to produce an even lift of a vehicle, leveling kits will provide additional lift for either the front or rear end of one. This makes leveling kits particularly useful on vehicles where weight distribution causes a vehicle to have an uneven stance.
For example, a modified truck with a heavy duty winch and front bumper mount is heavier on the front end due to the added weight of the extra hardware, and thus may sag unevenly towards the front, causing an imbalance in your suspension.
Aside from looking unsightly, this imbalance can affect a variety of other factors, including handling or tire and suspension wear. A leveling kit is just what you would need to even out your stance.
Leveling kits serve ulterior purposes as well, including some extra clearance for larger tires and wheels or better rear wheel performance in towing or hauling situations. They are simple and effective in how they operate, and are also relatively easy to install.
Understanding Leveling Kits
Although the name and purpose sounds similar to standard suspension lift kits, the application is decidedly different.
While normal suspension lift kits offer a number of different options and styles of kits for you to lift your ride, leveling kits are entirely vehicle-specific, and there is no universal kit that will work for any rig.
For this reason, it’s even more important to know what type of leveling kits will fit your vehicles.
Also, for a fast and easy way to determine what type of truck leveling kit you need, 4 Wheel Parts offers a vehicle-specific shopping tool so you can narrow down and select leveling kits specific to your vehicle.
4 Wheel Parts is your source for leveling kits in every build and configuration for nearly every vehicle model.
Choose from all the top name brands in truck leveling kits, plus find a massive variety of other truck components available at the best prices around. For leveling kits and all your suspension-related needs, choose 4 Wheel Parts.