Suspension requirements

Submitted: Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 17:50
ThreadID: 35236 Views:4222 Replies:5 FollowUps:13
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I have a 2005 Prado T/d planning to head to the simpson desert. Am getting conflicting reports on whether I need to upgrade my std suspension which has done 15k. Some dealers say 1/ a complete lift kit iis required, others 2/ just springs only as std shocks will be OK, 3/ don`t change anything leave as std with air bags in the rear springs. 4/ leave as is. 5/ Prados are not designed to be lifted. I`ve been told OME are best, then TJM, try Koni because you can rebuild them, its all very confusing. I do`nt really want to alter anything if its not really required for the trip. Any advice will be appreciated. thanks
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Reply By: Member - Chris R (NSW) - Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 18:25

Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 18:25
I owned a Prado from new for 8 years - therefore not your model - but you may be interested.
Have taken 1998 Prado into the simpson and other places with toyota suspension (front springs upgraded at delivery due to bullbar fitment) and after warranty went for OME springs and shocks all round. So it did travelled about 120,000 on factory fit and then 150,000 on OME.
At 15000 I returned from a simpson mid-summer trip with noisey rear shock which was replaced under warranty. A front shock - 60,000 replaced under warranty.
I had great expectations that the OME would transform the feel of the Prado - just like the ads and experts said. But alas noticed no difference in handling.
BUT the OME gave a 50mm lift which is greatly appreciated.
In the undulations and heat of the simpson the shocks can get a fair workout and performance even of the OME does fall off noticably. My mate in another Prado travelled with me on very demanding route and then across Simpson. His had no modifications, is still on factory fit - but it did break auxiliary fuel tank bash plate bracket - I believe due to insuffient clearance, load and heat.
In all the OME gave me greater clearance and with gentle driving have performed admirably.
Incidentally I also used standard fit skinny Grandtrek tyres and these were great. However for the last 80,000km I was on BFG AT and would definitely choose them again.
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Follow Up By: wiggo - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 08:45

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 08:45
Chris , thanks for that looks like i need a lift at the very least, and my std dunlops should be ok
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Follow Up By: Member - Ivan (ACT) - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 10:23

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 10:23
Chris, that bracket is a consistent failure on the 90 series
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Reply By: Mbr - Taz & Milka-Queanbeyan - Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 18:54

Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 18:54

There have been several threads recently indicating that this year there is extra soft sand sitting on top of the dunes. This has been reported by several sources including Ruth from the Birdsville Caravan Park.

This information alone would strongly suggest a suspension lift to try and lift the sump etc higher leaving your diffs as the most likely drag point in the sand.

A 2 inch lift is definitely possible with a Prado however your choice of suspension suppliers is wide and varied. OME do make a good product (complete lift kit) that is sufficient for most drivers ( I have a kit from them fitted to my 99 Prado: Cost $1200 gave me at least 50 mm lift all round). However I know one member of this website who did a double crossing of the Simpson in a 2002 Prado with an OME kit and he stated that the kit was basically exhausted at the end and the handling of the vehicle was quite poor. He subsequently has fitted Lovell springs and Bilstein shocks and struts which he claims provide a superior ride to the OME kits.

The Lovell / Bilstein combination is now the preferred setup for most of the Prados within the LCOOL ACT (Landcruiser Owners Online) group.

You state that you don't want to change unless you have to. Is this because you don't want to part with the cash or because you are happy with the vehicle's handling with the stock suspension package ? I can tell you from personal experience that the stock package is not that good offroad. Prado's are renowned for being way to soft in the front end and I would be surprised if you haven't encountered that issue already in the dirt. My OME kit has made a huge difference to vehicle handling and the front end is much more capable of handling large dips etc without dragging the bullbar through the mud.

Because of the load you will be carrying in the rear airbags are highly recommended to assist in keeping your steering wheels pressing into the dirt. If you look at my members rig photo's you will see a pic of my Prado towing a trailer. There is less than 300 kg sitting on the towball yet you can distinctly see how the nose is pulled up into the air, effecting steering, traction and visibilty as your headlights are looking at the possums in the trees.

I am aware of two main choices as far as airbags go. Polyairs and Firestones. I purchased a set of polyairs about a month ago online (brand new) for $220 delivered to my door. I am returning to Australia the day after tomorrow ( woohoo ) so they will be fitted shortly along with a heap of other new kit.

So there you have it: my opinion for what its worth. But..... I have not done a Simpson crossing yet....There are many others on this Forum with vastly more experience than I and who have crossed the Simpson numerous times.

Hope you have a great trip ( but for around $1500 I am betting it will be a lot better trip with far less recoveries required).

AnswerID: 180212

Follow Up By: wiggo - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 08:54

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 08:54
Hi Taz thanks for the indepth report. That info on OME worries me. Don`t have a problem spending the money if its to good use,but a stuffed kit after two runs is not good enough . Have not had this vehicle off road as yet. Had 60 & 80 series before which were great. Are you saying I should fit the airbags as well as the new suspension? I see your photo and its got upgated suspension yeh?
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Reply By: Member - Steve (ACT) - Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 19:24

Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 19:24
Can't speak for the rest of the Lcool-ACT group, but I have OME, and an happy with them did have a problem with the rear end sagging when I first put in the cargo draws/fridge etc.

Turned out I had standard springs in the back, when I'd requested heavy duty, since these have been swapped the suspensions been great.

Off to the Cape next week, fully loaded and we'll see how the different set ups go.
We have two Prado's one with OME and one with Ridepro. The only prado I know that had the Lovell / Bilstein combination came to a sad end in a river and doesn't exist anymore, but up until then the owner was happy with the set up. The owner now has a 105 series and I believe has put the Lovell / Bilstein combination on that one and is happy with it.

Just be prepared that once you have installed your chosen suspension, another one will appear on the market and be better!! Sometimes it all seems a bit like fashion and different brand in vogue each year.

So long as it does the job you need and you can afford then I think that makes it the best (for you).


AnswerID: 180214

Follow Up By: wiggo - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 09:02

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 09:02
Hi Steve,When they did your suspension in the first place did they ask you what you were putting in the car as far as weight? I don`t believe you should have to take them back, if they did the right job in the first place all would be well. How would it be if you had the job done one week loaded up and took off to the simpson the next only to be let down as soon as you started.The prado with the lovel/bilsteins combo drowned yeh? Seems loke a good combo. Do you know who supplies them in Melb?
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Follow Up By: Member - Steve (ACT) - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 09:59

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 09:59
It was 12 months+ after the suspension upgrade that I swapped to tent based camping from a campertrailer, which included roof rack to carry gear and drawer system in the back!

1st trip away, and every little bump we hit the bump stop! I was on a trip with Ivan (below) and assumed the same problem he had, when I return I went to my mechanic to organise new suspension, never returned to ARB. The mechanic rang to let me know that I didn't have heavy duty springs on the back, so we decided to just replace those spring and see how it went, haven't had a problem since. Never chased it up, but always double check parts and work done now!

If all goes well with the Cape trip, when the time comes I'll most likely go OME again!

As for the drowned Prado don't believe the suspension was the issue, just a freak accident! Ivan below could give you contact details!

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Follow Up By: Member - Ivan (ACT) - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 10:21

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 10:21

You can't go past Darren McRae at ATS 4x4 in Geelong.

He has owned a 90 Series Prado, and done a Simpson trip in it. He is in the Simpson right now in fact.

I would NOT be talking to a 4wd shop about what to fit.. Whilst I'm sure that some of them have knowledge and experience (in long distance remote travel - ie heavily loaded), I'm convinced that the majority are mud and rock hopping enthusiasts who have a hobby and have been lucky enough to get a job in a 4wd shop - Not knocking all of them, but it's not like they are tradesmen with quals!

Your other option, is to find a salesman at a 4wd shop who does have experience in the work you are looking for - ask them what they have done.. Then when you find them, don't go anywhere else!

In Canberra, for me (and many others), that's Richie Cole at Hume OffRoad...

The other thing is to jump onto LCOOL ( - Land Cruiser Owners Online - they have a list (and archives) for each model Cruiser, one for each state (ie Vic), and a general Aus list. I'm not taking away from this forum (I like it enough to be a member ;-) - but LCOOL is specific to your vehicle.... There are a lot of smart cookies on the lists who also have gone through exactly what you are, with exactly the same vehicle.

Also a number of Trip Reports up there, including Simpson, and a Suspension Weekend.
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Follow Up By: Member - Ivan (ACT) - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 10:27

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 10:27
Ah yes, the beloved 'drowned' Prado... Definitely not the fault of the suspension ;-)

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Reply By: Member - Ivan (ACT) - Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 19:49

Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 19:49
My turn now ;-)

(and my thoughts only - OMMV)

1: Think entry, departure and ramp over angle - 2" lift will change this a lot. I had a 90 series Prado, and did many trips on standard suspension but lightly loaded - as soon as I was fully loaded, I sagged. I put HD OME on, and by the time I returned from a double crossing of the Simpson (in fact half way across the first), I was on the bump stops across every dune. Shock fade was apparent after 10 min, and after the trip, sag was inevitable every time I put more than my tent in the back. I took them back to ARB, who pumped my tyres up and said I was fine.... I went to Bilsteins and Lovells and never hit the bump stops again. To describe the difference in ride was from a roller coaster ride (including all the bumps!), to a magic carpet ride. Speed I could do a bumpy track almost doubled.

2: Phil G had a 90, and swears by std shocks - and they did a number of Simpson crossings.

3: Still the same angles - I'd be improving them.

4: Ditto

5: First I've heard of it - and seen many lifted - look at (land cruiser owners online)

6: I've been told that OME are 70% advertising and 30% shock absorber. Bilstein have an edge on performance, Koni have an edge on longevity (how much advertising do you see them do??)- dunno about TJM.

I think there is a heap of advice in the above posts for when you want to spend money - I think your real question is "can my standard Prado do a Simpson crossing" - I think a lot of that depends on how heavily loaded it is... (mine was a family of five, with biggest kid with 1 carton under his feet, 2nd biggest with 2 cartons and smallest kid with 3 cartons.... - and the kitchen sink as well). If you are by yourself and lightly loaded, you might have half a chance - otherwise, you probably need to spend some $$. Tyres are also something that you will want after market - Grand Treks aren't going to cope with getting there (gibber plains etc)
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Follow Up By: wiggo - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 09:15

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 09:15
Hi Ivan, you have definately turned me off OME, i agree about the 50mm lift and clearance. We will only have two in the car, but still, roof rack, tent [heavy southern cross] dustproof bag, draw unit ,fridge etc so I still think it will be pretty heavy without being overloaded. One tjm dealer said I could leave the original front shocks in and at least get some value from them? But change the rest? You don`t see konis advt anywhere. Everwhere 4x4 shop i go they talk ome or tjm. A previous post said grandtreks would be ok? And all i need was a punture repair kit . What do you know?
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Follow Up By: Member - Ivan (ACT) - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 10:11

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 10:11
Mate - something I learnt the hard way - don't necessarily ask a 4wd shop for advice. If you go to ARB, they will only sell you OME - I have dealt with a number of ARB stores, and when I asked them about how it would handle across the Simpson, none of them had been.. I feel that they can give advice on what they sell, but that's it.

I would be going to a 4wd suspension specialist - and even if you don't buy off him, at least get some advice.

It's a bit like fridge advice (not looking to start a debate on this one ;-) - You go to and Engel shop, and Engel are the best - you go to a Waeco shop, and Waeco are the best - some of the better (like truly better than both) brands don't even get a mention. When I bought my fridge, I rang all the tour companies to see which was best..

Changing rear and not front? - to my mind, you are setting up a 'good' solution at the back, and matching it with one that is not so good at the front - and they both work together, so you are compromising your rear by not sorting the front. (but I'm not a suspension specialist!!)

Grand Treks - you may well be exceeding their load rating, and its not the sand I'd be concerned about, as the roads to get there - if you were going (for example), from Cameron's Corner through to Birdsville, you will drive along the gibber plains and they are true punishment for tyres - yes, correct pressures and driving speeds will help a lot, but if you screwed your tyres just getting to the Simpson, you'd cry!

Once again, you need a more specific question - I have seen all sorts of after market tyres out there, but never a Grand Trek - maybe someone has done it who can give you some advice - but I wouldn't be...

OME - many people are happy with OME - but they didn't last for me, and after six months I replaced them at my expense because ARB didn't believe me. My wife could tell the difference - instead of dragging our butts on trips on every bump, and hitting the bump stops, we cruised straight over, no bump stops, and in comfort - even the CD player (shltty thing that they have in the 90 series) played songs again ;-)
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Follow Up By: Member - David M (VIC) - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 21:43

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 21:43
Hi Ivan, read with interest your comments on Wiggo's suspension dilema (have noticed his sagging rear) but am needing to buy new fridge, what do you currently own.
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Follow Up By: Member - Ivan (ACT) - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 21:54

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 21:54

I have an Engel.
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Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 20:36

Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 20:36
My turn now :-))) And up front I don't own a 120series Prado.

Like Ivan said I have been a fan of the standard factory Toyota shocks. They are quality Japanese made Tokico and in my experience of taking groups on desert trips, they are the most reliable. Some of those popular aftermarket brands are prone to bush failures, breakages, fade and generally don't have the stone protection that the factory shocks have. Factory springs are usually way too soft for a desert trip, and on the two Prados I owned, I simply upgraded with aftermarket HD, lifted springs (cost $300 + fitting).

If you don't overload your vehicle, you can easily do a Simpson crossing on factory suspension. And on the Simpson desert tracks, the Prados have enough clearance. Its all soft sand on the top, and a little bottoming out doesn't matter. With an IFS Prado, the front end lifts as you climb a dune anyway.

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Follow Up By: wiggo - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 09:30

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 09:30
Hi Phil, Did you own a 90 series like Ivan? If I was to go on your advice and put in hd springs and std shockers will the original shocks still extend and not explode once they try to expand too far?, Or do they have plenty of travel?
When you put in hd springs do they also give you a lift ,or do you need to specify that? Some 4x4 shops talk 50mm fr & Rear others say no 35mm fr[max] &50mm rear?ron
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 14:05

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 14:05
Hi Ron,
I owned two 90series TDs before going to the farm truck.
When the 120series was released, there were very few suspension options around and it was more common to simply fit heavier springs and keep the factory shocks. It is probably less common now for lots of reasons.

Everything else is "to my knowledge" and I'd happily be corrected if wrong. On the front suspension, downward travel is limited by the sway bar and the shock's travel. Fitting heavier springs usually make the front sit up an extra 30mm, which usually is no concern. On the rear, a 50mm lift won't cause an issue with the factory shocks. Especially given that the lift is less once you load the vehicle.

And with the 120series I'm not speaking from personal experience - just from people I know. Both of my 90series had factory shocks and heavier lifted springs. I did a heap of hard trips and never had an issue.
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