SAX on SAX OFF ( Suspension replacement ) 2013 D-Max

Thursday, Nov 14, 2013 at 08:34

Kanga1



Partly how it ended.

How it all began...............................................................








After picking up a couple of Bobcat scoops of sand for a pathway, when the sand was loaded into the tray the rear of the Ute came down considerably leaving about 45mm of clearance to the rear axle bump stops. So guessing the weight at about 250kg per scoop,500kgs ish total, it was fairly obvious that the factory rear springs would not be up to a constant load for our intended load when the camper body is on the tray.

Trying to find a suitable suspension to meet our requirements for our 2013 D-Max Space Cab has been a big ask it seems. Our vehicle will basically be empty of any weight for around 8 months a year, primarily a run around. For about 4 Months a year it will be carrying an Aluminium Canopy loaded with water, extra fuel, fridge etc and a roof top tent, I'm guessing the weight to be around an extra 700-900kgs. (It currently weighs 2060kgs with a full tank of fuel and an empty tray). We'll weigh it again when the canopy is built, on and loaded with our gear.

In this mode the vehicle must be able to cope with everything from blacktop to endless corrugations, the type created by a Grano worker with nothing better to do. The really hard bit of this fairly straight forward ask, is to finish up with something that is comfortable to drive empty for 8 Months (not unbearably stiff) and still be able to cope with the weight and conditions in touring mode.

After spending many hours on the phone and emailing all the manufacturers I could think of, I had pretty much resigned myself to having to put up with an over sprung mongrel of a thing for 8 months a year.
On a Forum somewhere I read about a new type of leaf spring pack called 3SDS made by a Company called Sax Suspension in Queensland and after some more calls and emails, and a bit more digging, the result was complete heavy duty replacement suspension being ordered. The theoretical part of how these leaf packs work makes sense to me and should be the best solution for our needs. Just hope all the theory works out in real life use.

The measurements I have for the factory fitted suspension height have been written on the floor of the shed where they were takenand the same for the passenger side. As there is no need to send the vehicle up into the Stratosphere, too big a lift will alter the Universal Joint and C/V joint angles more than their design intended, and potentially adversely affect their long term life.


The Sax Suspension arrived on Wednesday 20 Nov so the next day was going to big one, removing the brand new factory suspension and fitting the Sax Suspension ( at least the underside of the car is a clean as a whistle ATM.) The people at Sax recommended fitting the rears leafs first so that's what I'll do first.

The Third Stage parabolic spring is adjustable, and to do this the pins need to be removed and replaced in a different location hole, to load up or lessen load on that spring, so we have to make sure that the pins can be withdrawn without fowling the fuel tank or muffler on the other side when adjustment is needed.

The bump stops didn't fit over the bolt holding the leaf packs together, this was easy enough fix with a hacksaw to shorten the bolts by 5-6 mm. The rear leafs they went on straight forward enough, when I fitted the shock absorbers, I was a bit surprised that they had to be fully extended to get them on their fixings, and when I put the cars weight back on its wheels the springs didn't compress at all! After mentioning this to Sax they sent out 2 more rear shock absorbers that had a longer extended travel and a larger diameter bore, these shocks have a fully extended measurement greater than their location fixings are capable of, and should be OK and sorry for sending the wrong ones initially! Fair enough.


The front struts were very easy to install once the car is up on blocks. Because I took the top wishbone out, it was necessary to detach a brake line and some other thing I thought was something to do with the ABS from that wishbone. Next was undo the bottom sway bar attachment to the lower wishbone. Undo the three 14mm bolts at the top of the strut, one big one at the bottom and Bob's your Uncle, and a bit of jiggery pokery with a trolley jack installing the new ones. It went pretty well overall.


On their warranty form, Sax require measurements before and after installation taken from the centre of the wheel hub to the underside of the bodywork. This is what I got:

Before install. After install. Difference.
Drivers side front. 504mm 576mm +72mm
Passenger side front. 498mm 568mm +70mm

Driver side rear. 543mm 637mm +94mm
Passenger side rear. 537mm 626mm +89mm

A 70 mm lift in the front of this type of suspension is quite extreme and has resulted in virtually no droop (downward suspension travel and not ideal for a 4WD) at all, and the angles that the CV joints and steering components are now running at is worrying.

The fuel tank is 76 litre on the passenger side and was over 3/4 full when the measurements were taken, other than that the Ute was empty.


Straight after a wheel alignment a trip was needed to a Landscape Supplier for some much needed weight in the tray. Two scoops of sand from a Bobcat (500- 560 kgs ish) and the Ute drove really nicely. I'll leave the sand in for a few days and look for some offset woop de doos to get the springs moving and then check all the fixings and measurements again. Even with this weight of sand, it was still a bit higher than with the standard springs and no load! The standard springs with a similar load were 40mm from the bumpstops!!! The front hasn't changed at all with the load on. I do have some reservations about the height of the front, and would prefer it 20mm or so lower to reduce angles in steering and drive components, might have to put a winch on it to help out with that one.

We will get some kms on the car with this setup on it and then update the Blog with any news and observations as to how it is working out. Cheers, Kanga.

Isuzu wanted the car for a quick look over ( minor service) at 5,000km and when I picked the car back up they pointed out that one of the new rear shocks was leaking, which I immediately checked, sure it was leaking! Spoke with Howard Kodra at Sax straight away, he agreed to send another one out. Which he did, however when it arrived it was exactly the same type as the original shock absorbers supplied that were incorrect. This was rectified after speaking with John Molnar and a couple of weeks later when the replacement pair arrived they were correct and fitted.

December 2013 and the D-Max now has 4800 kilometres on it, and after some discussions with John Molnar, the Owner at Sax Suspension over the phone, John mentioned that he would be in Tasmania after Christmas talking to a potential distributor for their products and would like to see the car to make an assessment on how to get the best from the suspension. So the meeting was set and the results have been to install slightly longer brackets for the third stage leaf to be attached to the rear ends of the leaf packs, this has resulted in the third stage parabolic leaf having far less load on it when the ute is empty, giving a slightly more comfortable ride when empty.


John was not happy with the front struts in the car, they are too stiff for the Space cab ute AND far too high a lift resulting in insufficient droop, pretty much what I thought when fitting them. He decided that we needed a softer coil in the strut with less lift, and would have these made up and sent to me.

By now this whole episode was starting to become an R and D exercise at my expense and frustration.

With the Space cab, the ute tray has 2/3 of its load area behind the back axle, where-as the standard single cab ute is more a 50/50 fore and aft of the axle situation. As you put more and more weight in the tray, it gets to the point where the front of the car actually starts to lift.


A few weeks later and after a few calls chasing the whereabouts of the replacement front struts. They eventually arrived pre-assembled and looked ready to fit. However, after removing the drivers side strut from the car and spending a bit of time unsuccessfully to fit the new Sax replacement, I sat the one that came off next to the one to go in on the bench and noticed that the studs at the top of the two units appeared to have a different offset. This was confirmed with the verniers. The D-Max has an equal distance of 82mm between the centres of all three of these studs, the new units sent by John at Sax Suspension have two of the studs centred at 75mm and the third is out at 85mm from either of the other two!











After eventually getting hold of John at Sax he said that they were Colorado top plates and believed them to be the same as the D-Max, ( lesson learned there).
Just by the by, it became obvious at this stage that the rubber bush/spacer supplied with these Colorado top plates have indents in them set at 82mm centres, but the end of the studs are not. After a quick Google regarding Colorado front suspension problems, and finding a huge number of issues with the Colorado front end suspension in the search. It seems that the wrong rubber spacers are being fitted into the front struts of the Holden and wearing rapidly due to these indents at incorrect spacings for their top plate design! Massive oversight on someones part.








After waiting for Isuzu to get the new top plates in for me, and assembling the struts with the correct top plates on them, I was able to fit them into the car with no problems.

A run down the road to get yet another wheel alignment and the finished height of the front of the car on level ground and empty of weight is 25mm higher than with the standard factory springs, this has made the ride more comfortable at the front, and reduced the extreme angles of the front end steering and drive components to more sensible ones.

Update......................................

7/7/14 and we are on the Ferry from Tasmania to start our 3 month desert and State corner trip, culminating with volunteering as Course Marshals at the last Australasian Safari in WA towards the end of September.
After a quick breakfast with MickO and meeting his lovely wife we set off to the Great Ocean road for a look around the coast. Stunning, and definately one of the best bits of black top we have driven.

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So how did it go?

With our camper canopy on the Ute our fully loaded weight (extra fuel/water) and with us in the car was 2870 kgs.

On the road the rear suspension controlled body roll quite well and on minor corrugations it seemed pretty good.

In the Simpson Desert in July this year. The Western sides of the dunes was pretty well scalloped out from people heading East and the rear shocks could not control the rebound from the rear springs in these circumstances at all, the car was almost UNDRIVEABLE with the rear end bouncing uncontrollably!
We had to travel at walking pace for considerable distances up and down the dunes and had the tyres down to 8 psi in the front and 12 psi in the rear from Poeppells corner on, and still had to lower them even further later that day ( these pressures were taken hot and the tyres were pretty flat not surprising considering our weight) this was fairly drastic but necessary in order to be able to travel and any direction over the dunes.
Approaching and climbing the dunes had to be done so slowly due to the dangerous nature of how the rear of the car was behaving, we were unable to use any momentum at all to climb each dune. The long and the short of it was, a very stressful and extremely uncomfortable crossing.

When we eventually arrived in Alice Springs, a re-think for the rest of our travel plans and commitments with the Australasian Safari were necessary and after a suspension check by the Bridgestone tyre dealer who is a Licenced Pedders dealer in Alice Springs, (I stayed with him while he checked all the components and fitting nuts and bolts.) After the road test he said the rear shocks were inadequate for the springs, and I needed a wheel alignment! No kidding!!!!

After a few days contemplating the rest of our intended trip, we still wanted to get to the Surveyor Generals corner, ( having been to Haddons, Camerons and Poeppel corner already on this trip). We decided to go out to the SGC via the Giles-Mulga Parks road, which is a reasonable gravel road.
On the way back from the SGC on the same road the rear passenger side suddenly felt softer, and after checking under the rear of the car, a broken third stage leaf revealed itself.


We limped into Curtain Springs like a lame dog to re-assess and decided there and then to return to Alice Springs and phone coverage the next day, a call was made Howard Kodra from Sax to let him know how the trip was going! We emailed John Molnar with the news and don't expect to hear anything from him as he believes his Sax Suspension is the best suspension available, period. Howard said he would express mail some replacement Third Stage leafs on Friday 1/8 so we waited in Alice Springs until 7/8 for them to arrive to no avail, needing to leave Alice to get to the Ferry for our return to Tasmania two months earlier than planned. Having no faith at all in the suspension we just wanted to remove it from the D-Max ASAP and reinstate the factory fitted suspension until a more reliable substitute can be found.

Here is some GoPro footage from under the car and alongside the rear passenger wheel showing the failure of the Sax shock absorbers to control the leaf spring rebound. This was taken in the Simpson Desert before the Sax Third Stage leaf spring broke, you can see how slowly the car is moving and what is happening with the rear suspension, what it doesn't show is us and our belongings getting thrown around inside the car and canopy as it bucked like a Bronco for 200-300 kms!



In the past we have had no issues with King Springs and Koni shock absorbers on a number of different vehicles and in some pretty arduous conditions over many years, in one instance blistering the paint on a set of Konis that got extremely hot in a mercy dash from Point Culver to Esperance, and they still worked perfectly at the end of it. No affiliations etc with Kings or Koni. The point is, there was nothing especially bad about anything that the D-Max had been driven on, and we were not trying to test to destruction anything on the first new car we have ever had.

In a nutshell these are the facts.

1. Original suspension kit supplied with incorrect front coils fitted in the struts AND incorrect rear shock absorbers.
2. Replacement rear shock absorbers one of which found to be leaking by Isuzu Hobart.
3. Incorrect replacement rear shock absorber sent to replace the leaking one.
4. Replacement front struts fitted with Colorado top plates ( which don't fit a D-Max. )
5. More replacement rear shock absorbers found to be completely ineffective when the third stage leaf set to the loaded setting and the vehicle loaded and in off road situations.
6. Broken Third Stage leaf spring.

You can make your own mind up about whether to chose these products or not, it's your money!

Will keep up to date if the replacement Third Stage leafs ever arrive or if I can think of a use for these other than cray pot ballast!

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Since updating this in August 2014, the third stage leafs did arrive in Tassie via Alice Springs, and I have had a few emails regarding other failures of varying severity with this product, any photos sent to me can be added into this Blog.
Cheers, Kanga.

Tempus Fugit

Kanga.
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