The Basics of Long-Travel Suspension Design

Whether you’re upgrading your off-road truck or buggy, building a pre-runner, or preparing your Jeep for some extreme off-roading on the weekends, a long-travel suspension and coil over shocks are must-have elements. Explore the basics of this system and some must-have parts to keep you comfortable around rough dirt roads, mud pits, boulders, and other off-road obstacles. Prepare your garage for the perfect DIY project for the auto enthusiast, who is ready to hit the trails, sand dunes or other demanding terrains.    

Why You Need a Long-Travel Suspension System

Don’t try to take on a Baja racecourse or rock crawling in your truck’s factory suspension. There’s are many levels of off-roading, and then there’s professional off-road racing. For extreme conditions and race-ready performance on many tracks, you will need a long-travel suspension system. The more the travel the more the fun!  These kits and shocks are used to cushion you and your vehicle’s chassis from sudden impacts and routine bumps much better than your OEM suspension. A long-travel system gives your shocks far more travel. This allows a wheel to pop up and around an unexpected boulder and prevents you from bottoming out in a steep rut. It prepares you for a life far from the paved highway. Are you ready?  . . .  Clear a spot for your project, and be prepared to spend a couple of days removing parts, modifying your ride, and installing your new suspension system. This project can be performed in addition to lift kits and or other aftermarket components. Get your jack and your tools together and get ready for an incredible DIY experience and unforgettable ride.    

Basics of Off-Road Suspension

At its heart, a long-travel suspension kit is surprisingly similar to your existing suspension. You’ll recognize the shocks, springs, bump stops, and other standard suspension system components, only much more impressive. An off-road suspension needs to handle serious obstacles without damaging your ride. If you’re looking to pick up a long-travel suspension for your truck, here are some components you’ll need: While the components themselves will be recognizable, you may be surprised at the scope of a long-travel kit. Shop at a leading off-road vehicle store, like F-O-A, to find the specialty parts that keep up with your rig. Whether you’re looking for professional performance to win your next Baja race or a dedicated off-road adventurer to blaze trails wherever you turn the wheel, these parts have what it takes. Bump stops that range in size and in 2” and 4” travel lengths to protect your suspension system from bottoming out on a major impact. You’ll also want to install limit straps to keep your shocks from extending too far. Long-travel shocks can give you up to 20 inches of shock travel. Choose shocks with or without a remote reservoir for the off-road performance you’ve been expecting. Be sure to measure the physical length of travel that your shocks will need. These shocks are designed for professional tuning, whether in a pre-runner or your dedicated race truck. A dual-rate spring allows you to change between single and dual-rate of spring rates. This dramatically changes the performance of your suspension, which is essential when you’re changing terrains quickly. From muddy/rocky roads to deep sand dunes, you need a suspension that gives you a smooth ride in multiple types of terrain. Coil springs are typically placed around your shocks, springs are the critical part of your vehicle suspension. Your new suspension system is going to handle some serious impacts, so the correct support of coil-over springs can make the difference between a bumpy un-controllable ride and an unforgettable adventure. Finally, you should strongly consider a set of upper and or lower control arms. These parts are what give your pre-runner or race truck its signature, wide-front look. This missing ingredient is what helps you pull your entire kit together. If you’re handy with fabrication, you can create your own long-travel suspension control arms. Otherwise, you’ll need to order specialized arms for your make and model of vehicle. Other components can be used in a wide range of vehicles, but control arms need to have the proper measurements for your specific vehicle. Compare A-arms and I-beams The setup is similar, but there are pros and cons to each type of front suspensions. If you’re creating a race truck, check with race regulations or other drivers to find the best option.

Installing a Long-Travel Suspension Kit

Before you start gathering materials for your truck, it’s important to make a game plan. Are you making a race-ready truck or a street-driven pre-runner? Do you want all the modern conveniences of your typical ride, like a stereo and AC, or do you want a race truck that removes all those in favor of a lightweight design. Whatever you decide you should get an accurate “sprung weight” of the truck to make correct spring rates. F-O-A, has built just about every type of set-up you have seen and we can accurately guess on your spring rates, but if you want there to be no doubt, then get an accurate “sprung weight” of your vehicle.  Once you peel off your wheels, shocks, and tie rods, you have a surprising amount of play in the way you put together your front end. Pick up longer arms and tie rods to increase the track width of your front end. This can give you more control and more clearance on a demanding track. If you’ve decided to fabricate your control arms, it’s time to decide on the type of alloy you’ll use. Chrome-moly and “drawn over mandrel” (DOM) steel are two popular options for automotive fabrication. A TIG or MIG welder is a must. Only attempt this project if you’re already experienced in welding and automotive fabrication. Otherwise, there are great pre-made A-arms and I-beams available for most makes and models of trucks. Follow any included instructions in your components to install them. Carefully inspect your existing suspension system to see how your aftermarket parts will fit. Many Toyota, Ford, and Chevy trucks will have lower arms and other components ready for an easy swap. Other makes and models of trucks may be completely compatible with long-travel suspension parts, so you’ll need to get creative when installing them. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. Improper installation of a suspension system can be dangerous, particularly when taking on a dangerous bouldering route. Be sure to gather the tools and prepare to take a few days or a week for a full long-travel suspension installation project.

Find the Parts You Need Today

A full long-travel suspension system installation isn’t for the faint of heart, but experienced auto enthusiasts can find all the parts and resources they need online. Don’t hesitate to reach out to find answers to your tech questions, or F-O-A chat, online resources help you overcome obstacles and order the exact components you need for a safe, effective off-road adventure or race performance.  Shop for dependable parts for your Pre-runner/race truck at First Over All Off-Road Shock Technology, or F-O-A. Shop for shocks, steering stabilizers, bump stops, bypass shocks, shock coolers, springs, and more to transform your stock truck into a dune-racing beast. Enjoy convenient shopping and affordable components delivered right to your garage for less. 96 East St Ware, MA 01082 (413)277-0658