THE current-model D-MAX is a ripper of a ute, but there’s one thing I absolutely dislike about it: they ride like crap when unladen – to be blunt – and the stock suspension was never going to last long.
After a chat with Simon Vella and the team at Tough Dog Suspension, a plan was devised and a date locked in to fix my main gripe with the vehicle and gain some extra ground clearance in the process.
Simon explained that the reason the rear-end rides so rough is due to the three-leaf pack design. While a tapered or progressive leaf pack is usually a good thing, this one is essentially riding on the secondary spring at all times. This causes the rear to jolt on bumps instead of gradually firming up.
The solution for us was a more linear Tough Dog comfort leaf spring matched with its shock absorbers in the rear. A package that has been designed to carry a load between 0 and 300kg, while gaining 40mm in altitude.
This should be ample for our needs, but as we are adding a fair bit of weight to the tray in the upcoming months (stay tuned for that) we can revisit it later if required. New front struts and coil springs were also installed, which helped bring the front-end up after fitting the Ironman 4x4 bullbar and winch.
Simon and Peter from Tough Dog, who handled the installation for me, are absolute gurus that took the time to educate me on everything suspension. We started the day by weighing the vehicle on scales, to accurately determine how much weight we have added after fitting the steel bullbar and winch. This helped determine the correct spring rates front and rear, and the results are outstanding. Not only did we get our 40mm lift, but the ute rides and handles so much better now. No more jolting on bumps, and no more wallowing around corners.
The installation was handled by the people who designed the suspension, so as expected it all went smoothly. The team started at the front, and had me rolling by lunch time. So far there are no negatives to report. No weird vibrations, no handling issues thanks to a proper wheel alignment (always have a wheel alignment done after playing with suspension) and it’s all fully legal for road use.
With a few key modifications, Project D-MAX now looks and drives like a proper 4x4. Watch this space for our next update, as we keep transforming this previously stock tradie-spec ute, into a touring machine.
Oh, you might have also noticed we’ve added some new wheels and tyres to Project D-MAX. We wanted them on to get a proper wheel alignment, which the Tough Dog team handled for me in-house. And we all know stock tyres look wrong after installing a suspension lift. You’ll have to check back soon as we reveal the details.
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