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Suspension: The difference between good and bad

By John Rooth, 07 Jul 2016 Opinion

Suspension: The difference between good and bad

A cheap set of springs could come back to bite you. Plus, Roothy’s ready to shake up Canberra!

I HAVE been getting stuck into the annual Milo rebuild and, as you’ve seen in recent issues, the job isn’t getting easier as the years go by.

But, if nothing else, the last 750,000km in the old mud-jumper have given me a few ideas on what works and what doesn’t.

This month it’s not just the truck itself, but it’s everything in it or bolted to it. Take that lot and shake it up a few corrugated tracks and pretty soon there’ll be shrapnel scattered everywhere.

The difference, when there was one, was always the suspension. The more bumps you can smooth out, the more rebounds you can control and the less damage gets done. The difference between good and bad suspension – read: expensive or cheap – is incredible.

Driving through waterUnfortunately, there are trade-offs everywhere here. My old truck’s leaf suspension might be uncomfortable and harsh compared to a modern coil-sprung vehicle, but it’ll handle bigger variations in loads without breaking or bending. Plus, it’s a whole lot easier to bodge up if it does break.

In the four-wheel drive world, just about everything else this side of a few commercial vehicles has coil suspension because the stuff is so good. I know having coils up the front of the 76 Series Workmate makes a big difference in the ride, but the stock coils and shocks were almost dead after 70,000km, while the rear leaf springs showed no droop at all. I still replaced them, though. Stock suspension is designed for test drives, not tough tracks!

Meanwhile, life goes on with Milo and Mustard. I couldn’t help plucking the old Engel out if its bag to show off the damage from a decade’s worth of belting around. Some of that red dirt is so ingrained it won’t come out this side of a wire brush on a grinder, but the thing still works well.

It’s worth pointing out that Milo’s destroyed three other fridges supplied for promotions, usually in about 12 months. Milo’s as rough on gear as I am, and there’s not much a year’s worth of hardcore travelling won’t destroy. I threw out a trailer-load of busted cooking gear during the last Christmas cleanout.

Measuring lift on 4x4However, not much is rougher than turning a truck on its side, and that’s exactly what I did with old Mustard down in Tasmania. As well as a hefty panel-beating bill, virtually everything in the back was trashed – apart from the fridge, recovery gear and my swag. Three years later I’ve started to notice the old girl sitting down a bit on the side she tipped on, and I figured the leaf packs might have copped some damage, too.

Sure enough, the cheapo springs we’d put in before the Tassie trip had started to bend. My old mate Allan Gray from Terrain Tamer was visiting, so I got him out in the shed for a look. Allan’s the most experienced Toyota mechanic in the country and you should never miss a chance to learn from him, even when it’s simple stuff like suspension. In fact, sometimes the simplest stuff is the hardest to get right.

Allan’s experience goes right back to the birth of Toyota in Australia in 1958, when the Thiess Brothers imported the first Land Cruisers to work at the Snowy Mountain Scheme. To think that just the previous weekend, I’d been surrounded by a bunch of 40 Series nuts who weren’t even born when the Snowy Scheme was switched on.

Roothy and allan grayThose old Land Cruisers, once the preserve of hard nuts who needed to get to work, are making a comeback. Let’s face it, though, the old 40s are about as trendy as a box of rusty spanners. Taught me a lot of lessons in the bush, though!

One of those lessons is how much of our country we’re being locked out of. You’d think with the massive growth of outdoor sports, camping and grey nomads looking for a nice spot to park the van, this would be a big issue, but the extreme greens have done an incredible job of bluffing and bullying governments into locking up our lands.

One party has got unlocking the bush on its agenda, so it’s getting my support. That’s why I’m running on the Liberal Democrat ticket for the federal senate in the upcoming election in July. Yes, it’s strange to think of an old bush mechanic going to Canberra – I doubt you could fix that lot with wire and tape!

Liberal -democratsI wouldn’t worry too much about Milo leaking oil on the steps of Parliament House yet, because Gabe Buckley’s running number one on our LDP ticket and he’s a lot more polite than me.

However, Australia is a democracy and we’re all entitled to have a say. Whatever your politics, I urge you to ask your local candidates what their stance is on opening up public lands. We need to get this issue on the table, before we all get swept into the cracks in the floor.

Cracks in the floor? Oh, I figured we were talking about Milo again.