Hugo Lafrenire (Hugo)
Toyota Tech: Toyota SUV Suspension Lift Collaboration
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1999 Toyota 4Runner, 4WD, 3.4 Liter, 6 Cylinder, 5-Speed

Front:
Downey/Bilstein Coilover
Rockstomper front sway bar disconnects

Rear:
KYB Shocks
Downey Springs

Downey adjustable lift kit and KYB shocks review:

The goal of this article is to express my opinion on the lift kit I have on my truck, the Downey kit. I will also address the shocks Ive chosen for the rear, the KYB Gas-A-Justs. For starters, my truck is a 3rd generation, a 1999 SR5 V6 5 speed, so it has the updated rear suspension that 96-98 models dont. Basically, rear bumpstops are shorter and theres a cone-type bumpstop inside the coil spring. The Downey kit will fit both types of suspension. The kit consists of coilovers up front, adjustable via a threaded sleeve up to 4 according to Downey. The coilovers are fitted on Bilstein shocks. The coilovers themselves have a spacer on top. The rear consists of lift springs. Two choices are available, giving 2 or 3 inches of lift. These measurements are approximations and actually give less lift than that once the springs settle. On the picture below, the 2 springs are the gray/blue ones, and the 3 ones are gold/brown. The bottom coilover is for the drivers side. Its important to note that I bought my kit used from a former member of the forum, and it was somewhat incomplete. The spanner wrench used to adjust the kit wasnt included and despite numerous e-mails, I never got it. I use a big monkey wrench that works just fine however. Also, judging from various picturess, theres supposed to be a sort of rubber bushing between the top of the front spring and the aluminum spacer, which I never got either. The rear shocks were not included with the kit, and neither are they if you order it from Downey. I got the whole thing for 500US$. Not bad, since I got the two sets of rear springs.

Front coilovers

These have a spring rate of 600 lbs/inch. OE struts are rated at 420 lbs/inch. Both coilovers look the same and have the same spring rate, except that Downey gave the left coilover a neat feature, in that theres an additional spacer to compensate for the heavier left side of the truck. Some of you may have noticed that our trucks tend to lean to the left side, because of the added weight of the steering column, the gas tank, the front diff, and the driver. Installation is not easy, but not that tough either. Soaking every nut in WD-40 or other penetrating oil the night before, and having air tools eases the process. Since you can lower the ring (lower spring seat) completely, a spring compressor is not necessary, except maybe for removing the OE strut. Also, putting the OE bottle jack upside down in the wheel well, pushing down on the ball joint nut helped quite lot. Ill be happy to answer any additional questions you may have regarding installation. Adjusting the height is a little difficult since you cant move that much under there, but once its set, it wont move unless you decide to change the adjustment. Just make sure you lube the threaded sleeve generously. However, forget about adjusting it while the truck is resting on all four wheels : lift the corner you want to adjust first to take some weight of the shock assembly. Removing the wheel is not necessary, but it helps a little as space is tight; expect a couple of hits on your head, courtesy of the front bumper

Rear lift springs and KYB shocks

The rear is easier to install than the front, except for removing the shocks, which are a total pain in the ass. Once you grip the upper nut, grab the shock itself with a huge monkey wrench and turn the shock itself. When installing it, you should support the whole rear diff, either with a floor jack if youre doing this in your driveway, or with a tall threaded thingy (sorry, cant give a better description!) if you rent a space in a DIY shop.  As you lower the jack/support, the springs will literally fall right off. Install new ones, including the cone insert if you have a 99+, new shocks, and youre set. Dont forget to remove the e-brake bracket and fabricate another one 2 inches longer (Downey doesnt include that either). Its real easy : a 2x1 piece of metal, two holes, use the OE hardware, and its over!  My rear shocks are KYBs Gas-A-Just. Despite what the name implies, they are not adjustable in any way. Go figure At least, they didnt claim to be! They are application specific, and are well suited for the Runner. However, I didnt know of their Monomax (heavy-duty) line when I ordered the Gas-A-Justs, otherwise I would have gotten these instead. I think the KYBs are good, but not enough. They are 8 months old and have been wheeled often, and it seems that they used to ride better.

Results

I got about 1.75 of lift in the rear. It may have settled to around 1.5 by now, I have not measured it since I installed the lift. So I set the front at about the same height. This may not sound like much, but it really gives the truck a more aggressive stance, and it looks better. I was already running 32s and I ditched the running boards at the same time, which further helped the lifted look. The 32s dont rub even when decent amounts of flex are achieved off road.

Ride

The ride is great! Even if the springs are 40% stiffer, (up front at least), they give the truck a firm, sporty, controlled ride. Its not harsh at all and I actually like it better than stock. The advantage of stiffer springs over a spacer-type lift is that as the truck is lifted, itll tend to lean more in turns, the center of gravity being higher. The higher spring rate eliminates this tendency to sway more, something spacers cant achieve.

Problems

I have not encountered any vibrations. With the lift set a little lower than 2, CV joints are not angled enough as to vibrate. Also, theyre less likely to break/wear prematurely at this angle. However, the left front spring rubs on the threaded sleeve, right in the red circle in pic below. At first, I wondered if I had done something wrong, but its just that the threaded sleeve is almost the same diameter as the inside of the spring. No biggie, you just have to put some grease on the contact point every now and then. The front shocks may be valved too soft Im afraid. Off road, I sometimes feel like the front is bottoming out on some washes. May be? Feel like? Yeah, Im not sure! Why? First, its illogical to bottom out with the truck almost 2 inches higher and springs 40% stiffer in places where the stock suspension didnt. Second, like I pointed out earlier, the rubbing of the spring on the sleeve makes some noise; it rubs a little under nose diving when braking. Articulation off road is much more accentuated, so this could just be noise from that, because it doesnt feel like a bone-jarring hit. Also, I run Rockstomper discos up front (modified and beefed-up to stop them from breaking), which have a cacophony of their own.  Also, in cold temperatures, Ive heard the Bilsteins squeak when nose dive occurs. I was told by a local performance parts salesman that Bilsteins are known to have that problem. Whats weirder is that they do that when its freezing or just a little colder, but dont do it when its really cold.  As far as the rear end goes I dont know if its my imagination or the fact that its winter, but I find that I have a rough ride over severe bumps and potholes on the road, like the shocks are not damping enough anymore. This is more obvious when the car is loaded. I once took my boss and a client in my car, with about 130 pounds of suitcases in the trunk. Over bumps, the ride was rough. I suspect better rear shocks would have prevented that unpleasant symptom.  One last detail : since the lift I got isnt excessive, I didnt do anything about the Panhard bar, since I havent experienced any gas tank hitting issue. The only thing I did was notch the gas tank skid plate where the zerk fitting from the rear drive shaft could potentially hit.

Conclusion

Overall, Im happy with my truck. It looks better, rides better and works great off road. I think that this kit is interesting if you want to lift your truck without too much trouble, since installation, even if its a little long and tough on the forearms, is relatively simple. I also like the flexibility of the adjustable front coilovers. Adding a heavier bumper or a winch thus doesnt call for a full suspension change.  I installed the 2 inches rear springs, but I may move to the 3 inches ones, just to see Ill be sure to give a full review if and when I do.  I know now that eventually, Ill have to change the rear shocks but otherwise, the stance, the ride and the fact that I did it all myself is an investment Id do all over again!

Downey Springs Front Coil Over

Lifted Stance Front View

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