Unknown Crazy guy taking air at Hollister OHV area.
Everybody is different, we'd all agree on that. We live in different parts of the world, wheel different terrain, and have different budgets. At Rocky Road, we've run all types and combinations of lifts over the last dozen years that we've owned Samurais. If a lift exists we haven't owned, then we've ridden in and wheeled with it on other's rigs, taken pictures of it for magazines, and seen what works and doesn't work on hundreds of trailrides.
At Rocky Road, we sell every type of lift (the SPOA, taller shackles, lift springs, body lifts, shackle reversals, coil conversion kits, extreme wheel travel kits, everything from a 1/2" lift all the way up to 9" lifts, so it makes no difference to us what you choose..... as long as it is right for you, and a quality product. Also, if you have any lift questions which we do not address here, please feel free to call us or send us an email
Our Zukinni Samurai in Arizona. Photo courtesy OffRoad magazine.
Where do I start???
Start by asking yourself what type of wheeling you most do. There are some basic categories of lifts, and each has its best application.
SPOA-- SPring Over Axle lift is by far the most popular with the rockcrawling crowd. This is because articulation is maximized by additional leverage placed on the springs in moving them over the axle. Articulation is what we call up and down wheel travel. Why is it important? Because tires on the ground mean traction. Also, its hard to tip a vehicle over that always has its tires stuck to the ground. With the SPOA, you'll get more side to side deflection of the same spring than it if is in its stock spring under axle position due to this leverage. The Spring Over lifts clobber articulation claims of the latest fad... the shackle reversal.
Vern Heywood, Ex-prez of the American Suzuki Assoc. getting it on at the Zukfari in Moab, Golden Crack, with his Spring Over Axle lifted Samurai!
For running large tires, the SPOA is a necessity and works great when combined with correct lifted springs. Everything is moved up out of harms way, including the springs. This lift when used with stock springs, gives approx 4.5" of lift, or enough to clear 31" tires. Hi torque revving as in sand and mud can twist up springs on an SPOA lift before long, so traction bar devices would be recommended with this style of driving. SPOA lifts are also relatively inexpensive and easy to install.
Myth... SPOA lifts break springs and hurt steering. Any lift can suffer spring failure. In the many years we've been wheeling with SPOA lifts on ours and many other vehicles, we've never seen a spring failure on any SPOA vehicle on the trail, Suzuki, Jeep, Toyota. The fact is, many vehicles come from the factory with SPrings Over the Axles, such as Ford, Dodge, Chevy, Mazda, Nissan, and Toyota 4x4 pickups as well as other SUV's like the Jeep Cherokee. Also, if setup properly, steering suffers no more ill-effect than any other lift out there.
Chris Alexander's 5.5" Rocky Road SPOA (with OME springs) lifted Long WheelBase Samurai on 33x9.50 tires.
SHACKLE REVERSE-- Popular for many years with do-it-yourselfers, and more recently available in kit form. Common with off-road racers running front leaf springs as highspeed impacts are absorbed through the rear of the spring than up front. The shackle reverse is best when NOT used on short wheelbase vehicles like a Samurai. If all it took to get a smooth ride was to put the shackles in back, then Jeep would have built the Wrangler this way, Toyota with the Landcruiser, Land Rover with the Rover series, and Suzuki with the Samurai. The bottom line is that shackle reversals on short wheelbase vehicles cause strange and potentially dangerous things to happen to your vehicle at highway speeds when you are braking hard. You will NEVER see a shackle reverse on a short wheelbase vehicle from any factory for this reason. In a nutshell, the S/R theoretically designed as a possible way to try to smooth out a rough riding vehicle on mild terrain; which means forest roads, desert driving, scenic, etc; and this theory does work somewhat well with long wheelbase vehicles like pickup trucks, but not with any safety on short wheelbase vehicles.
Some Gotchas with shackle reversals....
Engine swaps kits that use larger oil pans such as the 1.6 get munched on shackle reversals so avoid all shackle reversals (bolt-on or weld-on) if you plan on swapping up to a larger engine.
Be wary of bolton Shackle Reverse kits. They dramatically reduce your approach angle for obstacles. They severely limit your choice of aftermarket front bumpers. And the list goes on for avoiding these type kits. All you'll get is sales pitch, no straight talk on all the ramifications of this lift on your vehicle.
Be aware that in many places across North America, most of Europe, and in many countries around the world, it is illegal to modify the configuration of your vehicle. This means you can lift your vehicle with lifted springs. But using a shackle reverse makes it so your vehicle has an illegal suspension and will not pass annual inspections.
We do NOT recommend any shackle reverse kit to be installed on any highway driven vehicle for safety reasons. For the safety of you and your passengers, shackle reverse kits are FOR OFF ROAD USE ONLY.
Myth... My truck didn't come with the suspension in this configuration so it can't be safe. Offroad racers, fourwheelers, and long wheelbase vehicles have been using shackle reversals for years. Some 4wheelers complain about brake dive and the vehicle handling does often change for the negative. Shackles reversals are okay for OFFROAD USE ONLY. But please do not install them on highway/street driven Samurais!
Our TONKA Samurai in Las Cruces. Table of Contents photo courtesy of 4WD&SU magazine
COIL SUSPENSIONS-- Found on many of the world's best riding 4WD vehicles, these suspensions are coming of age now. Take a ride in a brand new TJ Wrangler or watch their articulation on the trail, and you'll get a feel for what coil springs are all about. Of late, kits are coming out which allow you to run coils on Samurais. We run them now and swear by them. Coils offer unparalleled suspension travel and cheap springs. The downside is that the kits require a substantial amount of work to manufacture and so prices are not cheap. On the flip side of that, changing lift heights with various coil springs cost only about a hundred bucks once the 3 link infrastructure is in place. Coil kits are also only available as weldon systems so you must have a welder or be willing to take your vehicle into a shop that does welding. One thing we do know through our own coil sprung Samurai experience is that the ride quality is second to none. Its like riding in a Cadillac. Kinda of hard to believe that Samurais can be so butter smooth, but coils really do the trick. Keep in mind that coil represent a serious change in your suspension so check legality within your own country, state, or province.
LIFTED SPRINGS-- The most common lift in the world. It is a simple procedure to do, and so very popular with alot of off-roaders. It is possibly the best place to start lifting a vehicle in the world of offroading. Springs come in various heights and spring rates from different manufacturers. Some springs are very stiff, some are more plush. A rule of thumb will show that the cheaper the springs, the poorer the ride. For guys who run offroad racing, stiff springs help keep the vehicle from bottoming out and prolong spring life. We carry Rancho springs for this type application as they are a stiffer spring and work well for SPOAs as well. For guys who have to drive their Samurais to work and around town though, soft springs make for happy people which is where our National and Old Man Emu springs come in. The SPOA lift will provide more flex in the rocks. However, we very successfully used various lifted springs on Samurais in the rocks for many years. Lifted springs allow you to run larger tires for more clearance and provide a good controlled 'feel' on the highway. Always compliment spring lifts with a taller shackle (we recommend at least 1" taller) to take full advantage
< Our Old Man Emu lifted Samurai easily tackles Moab's toughest terrain.
of increased wheel travel. Also keep in mind that the number of springs in a pack means nothing when it comes to durability and quality. A well built 3 leaf spring pack will outlast and outperform a poorly built 5 leaf spring pack any day of the week. Watch out for restickered lift springs from retailers who buy cheapo springs and sell them as their own "high quality" spring. We've seen some on the market that only lasted one 4wheeling trip! Many of these springs also ride stiff. Beware of restickered springs, and buy only those from well respected spring companies..... not retailers who put their own name on poor quality springs. Lifted springs do not change the configuration of the your and therefore are legal most everywhere.
Myth... Lifted springs are stiff. Some are, good ones aren't. A well built lifted spring will ride better than stock springs and better than a basic shackle reversal, as well as provide more articulation. Ask around to guys who have lifted springs as to ride comfort, they vary alot. For example, Old Man EMU and National springs are widely regarded as the best riding lift springs on the market for Samurais. So go ahead and ask around...
SHACKLES-- Probably the cheapest way to get some lift. A little is okay, but you can go too far. One must be careful with taller shackle lifts as problems with steering and sway control get out of hand on the front end, and u-joints can bind on the rear. Steel shims can be used to 'counter' some of the negative affect of longer shackles. Shackle lifts are typically measured in halves. Meaning a 2" taller shackle produces 1" of actual lift. This is because only one end of the spring is being lifted. For the guy looking to just throw a larger tire on and who doesn't do much hard-core off-roading, this is an affordable way to spruce up the look of a Samurai with larger tires. Shackles do change steering castor and driveline angles, which is why moderation is recommended on this lift.
Myth... Shackle lifts are dangerous. Not true.... to a point. Again, in moderation, a shackle lift is fine.
Eddie Casanueva's 1/4 elliptic rig twisting up.
BODY LIFT-- The body lift is something you'll see everyday on Show Trucks cruising the main boulevard downtown. This is because it doesn't do much for offroading outside of letting you run little larger tire. Jokes aside.... body lifts are a viable form of lift if you do want to fit larger tires and money is the main concern. Most folks use it in addition to another form of lift to bump up to a larger tire size. It does have its own complications, but on a Samurai, they are very minor. Installation is of moderate difficulty and can be done in about 1/2 day depending on your mechanical skills. The Body lift is very affordable and making your own is fairly simple. Remember though, your suspension is still stock and will have stock limitations and ride 'feel'.
Myth... You have to worry about bumpers and radiator. Not on a Samurai.... well, kinda not. For a Samurai, your radiator and shroud will remain fine in its stock location if you body-lift the vehicle. You do interfere with the flow of air though, which could alter an engine's cooling power. The stock rear bumper moves with the body and so is not a concern. The front bumper will have to be addressed though for a 'clean' look as it will sit noticeably lower once the lift is on. Our Crawler bumper series can be custom made to accommodate body lifts. We also understand the varied needs of Suzuki owners and offer three different sized body lifts to fit all needs.
Our TONKA Samurai at the Dakota Territory Challenge. Photo courtesy Four Wheeler magazine of our Zuk with the Rocky Road 4"er.
Which lift should I get???
We can't tell you that. We can help you figure out what type of wheeling you'll be doing and make some suggestions. Beware the 4wd retailer salesmen who want to put everyone into the same expensive lift. Everyone has different needs which cannot be met by one lift. And some lifts are better in some way than others, vice versa. Please mail us if we can help give more specific information as to what might be best for you.
I wanna go extreme???
You want it we got it! We have the Missing Link dual shackle suspension straight from ESPN, Four Wheeler TV, and the pages of about every 4x4 magazine out there. Other custom fabricated possibilities include 1/4 and 3/4 elliptic spring setups. This is our setup and we are the originators of it. You will see copy cat designs out there and some have even stolen our "Missing Link" name. Don't be duped though, the original design (ours) is still the best.
Why extreme travel? Try a drop like this in a low articulation rig. You'd absolutely tipover! This vehicle is Missing Link equipped.
Extreme isn't for everyone though. You don't need to set your 'grocery getter' with a suspension that has 40" of wheel travel. And extreme travel suspensions do have their tradeoffs when it comes to on-highway handling and performance.
I was told that 'X' lift stinks and 'Y' lift is the Ultimate???
Remember, you are different than everyone else in this world. What may be right for some, may not be right for you. Make up your own mind. Wade through the sales pitch and try to get some "meat" out of what may be better with one lift than another. The green Zukinni is our ultimate vision of a great Samurai. Some may look at it and think we're nuts. This is why we offer many different lifts. Something for everyone...NOT... one single thing for everyone. Most importantly. Ask around. Ask for negative feedback more importantly. Many people are reluctant to admit they bought a lift that stinks. However, this information is much more valuable than someone who thinks even the stiffest suspension, rides smooth. We get calls every month from individuals who have bought shackle reversal systems, or overly stiff springs, or inferior Spring Over kits from other companies and are very disappointed. Many times they throw those lifts away to install lift that really does deliver as promised.
Watch out for the sales pitch. Some companies make claims their products cannot deliver. Overblown claims of articulation and tire clearance are made for sales.... not to fit you with the best lift for your needs.
Are all lifts measured equally???
For example, some shackle reversal lift kits come in a "2inch lift" configuration. However, if the axle is not moved forward, a plain old 1" shackle lift will allow you to run the same size tire with possibly less tire clearance complications. Also, one kit we have examined only lifted the rearend 4", even though it is sold as a true 5" lift. The lift sits lopsided. We have also seen a set of 3" lifted springs that after one 4WD trip out, lost almost all their lift. That was/is a quality issue and can be avoided by staying away from "restickered" springs. Knowing who the company is that actually manufactures the springs can be very important. Retail stores and 4x4 shops do not make springs. If they put their name on it, most likely those springs are poor quality springs from the lowest bidder. Stay with well-known names like National, Old Man EMu, and Rancho to make sure your springs are top quality.
Ask around to those Sammy owners who know the product, have tried a few different things, pluses, AND minuses (and every lift has them) before making a decision.
Will my steering be affected???
Yes. That's the fact Jack! Throwing lift and larger tires is going to start changing things, whether its a Shackle Reversal, an SPOA, lifted springs, re-arched springs, etc.... lifting a vehicle and throwing larger tires on will somehow affect negatively affect the handling. The degree to which is sometimes up to the fabricator or installer. Your handling will never be what it was with stock tiny tires and stiff suspension. But don't be scared away from a lift because someone says the steering stinks. We have ways to correct steering and can answer all your vehicle handling questions. Just let us know what your concern is.
What kind of articulation do these lifts yield???
*Here is some independent test data which Gary Munck of Petroworks, put together over several years time and published for public viewing on the internet. Measurements given indicate how high a front tire was lifted on a hydraulic hoist before another tire lifted elsewhere on the Samurai. These tests were done on many different vehicles over a few years period and the numbers you see are averages. See the independent test results below for yourself!
Tom Barkume's Rocky Road built Missing Link Samurai on the 30* ramp with 33" tires!!!
*Shackle Reverse w/ stocksprings........12"-14"
*Shackle Reverse w/3" springs (claims up to 25", but only delivers a true)..........14.75"-17"
*Shackle Reverse with OME springs......17"
*SPOA with stock springs................22"-24"
*SPOA w/3" springs.........................25.5"
*SPOA w/National 3" springs and Add A Leaf.........26.75"
-Front and rear coil suspension..... Approx 40"
-The Zukinni Samurai w/SPOA, Old Man Emu rear up front springs, custom National rears, with Missing Link suspension, and some other tweaks..... 42.5"
courtesy of Jon Riggs
Do you have a question? Please feel free to email us
Suspension is what we live for. We don't exist to get you to buy an improper lift. That doesn't do us, or you any good. If its about suspension.... We've been there, done that, let us help. We carry every kind of lift available, from Spring Overs, to shackle reverse lifts, to our extreme Missing Links to make sure you get it right the first time. No question is 'stupid' either. You gotta start the learning curve somewhere and we'd love to help you.....
No one knows Samurai suspensions better than we do, no one!!!