King OEM shock kit
This whole endeavor wouldn’t have happened without
’s indispensable build thread
, followed closely by
's build thread
. If he hadn't nudged me, I wouldn't have started this posting at all.
My stepdad and I installed both front and rears in a day...the first time. He’s a retired mechanic, I’m mostly dead weight on the end of a wrench, so between us we had about 1.5 people working on this. If we can do it, you can do it.
King’s OEM kit has gone through some revisions since TCao wrote his build thread. Notably, the front and rear reservoir brackets have changed, though they still have issues as you will see. King has also added rear shock rock guards for about $37/each.
Also added SPC UCAs—I set these to +4 caster and not only do the front wheels fit better in the wheel wells, but the steering has a nice resistance to it. I’ve always felt like the FJ’s steering was a bit squirrelly.
The passenger side front reservoir bracket cleared the UCAs with a solid 1/4”. The driver’s side has maybe 1/16th. After several calls with King, their sales rep sent out a new bracket free of charge. Didn’t expect that, given what I’ve heard about King customer service, but it was a pleasant surprise. Going to install this weekend. Interestingly, I have no actual contact between the mount and the UCA, even after putting the suspension through full extension on bumpy trails. But any amount of mud is going to cause problems.
Something that I never caught is that the front brackets also have an integrated sway bar relocation. Big points for King here. Wish I had known so I didn’t end up buying a relocation kit, but hey.
One of the rear shocks shipped without any nitrogen, unfortunately. The King rep was pretty unhappy to hear that. Had it charged at a local shop for about $15. Not the kind of thing you want to find out in the middle of a build.
While the rear brackets line up with the bump stop mounts, they are bent at too steep of an angle to fit properly. A little tweaking on a bench vise and all was well. I’m not super impressed with the hose routing above the reservoirs at the rear—probably not a big deal, but the hoses are pullling pretty hard against the sharp edge of the reservoir housing. I’m working on a fix, which I’ll post soon enough.
A few other things I learned in the process:
- King shocks lifted my front end about 2”, which I figured would level the front with the rear on stock springs—wrong! The back end drooped like a German Shepherd, headlights pointing skyward. Installed a set of ICON 2” lift springs and the vehicle now has about the same amount of rake as stock, which means the frame is nearly level with a slight lift at the back end. You can see the stance in the first photo in this thread.
- We got the UCA ball joint bolts and the tie rod ends off with a ball joint puller (Autozone “rents” these for free with a deposit), but had to destroy the ball joint boots on the stock UCAs to fit the puller. Hadn’t intended on saving them anyway, but worth noting. These bolts (both UCA and tie rods) come off with an impressive bang—much like a gunshot and the whole spindle/hub assembly is suddenly free floating and it’s heavy, so I recommend hearing/eye protection and some safety wire to keep things from slamming to the ground and possibly pulling your drive shafts out of joint.
- Didn’t have to disconnect brake lines or ABS wires at the rear to install shocks or springs (but we did loosen all the mounting brackets for them so they could free float), however I also discovered that I don’t have extended travel in the rear. When I asked the vendor I bought from, they said “there’s no extended travel option for the rears” but I have come to find out that not only is there an extended travel option, it’s recommended for running tires over 33” in diameter. Seems I will be dropping the rear axle again soon...
- Coming from an old truck with blown shocks, then the off road “stock” Bilstein’s, the King setup is an absolute revelation. Off-road, everything feels about the same <10mph. At 20mph it starts to smooth out, and >30mph the entire vehicle feels like it lifts up and floats over all but the worst bumps and washboard. It's a hard sensation to describe, but the ride is both smoother and more controlled. Floaty without any vagueness. On-road, everything feels "tighter"--more precise, but with much better handling on bumps and swells. I can feel the tire tread vibrating on the asphalt through the steering wheel, but the vehicle feels more solidly planted. I can't think of anything that has a more pronounced effect on ride quality.
- The compression adjusters are worth the money, imo. Being able to tighten them down on-road minimizes brake dive, sway and squatting under acceleration. Opening them up off-road makes for a plush ride. Having 25 increments of adjustment is overkill--four would suffice, but the adjustment is easy enough.
- With 285/70-17s you WILL rub the UCA ball joint boots and rear reservoirs without wheel spacers. Not badly, but the sound of the tires rubbing on the reservoirs is unsettling. Fortunately, I caught this after only a few incidents. Which brings me to:
- FJ wheels are HUB centric, not lug centric. The more you know...