Which shock absorbers should I get for my SUV?

Our associate off-road editor weighs in
by Beeboy Bargas | Jan 11, 2017

Happy New Year sir,

I just wanted to ask about upgrading the shock absorbers on my 2013 Toyota Fortuner. There are affordable brands like Ridemax, Opposite Lock, Nam—are these brands of good quality? Compared to more expensive ones like Rancho, Bilstein, Old Man Emu, and Tough Dog? I’m already confused with all the options available. Thank you!

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Gerardo B. Valencia 

Hi Gerardo,

Thank you for asking us about upgrading the shock absorbers on your 2013 Toyota Fortuner. We understand that there are many claims of improvement regarding shocks from the various brands you mentioned.

The reasons why you would want to upgrade your car’s suspension are: for improved handling under various driving conditions, to improve the ride quality (meaning a softer and smoother ride), for better performance when the vehicle is loaded above the normal payload, and for the vehicle to behave in all aspects of performance pertaining to the suspension.

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Since you didn’t mention in what way you want your shock absorbers to perform, let us help you find the direction you intend to upgrade. But before we elaborate: Your suspension's coil springs play an important role in whatever upgrade you choose, so do take them into consideration.

For improved handling on various driving surfaces, a damper (aka a shock absorber with a very fast response rate on the cycling of the coil spring) is essential to keep the vehicle balanced and behaving in a safe and responsive manner. However, these kinds of dampers don't usually provide a very soft or comfortable ride.

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For improved ride quality, all the aftermarket brands you mentioned will claim to improved ride quality and they most probably will. The question is, in what way will they improve the ride quality on the conditions they are designed for? Usually, the brands you mentioned are for sporting and recreational off-roading purposes. But if it is better ride quality you want, there are brands that offer this—but note that they do sacrifice payload and/or handling qualities.

For me, I would consider two brands when it comes to ride quality. On the more expensive end, Bilstein comes to mind. For the more budget-conscious, the Ironman soft ride shocks may be your answer. Do note that you have to place the proper coil springs to match your intended purpose, otherwise your desired upgrade may not meet your expectations.

If you require an above-payload-capacity damper, a stiffer and faster-responding shock absorber is required. These are usually larger in diameter. Again, it is important that your coil springs match your intended purpose.

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Lastly, there are shock absorbers in the market that can address all these needs. These shock absorbers have several settings depending on what you want. For example, if you are carrying heavy loads, a stiffer setting is usually chosen. Meanwhile, an improved ride would mean a softer setting. Some of these brands have nine settings for you to choose from, and you have the option of having the controls under the car or on your dashboard via an added accessory. The most prominent makers are Rancho and Fox, but they do come at a price.

It is important for you to remember that the manufacturer has given plenty of time, money, and engineering efforts in order to provide you with the best compromise suspension on your Fortuner. So if you want to upgrade your shocks, it must be for a very specific need. 

Beeboy Bargas

Associate off-road editor

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