Higher Heights Off Road Coil-Over-Axle Rear Suspension
The Rear Axle Coil Over Axle Kit is probably one of the most significant upgrades to come along for the Samurai since the spring over. When I heard that a coil suspension kit for the Samurai was going to be available, I gratefully accepted the opportunity to be involved in the affair. I would like to thank Gary Munck of Petroworks Off Road Products for helping with the Installation, and Jake Palmberg of Higher Heights Off-Road for designing and creating the kit. The cost of the kit is $799.00. Petroworks is an authorized distributor of the kit. The kit does not come with the coils or shocks. In our case we had a set of 1995 Geo Tracker two-door, four wheel drive rear springs, and were able to utilize our original spring over shocks.
I already had a fantastic suspension setup in the front of my 1988½ Samurai, utilizing an extended double shackle setup with early model rear leaf springs, Ford shock towers and the longest Rancho 9000s you can get. The setup was put together with help from Petroworks.
The vehicle flexed rather nicely in this configuration. Articulation in the front with street air pressure in the tires was 34". Before we began the conversion, the rear suspension achieved 26" of articulation. Ahh! Not good enough.
The vehicle had proven itself to be a rock crawling workhorse on the local Southern California trails. I also use it as a daily driver, so the on road impressions would a strong consideration. The kit utilizes either two or four wheel drive, two- or four-door Suzuki Sidekick or Geo Tracker rear coils. It includes a great set of instructions, an axle truss that includes the upper ball joint A-arm connection, the trailing arm mounts, the coil mounts and shock mounts. Additional parts in the kit include the upper shock/coil tower and the A-arm mount that attaches to the top of the axle truss and to the included mount. All the included parts were built to be extremely durable and tough; the kit weighs at least 80 pounds.
For our installation, Gary and I chose to move the shocks lower on the axle to be able to utilize my Rancho 9000 SPOA rear shocks (Rancho 9125). That meant we had to move the shock absorber out ¾ inch on the existing upper shock mounts.
The kit was easy enough to install for a home mechanic, but welding is required. We had to weld on the upper coil/shock mount, the axle truss to the axle, the A-arm mounts and the bump stops. Bump stops were not included with the kit, but we were able to use the SPOA rear axle bump stops. The bump stops are necessary to prevent the truss from hitting the body pan of the vehicle. The installation procedure is here.
Post Installation Perceptions
Upon completion, the results were fantastic. We were able to achieve an extra 8" of articulation for a total of 34" of articulation in the rear suspension. The Rancho shocks from the SPOA worked fine with the completed coil over.
The overall workmanship is good, the design is well thought, and the coolness factor is awesome. We had some concerns approaching this project: such as body roll, stability, and ride. One of the first characteristics we noticed was that under acceleration, all axle wrap is eliminated as we expected. Second, under acceleration the body tends to lift ever so slightly, kind of the reverse of what we expected. Third, roll characteristics were very good, under hard acceleration in a turn the Samurai seems to have increased over-steer, though it is controllable with less throttle.
The new suspension definitely takes a little getting used to; it will take a while to get accustomed to the new feeling in the butt when off-road. The clearance and departure angles have improved in the rear of the Samurai now that there aren't leaf springs sitting out back.
Overall off-roadability is excellent. I found added ability to crawl over rocks and tackle almost any kind of aggressive obstacle. An interesting effect: while accelerating up a hill, upon reaching the crest the vehicle will unload off the rear springs and lift the rear up. It seems to help keep the front of the vehicle from popping up when climbing, overcoming the tendency of leaf-sprung vehicles lifting up in the front. Descents were very composed and tracked true, no more wandering by the rear of the vehicle, and the rear end of the vehicle did not want to lift up.
Highway manners are excellent. The vehicle tracks perfectly true and straight. Highway bridges, ruts, and potholes were absorbed comfortably without the punishment of stock leaf springs. The ride is much quieter and the new coils absorb rougher terrain, which is much appreciated with my aging tires and bones.
Overall impressions of the conversion are excellent. The kit yielded a much-improved ride, better handling, more composed mannerisms on and off-road, better off-road capabilities and better all around driving feeling. I would recommend this kit to anyone wanting to improve his or her spring over or any other suspension on the Samurai. This kit could be added to an existing double shackle setup, or even a shackle reversal; it works with all sorts of setups. You could adjust the height with Pro-Comp 1.5" Sidekick/Tracker springs to get yourself even more lift, or you could use four-door springs.
The choices for suspension upgrades for the Samurai have improved 100% with the addition of this kit. I believe this is the most important overall upgrade the Samurai has seen since its introduction in 1985.