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Post Posted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:03 pm 
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Alright, so I understand that this question has been posted many times before, and I've searched the forum and come across different threads that seem to have conflicting opinions.

Basically I'm looking to modify the suspension on my lwb Sierra. I'm aiming to get it to flex a bit better and ride a bit smoother. Extra height would be nice too.

"Lift kits" obviously are the most common form of modification, just a new set of leaves. However, having read through another thread, people where recounting their negative experiences with lifts sagging excessively in a short time periods and things like that. With the large number of options out there and the rather steep prices (over $500 it seems for most if not all) I'm not sure this is an economically viable option for me at the moment. A lot of people say that the stock Sierra springs are good springs and you should just stick with them. I don't want to spend big bucks on a lift only to be left with a defective car after a year.

That got me thinking - how about extended shackles - say 2in or so. I understand that that would result in about 1in of vehicle lift, but so I've heard it results in a smoother ride, and more flex - and gets around the expensive-lift-kits-that-don't-last problem by retaining the use of stock springs. Would this affect castor or anything like that? I assume any sort of suspension mods would affect steering and handling to some extent, but extended shackles seems to be the best option for me at the moment in terms of cost, longevity and end-result.

If anyone has any thoughts, your input is much appreciated.

Thanks!

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:47 am 
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Short answer - extended shackles aren't a useful modification

Long answer:

I'll write this out in detail because it seems to be a common misconception about springs, especially in Sierras where the car is very light

Basically, when talking about bolt on replacement suspension you can't have everything - more flex, a better ride and more height. Generally, you can achieve more height at the expense of the first two. More flex will generally entail a better ride. More height will rarely result in better flex and almost never in a better ride.

Why? Because you have to work with factory suspension parameters for spring length. A spring of a given length can only have a certain range of motion, governed by the properties of the steel and the range of motion of the shackle. Suzuki understand this, and to use the front as an example, achieved about 5" of vertical wheel travel, with 1.5-2" in compression and the balance in droop. The rear has 6" of travel with about 3.5 in compression and the balance in droop. A suspension lift resets the rest position, so you'll have maybe 3.5" of compression in the front (a 2" lift") but now you'll have only 1.5" droop. A lift doesn't add the travel of it's additional height. a 2" lift doesn't have 2" more travel.

Those total travel numbers are a result of shackle length, spring length (and therefore travel) and shock travel and they all work together - you can't change one without upsetting the others.

So to make "lift" springs, something has to be done to make them hold the up higher (or resist bending so much from their unloaded position) and that's more spring rate. More rate means it takes more force to make the spring move. (normally expressed as lb/" or pounds per inch) a higher spring rate means a harsher ride. It also means when you flex the car up the axle sometimes can't reach the bumpstop, so there's less flex available than standard.

Some spring manufacturers try and make the car ride as well as possible, so they will try and keep the rate increase as small as possible. they achieve the added height with more camber (more arch in the spring) but running springs heavily compressed from their free arch position leads to them loosing arch- sagging

Now onto flex.

Flex isn't really dictated by the springs in an otherwise standard Sierra, it's dictated by shocks. To increase flex, the shock has to be longer when fully extended (referred to as 'open') to be longer fully open, it also has to be longer fully closed, and thats the problem. A replacement shock can only be a little bit longer before it's too long to fit closed - so when the axle is on the bump stop. There's another problem here. Standard suzuki shocks are tiny and have very small internal components. Aftermarket shocks are bulkier and have bulkier internal components designed for much heavier cars. This means the mechanism of the shock is taking up more space, so to keep the closed length close to factory, the shock actually ends up with less travel than standard. It might be slightly longer overall, with some "headroom" used up in the fully compressed position, but overall the shock has less movement.

So, many aftermarket kits have stiffer springs that don't flex or ride well, and shocks with the same or less travel than standard. That's a big penalty to pay for some added height, which isn't really doing much except making the car less stable.

So onto shackles.

Longer shackles look like the answer - obviously they don't effect spring rate, they don't cost a lot, they add a little lift, and they might improve ride because they make the spring compress a bit more before the axle hits the bump stop. What's not to like?

Well, quite a bit as it turns out. (take this from someone who made loads of extended shackles back in the day)

They reduce caster. Sierras already don't have enough front caster because suzuki was trying to make the steering light without power steering, and they were originally engineered for bias ply tyres with no lateral grip. The last thing a Sierra needs is less caster. It makes the car track poorly, turn in even more poorly, and makes the steering feel (even) slower.

They increase leverage on the bushes, increasing steering play. At, say, 2" over stock, theres a huge increase on the lateral loads the axle can put into the shackle hanger bushes under steering and suspension load. This causes lots of lateral movement in the axle which is felt as reduced steering lock Bushing life becomes much shorter - generally they only last a year at best, and turn in and steering response on road is eroded further.

They damage rear shocks. By rolling the axle, the shock bodies now get closer to the axle housing. when the axle wraps under power, the shocks can now contact the housing.

They do add 1/2 the height of their increased length. So a 2" shackle will add 1" of ride height. However, the lowest point in the approach and departure angle of the car, the end of the front and rear springs, stays in the same place as factory, and as the tyre size stays the same, actual ground clearance at everywhere other than the chassis isn't improved.

Do they improve ride? Sort of. They force the spring into overcompression, and increase distance between the axle and bump stop. If the cause of the poor ride was axle/bumpstop contact, this will be improved. They don't soften the spring or improve shock valving though, which are major determinants of ride quality.

The impediments of ride quality related to the springs in a Sierra are the length of the springs, especially in the front, and the low weight of the vehicle. Every spring has a resonant frequency - the frequency it inherently wants to bounce at. A short spring wants to resonate quickly, so, in a vehicle, that will make the ride choppy. Adding length to the spring (like when we do RUF) slows this and makes the ride more plush. Moving on the vehicle weight, leaf springs have internal friction. as the leaves flex, they rub against each other and this damps the bounce. When trying to make the spring rate very low, this internal friction starts to be a major factor in ride quality. Some of us have experimented with greasing between the leaves - it makes an incredible difference to ride quality.

There's another factor too. leaf springs locate the axle, so all drive (and brake) torque, and lateral location, is handled by the spring. The ideal spring rate for a sierra won't leave enough steel in the leaf spring to locate the axle. Adding more gearing, bigger tyres and (critically) lockers only makes this problem worse - a car that rides well ends up with springs bent and flattened out from being twisted up by drive torque, along with terrible axle wrap that kills unis.

I do/will still make and use longer shackles on a Sierra, but I'll do it when we're running longer springs and moving the spring hanger position, resulting in a very flat shackle angle. This mostly corrects the caster reduction. Shackle length and spring hanger position are set based on bump stop position, itself a result of tyre size and axle position, and lastly, shock position and length is determined based on the resulting compression travel at ride height. shackle length is only one part of the story here, and in these cases, shackle length still adversely effects steering performance to the extent quite few of us are looking into panhard rods to improve steering performance with leaf springs.

You're lucky/unlucky you caught me on a RDO when it's too cold to contemplate going out to the shed yet. :)

Steve.

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:48 am 
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Woah that's a lot to read haha. Glad you took the time to explain all that, hope it becomes a valuable resource for everyone contemplating suspension mods

Looking at that, shackles don't seem to be a "mod", more so a component to go with other mods such as RUF. Correct?

I had read in a jimny build thread, after a lift was installed, that the ride was terrible, and the car wouldn't compress the springs at all. He thought that this was a result of the lifted springs, which makes sense of course, with a higher spring rate. However it turned out to be the wrong shocks for the vehicle weight. After swapping shocks out for proper ones, the ride was fantastic. (using fantasic loosley here haha) and the springs would actually compress when he sat down in the back.

So after having read all that, what in your opinion is the best mod for suspension, if my priorities are primarily comfort and flex? You mentioned greasing the leaves, and others have mentioned taking leaves out of the pack, but as you said that doesn't lend itself well to axle wrap and the like. I'm not keen on having a vehicle riding 6" above stock, and losing what stability there is, I'd just like the car to ride a bit nicer, because most of my driving will be on-road; and for it to flex a bit better off-road, and give me some more wheel to ground contact because it seems to be a bit stiff (but what would I know aha).

Should I grease the leaf packs and look into some different shocks?

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:58 am 
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Correct re shackles - they might be part of a what I'll call a fabricated solution, not a solution in themselves.

Shock valving is very important in a coil sprung car because the springs don't have any internal friction. Take the shocks out of a coil sprung car and bounce it and it will bounce away crazily for ages (have you ever noticed a car going down the road with a tyre bouncing up and down off the road surface - there's a blown shock on a coil car)

However, you can take the shocks completely out of a leaf sprung sierra and it will actually drive OK. it will feel a little loose, but the ride will be really good. the springs themselves almost do all the damping needed for such a light car. Most aftermarket shocks for leaf sierras have much stiffer valving than standard to "control" the stiffer, lifted springs sold with the shocks. This leads to a bad ride.

I set up a bunch of cars with OME N76 shocks, mostly because they are valved super soft - they're an 80's design for off road racing designed to be run at three or even four shocks per wheel. (They're very long and hard to fit though), but they work beautifully. Old man emu Sierra shocks are quite soft, as they are matched to OME springs which are the softest aftermarket leaves available. Other than those, you're into making custom mounts for something like soft valved Bilsteins.

You will find lots of reference to commodore shocks. These are long and cheap but in my opinion they ride terribly, as they're designed for a much heavier, coil sprung application.

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:04 pm 
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I was actually considering taking the shocks out and driving it and seeing if they were the limiting factor in comfort, and now I think I will.

The back has some sort of monroe shocks, and the front is running arb somethings.

In regard to those ome n76 shocks, how hard is "hard to fit"?

Also, is greasing leaves worth doing?

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:42 pm 
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Yes, greasing leaves is well worth doing, as is greasing shackle pins with rubber grease (if you still have rubber bushes in there) Obviously, grease does dry out/attract dirt so its something you need to do periodically if you want to retain the benefit.

N76 shocks have something like 11" of travel so require massive mounts, they come through the floor in the rear etc. They're super long and bulky and even a flexible RUF won't use all their travel. We only chose them because of the valving, not the convenience of working with them.

Image

Rear N76 shock mounted. This is with 2" bumpstop spacing and still needed the floor raised 2" and a 2" body lift to clear the top of the mount

Image

From top to bottom

Sierra front
Sierra rear
Rancho 9110 (I think)
OME N76
OME 80 series landcruiser rear

N76 are LOOOONG

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:28 pm 
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Any budget off the shelf kit you buy is gunna suck
Dont forget 50mm longer brake lines if your adding some travel.
If yours is a lwb maruti u can use your rear springs in the front but will need 50mm longer shackles and possibly bump stop adjustment and longer brakes but this wont add much if any height at all

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:35 pm 
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Ah jeez they're huge!

Considering I'm wanting to retain the floor and make up a drawer system, me thinks they're off the list haha

In terms of an easy fit (as in, will actually fit without cutting holes in the floor) what shocks could you recommend? I'll probably take the current shocks out and give her a test run and see if its any smoother (and see if I have time to grease the leaves while I'm there).

How much difference should I be expecting?

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:38 pm 
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Also worth noting, I have a sway bar in the front if I recall correctly, so how much would that be affecting the situation? I understand that would limit flex in the front to an extent, and I know jimny owners experience a massive difference with it removed, but does it change much in a sierra? And what's the legal standing with sway bars and their removal?

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:42 pm 
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ah brake lines slipped my mind! Cheers MrRocky

Mine isn't a maruti, but it is WT, and I assume that's what you were referring to anyway? As i understand though there's a fair bit of work to do RUF?

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 4:07 pm 
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You will feel pretty substantial difference from greasing the leaves. It's a fairly involved job - each pack has to be removed, split apart, sanded smooth, greased and reassembled. It will feel heaps more plush though.

Yes, the swaybar will be making the front feel a fair bit choppier, and significantly limiting flex offroad, especially when climbing.

I can't really comment on legality. My guess is strictly speaking no, it's probably not legal. It's unlikely to be the cause of a defect though and can readily be replaced.

There's little to no point going to any effort to fit longer rear shocks. The factory rear shocks basically match rear springs for travel, and adding rear travel is much less important to the vehicle's balance than adding front travel.

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 4:15 pm 
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Awesome to hear about the greasing! Can't wait to get into that

I'll probably leave the swaybar alone, because realistically most of my driving is onroad and that's where it'll be beneficial

Just thinking though, if my rear shocks are some monroe things, and the fronts something arb, are they likely to be valved correctly for the vehicle weight?? Or would they have just been chucked on as some generic off the shelf part?

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 6:21 pm 
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Is yours a lwb ?
Ruf is made bolt on if u use stock lwb rears as they are shorter than swb rears and require less mods to fit

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 6:26 pm 
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They're likely to be a replacement part that's nominally correct. Get the part numbers off them and feed them into

I don't think swaybars are beneficial off road. I much prefer the feel of a sierra on road without a swaybar- the car turns in better and it's much easier to feel how much load you're putting into the outside front tyre

Take it off (it takes 5 minutes) and take it for a drive. If you like the way it feels leave it off.

MrRocky- sounds like technotron has a factory LWB WT (?)

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 6:49 pm 
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Not to be negative but some of these questions make me think you would be better getting a shop to install a basic kit for you. Sounds like you want a custom setup but you dont seem have enough wheel time or understanding of some of the basic susp principles to make it work safely, remember if you get it wrong you can wind up with a pretty poorly riding car. Go out with other zooks in your state and see what works with your own eyes

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:02 pm 
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You are correct. I have a Japanese made 1987 lwb widetrack with a 1998 coily dash and cold aircon Armsup

I'm running 225s at the moment but they're only H/Ts :,-( At least they're near new.

Just to be clear, I'm only 16 and this is a first 4wd for me, and as such I have zero wheeling experience. I'm trying to learn as much as I can here and already today I've learnt heaps. Getting a shop to install things isn't really my thing because a) I have a terrible distrust for mechanics and b) I don't have the money to do that

My plan as of now is to take out the shocks, drive it, see how much of a difference it makes, and to see if I need to change them for properly valved ones (they may be just generic off the shelf parts not properly suited for my car - I don't know)

Independent of the outcome of that, I'll grease the leaf packs, and associated parts (bushes etc) and that should keep me happy for a while.

I'm trying to work out exactly what I need/want before actually going out and making mistakes. The old measure twice, cut once. Money's tight, so don't want to waste it haha.

I guess after reading that thread a while back about lifts, I've got a bit of a bad taste in my mouth for them.

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:03 pm 
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Oh, and I'll probably try taking the sway bar off too - I'll see

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:20 pm 
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With a little more background info i would suggest remove the swaybar then do 6 months of regular 4wding getting used to the car before you go to town on the suspension.
In my opinion sierras really need to be driven in stock for before you mod them. The best part is that its hard to get yourself into too much trouble with a stock car.
Concentrate on reliability, sliders and getting it in good shape before you play with susp and heavy mech items.
Keep in mind most new sierra owners will sell there car in the first 6-12 months infact id say over 90% mainly due to poorly modifying there car or heading down the wrong path of modification

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:37 pm 
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Ok, that's good to know.

At the moment I'm focusing on fixing what needs fixing rather than adding new stuff, and this further confirms my thinking.

Did the tappets the other day and it sounds heaps better now. Less tractor more car.

As I said I plan on greasing leaves, maybe pull the shocks and test, I'll see. I'll look into sway bar legality first before I take it out.

It's quite a clean example of Sierra, and a rare model at that. Consequently I don't plan on absolutely destroying it with over the top mods and thus off road damage. I'll wait it out before making any big decisions, and it is essentially my future "work" car so I'll be using it to cart equipment for that mostly. It'll be set up as a camping/equipment transport car with a bit of off-road capability for the weekend.

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:46 pm 
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MrRocky wrote:
Concentrate on reliability, sliders and getting it in good shape before you play with susp and heavy mech items.


Whilst this is generally good advice, it is also a good way to end up spending money unnecessarily - I'll use one of my cars (not a Suzuki) as an example.

Bought cheap, running reasonably well, but with numerous minor issues, one of which was very vague steering that was tracked down to constantly changing camber caused by sagging front coils (the car has MacPherson strut IFS), and resolved by fitting new OEM springs, struts & shocks were also changed during the process of getting into "good shape", as those fitted were literally the original equipment and well past their prime - I'm now considering a lift, which of course will require new coils front & rear, along with new struts, the rear shocks might still be useable.

The time to research what you need to spend money on is before you spend the money.

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:16 pm 
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Sliders, swivel hub rebuild, bearings, unis, exhaust, cooling sys, seals, brakes, ect... are all things that your not really going to waste money on or have to do twice. Shocks and springs are probably the only thing you will risk forking out for twice as your goals for the car change.
For instance when u buy a cheap lift kit and find out it will flex less than standard then have to change it

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:34 pm 
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This has been a rather timely thread for me and I've been reading with interest.

I had the first run in my new to me Sierra on the weekend.
It was a great trip but I can tell you doing about 400km bouncing off the bump stops got pretty tiring.

The original springs are all inverted and I have about 15mm to 20mm clearance on the bumpstops.

So after a day of bone jarring impacts on every bump and scrapping my belly across rocks (denting the floor pan and fuel tank as well as bending the crap out of the transfer case cross member) I'm now looking at new springs.

Personally I like soft springs, and have no interest in big lifts.
I also believe in the concept of underbody protection rather then excessive lift. But getting hung up on every little rock gets pretty bloody annoying I can tell you.

As usual, Steve's long and detailed post is packed full of good information.
I was seriously considering getting some extended shackles just to get me off the bump stops for a few more trips, but I'm second guessing that now. Springs are probably the right solution.

The only trouble is my recent searches are saying the choice of new springs for a Sierra consist of; OEM replacement, 2" lift, 2" lift or 2" lift (with varying amounts of 'constant weight' factors).

So now that I've done the 'drive it stock' thing and got bounced off the bumpstops and stuck on every rock it's time to make the call one way or the other.

At this stage I'd rather just go with an OEM replacement kit, but they cost exactly the same as the lifted springs.
Then I think the reality is gears and a front locker probably aren't too far away, so nice soft OEM springs will probably be a waste anyway.

I also have plans for some bar work and under body protection, but how much will that weight? Who knows...

So 2" lift then, but with what spring rates??

After all of this reading and searching I'm thinking this is one of those over thinking things. I should just buy the cheapest EFS kit that's on eBay and remove leaves until it feels right for me.

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:58 pm 
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I would suggest the old man emu 2" kit its the best ride of all the aftermarket kits. Efs is good but takes alot of trips to soften up (6-9 months for me). If you think the standard susp is bumpy wait till you try any aftermarket stuff lol

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:16 pm 
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MrRocky wrote:
I would suggest the old man emu 2" kit its the best ride of all the aftermarket kits. Efs is good but takes alot of trips to soften up (6-9 months for me). If you think the standard susp is bumpy wait till you try any aftermarket stuff lol


I can't really comment on the standard suspension, pretty sure you have to actually be off the bumpstops for springs to work..... ;)

And the title of this thread says why I've been interested in it.
Any ARB product and 'budget' do not go together, unless you add 'way out of my' in there somewhere. :P

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Post Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:30 pm 
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Well u can have good or cheap but u cant have both, may as well just buy the cheapest ebay lift u can find.
Only way your going to get any comfort in a sierra is with a 45 degree shackle angle

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:13 pm 
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Coil it peter. Then u can run what ever spring rate u want

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 10:58 pm 
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Been trawling through a lot of old threads in here and a comment in this ancient one sounds like it could be a budget option.

Quote:
The best leafs out there are stock sierra leafs!! These are tapered 6mm leafs meaning the thin out on the ends giving a greater variation in spring rate. Since you are not keen on doing RUF my suggestion would be to get a set of std good condition leafs and get a new set of 6mm mains made up for them all ~10 longer. This will set you up with virtually the same spring pack as OME but gain additional comfort by using the tapered sierra leafs!

Something to think about


Is this a realistic option?

It sounds good, but I get the feeling a new set of custom made mains would cost the same as a full spring pack???

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Post Posted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:17 am 
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I think I've seen that comment too. Doesn't seem like too bad an idea - if it's going to give you your ride height back and get off the bumpstops, that's gotta be good.

I wouldn't do it personally, because my car still sits at a reasonable height, but I'm sure its an option for a lot of people

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Post Posted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:58 am 
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Yeah i had efs make some custo main leafs up worked out about the same as a full pack by the time thet were shipped

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Post Posted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:59 am 
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pete_79 wrote:

Is this a realistic option?

It sounds good, but I get the feeling a new set of custom made mains would cost the same as a full spring pack???

I think it would.
I also don't trust most spring makers to understand what we're trying to achieve- many won't see beyond the "reset with an extra leaf" nonsense.

I thought OME springs were quite competitively priced.

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hillbilly 2 wrote:
Gwagensteve is why auszookers will never be taken seriously

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