It’s a recurring nightmare for some of us.
You’re sat on the side of the track. The SUV’s not going anywhere. You’re not going anywhere. The suspension has blown.
Some SUVs give up on you when you need them most. Others you can rely on. There’s a reason why the Toyota 4Runner has been in continual production since 1983. Generation after generation, it keeps on performing.
In particular, the 3rd Gen 4Runner suspension has some standout features. It's great in its own right but outstanding with custom upgrades.
Read on to understand the suspension, and upgrades, of the 3rd Gen 4Runner, an SUV that won’t leave you stranded on the side of the track.
How Does Suspension Work in the 3rd Gen 4Runner?
Let’s talk a bit more about the suspension and how it works on this Toyota.
All types of suspension system balance two key criteria. The first is ride quality and the second is how well the vehicle handles. Basically, how comfortable the vehicle is to ride in and how easy the vehicle is to control.
On top of this, when we look at offroading, a third factor comes into play: keeping tires on the road.
There are different types of suspension, including independent, double-wishbone, Macpherson strut, and air. Current 2022 4Runners have a combination of these types with 4-link and coil springs on the rear two tires. On the front tires is an independent double-wishbone.
3rd Gen suspension doesn’t have the youth of the latest generation. However, with some upgrades, it can perform just as well—if not better.
A key component of a suspension is the springs. The springs absorb energy from a bump when the vehicle hits it. By doing this, the springs reduce rotating, or centrifugal pressure, put on a vehicle.
This is particularly important when offroading. If the vehicle can’t resist rotating from hitting a bump, handling is poor and it is more prone to turning over.
Given how many years the 3rd Gen 4Runner has been on the road, original suspension springs are now beyond their best. This means a reduction in performance. The springs won’t return to their original shape after use.
Furthermore, the springs also help determine the ride height of a vehicle. So if you want to raise your truck higher, upgrading the springs is part of that.
The shock absorbers work in tandem with the springs. Where the spring works to absorb the energy, a shock absorber works to release the energy that the spring absorbs. A shock absorber dissipates the spring's energy and smoothes the ride out. Without a shock absorber, the spring would bounce back with a similar force to what pushed it down.
Shocks for offroading need some special characteristics. Controlling the energy the springs unload causes a lot of heat. Upgraded shocks deal with this heat more efficiently, usually with a larger body that has more oil volume.
Front and Rear Axle
All four wheels have a shock absorber and a spring. However, there are key differences between the front and rear suspension. The front suspension is more complicated than the back for a couple of reasons.
The first is that the front suspension must account for steering. The second is that more torque from braking goes through the front suspension. This means that when upgrading the 3rd Gen 4Runner suspension, you’ll have two different sets for the front and back.
What Should You Look For in 3rd Gen 4Runner Suspension Upgrades?
There are a couple of things to think about with 4Runner suspension options. The main consideration is how much offroading you do. Is the vehicle purely for offroading, or does it need to handle casual driving as well?
If you modified the suspension for pure offroading performance, on the road it would not handle well at all. Similarly, a small upgrade to keep on-road performance won’t give you the results if you want to cover more serious ground.
The aim of the suspension is to keep the wheels in contact with the ground, the body stable, and the ride as comfortable as possible. Increasing performance often comes at the price of comfort. It’s a personal decision how far you want to take this balance with suspension upgrades.
What Suspension Upgrades Are Available for the 3rd Gen 4Runner?
The perfect suspension setup is a lot more than shocks and springs. There are a range of upgrades available for the 4Runner suspension. Below, we’ll outline some of the best options.
The larger tires for offroading need more clearance than factory height gives. Raising the body provides enough room to fit bigger offroading tires onto the 4Runner.
An original setup on the 3rd Gen has a horizontal Panhard bar. But modification moves the bar from this horizontal position. A Panhard correction kit brings the bar back to its original design.
There are a few benefits of this. You don’t need to recenter the axel with an aftermarket bar. Also up to 4 inches of lift increases the roll center for better handling.
Reinforcement Skid Plate
It’s a common chain reaction when upgrading vehicles. One part gets improved, but the added performance puts another part of the vehicle under strain. Then you make another upgrade and the chain continues.
Once short links get upgraded, the link mounts need reinforcing. A lower link mount reinforcement skid plate will do this.
Sometimes it’s not just the hardware, but where it is. A shock relocation kit moves the rear shocks to locate them at a right angle to the axle. This improves efficiency, dampening, and serviceability.
Stay on Track With the 4Runner Suspension
It’s been 20 years since the 3rd Gen 4Runner was discontinued. During this time the SUV made a name for itself in the offroading community as a reliable, tough 4x4 that punches well above its weight.
The 3rd Gen 4Runner suspension has huge potential for upgrades. Some straightforward mods will dramatically improve the offroading performance. To see more 3rd Gen suspension upgrades, head over to our store page.