If you are planning to upgrade your Tacoma's stock front suspension , I have some food for thought. This is in no way meant to be a suggestion that you do things a certain way, or that my way is the best way. Until I try all of the stuff that is out there, I can't say what is best. But I get a lot of emails requesting my opinion on the subject, so here goes...

First, let's talk about WEIGHT. How heavy is your front end now (stock?) and how heavy do you plan to make it (custom bumper? winch? custom skid plate(s)?, auxiliary battery?, lights?, air compressor?). For comparison, the stock bumper on a 2001 Tacoma is approx. 36 lbs. while an ARB winch bumper weighs approx. 75 lbs. (older models may weigh more). It seems to me that all of these off-the-shelf, bolt on coilover kits are produced for an average (i.e. stock) weight front end. So if you plan to keep your front end within a reasonable weight range from stock, then you should have great success with these mass-production coilover kits. Some examples would be a pre-runner style tube bumper or a light bar that bolts onto the stock bumper. However, if you plan to add a lot of extra weight like a beefy bull-bar such as ARB or TJM, or a custom bumper that could hold it's own against an armored tank, some recovery shackles, and maybe an 80 - 100 lb. winch, an auxiliary battery, and a heavy-duty skid plate, you might want to think twice. The most common way that I see people address such hefty additions is to just "crank up the coils", or add a bigger spacer. The problem with this is that although it may restore the "lifted" ride height, it hampers performance. I put an ARB on the front of my Tacoma, and I could immediately feel the difference (even with 675 lb. SAW coils) - I could feel that weight literally "pulling" the front of the truck. Granted it was a "seat of the pants" feel, but after being used to the truck as an extension of myself for so many years, I guess I can feel stuff like that. It did indeed drop the height, so I had to crank the coils to adjust. This in turn makes the coils more restricted - the ride is more harsh. You lose downtravel. My opinion is that if you want to run a heavy bumper setup like ARB or TJM (especially with a winch), along with other heavy-duty add-ons, you need to custom valve the shocks, and match the spring rate to the load. I think the 2.5" diameter coilover units with at least some Tundra valving and Tundra coils might be a good try if you don't want to have a shop custom build anything. Of course, the dilemma is always going to be the trade-off between a setup that will not be sloppy on the highway, but still be flexy enough on the trail to keep the tires on the ground. Experimentation almost seems unavoidable. In the end, you will have to judge for yourself.

(Side note: It has been brought to my attention that the '01 to present 4Runners may indeed have a heavier front-end than their Tacoma brethren, and therefore a stock suspension that is valved and sprung for more weight. This would explain why owners of these models may not experience any drastic difference in performance when using heavy replacement bumpers and equipment.)

Next, let's talk about the differential drop. This is a popular modification that kind of reminds me of the "deck plate mod" (If you don't know what I am talking about, you can do a search on google.com for "tacoma deck plate mod") Why does it remind me of the deck plate mod? I guess because a lot of people do it and think it's the best thing since sliced bread, but I am not so convinced that it is all that great :) The differential drop modification has recently gained widespread popularity.  The "diff drop" is simply adding spacers (machined aluminum or steel, or even stacked fender washers from the hardware store) between the front differential and the frame, to create more distance between the two. The reason for doing so, is that by lowering the diff on a truck with a lifted suspension, you will decrease the angle of the CV joints on the front axles (half-shafts). Obviously, by doing this, you will also decrease the ground clearance below the differential (this may not matter depending on your skid plate arrangement). Some people may not realize that by lowering the diff, they are also changing the pinion angle of the front drive shaft. It may not be anything significant depending on how much the diff is lowered, but I don't know what kind of effect (if any) this may have over the long term. Another thing some people might not realize, is that while you may be decreasing the angle of the CV joints while the suspension sits level, or is extended, you will actually increase the angle of the CV joints when the suspension is compressed. The diff drop is an easy modification to do, and may be worth considering if you are a person that wants to run their coilover suspension lift at it's limits, creating extreme CV angles. I only run my coilover lift at about 2.5", so I don't really think the diff drop is worth the bother. My CV joints and CV boots have been just fine like this for years with no problems.

If you have any comments or suggestions for this page, please send an email to cmarzonie at yahoo dot com. Thanks.