I have fairly recently fitted a set of Gowesty Camper Products progressive springs and Fox 2.0 shocks to my van. It took a lot research before i decided on a shock and spring set up due to a few reasons which i will explain.
Jargon (Techy stuff)
My main reason for looking for a new set of springs was that for sometime i had been running spring spacers to lift my van. This is a very common way of gaining some ground clearance on a syncro, It’s a great cheap way of gaining some ground clearance, but it has its compromises.
By adding spacers you are moving the position of the spring which gains you ground clearance, however the range of movement in the spring does not change, it is just moved in relation to the other suspension components.
I wanted to fit a set of springs that would give me the ground clearance i required without any/bare minimum of spacers The Gowesty progressive springs seemed to fit the bill. I have fitted the 2″ lift version on the rear of my van and zero lift to the front (i’ll explain why in a minute).
A knock on effect from fitting spacers or longer springs is that the shock absorber stays in it’s original position making the shock operate within a range that it was not designed for, most often resulting in ‘topping out’ (shock reaching the end of it’s downward stroke). Not only does this cause irritating noise but means that the damping characteristics of your shock absorber will be working incorrectly, you could also be causing damage to the shock itself.
So you might now ask how is it possible to lift your van for extra ground clearance without encountering this shock absorber problem. Put plainly If you fit longer springs then you should really install shock absorbers with longer travel and damping characteristics to match.
The shock absorbers that were on my van were a standard set of 14″ Syncro Boge of unknown age. I had fitted a set of extensions to both the front and rear shocks to try and eliminate the topping out i experienced after lifting my van, this worked ok and kept the shocks relatively quiet, but long term it could well have played a factor in the demise of my shock absorbers.
As part of my upgrades i had also fitted larger wheels and tyres, this helps gain ground clearance but also adds in another factor to the suspension set up. A larger wheel and tyre weighs much more and as such requires different damping to keep the additional weight under control.
Those are my tyres on the right.
Shock absorbers have to work much harder than normal to try and keep control of the extra weight bouncing around, as a result the oil inside the shock gets very hot. This heat is eventually transferred to the seals and over time the seals degrade and oil starts to leak from the shock body and the damping characteristics are severely affected.
This is exactly what happened to my front shock absorbers whilst in Morocco. The corrugated and potholed roads required a great deal from the suspension and my tired shocks trying to keep control of my heavy wheels resulted in over heated seals and losing all of the oil from both of them. This wasn’t much fun believe me, although the T3 performs remarkably well with no shock absorbers, it still meant that hours on end driving the bad roads was uncomfortable to say the least.
I decided to fit the Fox 2.0 fully adjustable shocks as they have the widest range of compression and rebound damping available on the market. Rebound damping being a very important factor here.
When a wheel hits a bump and is forced upwards towards the vehicle, this is called ‘compression’ and when it starts it’s downward movement after the bump, this is called ‘rebound’. Rebound damping is what controls the speed at which the wheel and tyre travels back to its original position. Everyone has experienced the pogo stick bouncing sensation in a T3 after a bump in the road and this is caused amongst other factors by inadequate rebound damping. This effect is made even worse when larger, heavier wheels have been fitted.
The front Fox shocks also have adjustable spring platforms enabling the ride height to be set to exactly where you want it, this is the reason for fitting the zero lift springs on the front. If i had fitted 2″ lift springs then the minimum ride height achievable would be 2″ higher than normal, whereas with the zero lift versions i have a much more useable range of adjustment. The Gowesty springs are a ‘progressive’ spring, this means that the ‘rate’ of the spring changes as it is compressed through its range, the more it is compressed the more the spring rate increases.
The adjustable versions of the Fox shocks have 8 different damping settings ranging from very hard for road use to very soft for off-road, this enables fine tuning of the suspension in a way not possible with other systems, additionally the adjustable versions have remote oil reservoirs that vastly increase the volume of oil in the shock absorber giving much better resilience to overheating.
There is also 1″ of extra down travel available with the true monotube design of the Fox shocks without losing any upward travel which eliminates the need for any extensions to try and deal with topping/bottoming out of the suspension system.
Hopefully you can now see how i ended up settling on the Gowesty/Fox set up, It just ticked every box.
Enough of the jargon, how do they ride?
Road driving on the new system has possibly been the biggest surprise since fitting the new suspension. I always assumed that i would notice the biggest difference whilst driving off-road over lumps and bumps but in actual fact road driving has been dramatically changed.
My van is quite heavy and lifted quite high and before the upgrade to experience a fair bit of body roll when cornering. This has been almost completely eliminated, i am now able to keep my speed up through corners in a way that would have felt a bit twitchy previously. The van feels ‘planted’ through corners and generally far more stable.
Bumps in the road are also far less of a worry now too, especially speed humps. Where i would have had to slow down to a very slow speed to prevent everything on the dash board being flung into the air and the pogo stick bouncing after the bump would have me holding on for dear life, i can now approach harsh bumps without this worry.
Hitting the bump itself feels far more comfortable but the most noticeable difference is what happens afterwards. Just after the bump where you would normally expect to start being bounced around the rebound damping kicks in and the van just settles straight back to its normal ride.
Off-road i cant fault the ride at all, the system feels supple enough to soak up all the little bumps from rocks and tree roots etc, whilst still being able to quickly react to larger hits also. Higher speeds off-road are a more pleasurable experience as those unexpected gullies or potholes that can sneak up on you don’t have you clinging to the steering wheel bracing for impact anymore.
Even at times when you can feel yourself wince as you really think you’ve pushed it too far the Fox and Go Westy spring combination just seems to suck it all up.