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Old 04-20-2019, 12:42 AM #1
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Shocks durability: twin tube, mono, rebuildable

Do we have some decent info about how long various types of shocks last when used offroad with some regularity and do we know why some may perform worse yet last longer?

Is it true that low pressure shocks can outlast high pressure shocks because they are more tolerant to being pushed too hard?

For example, OEM twin tube shocks may perform meh but they sure can last. My Outback struts were fine at 70,000 with 3,500 miles off pavement, including lots of 4x4 trails. I was beat up a couple times, like on a short day White Rim Road run, but no issues and the shocks recovered after the 2-3 occasions when I felt the car being like a dump truck.

By contrast, high-pressure monotube shocks perform better within their normal range but if you "cook them," their seals supposedly harden and life expectation drastically diminishes. True?

RR shocks are said to diminish the pressure and thus outlast non-RR mt shocks. True?

Then, rebuild-able shocks are said to vary greatly in quality with the lower-end ones having much less durable interior components. Some suspect that this is often done by purpose so that one would have to rebuild more often than actually necessary.

So...can someone actually post their info about how long their shocks have lasted (or lasted between rebuilds) when actually used offroad with some frequency at some decent though not race speeds? OEM, 5100, Eibach, OME, Dobinsons twins and MRRs, all the various Fox, Radflo, Icon, BP51? It stands to reason that rock crawling is not really an issue for the shocks so this is more of a question about easy but rough and long desert tracks and long washboarded roads.


@Jetboy ? others?

Thought this might be an interesting topic.
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Old 04-20-2019, 08:29 AM #2
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My guess is........unsprung weight beyond what the shocks are spec for is a huge factor in how long a shock lasts.

So, if you put on heavy tires (LT, for example, which are usually 10-15 lbs heavier than stock tire) on stock shocks, then expect its lifetime will be shorten. The same goes for aftermarket shocks.

In general, from my understanding, a mono-tube shock should easily outlast twin-tube shock. Better heat dissipation.

But again, if you “over-cook” it like you said with heavier than spec tire, then expect all shocks to fail...maybe mono-tubes will last longer when pushed due to better heat dissipation?

For example, Toyota had to re-tune their FOX suspension on the 2020 Tacoma TRD PRO because the 2020 Tacoma rims are each 4.8 lbs lighter. Imagine that...4.8 lbs difference (per rim) and Toyota had to re-turn the whole suspension.

Or in past 4runner models, there were different stock shocks depending on RIM SIZE!!

Or take the Edmunds’ comparo of Tacoma vs. Nissan vs. Ridgeline. The Tacoma’s and Nissan truck REAR shocks were leaking over washboards. The Tacoma’s were Bilstein’s mono-tubes. The front shocks on these trucks were OK i think and Ridgeline did fine. It is all about UN-sprung weight. Those rear heavy axles on these trucks put a lot of stress on any shocks, whether it be mono-tubes or twin-tubes. (Ridgeline escape unharmed because it has IFS and IRS.)

I don’t know about aftermarket stuff, but i am pretty sure that they are under the same limitations. These aftermarket shocks MAY have a wider limits but that is probably why you have worst ride.

Between aftermarket mono-tube vs. twin-tube, if everything else being equal, then mono-tube is the way to go.

But, if you want your shocks to last, IMHO, then be careful with unsprung weight. And this is why on my GX with its fancy ($$$$) electronic shocks, i am sticking with tires very close to stock tire’s weight.
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Old 04-20-2019, 10:18 PM #3
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There are 2 main things that will shorten shock life significantly.

The first is damage to the exposed shock rod and the rod seal. Dust and dirt settle on the rod, and as it retracts into the shock body during compression, the rod seal needs to wipe it off. This wears the seal over time and eventually your shock leaks. Rocks hitting the rod also cause scratches and pitting, and these imperfections also wear on the seal each time they slide past. You want to do everything you can to keep the rod clean. OE shocks of any style usually come with a boot, so this is why they tend to last longer. Most aftermarket shocks like Icon, King and Fox don't. You can add an accordion sleeves to shocks or a coilover sleeve to coilovers to help with this and I highly encourage it.

The second is overheating which also causes damage to the seals, both internal and external. The best defense against this is an external reservoir. Reservoirs help in 3 main ways.

1. They increase the oil volume, so it takes longer for it all to heat up.

2. They increase surface area, so they help with cooling the shock oil a bit

3. The extra gas chamber volume helps reduce the operating pressures inside the shock. The lower pressures also help the seals last longer.

What kind of shocks you need really depends on your application.

For low speed rock crawling just about anything will do, but make sure you add shock and coilover sleeves to maximize life.

If you drive fire roads or anything where you get up to 40 mph for longer than a few minutes at a time, you want the remote reservoirs.

This tech article talks about it a little.

Emulsion vs Reservoir Shocks: Learn & Save | AccuTune
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Old 04-20-2019, 10:42 PM #4
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It is beyond me why high-performance shocks often come unprotected. It is like the dependability of Jeep Wrangler. Makes no sense from functional perspective.

But we all know what is being maximized.
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Old 04-20-2019, 10:52 PM #5
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This article is very good too and touches on selecting appropriately sized shocks for your application.

What Size Tacoma/4Runner Shocks Do You Need? | AccuTune Off-Road

P.S. I am in no way affiliated with AccuTune Off-Road other than I bought a lift kit from them at full price because I can tell they know what they're doing. They just have good articles, and that one is Tacoma/4Runner specific. I think they get tired of getting misinformed questions haha
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Old 04-22-2019, 11:51 AM #6
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I think there's a lot of variation that goes into shocks that all will impact the lifespan. So I don't think you could necessarily say that one design lasts longer than another, but for sure some shock models are more durable than others. And that even applies within different lines of shocks from the same manufacturer.

Typically the parts that wear out most on monotube shocks are the bushings. Spherical bushings simply don't last very long. Maybe 2-4 years in most cases of mixed use. Rubber bushings last a lot longer. For a non-race truck, I prefer rubber bushings any day of the week. But you generally don't find rubber bushings on higher end shocks. They are cheap and easy to replace generally, so it's usually not a huge issue. But it can be a PITA sometimes if you don't do a good job of keeping the misalignments anti-seize coated.

The next most failure prone spot is the hoses and fittings. Again this is a spot where a more basic OEM style shock will last longer. Remote reservoir shocks add a lot more parts including a bunch of hose fittings that are also prone to failure moreso than a simple enclosed shock.

On the flip side of this comparison is heat. With OEM or similar twin tube shocks you can fairly quickly overheat them if you go long distances on washboard roads. I could probably overheat and blow the seals out of a set of OEM shocks in a single day. How durable is that? Larger twin tube shocks could often last as long or longer than monotube shocks in a lot of scenarios. It probably just depends on how they're build and how hard you push them.

The other considerations are how hard and how rust-proof the shock shaft is. Pitting and rust will cause them to wear the seals out quickly and lead to shock failures. Fox factory series uses the hardest shaft I'm aware of in any off the shelf shock for the 4Runner. They're significantly harder than the shaft in a King 2.5 shock. Does that matter? It just depends on how often you are in situations where gravel and rocks are going to pit the shafts. I think most mono-tube higher end shocks use at least double wiper seal sets. Lower cost ones like 5100's use a single wiper set. So there's a redundancy built in to the higher end stuff.

Outside of that - it's really unlikely to ever break a shim or other internal part. It can happen. But it's rare. The most common failures are the bushings, hoses, or wiper seals. If I were choosing a shock set to go a million miles and I couldn't replace or repair along the way - I'd buy the best twin tube shock I could find that has the body down and shaft up and I'd do my best to make sure the shaft was protected well from flying rocks and gravel.
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Old 05-04-2019, 01:34 PM #7
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I just confirmed that firmer shocks be inclined to last longer than soft shocks. Odd that KYB doesn't have a guarantee, they use too. Guess they are just in for money now, based on that I would go with one more brand, if a product doesn't have a warranty they not going to get any of my money that's for sure.
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Old 01-12-2020, 11:59 AM #8
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I don't understand....everyone says Toyota 4Runners can last 300,000 miles. On these 300,000 mile rigs how many times did the owners replace the factory shocks? I'm getting ready to purchase a complete 2 1/2" - 3" lift kit and I am so stumped. My choices are a Dobinsons complete with their UCA and assembled struts or the Toytec Boss Aluma Series Coilovers complete kit w/SPC UCA's. Toytec says their coilovers are re-buildable at 40,000 miles.....what the heck does that mean? So every 40,000 miles I need to yank them off and ship them to Denver? Do people actually have to do that? What does that cost?

Should I just go with a Dobinsons kit?

Please help me because I am really tired of researching lift kits.
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Old 01-12-2020, 12:29 PM #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jetboy View Post
I think there's a lot of variation that goes into shocks that all will impact the lifespan. So I don't think you could necessarily say that one design lasts longer than another, but for sure some shock models are more durable than others. And that even applies within different lines of shocks from the same manufacturer.

Typically the parts that wear out most on monotube shocks are the bushings. Spherical bushings simply don't last very long. Maybe 2-4 years in most cases of mixed use. Rubber bushings last a lot longer. For a non-race truck, I prefer rubber bushings any day of the week. But you generally don't find rubber bushings on higher end shocks. They are cheap and easy to replace generally, so it's usually not a huge issue. But it can be a PITA sometimes if you don't do a good job of keeping the misalignments anti-seize coated.

The next most failure prone spot is the hoses and fittings. Again this is a spot where a more basic OEM style shock will last longer. Remote reservoir shocks add a lot more parts including a bunch of hose fittings that are also prone to failure moreso than a simple enclosed shock.

On the flip side of this comparison is heat. With OEM or similar twin tube shocks you can fairly quickly overheat them if you go long distances on washboard roads. I could probably overheat and blow the seals out of a set of OEM shocks in a single day. How durable is that? Larger twin tube shocks could often last as long or longer than monotube shocks in a lot of scenarios. It probably just depends on how they're build and how hard you push them.

The other considerations are how hard and how rust-proof the shock shaft is. Pitting and rust will cause them to wear the seals out quickly and lead to shock failures. Fox factory series uses the hardest shaft I'm aware of in any off the shelf shock for the 4Runner. They're significantly harder than the shaft in a King 2.5 shock. Does that matter? It just depends on how often you are in situations where gravel and rocks are going to pit the shafts. I think most mono-tube higher end shocks use at least double wiper seal sets. Lower cost ones like 5100's use a single wiper set. So there's a redundancy built in to the higher end stuff.

Outside of that - it's really unlikely to ever break a shim or other internal part. It can happen. But it's rare. The most common failures are the bushings, hoses, or wiper seals. If I were choosing a shock set to go a million miles and I couldn't replace or repair along the way - I'd buy the best twin tube shock I could find that has the body down and shaft up and I'd do my best to make sure the shaft was protected well from flying rocks and gravel.
Your words just sunk in. Thank you for this post. Dobinsons kit it is!
Sorry Toytec I'm sure your Coilovers Aluma struts are nice but I don't feel like boxing them up and shipping them to be rebuilt and being without my 4Runner for 2 weeks while I wait for them to be rebuilt. I would rather just rent a spring compressor and replace the shocks for $200 and be back on the road that same day.
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