One of the more prominent issues I noticed early on when driving the FJ Cruiser was that any stops other than those that were completely controlled (slow and steady), resulted in noticeable nose diving. I was also interested in eliminating the forward rake as a result of the front suspension being positioned much lower than the rear. I’d like to point out that I initially went with stock size BFGoodrich tires in order to maintain some semblance of mileage and avoid having to immediately lift the FJ to accommodate a larger size tire. But after almost a year of driving and nose diving, I decided to finally fix the problem and upgrade some parts in the process.
Based on a good past experience as well as overly-positive input from FJ Cruiser forum members, my first decision was to upgrade my front suspension using 2.5″ racing coil-overs manufactured by Donahoe Racing (DR). It should be noted that Donahoe Racing has since been sold to Icon Vehicle Dynamics (IVD) or Icon as they have now become known in the forums. Icon’s engineering and design of the products is identical to the original product and their reputation for producing quality parts has become very well established in a very short period of time. Even though my first revision coil-overs were DR, for the sake of this post and any future posts, I’ll be referring to the company as Icon, Icon Vehicle Dynamics or IVD since I’m sure anyone looking for this product will want to reference the current company rather than the previous manufacturer.
Back on topic… after purchasing the new Icon coil-overs in late 2007, I am happy to report that they completely eliminated the nose diving issues I had experienced with the stock setup. And because they are fully adjustable up to three inches in height, I was able to dial them in so that the truck was now level from front to rear. Since adding the Icon coil-overs, there is a world of difference both in stopping and cornering as well as dampening when hitting bumps or pot holes.
When it comes to upgrading the front suspension of the FJ Cruiser, some people will recommend replacing the front upper control arm (UCA) when replacing the stock coil-overs, citing steering problems or other issues related to alignment if you don’t. However, my experience as well as that of many other FJ owners, indicates that this is unnecessary unless you plan to extend the coil-overs to their full height of three inches. It’s possible I just had a good alignment shop, but I had absolutely no issues when running the new coil-overs with the stock UCA.
A few months after the front suspension upgrade, I came across two additional products that caught my eye. One was the Man-A-Fre spare fuel tank, designed to fit in the space behind the rear axle. The second product was the Expedition-One rear swing-out bumper. While I have yet to upgrade to either one of these products, I realized at the time that such products would add considerable weight to the rear end of the FJ and as such, the stock suspension would simply not support the extra pounds in the long run. This was the primary reason why I decided to finish what I started several months before.
Being very pleased with my front suspension upgrade, I once again contacted Icon Vehicle Dynamics, to determine what they offered in terms of a rear suspension solution. As it turned out, they now offered multiple suspension kits ranging from shock and spring replacements, to more extensive kids including shock reservoirs, billet aluminum control arms and much more. Based on my own first-hand experience and that of many others within the FJ Forums, if you are in the market for suspension upgrades for the FJ Cruiser, you cannot go wrong with Icon’s products. I should point out though, that those unfamiliar with Icon’s prices might want to leave their credit cards at home for the first visit. Quality, as should be expected, does come with a rather steep price tag at times. But in Icon’s case, the end result will no doubt be one of the the best upgrades you purchase for your FJ.
Having won me over with their front suspension, it only took a brief discussion with Icon’s engineers over the phone, to ensure that the new springs and shocks would handle the additional weight of a steel bumper and/or spare tank. A few minutes later, I had effectively completed my Stage One suspension kit by ordering new Icon springs and shocks for the rear. Combined with the recently installed Icon front coil-overs, I would effectively increase the FJ’s height by about three inches. Plus, I would be well prepared for any future mods resulting in additional weight on the rear end.
But my plan was only halfway complete. Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story…