SPRINGING INTO LIFE

GOOD, OLD ’LUX FEELS BRAND NEW, AND EVEN MORE COMFORTABLE WITH OZTEC SUSPENSION UPGRADES.

WORDS AND PHOTOS SCOTT HEIMAN

THERE comes a time in a young girl’s life when she loses the spring in her step. So it came to pass with the Hilux in the shed. Indeed, her factory rear leaf springs were riding flat as a tack, even when nothing was weighing her down except a simple toolbox and some bog-standard accessories like a rear bar, canopy and fridge. Time for an upgrade.

Eighteen months ago she’d had a new set of shocks fitted – the second set in the eight years since originally rolling out of the showroom. Not happy with mainstream, we’d looked at the market and gone with OzTec’s Australian-made Outback Range. Brisbane-based and supplying suspensions for 4X4 and commercial use, OzTec originates from George Shepheard’s experience with racing and rallying. The shocks have proved their worth over the last 40,000 kilometres, easing us through four states and covering every sort of road surface this country has to offer (to check out our review of OzTec’s Outback Range, see issue 387).

The OzTec shocks use a 20mm OC Chrome Piston Rod with a 40mm OD Piston and Foot Valve, and they’re made with 64mm OD bodies to carry as much oil as possible. This all helps to keep the shocks nice and cool when the going gets rough. What’s more, they come with the option of Comfort or Cargo Valves.

So, when it came time for the spring upgrade, we approached OzTec again to see what this manufacturer has on offer. Planning to test the suspension setup over 9000 kilometres of punishing terrain across the breadth of Australia – and back again – we needed springs that weren’t going to let us down. The upgrade also needed to account for the fact the Hilux already had a set of Airbag Man rear-spring helpers fitted, and we were keen to retain these to reduce sway (‘waste not, want not’ as they say). The other unwritten requirement was that we didn’t achieve a ride that was so stiff that the missus would accuse the rig of emulating The Princess and the Pea when we hit the road.

THE HILUX GLIDES OVER ROAD SURFACES THAT PREVIOUSLY SENT TEETH CHATTERING

So we had a chat with OzTec’s operations officer Jamie MacFarlane, to see if he had something that would fit the bill. OzTec has several spring options to cater to users’ differing vehicle setups and load-carrying requirements, and the team aims to match its products with clients’ stated requirements. Chatting with Jamie about how we use the ’Lux, we chose the mid-range spring options for their versatility – rather than the more robust setups which are better suited to rigs that are constantly loaded.

After fitting the front and rear springs, the ’Lux feels like she’s had a new lease on life. Indeed, it feels like a new model. And, far from an uncomfortable ride, with 7500 kilometres of our test-run under its belt, the consensus (from both front- and back-seat drivers) is that the rig’s more comfortable than ever. And there’s no discernible difference between the ride loaded or unloaded.

Overall, the vehicle is sitting proud and indeed looks like she’s had a lift. With a half-inch gain in height when empty with no lift-kit fitted, this change – though unexpected – is welcome. The most noticeable change in performance comes on corrugated roads. The Hilux now glides over road surfaces that previously sent teeth chattering. Sway has also been noticeably reduced, and only the rig’s engine notices the difference when a load is attached to the towball.

In short, the ’Lux has been transformed by this upgrade, and the change is all good. In combination with the previous upgrade to the shocks, it feels like it’s undergone a GVM upgrade. While she might need a few more tweaks to hit that mark, the Hilux is well on her way towards another 100,000 kilometres or more of faithful service.

Spring Loaded

ALL OF the OzTec spring options are suited to a two-inch lift, but don’t require it. For a Hilux (and most other similar vehicles), OzTec offers four different front coil options:

• Up to 65kg of frontal accessories.

• 65 to 120kg of frontal accessories (this is the option we chose for the Hilux).

• 120 to 160kg frontal accessories.

• 160kg-plus of frontal accessories. For the rear, OzTec offers three setup options:

• 100 to 300kg constant load (more weight can be carried, but obviously the height will be lower). With this spring setup, OzTec recommend its ‘Comfort’ valved shock.

• 300 to 500kg constant load (more weight can be carried, but obviously the height will be lower). With this setup, the OzTec ‘Comfort’ valved shock is generally the way to go (although with less than 300kg load, the ride height will be higher than quoted). If running at the top end of the weight range, the OzTec team recommends combining this spring setup with its ‘Cargo’ valved shock. This is the unit we had fitted to the crew’s ’Lux.

• For a constant minimum load of 500kg or more in the rear tray. OzTec recommend combining this spring with the ‘Cargo’ valved shock.