Real Big Toys: Big Trucks Offer Opportunities for Big Suspension, Tire Upgrades - Tire Review Magazine

Real Big Toys: Big Trucks Offer Opportunities for Big Suspension, Tire Upgrades

Following up on last month’s subject of new products for cars, we’re tackling the truck market this month.

Let’s face it: Some Americans are always going to want a big truck, or bigger than they had last year or one with diesel power. That being said, I’ve tracked down a few new products to help improve truck suspensions to allow for larger tire and wheel combos.

Starting off the lineup is Cognito Motorsports (www.cognitomotorsports.com). Chad Troxler, sales and marketing manager, says: “We offer lift kits and steering upgrades for 1999-2007 GM half-ton 6-lug and 2001-up GM 8-lug trucks/SUVs. We have been in business for five years, but two and a half years ago, Justin Lambert, the owner and mechanical engineer, was the first to develop a standalone system that bolts on to the stock pitman and idler arms to solve an OE design flaw.”

Cognito has a utility patent pending for these components. The problem with the steering on these trucks stems from the fact that the original pitman and idler arms will slowly develop slack, or looseness, that allows the center link to move in a forward-to-back motion. As it moves back, it is pivoting up as well, which pulls the tie rods up. The increased angle weakens the tie rods and could potentially break them. These parts help eliminate the premature wear of the pitman and idler arms, Cognito claims.

Some beginning signs of a problem can be looseness in the steering or irregular tire wear. Most tie-rod problems stem from a problem with the pitman and idler arms. Inaccurate toe settings are a thing of the past!

If customers just want a little more clearance than stock, sell them the leveling kit. Lambert adds, “Instead of changing the keys, we replace the upper A-arms and install a polyurethane bump stop, preventing metal-to-metal contact and adding the necessary travel to ensure a quality ride. This allows you to level the truck properly in ways that just adding torsion keys cannot offer. You can add one of our lower shock mount bracket kits to give the shocks the correct travel to cycle properly through the suspensions potential or completely change out the shocks. We recommend a Bilstein shock upgrade.

“The upper A-arm in the leveling kit is the same one used in Cognito lift kits, so a customer on a budget can get started with a quick leveling kit, which makes future upgrades easy. One last thing with the bolt-in ball joints: You can place them on the top or bottom of the A-arm to change the ball joint angle, which adds travel and helps tilt the spindle out at the top. With the ball joint on top, the upper arm acts as a stock arm, but if you put the ball joint on the bottom of the A-arm, this allows you to crank the torsion bars up for a couple inches of lift, all the while keeping a good-quality ride.”

Cognito also offers high-quality suspension systems for up to 12 inches of lift. New for 2007 will be a coil-over setup for the new half-ton trucks and SUVs.

Next, CAGE Offroad Products (www.cageoffroad.com) is for you American iron guys. Jim Cole, vice president of CAGE Offroad Products, is well known in the early-Bronco scene. He was instrumental in developing modern long-travel suspension parts for the mid-1960s to late 1970s Broncos. Today, he is busy fabricating production brackets for straight axle conversions, as well as various bolt-up suspension systems and components for better-riding vehicles with some insane articulation.

According to Cole, “We are the first and only production company to offer performance coil spring solid axle swap parts, which are laser cut, for this market. Before we offered our components, you had either to fab up your own or pay someone who could.” In either case, it takes an above-average technician/installer to handle this kind of transformation.

I asked Cole what he sees as the most popular axles being used, and he had this to say: “We see a lot of Dana 44s and 60s. The most popular solid axle swap is performed on 1980-1996 F150s and Broncos, but we are developing kits for other vehicles like the full-size Chevys, too. Our pieces can be very universal, so we see them used on Toyotas and Jeeps. Pretty much any vehicle can use these to swap to a solid axle and coil springs front or rear.

“We use coil springs instead of leaf springs in our swaps for better articulation, and it is easier to install and a good profit center for tire dealers. We also have polished billet aluminum coil spring and strut spacers, as well as bolt-up suspension lift systems for the average enthusiast. We focus on making it easy for the shops to install the products so they can make money on both the parts and the installation.

“On average, a dealer can make 30% on parts plus labor and add a more expensive tire/wheel combo,” he says.

CAGE’s kit includes progressive-rated coil springs, which provide a smooth ride and resist bottoming out as the suspension compresses, the company says. “All of our kits come with our nitrogen-pressurized shocks for improved ride quality and suspension travel,” Cole says. “With any lift, including budget-minded spacer lifts, the shocks really should be replaced with longer units to account for the increased distance.”

Real Big Boys

With all of this info in hand, you’ll want to know where to buy the big tire and wheel packages for the trucks that you just lifted and fit the new bolt patterns that we mentioned in the January issue.

If your customer is really into the big-rig look, offer a set of American Force Wheels (www.americanforcewheels.com). AFW offers wheels in 19.5-, 22-, 22.5-, 24- and 24.5-inch diameters to fit three-quarter and one-ton trucks. Custom adapters make the change quick and easy. Remember to properly torque the lugs – all 72 of them!

In addition to the dually wheels, the selection includes 22- and 22.5-inch super singles for these trucks as well as Excursions and H2s.

For a direct bolt on, go with the 19.5-inch dually with the low-profile 225/70R19.5 or 245/70R19.5 tires. Other low-pro options are 305/40R22, 305/45R22, 285/40R24 and 295/40R24.

According to the AFW applications guide, any of these combinations will fit stock, lifted or lowered GM, Ford and Dodge trucks. For the larger-diameter combos at 22.5 and 24.5 inches, you will need at least a 4-inch lift on most 2WD trucks. The tires are rated to meet or exceed the original load capacity (Lowered trucks will have to adjust this figure.).

One huge benefit and selling point to this set up is that the tires can last up to 200,000 miles! Tell your customers they will buy four to six sets of OE tires to get that mileage. And, the cost of this setup is actually less than staying with OE.

As for fitting the new vehicles arriving with odd bolt patterns and offsets – which includes the 2007 Tundra, 2007 Wrangler and 2007 GMC Acadia/Saturn Outlook and 2008 Buick Enclave – WheelPros (www.wheelpros.com) offers custom-drilled bolt patterns on many covered lug wheels.

Don’t let customers walk out because other distributors have said there isn’t anything to fit their vehicles yet. Your local warehouse can place the order and drop ship it to your door in many cases. Be sure to read the July 2007 issue of Tire Review to get the latest update on applications like this in more detail.

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