"You don't know what you've got until it's gone" is an overused clich. Guess what? Sometimes it's true. Our '03 4Runner UNlimited had springs, but no shocks when we were handed the keys.
Originally equipped with Toyota's cross-linked XREAS shock system, the 'Runner had received an aftermarket suspension system as part of its previous buildup. It turns out that when any part of the hydraulic workings in the XREAS system is disconnected, the whole system is kaput. While the XREAS is a clever idea, it was not meant to be serviced in any way, shape, or form. A leaking XREAS can only be replaced with a complete factory-new system. This is relevant because the XREAS had been disconnected during the aftermarket suspension's installation. Since the 'Runner was slated to return to Toyota, the aftermarket parts were pulled and the stock items were re-installed. Remember the part about the XREAS being non-serviceable? When the stock suspension was re-installed there wasn't any fluid left in the formerly cross-linked shocks.
Want a wild ride? Try draining the fluid out of your shocks (actually, don't; it's a bad idea) and taking a drive to the nearest grocery store. You won't believe you're driving the same vehicle you were before. Trust us; even the cheapest, most basic shocks are still performing some function to make your rig stable and controllable.
Yes, the UNlimited needed a new set of shocks, but we were after more than that. We needed off-road performance, too. Sway-A-Way had what we were after. Sway-A-Way's 4Runner suspension bolts on without cutting, drilling, or welding. The stock front coilovers are replaced with a pair of 2.5-inch-diameter S.A.W. adjustable units. Out back, S.A.W. offers a set of coil springs featuring a 10-percent-increased rate over stock, which are designed to provide a 2-inch lift. The rear springs are coupled with a pair of two-inch diameter shocks that bolt to the stock shock mounts.
With the Sway-A-Way suspension in place, the 'Runner was completely transformed. The bucking, uncontrolled ride was gone, replaced by suspension that handles small bumps well and takes bigger hits without a fuss. Since we began with a non-functional stock suspension, there was no question that functional shocks were going to make a huge difference in drivability. We've since had the opportunity to drive an '04 4Runner SR5 4x4 with fully-functional stock suspension. Trust us that the Sway-A-Way kit blows away the stock system, street or dirt. We're happy that our 'Runner's riding red.
The rod end at the bottom...
The rod end at the bottom of the shock rod is configured to clear the CV axle shafts. The shock shaft is made with NitroSteel, a hardened finish that makes the shafts extremely resistant to pitting due to rust and rock chipping. Sharp eyes will spot the urethane bump stop ring on the shock shaft. This ring is in addition to the stock rubber bump stops, which remain fully functional.
Before starting the installation,...
Before starting the installation, Sway-A-Way's Brian Bell took ride-height measurements at each corner of the 4Runner. The front S.A.W. coilovers are adjustable from 0 to 3 inches of lift, and fit on both 2WD and 4WD '03-or-newer Toyota 4Runners. To keep the CV boots and joints happy and alive, front shocks on 4WD 4Runners should be adjusted to no more than two inches of lift.
The top of the front coilover...
The top of the front coilover is configured to bolt straight in to the factory coil bucket.
Sway-A-Way's 4Runner suspension easily bolts on with basic hand tools. The trickiest part of the installation is properly supporting the vehicle while the wheels are off and the suspension is being installed. If you lack the proper jack stands, floor jack, and hand tools, it's best to take your 'Runner to a professional shop for the installation. This kit, one of several that Sway-A-Way offers for the '03 and newer 4Runner, comprises a pair of 2.5-inch adjustable front coilovers, a pair of two-inch lift rear coil springs, a pair of 2.0 rear shocks, front sway bar re-location brackets, and a spring preload adjusting wrench for the front shocks. Sway-A-Way's products are made in the USA. We like the S.A.W. red against the 4Runner UNlimited's metallic grey, but Sway-A-Way will soon offer its shocks in a black anodized finish for those seeking a neutral hue. In addition to its 4Runner kits, Sway-A-Way's lineup includes systems for the Tacoma, Tundra, FJ Cruiser, Sequoia, and selected Land Cruisers.