Good to Be King.

So here we go – the last component to my suspension upgrade: front shocks. After the usual research over all the available front shock options, I decided to go with full coilovers. I looked at Fox Racing Shox first (because I’m a mountain biker), then kind of liked the SAWs (only because they were red, heh!), but it seemed like the most popular choice for the Frontier was the RadFlo 2.0’s. I started the research and for the most part it seemed like Frontier owners with the RadFlos were happy with their choice. There were some issues with some people (clunking, leaking, squeaking) but I figured these might have been isolated incidents. Everyone I talked to suggested I call PRG to get more information about the RadFlos. I just laughed.

…And then I went to the Off-Road Expo in Pomona, and guess what? I saw the King Off-Road Shocks. There’s really no way to describe how pretty these things are in person. Great – now I was stuck between spending a little less for RadFlo 2.0s and (possibly) dealing with any issues that come with the RadFlos, or spending a little more for the Kings (?) that look awesome and are supposedly the cream of the crop.

So it turns out that my cousin’s FJ has King shocks and I’ve ridden in his FJ a few times, and it’s pretty nice… but that’s an FJ – not a truck. However, when my brother got in a group buy for King shocks for his Tacoma – I paid good attention to the process. I even helped him install his coilovers because I wanted to learn more about them. He ordered the larger 2.5” size on all four corners, and after the install and alignment I took a ride. I was expecting a stiff ride but I was wrong; just like in the FJ, my brother’s Tacoma was super smooth, with no harshness over railroad tracks or expansion joints in the road, no weird noises (something I kept seeing more about RadFlos), nothing bad at all. It felt stock but not in a “mushy way” stock, if that makes sense! Then I recalled that anytime I read something “bad” about King shocks in the forums, it was always the “why spend this much money when you can get RadFlos/SAWs for less?” argument. It was never about the actual performance of the King shocks.

Right – that said, I made my decision to go all-in and I order the Kings. I had them made with custom specs, so it took almost 2 months before my coilovers were ready for pickup, but I can’t complain because I got what I wanted.

Side by side photo showing the extended length of the Kings.
Optional compression adjuster for dialing in the ride.
Bolted right in, 2.5” shock diameter is larger than the OEM shocks.
Close up of the fittings and the upper mount.

With the coilovers in place, I turned my attention to the external reservoirs. King includes specific mounting brackets that are attached to the chassis using the tow hook bolts. However, they position the reservoirs towards the forward part of the front fender, just behind the fender liners. This means they’re hidden.. but I don’t want them hidden! I’m going to have some custom brackets tabbed up to mount the reservoirs somewhere higher up (maybe next to the UCA brackets) but that’s for a later time.

Included bracket for the external reservoirs bolted to the chassis.
Reservoirs clamped in place in the wheel well area.
Closer photo of the 2.5″ external reservoirs.
OEM fender liners barely cleared the hoses, just barely.

The overall installation was straightforward; even if these shocks were a lot heavier than stock, due to the larger specs. I had no issues whatsoever installing them in the OEM positions once I disconnected the UCA ball joint (had practice when installing my brother’s Kings, too). Also fortunate for me – unlike the rear end, the front lower shock bolts came out easily, as did the six upper nuts holding the OEM shocks to the coil buckets. I had the stock shocks out and the King shocks in in about an hour – by myself, with no air tools.

With everything bolted up, my truck was finally lifted! With the initial “out-of-the-box” setting the front end gained 2.4” of lift, which was good, but still lower than the 3.02″ of lift I had in the rear, giving my truck a noticeable rake. No problem – I dialed down the spring perches until I had the front fenders up to 37.625”. This translated into a 3.45” front lift, or a 5/8” rake. Much better!

After getting the truck aligned, I spent the next week getting used to the feel of the coilovers and playing with the compression adjusters. The ride comfort with the whole suspension upgrade (compression adjusters set to lowest) is about the same as the stock shocks – very comfortable, it’s not mushy and definitely not bouncy. At 10-clicks the suspension feels more firm, most evident under hard braking as the nose does not dive down like with the stock shocks. During the first week I kept the stereo off and the windows closed, listening for any little sign of extra noise, but there was nothing. The suspension wasn’t noisy at all. But everything I said so far was on pavement; to get a complete evaluation, I would have to take my truck to the dirt to see if the Kings were all show and no go, or if they were legit.

UPDATE 04.14.17: Custom reservoir mounts made.