This post is part of a full series on lifting your late model Ford Ranger or Mazda B-Series:

Why Coilovers?

When Ford engineers designed the suspension the last generation of Rangers, they chose torsion bars as the main weight bearing spring for the front suspension. These are very durable and easily adjustable, but when you lift your truck using an IFS lift, they need to be lowered to the same height as the lower control arms. These negate some of the ground clearance gains you just made with the lift. And frankly, I think they just look silly hanging out under the truck, several inches lower than anything else.

How then, can one get rid of the torsion bars? Simply, something else needs to bear the weight of the vehicle and provide some springy goodness for your suspension.

A few years ago, some clever folks realized that you could fit a combined spring/shock absorber called a coilover into roughly the same space as the Ranger’s stock shock absorber occupies, with a few modifications to account for its weight-bearing role, cleanly replacing the ugly torsion bars. Problem solved!

The top illustration shows a Ranger that has been Superlifted and still has the torsion bars. The bottom figure shows the coilovers in place.

The top illustration shows a Ranger that has been Superlifted and still has the torsion bars. The bottom figure shows the coilovers in place.

Another advantage of coilovers is you get to choose any spring rate you want and retain full adjustability over ride height via screw-type preload adjustors. Note: You could use coilover preload adjustments to increase ride height by an extra three inches, same as you could with torsion bars, but then you’re running into the lack-of-droop problem I described in Chapter 1.

There’s a wide variety of custom spring rates and shock valvings you can get while you’re at it. This allows for a heavy winch bumper or a plow on the front of the truck, and lets you tune the suspension for the way you drive.

 

Conversion Overview

A complete kit was originally sold by RCD along with their version of an IFS Ranger lift, but this was unfortunately discontinued a few years ago. The good news is that you can still do a coilover conversion, but it’s not quite as easy as it used to be; you have to collect the various required parts yourself. The bright side is you can customize everything to your liking.

The main parts you’ll need (listed in more detail in the shopping list) are as follows:

  • The bracket kit
  • Coilover shocks
  • Coilover springs
  • Longer front brake hoses
  • New bump stops
  • A few extra bits of hardware
Here's how my coilovers looked, right after installing them.

Here’s how my coilovers looked, right after installing them.

It’s not a straight bolt-on operation: you’ll need to make some difficult-to-reverse modifications to your truck:

  • There is drilling required in the shock tower and in the lower control arm in order to mount the brackets.
  • Although the coilovers fit nicely where the Ranger’s stock shock absorbers are installed, the mounting points and shock towers need to be reinforced with welded-in gussets for their new weight bearing responsibilities.
  • The coilover assembly is larger than the factory shock, so it’s a very tight fit. It’s so tight, in fact, that you will need to saw/grind off half of the Ranger’s bump stop mounting bracket to make room.

It might sound a bit daunting, but it’s really not so bad if you’re well prepared. I don’t weld so I outsourced that task, but I was able to do everything else. The upcoming chapters will take you through this process, step by step, describing how to integrate the coilover installation with the Superlift K358 build so you can save yourself a few hours of effort, as well as a few bucks.

Note: this guide will not go into the coilover specifications for non-Superlifted Rangers, to keep things concise.

 

The Bracket Kit

An enterprising individual known as ME00Stepside on http://www.ranger-forums.com has taken it upon himself to provide coilover conversion continuity to the Ranger owner community. Inspired by the RCD brackets but using his own CNC program, he fabricates batches of sturdy new coilover mounting brackets and shock tower reinforcing gussets. He kicks off a new batch of a dozen or so upon sufficient paid orders from interested buyers. He also provides all of the required spacers and grade 8 fastener hardware.

ME00Stepside Coilover Bracket and Hardware Kit

ME00Stepside Coilover Bracket and Hardware Kit – Photo Credit: Michael Kearney

For the last couple of years, I’ve been monitoring the forum thread where he updates interested customers on the status of his batches. His production has been pretty steady, with a batch going out every month or two.

Though he doesn’t do business in the usual e-commerce way with a website and shopping cart, he accepts PayPal money transfers to cover the cost of the bracket kits and shipping. In my experience and that of many others, he is trustworthy and provides good communication about orders. My brackets and hardware arrived as promised, beautifully manufactured and powder-coated in black.

He provides primarily the Ranger-specific pieces that you can’t get anywhere else, so things like the coilovers themselves and other parts will need to be sourced elsewhere. Read on for the rest of the stuff you’ll need!

Choosing Coilovers

Because this is an aftermarket mod, you can’t just walk into a Pep Boys and ask the kid at the counter for Superlifted Ford Ranger coilovers. The kind of parts you’ll be using are intended for racing and high performance applications, so they come in a lot of shapes, sizes and options.

But don’t worry. Lots of people have done this, figured out the specifications through trial and error and have kindly shared their findings in various places on the Web. This guide will summarize them in one place for you.

Shocks

The shock absorber, more accurately described as a damper, is the part of the suspension that stops your vehicle from continuously bouncing up and down on its springs after you hit a bump. Coilover shocks and coil springs are sold separately.

Shock Types

The shock portion of the coilovers can be had in different major types. These are:

  • Emulsion
  • Remote Reservoir
  • Piggyback
From top to bottom: Emulsion, Piggyback and Remote Reservoir coilover shocks

From top to bottom: Emulsion, Piggyback and Remote Reservoir coilover shocks

The latter two are more expensive and trickier to install because they have an external tank to give the shock oil a place to go and cool off between piston strokes, ensuring consistent dampening over prolonged hard use. These would be what you’d use for high-speed desert racing, for example.

In my humble opinion, people who are serious about racing their Rangers, or jumping them in stadiums, would be better served by the long-travel Dixon Brothers lift, which already has provisions for coilovers. That being the case, I’m going to recommend you stick with the simpler, cheaper emulsion type unless the aesthetics of the remote reservoir are important to you.

Shock Measurements

These dimensions are for Superlift-equipped trucks only. Don’t deviate from these measurements or it won’t work!

  • Diameter: 2.0”
  • Travel: 6.5”
  • Shaft: 5/8”
  • Extended length: 19.35”
  • Compressed length: 12.85”

Many companies make coilover shocks but for my truck, I went with:

  • Fox 2.0 Pro Series Emulsion Shock, # 980-02-001-A
  • Extended eyelets, needed for the Fox shocks to reach the right overall length in this application, part # 213-01-238-A
    • 4.488” long
    • 3.75” from center to eye

Coil Springs

For the springs you need the following specs:

  • 2.5” inner diameter
  • 12” uncompressed length
  • 8” to 14” range

Beyond that, you need to decide on the spring rate, or stiffness of the spring. From my reading, you can safely choose from 650 pound to 800 pound rates. Some people with 650lb springs or lower have reported that they got a bit too soft over time. Most Ranger owners seem very happy with 750lb springs.

I chose 800lb King springs (# SPR25-12-800) for my truck because I plan to eventually put a winch bumper on it. After driving around for several months with these springs and the stock bumper, I can report that the ride stiffness is remarkably similar to the stock ride. (Which is somewhat stiff.) I expect the ride to smooth out with time and some extra weight on it.

Other Needed Parts

Once you’ve selected the major components for the conversion, you can turn your attention to the (important) details.

Limit Straps

Limit Straps with Adjustable Clevis

Limit Straps with Adjustable Clevis

Limit straps are required to protect your CV joints and shocks from being damaged by the weight of the suspension/brake/wheel/tire assembly at maximum suspension extension. Recent Superlift kits have shipped with limiting straps, as mine did. If this is the case with yours, you can re-use them with the coilover conversion and don’t need to worry about finding other ones.

 

If you don’t already have limiting straps, or prefer a different mounting point than what works with the Superlift straps (more on this later) these can be purchased separately. However, you’re on your own for figuring out your mounting points and measurements, because this can be set up in a multitude of different ways.

Bump Stops

The bump stops also protect the CV joints and shocks, but at full suspension compression. When you “bottom out” your suspension, they are the bottom. They will need to be twiddled from their stock arrangement because:

  • The Superlift kit relocates the lower control arm 4” lower so the bump stops end up uselessly out of LCA’s reach.
  • Though the Superlift kit comes with bump stop extensions, the bracket they’re meant to fit into will be mostly cut off to make room for the new coilovers.

The solution I selected for my truck was a nice-looking set of Daystar KU09037BK Bolt-In Extended Bump Stops.

Daystar KU09037BK Bolt-In Extended Bump Stops

Daystar KU09037BK Bolt-In Extended Bump Stops

Note: others who have used the same solution ran into CV joint damage because it would seem that the Daystars can deflect sideways off the edge of the lower control arm, letting its travel continue beyond the point they’re supposed to stop it.

An alternative to the Daystar bump stops is a shock shaft-mounted polyurethane bump stop like the Eibach Micro Cellular Foam Shaft Bump Stop or the Fox Shock Bottom Out Bumper.

(If you’ve done this conversion and can confirm a bump stop solution that has worked for you in off-road conditions, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.)

Brake Hoses

The Superlift kit comes with a set of little brackets that relocate the stock front brake hoses low enough to reach the calipers after the lift installed, without the need to lengthen the steel brake lines. However, this lowering bracket just doesn’t fit with the coilover in place, so a longer hose is required.

This is the longer Jeep Cherokee brake hose in place on my Ranger.

This is the longer Jeep Cherokee brake hose in place on my Ranger.

Thankfully, someone figured out that the following hoses are a direct bolt-in replacement for the Ranger’s front brake hoses:

  • Dorman H38894 Hydraulic Brake Hose (fits 93-98 Jeep Grand Cherokee)

You’ll need to order one for each side (left and right are the same.)

Extra Hardware

  • The top bolt for the top brackets goes through a pretty large hole and needs a bigger washer that what came with the bracket kit.
    Shock tower top bracket bolt & modified washer from factory shock absorber.

    Shock tower top bracket bolt, lock washer and modified washer from factory shock absorber.

    I took the washer from the factory shock absorbers and drilled its center so the bracket’s 1/2″ diameter top bolt would fit through. If you want to save yourself this trouble, pick up some 1/2″ x 2″ extra thick fender washers.

  • Since I opted to use the Superlift limit straps, their  recommended mounting location required a longer bolt  than the Superlift-supplied one once the gussets were welded onto the shock tower. I purchased two grade 8  7/16” x 2” bolts and a few extra 7/16″ washers to use as spacers behind the strap buckle to keep it from, er, buckling when tightened down.
    Limit Strap

    End of Superlift-supplied limit strap bolted to shock tower in the valley formed between gusset (visible near left of image) and the shock tower requires longer bolts and washers behind it to stabilize it.

Tools

Coilover Spanner Wrenches

Fox Spanner Wrench

Fox Spanner Wrench

When you order your coilovers, a good shop will remind you these two spanner wrenches are needed for adjusting your preload, but just in case they don’t, here are the part numbers for the Fox 2.0 coilover shocks:

  • Dual Pin Spanner Wrench (Small) -DSM LAS07-100
  • Large Lock Ring Spanner for Fox 2.0 Shock -DSM LAS07-102

Other Tools

  • Buy at least a couple of 3/8″ cobalt drill bits before you get started. You’ll probably break or wear out one of them during the project. I broke my first bit halfway through the last hole, but it was pretty dull by that point.
  • You’ll need something to cut/grind heavy steel. I used a 5″ angle grinder with a cutting disc, a grinding disc and a sanding disc to smooth jagged edges. Some people use a reciprocating saw (Sawzall) with a bunch of steel cutting blades (these can break or wear out during the job).
  • Appropriate safety gear (eye/ear protection, mechanic’s gloves, etc.)
  • Have some degreaser, a can of chassis paint and masking tape/paper handy so you can paint the bare steel after cutting/drilling/grinding.

Coilover Shopping List

ItemPart #WhyWhere To BuyQuantityCost (USD)Amount (USD)
TotalNot including taxes or shipping$989.48
ME00Stepside Coilover Bracket Kitn/aThis provides attachment points and reinforcements for mounting coilovers.Check the coilover brackets thread and message ME00Stepside
(shipping to US is $17, to Canada is $46)
1$290 for powder coated, less $20 for bare metal$290.00
Fox 2.0 Pro Series Emulsion Shock 6.5" Travel Coilover980-02-001-AThis is the damper part of the coilover.Downsouth Motorsports or ORW2$207$414.00
Fox 2.0 4.488" extended eyelets213-01-238-AThese get the 6.5" travel shock to the right length for the Superlifted Ranger applicationDownsouth Motorsports or ORW2$35$70.00
King 2.5" inner diameter springs
10" length, 800lb rate
SPR25-12-800These are doing the work of the torsion bars you'll be removing.Downsouth Motorsports or ORW2$65$130.00
Large and small Fox spanner wrenchesDSM LAS07-102
DSM LAS07-100
You'll need these to set and adjust the preload on your new coiloversDownsouth Motorsports. These are also available elsewhere with different part numbers.1 large
1 small
$9.99$19.98
Daystar Bolt-In Extended Bump StopKU09037BKPrevent damage to your CV joints and shocks when bottoming outAmazon.com1 (package of 2)$28.02$28.02
Dorman Hydraulic Front Brake Hose for 1993-98 Jeep Grand CherokeeH38894Your stock Ranger brake lines won't be long enough to reach your calipers after the Superlift, and Superlift's drop bracket won't fit with the coiloversAmazon.com2$11.24$22.48
Additional Grade 8 Hardware2" x 1/2" bolts
1/2" flat washers
Required if re-using Superlift-provided limit straps.Fastnal or your preferred industrial fastener store.2 bolts
6 washers
$5$5
Black chassis paintRustoleum 263377Needed to cover the bare metal left after welding / cutting.Your local auto parts store.1$10$10

Ordering

When you’re ready to take the coilover plunge, start ordering the goodies. Give yourself plenty of lead time before your install date if you’re not using your own garage for the work.

First, contact ME00Stepside on Ranger-Forums.com to get on the bracket list. Do this before anything else and be patient, since the amount of time it may take before a batch is manufactured and shipped will be variable.

Next, for the coilovers, it is important to order from a place that can handle the shock valving for you. These shocks can’t just be bolted on without being properly set up first. Shock valving is a complicated art/science and not an endeavor for the untrained.

If you’re like me and can’t spare the extra brain cells, order from a reputable dealer who does the valving. You’ll have to phone and talk to someone to discuss your driving habits, truck weight, spring rates, and such.  Downsouth Motorsports in San Diego, CA gets great feedback on the forums. When I ordered my Fox coilovers from Downsouth, I was helped by Micah, who provided great service. I’ve also read positive feedback about the owner, Sonny. Many others have had luck ordering from Off Road Warehouse, though some report that you might need to ask around to find a rep who’s knowledgeable in shock valving. As mentioned above, don’t forget the spanner wrenches for your shock.

The bump stops can be ordered online from whoever’s got the best deal going. I got the Daystars from Amazon.com. The brake hoses and fasteners are pretty standard items, so you can get those at your favourite auto parts and fastener store(s), online or otherwise.

Pre-Installation Parts Check

As advised in Chapter 2, open all the boxes and ensure everything is present and accounted for, well in advance of your intended installation day. The ME00Stepside kit includes:

  • (2) upper brackets
  • (1) passenger side lower bracket
  • (2) driver’s side lower bracket
  • (2) long shock tower reinforcement gussets
  • (2) short shock tower reinforcement gussets
  • (4) narrow aluminum rod end spacers (for 1/2″ wide rod ends–like Fox)
  • (4) wide aluminum rod end spacers
  • (2) shock tower spacers for upper mounts
  • (4)  1/2″ x 3″ bolts (these link the shocks to the brackets)
  • (4)  3/8″ x 1.25″ bolts (upper brackets to back of shock tower)
  • (2) 1/2″ x 2.25″ bolts (upper shock mount through top of shock tower)
  • (8) 3/8″x1.25″ bolts (lower bracket to lower control arm)
  • (20) 1/2″ flat washers
  • (16) 3/8″ flat washers
  • (10) 1/2″ lock washers
  • (8) 3/8″ lock washers
  • (6) 1/2″  nuts
  • (12) 3/8″ nuts

Also before you take your truck apart, test-fit the bolts through the  coilover bracket holes and the rod end spacers + shock eyelets into the brackets. Though this may have been corrected since I ordered, the powder coating process made the holes too small for the bolts to fit. The brackets were also too narrow to fit the shock eyelets with the rod end spacers supplied.

Where necessary, you can drill to enlarge the holes to the appropriate size and grind the rod end spacers so they fit into the bracket with the shock eyelet (or source some smaller ones).

Welding the Gussets

If you don’t weld, you’ll need to make arrangements to take your truck to have the gussets welded onto the shock towers in advance of your install. I took my truck to Next Level Automotive in Toronto, where Bobby did a great job of welding on the brackets and then giving them a shot of black paint when done. You may also be able to find a mobile welding service in your area to come to your garage after you’ve started taking apart your truck.

Note that the longer gussets are meant for the back of the shock tower and the short gussets are meant for the front. These should be welded on to the shock towers with their length overlapping the frame and the towers themselves.

Other Reading

There is a wealth of information at the following links:

 


After you’ve completed the steps in this chapter, you should be ready to put coilovers on a Superlifted Ranger. As always, I would love to hear your feedback!

Next: Preparing for new rear leaf springs!