I've wanted to put a set of Old Man Emu springs on my Sami for quite a while now. I debated other means of improving the ride, but decided that this would be the best compromise for me.
I have a stockish 1988.5 Sami. It had stock springs with red poly bushings and stock shackles. The shocks are OEM type replacement Bilstein HDs and the OEM sway bare is installed. An OME-SD30 steering damper was installed last year. I'm running 205/70-15 Geolandar AT-S tires.
This weekend, I took the new springs for a 600 mile road trip to Yosemite. The only reason I wanted them was for a better ride. I've found the stock height to be fine for my uses, which is mainly on-road with an occasional run down a fire-road or easy trail. The ride on the other hand, has been punishing when carrying 2 people and gear. Honestly, I'd of been better off with a Track/Kick, but I LOVE the Samurai.
I chose the Old Man Emu CS012FA (Medium Load (55-125lbs)) and CS038R (Medium Load ( 0lbs to GVW)) springs, both rated at 1.5" of lift, as well as the OMESB19 bushings.
After installing the springs and taking a trip to Yosemite with about a 600 lb load(myself, passengers and cargo) I just checked and saw that I have 3.25" of space between the axles and bump stops, for about 2.25" of lift. This is a lot more noticeable than I would have expected, both visual and for getting into the Sami.
The first thing I noticed, once rolling, is that my steering wheel is no longer centered. I'm thinking I will get a 2.5" drop pitman to make up the difference.
Previously, the ride could be best described as jarring. There was about an inch between the axles and the bump stops, so it did not take much of a bump to bottom out. Any kind of real bump meant a jolt to the back.
The first bump I hit was much softer than ever before. I tried hitting bigger and bigger bumps, and it finally took one that would have hurt me, before, to bottom out.
The ride is not what I'd call smooth, by any means, but it is now comfortable. Every aspect of comfort has improved dramatically. I was surprised to see that the smallest of bumps were felt about half as much as before. I no longer have that sense of being able to feel every little pebble in the road now.
Every bump is greatly cusioned now, and the bumps that would have jarred my back before are still felt, but are not painful at all. It takes a bump that I'd be afraid of damaging a regular car to bottom the suspension out.
Basically, from a comfort level, I am very satisfied.
There was also a marked change, for the worse, in handling, more than I was expecting. This is not really noticed much in every-day driving, but on a twisty mountain road, it is very apparent.
Before the spring change, Sami was more responsive on initial turn-in. I feel this was due mainly to the axle hitting the bump stop quickly after a turn was initiated. After the outer axle had bottomed, the harder the wheel was pulled, the more the inside axle would drop, until it hit the end of shock travel. These two events were very apparent to me, and I used the shock travel as my indicator to not push it any harder. One bad side effect of this setup is that a bump in the middle of the turn would upset the suspension greatly. The positive of this is that Sami felt responsive and gave a lot of feedback.
After the spring change, the initial turn-in is more sluggish, and the responsiveness drops off the harder the turn. I don't get as much feedback as before, and so feel much more "disconnected" from the tires and road. I feel like the inner axle shock runs out of travel quickly, while the outer axle starts to hunker down, but never reaches the bump stop. I no longer get that feedback that distincly says, "You've pushed hard enough." but instead just get a feeling of tippiness, which I never felt before the spring change. I feel like body roll is about the same as before. On the plus side, a bump in the middle of a sharp turn hardly upsets the suspension at all now.
That said, the increase in comfort more than makes up for the loss in handling I've felt, though it does take a lot of the joy out of pushing Sami through a series of tight turns, running hard, while not even breaking the speed limit.
Ironically, it now handles exactly the way I expected a Samurai to handle, before I got mine.
I've not experienced any bump-steer. I do wonder if some of the loss of feedback and responsiveness in the steering is due to not having a drop-pitman arm leveling out the drag-link.
Once off the pavement, the OME springs are Win-Win all the way. The ride is Much better, while the handling is improved as well because the bumps are not upsetting the suspension nearly as much as before. I'm looking forward to more off-road exploration this year!
'88.5 Samurai JX, mostly stock
Appreciate the report as I am contemplating making a suspension change, and your report highlighted my main concern, and that was that the OME's would be too soft for a good handling DD. The same for YJ's.
Maybe the 1.5" Deavers might be a better option for me. Rather have a stiff ride than have body roll. I too run 205's but plan to go to 225-235's when I replace the current tires, so the 2-2.5" of lift would be fine. Also want to move the front axle forward about 3/4", by either re-drilling the perches or using a relocation plate. Want to keep the tires centered and give more clearance for the 1.6L oil pan that is already dinged up.
Did the sway bar hook up OK with the extra lift, or did you need extensions?
Also good to know that I will definitely have to do a dropped pitman arm when installing any new lifted springs.
I don't feel the handling is bad, just not as good as before. I honestly felt like it used to be fairly sporty in the handling department, now the best way I can describe it is that it "handles like an old Buick."
I wouldn't say you HAVE to do a dropped pitman, but I know I'm doing one, and will report back once that is installed.
I forgot to mention the sway bar mounting kit, OME FK06. I used this, and the sway bar hooked up fine. If you are handy, they are just 3mm spacers that go between the sway bar bushings and links.
An option I have been contemplating for a while are the Addco sway bars, with some kind of quick disconnect for off-road. Something to consider...
'88.5 Samurai JX, mostly stock
A couple of things...
First hand knowledge beats a well written article every time. And from the way you describe your experiance with the OME's it sounds like you gained that experiance. Good read.
But be careful of that softer ride, don't take it for granted that damage isn't happening. I ran a set of OME HD springs on the Stalker as a daily driver for two years before making any suspension changes (installed by previous owner). The trip to and from work took me over some really bad roads. Asphalt that had wrinkled up like when a vehicle stops too quick in a bugs bunny cartoon... ya know - like a washboard. The ride never got bad so I didn't realize that the rear was sagging a bit.
I finally pulled the rear packs and found that I had snapped one spring on the passenger side and TWO on the driver side! They snapped right where the U-bolts clamped them to the spring perch. They are great springs, but if you abuse them or ignore the signs, you could find out the hard way when the back end just sits down on the axle and gives up. Lessons learned.
Oh, and the dropped pitman arm?
With slightly lifted springpacks (2-3") it is the perfect way to get your sterring back right. There really isn't much room to try a high steer solution when you are still sprung under. But as soon as you go SPOA then jump on a quality high steer solution. It will show you the meaning of control...
in old El Paso...
Thanks for the heads-up Bill. The roads I'm on usually arent that bad, but they ain't good either... I will have to make spring inspection part of my routine.
Drop pitman is on the way.
I took a 120 mile round trip last night on some bumpy roads, and find the ride with just me(235lbs) in it to be comparable to stock, until you hit that point where the stock springs would have hit the bump stops, where these springs are still cushioning the blows.
The handling is also better with only me in it, though still not on a par with stock.
Another thing I failed to mention in my earlier write-up is that braking is improved to the point I'm feeling the limitations of the stock brakes, which are almost new Raybestos PG Plus semi-metallic pads and shoes as well as new Centric drums and PG Plus rotors. It might just be that I need new hoses, as the pedal feels a bit spongey at the threshold of lock-up. I feel that the braking improvement is due to the fact that the front axle is not resting on the bump stops under hard braking now.
I also drove it in the rain this morning, and noticed that the handling is better now in the rain. It feels a bit more predictable before breaking away into a skid. One item of note is that the rear-end breaks away slightly before the front, which can be dangerous if you really over-cook a corner or don't know how to handle a skid. I'm going to try bumping up the rear tire pressure to see if that changes this tendency. I run the placard pressures of 20 PSI all-around and 22 in the rears when I have a load in the back. Going to try 22 in the rears with it unloaded.
'88.5 Samurai JX, mostly stock
Thanks for your report on emu springs. I too want to keep pretty stock and am not particulary happy with ride quality. I have made 2 changes recently with good results. My suspension was totaly stock and oringinal including the shocks. My first change (which I dont feel a differance) was bolting on a used set of 225 75 15 tires on factory rims Loaned to me to try out. Its about an inch higher now and dont feel any lag in power. The second thing Ive done is replaced the front shackles with longer ones, they are homemade and 1 1/4 inches longer. The bushings needed replacing so that was done.
I meant to take a height measurement but forgot , They say you get about half of whatever the the length increase is but I think I got over 3/4 inch judging by the bump stop gap.
Any way The ride is much better Im very impressed. I even with this very moderate change however do notice a slight differance that it doesent feel quite the same tightness on road it used to feel like a go-cart. I like the look a bit better too . Dont know what next Id love to do more but cant realy afford much now. Also Im pretty darn happy with my machine.