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Raptor Refresh: King’s Bolt-In Shocks Make Ford’s Greatest Off-Road Pickup Even Better

Posted in How To: Suspension Brakes on April 6, 2017
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When it comes to out-of-the box 4x4s that can go fast off-road and not rattle your teeth out, there’s none better than the Ford F-150 Raptor. Currently in its newest generation with the ’17 model, the Raptor platform has proven that it’s not just another basic sticker package.

As the original generation Raptors age, the need to replace and/or upgrade some of the core components becomes more recognizable. One of the areas that Ford did a great job with out of the box was the Raptor’s suspension. But, just like anything else, there’s always room for improvement. Maybe one of the largest complaints for Raptor enthusiasts who push their trucks hard off-road is the fact that the stock shocks, while they work well, can often fatigue and feel under-damped. Another common complaint is the dreaded frontend clunk typically associated with some Raptor front suspensions. If you’re unsure what we’re referring to, Ford even mentions it in the supplemental guide that comes with the Raptor. Whether this is just a characteristic of the internal-bypass shocks or something that Ford engineers did to drive Raptor owners and nit-picky journalists like ourselves crazy remains to be seen.

King provides a larger-than-stock 3-inch-diameter coilover fit with a remote reservoir as standard with its Raptor Performance Series kit. By going with a larger body shock, King is able to increase the size of the valve piston, which equates to greater damping force. By moving the nitrogen piston to the remote reservoir, King can increase the stroke of the shock in addition to providing additional fluid. This equates to a shock that can run cooler longer, which is critical to battling shock fatigue.

When it comes to upgrading the Raptor suspension, we’re not referring to a lift kit, but rather performance-oriented shocks. For our daily driven ’12 Raptor, this suspension upgrade came via King Shock’s Performance Series shocks. The Performance Series shocks from King are designed as factory-replacement shocks with a wide-array of vehicle-specific absorbers to fit a host of late-model trucks and SUVs. Our specific kit was designed for the ’10-’14 Raptor platform.

This particular setup provides the Raptor with massive 3.0 front coilovers affixed with a remote reservoir and quick-turn compression adjuster, along with 3.0 triple-bypass shocks for the rear. While King does an incredible job of getting the Performance Series shocks tuned for the Raptor, the company also understands that many off-road enthusiasts like to be able to adjust their own shocks. Given the external bypass tubes and compression adjusters are easy to dial in, you can fine-tune the shocks to suit your driving needs.

King understands that, for most, the Raptor is a daily driven pickup. To ensure that you can still have a plush on-road ride, but increased damping force off-road, King equips the front coilovers with compression adjusters. These offer 20 clicks of adjustability ranging from soft to firm. The farther you twist the knob to firm, the more aggressive the compression damping (upwards travel of the shock) you’ll have.

To get a better idea of what it took to toss these on, we put our truck on the rack at Low Range 4x4 in Wilmington, North Carolina. There, we knocked out the four-shock upgrade in just a couple hours. While we’ll rank this as easy on the install chart, we’re going through some of the details on why going with Kings is a smart investment for your truck.

Out back, King uses a 3.0 triple-bypass shock. Unlike the OE Raptor shocks that are internal bypass, these are external meaning the bypass tubes are on the outside of the shock. In simple terms, a bypass means the shock oil is bypassing the shock’s fluid piston. In this application, there’s two compression bypass zones (one for high speed, the other for low speed), and a rebound zone (the downward stroke of the shock). Since the bypass zones can easily be adjusted on the vehicle, you can quickly adjust how the shock performs.
King designed the 3.0 coilover to bolt in the stock shock mounting location. While there’s minor drilling required, the most difficult part of the install will be maneuvering the massive fluid reservoir into position.
To secure the reservoir in place, King includes a bolt-on bracket that attaches to the trucks framerails just behind the stock bumper. Setting the reservoir here makes the adjuster more accessible and also helps provide clean, cool air, which equates to a cooler running shock. The shocks already come with a nitrogen charge, so none will be needed.
Despite the larger-than-stock shock body and shaft, the rear shock mounts in the stock location on the truck. Since the shock uses a piggyback fluid reservoir, there’s no additional mounts needed. As is the case with the front, moving to a large-body shock means you have more damping control via the larger piston. A few things to note about this shock. One, you may notice a little noise from time to time. The subtle clicking noise is from the check balls moving inside of the bypass tubes. Two, at the current time, King only offers them with a shock boot but no rock shield. We’re told shields are coming, but for now, you’ll be rocking the blue boot.
The coilovers come with the small amount of preload on the coil, and they’re ready to bolt in. The ride height is set to level, which will remove the stock nose rake of the Raptor. We’re running a 315/70R17 Nitto Terra Grappler G2 tires on 17x9 XD128 Machete wheels from KMC Wheels. Given the Machete has an ideal wheel backspacing of 5.71 inches, we could probably move up slightly in tire size.

Getting In Tune

Out of the gate, we instantly noticed that the floaty nature of the Raptor was gone. This for us was a major improvement as it gave the truck a more planted sports car–like feel, which is something we greatly enjoy and would never expect from an off-road–oriented F-150. In a more practical sense, we’ll slay speed humps and poorly maintained roads like a trophy truck in the desert!

Having put thousands of miles on our truck over the past six months, we can tell you that a little bit of adjustment in the bypasses and turns of the knobs up front can make a significant difference. Stability in the dirt and big hits are really where you’re going to notice the Kings. While the overall travel remains approximately the same, what you’re really gaining here is control and heat dispersion. While not the most inexpensive upgrade, it’s by far one of the most worthwhile for those looking to improve the off-road performance of Ford’s greatest 1/2-ton wheeler.

PhotosView Slideshow


Nitto Tire
Cypress, CA 90630
KMC Wheels
Cerritos, CA 90703
Low Range 4x4
Wilimington, NC 28412
King Off-Road Racing Shocks
Garden Grove, CA 92843

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