Regardless of which package it comes with, any third-gen Toyota Tacoma is ready to work or play in the dirt as soon as it rolls off the lot. That being said, it never hurts to add a bit (or a lot) of adjustability and comfort to the truck's suspension. Andrew Wanta had those exact thoughts when he brought home his '18 Taco and decided that his truck's first steps into the land of modification would include Elka's Performance Suspension Complete Kit.
When designing the suspension system, Elka focused on comfort. Knowing that most of the company's 4x4 customers spend a great deal of time on the highway, Elka refused to compromise the on-road ride quality. However, when venturing off-road, the suspension needed to have stable handling characteristics, plush compliance over higher-speed irregularities, bottom-out protection, and still allow the tires to articulate over obstacles. Not only does Elka's Performance Suspension Complete Kit satisfy those criteria, it adds high- and low-speed compression adjustability and the accommodation of 1.5 to 2 inches of lift, which is perfect for Andrew's Tacoma.
LGE-CTS Motorsports, in San Dimas, California, has two generations of off-road enthusiasts under one roof, working on everything from collision repair to custom show-quality builds, and the company was ready and willing to install the Elka suspension kit. Follow along for some highlights as LGE-CTS Tech JT Turner redefines the ride of our Tacoma TRD Sport with adjustable front and rear shocks, increased-travel upper control arms, and more.
We laid out the parts of our Elka Performance Suspension Complete Kit, which included Elka 2.5 front coilovers with remote reservoirs and dual-speed compression adjustments, Total Chaos Fabrication Upper Control Arms with uniballs, a front differential drop, Elka 2.5 rear shocks with remote reservoirs and dual-speed compression adjustments, extended U-bolts, rear bumpstop extension blocks, and ToyTec rear Add-a-Leaf springs.
Moving to a soundtrack of angsty guitar riffs, LGE-CTS Tech JT Turner methodically disassembled the Tacoma's factory suspension to make way for the suite of new components.
Removing the factory upper control arm bolts can be accomplished by bending a pinch seam in the wheelwell with pliers, but Turner showed us a nifty trick. He sliced enough metal from the factory washer so that it (and the bolt) could slide out from the UCA and through the engine bay without bending any sheetmetal.
Our new upper control arms came with urethane bushings, which are said to reduce deflection more than their stock counterparts. We greased the bushings and inserted them into each upper control arm. Zerk fittings on the control arm pivots allow the bushings to be greased without the need to completely disassemble the system.
Total Chaos designed the upper control arms to maintain the factory alignment specs on vehicles lifted between 1.5 and 3 inches. The UCAs also feature 1-inch uniballs, which add strength and help to increase wheel travel.
Our new UCAs slid smoothly around the factory shock towers, and we bolted them into place using Turner's custom-clearanced washers.
After sliding the Elka 2.5 front coilovers into the shock towers and tightening them down, it was time to place the remote reservoirs. Elka included a bracket that oriented the reservoirs so that the compression adjustment knobs were always within reach for easy fine-tuning of the truck's ride.
We gave the wheels and tires a test-fit to ensure that there was no rubbing at full lock of the wheel or full suspension flex.
With the rear wheels and tires removed, Turner dissembled the rear leaf packs and inserted the ToyTec Add-a-Leafs, which are said to add 2 inches of lift to the back of the truck. Factory U-bolts were also replaced with the U-bolts included in the kit.
Our kit included bumpstop spacers to make sure the tires remained clear of the sheetmetal. Turner drilled the required holes and fastened the spacers to the truck's frame.
Like the front, the rear Elka 2.5 remote-reservoir shocks feature 10 zones of low-speed compression adjustment and 15 zones of high-speed compression adjustment. Elka ships all shocks dialed to the vehicle's specifications, and the company notes those presets on a card inside each shock's packaging. We installed the rear shocks where the factory ones once lived, and using the included bracket, placed the reservoirs where they were easily accessible.
To reduce angles at the CV joints, spacers were included to drop the front differential.
Before we took the Tacoma for a test ride, Turner gave the frontend an alignment and went over each and every fastener with paint marker to make sure nothing would become loose.
We tested the truck both on pavement situations and on some bumpy two-tracks at moderate speeds. We found that in places where we expected the truck to bottom-out, it did nothing of the sort, and rough gravel roads appeared to smooth out beneath our tires as the baseball-sized bumps were absorbed. The 285/70R17 all-terrain tires were also given plenty of space to flex within the wheelwells when we traversed more eroded sections of trail. Andrew will have luxurious commutes and enjoy confidence-inspiring off-highway travel with the new Elka Suspension Complete Kit.