DIY Trail Truck Three-Link Suspension

    Swapping to Linked Rear Suspension on Our Trail Truck

    We had run rear leaf packs with lift for many years. They offer simplicity and reliability. However, as they age and are flexed abundantly over the years, they will often start to sag and lose some of their ability to resist axlewrap.

    We opted to swap our 2001 Toyota Tacoma from rear leaf springs over to a linked setup. For our trail truck, we wanted to more accurately control our ride height, plus have some adjustability for a wide range of uses. We also knew that the linked configuration would put traction to the ground more effectively.

    RuffStuff Specialties offers several suspension kits in both three- and four-link versions for front or rear applications. They are aimed at the do-it-yourselfer and those who want to take advantage of simply buying quality-designed mounts and other components. We opted to use one of the company's three-link kits to convert the tail of our Tacoma. We ordered it complete with all mount brackets, link rod ends, link tubing, shock towers, limit straps, and hardware.

    Why a three-link instead of a four-link? For several reasons. It's true that a triangulated four-link does have the advantage of possibly limping off the trail with one missing link, so hardcore survivability may offer an advantage there. However, we opted to build a three-link setup with a Panhard bar. This would allow us to retain the gas tank in the stock location to maintain emissions compliance and not encroach on bed cargo space, something we imagine is of interest to many truck owners.

    We chose to use 14-inch-travel Radflo coilovers with remote reservoirs. We provided Radflo with sprung and unsprung weights of our truck so the company could custom-valve the shocks to our application. Initial coil spring rates for a dual-rate setup were calculated using our known weights and target ride height.

    While we won't discuss here the geometric intricacies of link suspension design, online calculators can assist with determining suspension characteristics. Our setup was based on similar dimensions of rigs that perform well in the kind of terrain we typically encounter. Design characteristics can vary based on your rig and application.

    We started the project by placing the rear of the frame on jackstands at our final desired ride height. We then removed all the existing leaf-spring suspension while leaving the axle with tires in place and supported the pinion at our desired angle. In this way we could more easily build our links to length and slip them on once the mounts were welded in place.

    We were impressed with the results. Gone was the drivetrain windup associated with accelerating with leaf springs. Both starting and stopping felt tighter, with no rotational movement in the rear axle. We ended up with plenty of useable articulation and excellent trail flex. For now we are happy with our spring rates and ride height, also knowing we can dial it in further as desired.