Going Bigger? 4″ Lift on 5th Gen 4Runner

 In 5th Gen Mods, Accessories, Install, Off-Road

4″ – 4.5″ Lift on 5th Gen 4Runner (Strut Shims & Springs)

Strut Shims (4" Lift) 5th Gen 4Runner

5th Gen 4Runner Front 4″ – 4.5″ Lift with Adjustable Coilovers, Strut Shims & 3″ Rear Springs

There are many ways to achieve different heights on your suspension lift. This is not the only way to achieve a 4″ – 4.5″ on your 5th Gen 4R, this is just how we did it. If you are looking for a suspension kit that is higher than the average 3″ – 3.5″ suspension kits out there, you have a few options. You can always look at a full lift kit, not a suspension kit or go the route we are going.

Fab-Tech makes a full 6″ kit and ProComp makes a 6″ kit for the 5th Gen, which are always an option if you want to go that route. You can also go with the example in this post (4″ – 4.5″) and then do a 1″ body lift. This would put you at 5.5″ of lift.

Although a body lift is not technically part of your suspension, it will still give you a “lifted” appearance. A body lift is lifting your 4Runner body off and away from the frame. This is a pretty touchy subject among many truck and SUV owners in any automotive circle.

For now, we are staying away from the body lift and from overkill kits, like the Fab-Tech 6″ kit along with the ProComp 6″ kit. If we ever decide to go another direction with the 5th Gen, we will likely go with a rear metal tech long travel set-up and a front Total Chaos long travel set-up. As for going up any higher with the Stage 2 Icon Suspension that we have installed, I think we are done. Long travel is a topic for another post but it is likely that we will get there eventually.

In short, here is what we are doing: 

  • Starting with a Stage 2 Icon Suspension (adjustable coilovers)
  • Adding Ekstrom Design Strut Shims on top of the Coilovers
  • Keeping the same upper control arms
  • Replacing our Icon 2″ rear spring with an Icon 3″ overland rear spring
  • Keeping the same rear shocks

In short

  • Icon Stage 2 Coilovers
  • Icon Tubular UCAs
  • Ekstrom Designs ¼” shims (4) – 2 on each coil.
  • 3” rear overland springs
  • Icon 1-3″ rear shocks


  • Upper/Lower Links
  • Adjustable track bar/pan hard bar (Icon)
  • Extended brake lines

This set-up will take us from 3″ – 3.5″ in the front to 4″ – 4.5″ and from 2″ in the back to 3″ in the back. The goal here is to increase our ground clearance more than what we already have. By adding the rear 3″ Icon overland spring, we can also start adding additional weight without pulling the rear down too much.

Icon Rear Overland 3″ Springs Vs. 2″ Springs

Icon Rear Overland 3" Springs Vs. 2" Springs

The 3″ Icon overland spring is designed for expedition-style builds that load down their ride with excessive weight. The overland spring is designed to accommodate rear bumpers, fridge and drawer systems, winches, rooftop tents, and more. An overland spring will set you at 3″ of lift with an unloaded vehicle and 2″ of lift with a typical overland style build; bumpers, drawer systems, load roof racks, etc.

It also adds a better look to the 4Runner as it does sit a little higher when unloaded. It is important to keep in mind though, once you start adding additional weight, the spring will settle down to a 2″ spring. The 2″ spring is not designed to “settle” once you start adding weight. If you are running a 2″ spring, you can expect a similar ride height when loaded and unloaded.

If you are looking to add an excessive amount of accessories; rear bumpers, fridge and drawer systems, winches, rooftop tents, then go with a 3″ spring. If you are are looking for the occasional loaded 4Runner, then go with the 2″ spring.

What are strut shims (Ekstrom Design Strut Shims)?

Ekstrom Design Strut Shims for 5th Gen 4Runner

Strut shims are designed to fine tune the stance and height without adding preload to your coilovers. The Ekstrom Design strut shims measure .250″ thick and are installed in the middle of the pivot, between the frame and where the tire makes contact to the ground.

You can stack 1 strut shim on top of your coilover or 2 (stacking up to 2 is recommended). This gives you the ability to adjust your front suspension without maxing out the preload on your coil, which is not typically recommended.

As most of you already know, a 1.5″ spacer would give you 3″ of lift. So, a .250″ thick shim will produce .500″ of additional lift. In our application, we stacked 2 shims on top of our coilovers and produced 1″ of additional lift. If needed from here, we can adjust the preload on the coilover and achieve a slightly higher or lower ride height. Strut shims are great. You can add 1-2 shims per side and safely add .50″-1″ of additional lift without changing ride quality.

Installing the Ekstrom Design Strut Shims

Ekstrom Design Strut Shims on 5th Gen 4Runner

NOTE: Your bolts will need to mount through the top of the coil bucket, through the shims, and thread into your coilovers. This is just an image to give you an idea of the concept.

If you are not familiar with a 4Runner suspension install, you should check out that post first. This should get you up to speed with the basics of your suspension. The process is relatively the same. Depending on if you have KDSS or not, it might be a little different. For the quick rundown on this process:

  1. Unbolt coilovers
  2. Unbolt lower spindle to lower control arm
  3. Drop your coilovers down to make room for the shims
  4. Slide in the strut shims and line the holes up
  5. Realign your coilovers and bolt everything down

You don’t need to remove your upper control arms for this. You need to unbolt your strut and allow yourself enough room to slide in the strut shims. This will also require unbolting your lower spindle bolts. These are the bolts that connect to your lower control arm. Once your spindle is free and your strut is free, you can pull your strut down a few inches and then slide in your strut shims.

If you have KDSS, the passenger side might be a little tighter than the driver. We were aware of the KDSS open valve trick to release pressure of the anti-roll bars but it didn’t work on the passenger side. The driver side seemed to have dropped quite a bit, but the passenger side was tight. We loosened the KDSS valves exactly 2.5 turns and it didn’t seem like much of anything happened for the passenger side. We had to remove the KDSS once again on the passenger side to get the strut back up into place.

Find the KDSS accumulator assembly and shutter valve information at the bottom of this page for reference.

Installing the Ekstrom Design Strut Shims

Ekstrom Design Strut Shims on 5th Gen 4Runner

Depending on how many shims you have will determine the ease of installing these. I would image one single strut shim would be easier as aligning 2 shims with the Icon threads and the coil bucket holes took a bit of patience. You do not need to remove your strut completely. By dropping your lower control arms, you can drop your strut down, and feed the shims into place.

Once you place your shims into the correct alignment, start working your magic with the bolts down the coil bucket holes, through both shims, and into the threads on your coilover.

We found it helpful the second time around to thread a set of matching thread bolts from the bottom up through the shims, just reaching “flush” in order for us to align the coilover into place. We threaded two bolts on the outside and left the hole inside the coil bucket open. You really only need two bolts to align the shims and we wouldn’t be able to reach the rear bolt in the bucket after the coilover was in place.

Once we had the bolts through the bottom, we aligned the strut/ coilover and threw it up into place. It was much easier getting the bolts in from the top down, with a set of bolts already threaded from the bottom up.

You don’t”need” a second set of same thread bolts, though. You can just use your patience young padawan and then drive off into the sunset.

Installing Rear Overland 3″ Springs on your 4Runner

If you have installed a rear 2″ spring, you know it was tighter than the stock 4Runner spring. The 3″ spring is a pretty big difference, again. The best method we found for getting these springs in was by using coil spring compressors. Once you get the springs in, you should be all set.

Best Location for Spring Compressors

Installing Rear Overland 3" Springs on your 4Runner

Before you pick a spot on your springs, take a look at where they are going to sit once they are mounted. To get an idea of where the spring will sit, align the pigtail of the spring in its correct location and then choose spots on the spring where you can access with an impact drill and large socket. Once you find your desired location, you can pull the spring out and then start compressing your springs.

Compressing Springs

Installing Rear Overland 3" Springs on your 4Runner

Compress your springs until you feel comfortable. You can compress your springs anywhere from 1-2″ comfortably to allow a much easier install. You want your spring compressors to be directly across from one another in order for the long screws to stay straight. After your springs are compressed and installed, pull your compressors off.

Releasing Compressor Springs

Step #3: Removing KDSS for 3" Rear Springs?

Once your spring is properly aligned, you can remove your spring compressors from the spring and bolt everything back up.

KDSS NOTES: If you have KDSS, you might need to remove the anti-roll bar in the back. We removed ours. We also removed a few brake line nuts to free up some droop, but we did not remove the track bar.

The KDSS Valve Trick (Does it work?)

We followed the directions from Iron Man 4×4 exactly and still had to remove the anti-roll bar in the back.

We did have luck on the front driver. We did not remove the KDSS on the driver side, but we had to on the passenger side and in the rear.

The 5th Gen 4Runner KDSS accumulator assembly and shutter valves

KDSS accumulator assembly and shutter valves

These instructions are coming straight from Iron Man 4×4.

This special instruction must be followed exactly when removal of any suspension component is performed.

The KDSS System is a Hydro-Mechanical Semi-Active anti-roll bar. Failure to adhere to the below steps will result in malfunction or damage to the KDSS System.

  • 1) Hoist vehicle, and allow wheels to hang freely.
  • 2) Locate the KDSS accumulator assembly positioned under the vehicle, just beside left chassis rail.
  • 3) Remove steel protective shield.
  • 4) Locate shutter valve bolts on side of the accumulator.

Unscrew shutter valve bolts 1.5 – 2.5 turns MAXIMUM.


  • 5) The KDSS shutter valves are now open, allowing full movement of front and rear anti-roll bars. It is now safe to remove and install suspension components.


  • 6) When suspension works are complete, lower vehicle onto level ground, then close BOTH shutter valve bolts fully by turning clockwise and tightening. Reinstall protective shield.

After the Install and ripping off the rear valance

Leave a comment below if you have any experience with the KDSS shutter valves or the Shims on your 5th Gen. We would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks, everyone!

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Showing 11 comments
  • Jay

    Dang! I was hoping the KDSS valve trick would work! I guess once you’ve removed the KDSS it gets easier subsequent times. I’m still not looking forward to it though.

    • Brenan - Trail4R

      OK, so here is the skinny. I got off the phone with Metal Tech today and we did do everything correct. The only difference in our install and other first-time installs was our addition of the strut shims and the preload on our coils. We already had a preload on our coils at about 3″ from the Icon shipped 2″ preload. With the addition of an inch preload on the coils and another .5″ addition of the strut shims, this set our struts a little bit higher than usual. It all depends on what you are doing with your suspension. At the end of the day, every 4Runner is a little different (oddly enough) so it really is on a case by case basis. Because we had so much extra height going in, it just made things tighter. By releasing the valve 2.5 turns, it did allow the ability to not remove the driver side KDSS but on the passenger side, it is stiffer for sure. Releasing the KDSS valves did help, but to what degree does this KDSS suspension just “drop” and give us the freedom of day to play around and have fun! Again, every situation is different, so I would still recommend this but if you have a ton of extra height going in, it will be tight.

  • Jorge

    My current setup is Toytec Boss 3″ front / 2″ rear with Total Chaos UCA. as you all mentioned in one of your articles not every 4Runner is the same, in my case after lifting it I noticed it was leaning on the drivers side, Toytec offers a (.25″ thick Front Lift Top Plate Single Spacer) to correct the lean, I had it installed and everything was good to go.

    So my question to you all, if I decide to go with ICON-stage2 setup (not including the UCA) does this address the lean or do I have to get 3 spacers on the driver’s side?

    • Brenan - Trail4R

      If you have the Total Chaos UCAs, just buy the Icon stage 2 with extended travel coils and adjust your ride height to match on both sides. Adjustable coils should make up for lean, not shims or spacers. You will have more accuracy with adjustable coils. GO with the stage 2 coilovers in the front and then go from there.

  • Devon

    Glad to see the big lifts on KDSS equipped T4Rs! Have you noticed any negatives with the KDSS functionality after this much lift? Has it impacted max travel, articulation or KDSS functionality? I’d love to see a pic of the rear KDSS piston and sway bar to see what the angles look like now when it’s all connected. Or a video of it in action! 😛 I love the way the KDSS functions on my stock suspension, but looking to lift it soon and want to know the limits.

    • Brenan - Trail4R

      Devon, KDSS still works. Nothing has changed there. For the rear, you may want to extend your rear brake lines and add an adjustable track bar depending on how high you go. Also, new upper and lower links would be nice but not “needed”. Every truck is a little different so only you will know how your truck drives and what your wheel alignment looks like after the install. We bought a set of extended brake lines from MetalTech 4×4 to increase our range and will be installing soon. We also purchase an ICON track bar to correct our wheel alignment. The wheel alignment in the rear was not off by much but enough to buy one for the piece of mind. For the front, you also may want to drop the diff to correct your cv axle angle (diff drop kit). We ordered a Dobinsons diff drop (DD59-527K) kit, and should be installing that soon as well. You can also get the Total Chaos diff drop (TC-87200) kit. Down travel may be affected depending on how much lift you have on your KDSS system. The more lift you have, the less travel you have on the rear suspension. KDSS is a great option for on-road and off-road to some degree. If you are sticking to light FS roads and mild trails, you should be fine. If you are looking for more advanced trails, you may want to look at removing KDSS. For me, for now, I am keeping the KDSS intact. If at some point I decide straight axel, then KDSS might take a hike as well. That is a story for another day. We might end up with a T40R looking build at that point. Check out the T40R build by RSG, pretty bad ass.

      • Devon

        Thanks for the reply! And yea… that build is sick. I’d love to do all sorts to it, but it’s still my daily driver. I think i’m pretty set to do a 2.5 – 3″, but when I saw this thread I couldn’t help but drool a little more lol.

  • Jeff

    Do you have any comments on the results of adding the 2 front shims to the icon coilovers? I have been searching to see if anyone had done this on a 4Runner but everything I read said that it was not recommended to add spacers to coilovers. What happened to the ride quality? How is the suspension geometry and front alignment? Are there any pictures after the install? Thanks

    • Brenan - Trail4R

      Jeff, I will update the post with some after shots, thanks. Ride quality was not affected. Alignment was fine after the install as well, seriously. The truck drove straight as an arrow. Directly from Ekstrom Design on the shim geometry. “The sweet spot in the front suspension is in the center of the stroke. If you push the assembly down too far and out of this area you’re changing both geometry and overall feel. We only recommend using up to 2 shims per side in order to fine tune stance without exceeding overall range. Shims measure .250″ thick and are installed in the middle of the pivot, between the frame and where the tire makes contact to the ground.” Sorry for the canned response but I think David said it best. If you have any concerns, reach out to Ekstrom Designs directly.

  • Brian

    What’s the effect of having that much lift up front? Everything I had read suggested no more than 3″ over stock, due to stressing the CV axles too much at any additional angle.

    Love the website, I have about 30 tabs open right now that I need to read 🙂

    • Brenan - Trail4R

      The major concern is the CV angle. Here is a blurb from another comment response on the site (after the shims): After I put the wheel spacers and brakes on and had the truck off the ground, I noticed my driver side wheel would not spin freely. I pulled the wheel off, checked the spacers and brakes and everything appeared to be fine. I realized that my tire/wheel was at full droop and probably had something to do with the added shims on top of the coils, plus maxing out the preload on the Icons a week before. After this, I am sitting at roughly 4.5″ of lift in the front. My CV axle, at close to full droop, was having a hard time rotating which is eventually going to put stress on the CV boot. Once the boot has enough stress, it will break open causing debris and all kinds of goodies to enter. Once this happens, the CV joint will be damaged. To avoid all this from happening, I am now buying the diff drop. That post here. Many guys would have said I told you so, yeah they are right. Installing a drop in a couple weeks.

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