Australian-Made Shocks: The ARB/OME Nitrochargers & the Fully Adjustable BP-51s – Most Dependable Shocks Available?
There are a few, call them household names, in the world of off-road and overland. One of the most well-known ones is ARB. If you’ve spent any time looking at any category of off-road parts, you’ve almost undoubtedly come across them.
ARB is rooted way back in 1975, in the Australian Outback or as they call it… “the bush”. This is before “overlanding” and “off-roading” were a thing, and those who wanted to get off the beaten path had to build their trucks by hand. There were no pre-packaged 2″ nitrocharger lift kits or extended travel BP-51 coilovers available. These guys were literally building kits from scratch in their garages. Fast forward several decades, and it’s easy to forget the humble beginnings from which the industry and our collective hobby have come.
But enough history… Let’s get into the post, and that’s essentially an overview of ARB’s two lift kit offerings and how they’re just so damn dependable. Just like Toyota, ARB makes a trustworthy and reliable product. They pair together quite well.
I wrote this post because we get many questions…
- I have a daily and I wheel occasionally, should I buy Kings, Icons, or Fox?
- What shocks do you recommend for daily driving + the weekend warrior?
- How are your BP-51s? Any complaints?
- What should I buy? Nitrochargers or BP-51s?
- I need something incredibly dependable for years to come. What’s a shock that doesn’t tend to leak or need maintenance?
Let’s be honest, 90% of 4Runner owners daily their rig and maybe head out to mild trails 4-5 times a year. That means 90% of owners really don’t “need” race shocks; King, Fox, etc.
The majority of 4Runner owners aren’t beating the piss out of their suspension and slamming their sliders on rocks regularly. For the 10% of guys beating the shit out of their 4Runner or really crawling hard, I totally understand the need for race shocks and/or custom-tuned shocks.
When people ask me these questions, I will always default to one question back; how important is reliability?
Well, the ARB line of shocks are just that; reliable.
ARB Vs. Others
What’s crazy about the suspension industry is that most guys think they need to be running Kings, Icons or FOX shocks in order to have a good time, and that couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Actually, you may want to stay away from those companies, depending on your specific goals.
Where King and Fox might be the “Bentley” or “Porsche” brands of off-road, I really feel like ARB/OME line is the “Toyota”.
ARB, and their lift kit division, Old Man Emu (OME) 4X4, offer some most reliable shocks and leaf packs that money can buy. They have decades of experience, incredible customer support, and countless customers all over the globe.
I have run Icons, Bilstein 5100/6112s, OME BP-51s, OME Nitrochargers, along with FOX shocks, and although all these companies provide a great shock, not all of them are manufactured with the same standards.
I am currently running the BP-51s, and they’ve been great for the last 15K+ miles, but that’s not why I have grown to like the OME line. I am actually just incredibly impressed with the lack of shock failure overall from ARB/OME compared to other name brand offerings on the market.
Why did I write this post?
To sell you on the ARB OME line over the others? Well, sure, maybe some of you… and here’s why; honest conversations around the campfire about reliability.
Truth in Conversations
Over the years, I have spoken to many guys at my local shop about shocks, and one topic that comes up a lot is reliability. This is usually a big group of guys too; we’re talking 8-15+ dudes on a given day (if you follow me on IG, you see how much time I spend at the shop), all with fully built trucks… and most of us are on our 2nd or 3rd build now.
The majority of guys all agree that the Australian-built shocks, Old Man Emu (OME), Dobinsons, and even Ironman 4×4 are all the industry’s most “dependable and reliable” shock manufacturers. The general consensus on shocks is that these companies make the most reliable and dependable shocks… period. Very few warranty requests, very few of them leak, and very few customers complain.
ARB manufactures its shock line in Australia and has a reputation for providing some of the most attested shocks on the market.
Meanwhile, other manufacturers throughout Asia and even the USA have actually arrived new in the box… leaking oil.
New in the Box & Leaking Oil?
If you ask any tech which shocks leak the most or tend to have consistent “warranty issues” many will reply with Icons and Radflos, with more complaints about Radflos in particular. I ran Icons and had zero problems, but that’s not to say it won’t happen to you. Fox shocks have far fewer warranty requests, but they do happen. Kings are pretty solid, very few guys complain about their Kings. Kings have a killer reputation, much like ARB/OME.
Many guys have mentioned that shock companies such as Icon and Radflo are notorious for showing up new in the box leaking. And, again, this is coming from a group of guys that see shock deliveries on a daily basis… and yes, I’ve seen their photos.
Now, I am not saying avoid Icon and Radflo; I just wanted to share with you guys what people say in open conversations about their experiences with these companies. Of course, warranty should cover any such occurrences.
Keep in mind, this is the same circular conversation that tends to take place month after month and year after year. Not much has changed in the last five years of the shock game, although Icon did just launch their new Compression Damping Electronic Valve (CDEV), so this might be a game-changer for them, which we will see in the coming years.
I’m not hyping up ARB or shooting down companies like Icon at all. It’s honestly the fact that very few drivers complain about Australian-made shocks in general. Again, this comes down to numbers, and a fair amount of guys I talk to that run Icon and Radflo have had lackluster experiences with long-term leaking or even shocks that show up brand new in the box leaking. You don’t hear of too many ARB suspension systems that show up brand new in the box leaking oil, it just doesn’t happen, or at least I have never heard anyone mention it.
Race Shocks Require Race Maintenance
My 2nd Gen Tacoma with JD Fab LT Suspension: 8″ Fox Coilovers with Remote Reservoirs + 8″ Triple Bypass Secondary with Remote Reservoirs
Again, companies like King and Fox produce amazing products, but race shocks require race maintenance. These higher-end shocks need more attention, simple as that. You will spend more time rebuilding or maintaining race shocks more often than ARB and other Australian products, for example.
If you’re looking for high-end race shocks, then King and Fox make some killer options but don’t cut ARB out of that category just yet as their BP-51s are race-tested through extreme heat and harsh terrain. Let’s be honest, the Australians beat the piss out of their products through extreme off-roading. Wheeling hard through the brush is essentially a national pastime over there; you better believe they designed their BP-51s to compete with the industry leaders.
I think if you’re looking to wheel hard and race fast, I would recommend King, Fox, Bilstein 8112s, and the ARB/OME BP-51s.
If you’re looking to run a good suspension for your daily driver + run something that’s capable of keeping up with the higher-end brand names, all with very little maintenance, then the BP-51s are a killer choice.
Australia Wins in Dependability
What I am trying to say here is that Australian-made shocks are extremely dependable and reliable. They win the “reliable, dependable, and durable” segment. If you’re looking for a shock that takes the cake in the long-term reliability department, you can look at the entry-level ARB’s Nitrochargers or the BP-51 coilovers.
No matter how many times I point you guys to the lift kit buyers guide, the questions still keep coming. I answer the questions similarly almost every time.
Q: Brenan… what’s the best lift kit?
A: “Best is always relative; there is no best. Best only applies to your specific application, and every application is different. Please do your research on all the lift kit options as well as some of the more budget-friendly lift kit options to determine which one is right for you. But, if you’re not up for reading through 8,000 words of detailed content to better understand the perfect fit for your build, then the two most bulletproof options I can comfortably recommend are ARB/OME Nitrochargers and the OME BP-51s.”
ARB OME Lift Options:
Nitrocharger Sport Lift Kit
Find It Online
Let’s start with the entry-level offering. Before we jump into it, entry-level does not mean cheap or ineffective. If anything, the entry-level kits from ARB / OME are some of the most well-tested, longest-standing, and widely applicable suspension kits you can find. It’s the opinion of many of us, through years of experience, that even the basic lift kit options, without any fancy adjustable shocks, or otherwise, will be sufficient for the vast majority of individuals.
Choosing a suspension lift kit for your 4Runner will have a significant impact on how it handles, on and off the trail. ARB / OME place a lot of emphasis on adequately matching the shock valving to work in perfect conjunction with the associated springs. This means that depending on your application, and of course, your particular setup, there are options for different shocks when it comes to valving. In the case of the 4Runner, you can choose from three different types of valving for a softer or firmer ride. On the spring side of things, you can expect a similar array of options in four springs, each rated for a different amount of weight.
As you can see, the amount of potential customization here is a pretty extensive range. This is another reason we believe that these Nitrocharger kits are so effective. Not only are they relatively budget-friendly, but they accommodate a considerable amount of setups. Again, if you are new to lift kits or just off-road and overland in general, we highly recommend that you start with a kit like this one. Do your research, make sure you pick the best options for your 4Runner, and you won’t be disappointed. Below, I’ll run through the available options for the 4Runner.
One last thing. When lifting your truck, you alter your suspension geometry in various ways. ARB / OME also offer upper control arms (UCAs), which, while not always necessary, are strongly recommended to ensure that you can get a proper alignment and maximize the drivability of your new setup.
This next section serves as a quick reference guide to choosing the correct configuration. Match your 4Runner’s specifications to each category for the best kit.
These kits pair well with a 33″ tire if you’re thinking about tires. A common size for the 4Runner is 285/70/17 – but be aware that you will need to do some cutting/trimming to assist with fitment, especially if you wheel hard.
- OME Nitrocharger Shock 90016 (softer valving)
- OME Nitrocharger Shock 90010 (regular valving)
- OME Nitrocharger Shock 90000 (firmer valving)
- OME 2884 Spring (factory weight, ~2-3″ of lift)
- OME 2885 Spring (~50-125 lbs additional weight, ~2.5-3″ of lift)
- OME 2886 Spring (~150-200 lbs additional weight, ~2.5-3″ of lift)
- OME 2887 Spring (200+ lbs additional weight, ~2.5-3″ of lift)
Upper Control Arms
- OME UCA0004 (recommended)
- OME 60086 Shock (softer valving)
- OME 60080 Shock (regular valving)
- OME 60081 Shock (firmer valving)
- OME 2895 Springs (medium load, ~2.5″ of lift)
- OME 2889 Springs (medium load, ~3″ of lift)
- OME 2896 (heavy load, 440 lbs load, ~2.5-3″ of lift)
- OME 2897 (heavy load, 880 lbs load, ~2.5-3″ of lift)
BP-51 Lift Kit
Find It Online
Now, let’s dive into the high-end offering from ARB / OME – the BP-51. This lift kit is much newer than the Nitrocharger line, but man, this represents the pinnacle of ARB / OME engineering, in what might just be one of the best all-around lift kits for the 4Runner.
ARB / OME describes the developing process behind these shocks as “exhaustive” – so you can bet you’re not getting a suspension system that was just slapped together. This kit is designed with comfort, control, and the best experience possible in mind. This system was created and tested in-house and it provides a level of adjustability and compatibility that you don’t see too often, at least not at this price point. While this kit is more expensive than the Nitrocharger kit, it is perfect for the buyer who knows exactly what they want… the best ARB / OME have to offer.
Most of the high-end options for the 4Runner have available compression adjustment, but very few allow you to adjust rebound – not to mention independently of each other. This will enable you to tailor the response of your shocks to another level, even down to the specific terrain, vehicle configuration, and trail requirements. The added reservoirs allow for increased cooling capacity, handling increased fluid volume, and providing an unbelievable ride experience.
This kit also features bypass technology. Without getting into too much technical information, which you can find online, the bypasses allow for a more pleasant daily driving experience while still providing you with ample amounts of control while mobbing it down the trail.
Bottom line? If you’re looking for a company with a serious background in off-road, and what’s probably one of the best, most multifaceted suspension options on the market today. Check out my posts if you’re looking for an even more comprehensive breakdown for the BP-51 kit. The complete installation guide can be found here, and the complete 5,000-mile review and overview here.
Just like the more entry-level options, let’s quickly run through the variations that exist so that you can pick the best kit for you. As a side note, there is a version for those with and without KDSS.
- One only option available
Upper Control Arms
- OME UCA0004 (recommended)
- One only option available
- OME 2889 (factory weight, ~2.5-3″ of lift)
- OME 2898 (medium load, 400 lb load, ~2.5-3″ of lift)
- OME 2897 (heavy load, 440+ lbs, ~2.5-3″ of lift)
I think that about covers it! All of the options from ARB / OME to get your truck ready for all your off-road and overland adventures – regardless of budget.
Our personal experiences with these kits leave us confident to say that if you want to take a no-frills approach to get a lift kit on your truck, you really can’t go wrong with any of these setups. Carefully consider your wants and needs, and one way or another, you’ll be happy with your purchase.