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One of the best recreational activities cars guys are obsessed with is off-roading. Nothing beats the feeling of connecting with nature and the satisfaction of conquering its rough terrains with your 4X4 monster.
One of the 4X4 monsters used in off-roading is the Toyota 4Runner.
A little story, I went camping with a group of friends in Colorado, and three out of the five vehicles we took for the trip were 4Runners.
Our Bilstein 5100 4runner guide will see how the Toyota 4Runner is reliable and very capable off-road, but the stock suspension has its limits. As a result, an upgrade was needed. When it comes to off-road suspension systems, no one does it better than Bilstein, and the 5100 series shocks are a great addition for the 4Runner.
What does it do?
In its full form, the Bilstein 5100 kit consists of two front shocks and two rear shocks or you can buy them separately. Many would opt-out to buy just the front two shocks to level up the stance of the vehicle.
The front shocks are fully assembled leveled struts, which means they have plenty of adjustability in them. It features a little C-clip that moves up and down when you are installing the kit. That allows you to go from 0” inches of lift, which is the stock ride height, all the way up to 2.5” inches of lift if you desire something a little bit more extreme.
Moving on to the rear, you do not necessarily add any lift to the back with the rear shocks. However, they do have the ability to stretch more with a taller spring or a spring spacer to give you more suspension travel and better articulation when going off-road.
The 4Runner that I had the pleasure of riding in had a one-inch spring space in the back and the front; it was set to 2” inches. It has a tiny bit of rake but it does get the desired leveled stance. It was acceptable because the 4Runner carried a heavy load in the back in form of camping gear or something similar, almost all of the time. Thus, it keeps a nice leveled stance for all the time driving.
On a kit like the Bilstein 5100, with the additional lift, you get the ability to upgrade your 4Runner tires for better off-road performance. You can fit a set of thick 33” inch tires or even 34’s with no problem. You can squeeze in 35” inch tires with 2.5” inch max lift, but some modifications to the 4runnner wheel wells may be required to avoid any rubbing.
In my case, the 4Runner I took off-road had a set of 33” inch BF Goodrich T/A KO2 All-terrain tires with a little plastic trimming on the fenders. In day-to-day driving, it worked exceptionally well. There was a bit of rubbing but it only happened at full lock while off-roading.
As a result, the fit, the looks, and the feeling of the 4Runner were beyond perfect.
These shocks are very much simple, and the Bilstein 5100 system is not meant to be anything crazy. So it does not compete in the same realm as a FOX 2.5 or ICON 2.5 kit, or anything for that matter, which you find on high-end trucks like the Ford F-150 Raptor.
The Bilstein 5100 system is more of an entry-level kit that is meant to be affordable for the masses and provide you with a good performance out in the dirt. It uses bigger steel mono-tube shocks for more fluid capacity. It is more durable, features better valves and they are made to hold out to off-roading and take more abuse better than your out-of-the-box 4Runner shocks are prepped to do.
In terms of actual off-road performance, the 5100 kit does the job especially for being more in the budget end of the price range and managing a lot of the regular off-roading that people would do with a daily driving type of vehicle just like the 4Runner.
So if you are out in ordinary forest roads or simple desert trails where it is a bit rocky or wash boarded out, places manageable even for two-wheel-drive rides, the Bilstein 5100 are much better in handling those corrugations, bumps, and jittering that comes with that. On the plus side, shock fade will be a lot less of an issue because being able to fit larger tires will allow to air down to compensate for that jittering and shaking.
You can push the kit to the extreme on more rocky and technical trails, which require four-wheel drive and the Bilstein 5100 will not disappoint. The extra lift with the thick off-road tires is the perfect combination to conquer rough terrains. It will give you more travel, articulation, traction, and the advantage you need to go where many people cannot.
Another strong point for the Bilstein 5100 system is that it controls body roll and manages the bodyweight of the vehicle very well. And the 4Runner is not a lightweight vehicle! When you add the weight of the passenger, off-road gear, and camping stuff, it makes the vehicle buck around a little sometimes and it becomes harder to modulate your braking.
As a result, with the Bilstein kit being a bit on the firm side it helps you control the vehicle more and keep it settled in as you increase your progress on rough terrains like Colorado. It steps into the plate and it is safer and better performing than any other spacer kit on the market.
All of that works in favor of the Bilstein 5100 system, but what are the downsides? You may ask.
If you are looking for a suspension kit that works perfectly at high speeds, blasting through the desert, or any Baja Rally type driving, the Bilstein 5100 is not for you, it is recommended to go for the high-end professional suspension kits.
Another point to add, there is not much ability to upgrade around the 5100 Bilstein shocks like some other kits on the market. To illustrate more, some of the alternative kits like the Eibach pro truck kit give you the option to add a new coil spring in the front with the leveling strut, which in turn allows you to accommodate more weight upfront like a steel bumper or a winch.
The last thing that would count as a con for this kit is there is a limit where the shocks will start to fade and you are going to lose some of that off-road performance, and it is not just the Bilstein 5100 System. Therefore, if you are hitting rough terrain for very long periods, you will eventually get some heat inside the shocks and will have to dial back a bit for it to cool down.
That is something to consider, and if you want to have the best quality ride for the longest time possible, you will have to check other high-end suspension kits.
Bilstein Shocks 5100 specs and features
The 5100 Series provides classic Bilstein technology with applications for lifted SUVs, Jeeps, and trucks. The Bilstein 5100 shock absorbers are specifically made lift kits that utilize the stock O.E.M. mounting configuration. It features Bilstein’s superior mono-tube high gas pressure to deliver the best performance off and on the road for the longest period possible. The digressive and self-adjusting valves offer better damping control alongside a smooth ride on all-terrains and at any speed.
Why you should get the Bilstein 5100 system?
One of the major factors that affect the performance and longevity of any shock absorber on the market is heat. Traditional shock absorbers are designed to trap the heat inside the body of the shock itself and fail to let it dissipate adequately. As a result, the shocks are more prone to fade, heat build-up, and eventually fail.
Bilstein on the other hand has a superior mono-tube nitrogen gas-charged shock body that allows the heat from the oil trapped inside to dissipate adequately and move to the outer surface. In simpler words, the gas applies pressure on the dividing piston, which in turn applies pressure on the oil column to maintain its viscosity and prevent foaming. Thus, the shock absorbers keep their damping characteristics for a very long time under any condition.
Now that is what I call efficiency!
Moving on to the rear, the stock rear shocks on the 4Runner are compromised and prepped for basic street driving. The Bilstein 5100 shocks are the perfect fit. They can handle up to two inches of lift and improve the vehicle’s performance. The shocks are built from the ground up with special valves and a high-quality piston to give an excellent street ride, better performance off-road, and improve the towing control without sacrificing the original ride quality.
Mono-tube VS Twin Tube Shock Design
The Bilstein system features a piston that is 228% than the average traditional twin-tube piston to provide even greater sensitivity and superior vehicle control. The piston’s head is designed to give you the freedom to tune the rebound damping forces and the compression independently to get the optimum performance and comfort without any additional compromises or sacrifices of any component.
The mono-tube contains less part than the traditional twin-tube design. This means that is it simpler, functional, extremely durable, and has a longer life span.
Smooth and crisp city and highway ride, better rebound, increased responsiveness, improved articulation, leveling, and lifting abilities. As I already mentioned, these are the benefits that come with the Bilstein 5100. However, among all the vehicles components, shocks and struts are the hardest working parts, which makes it vital to choose the right one for your 4Runner.
On one hand, the traditional shocks start to fade and slowly lose their efficiency and eventually give up after a while resulting in excessive and unnecessary suspension and tire wear and tear. On the other hand, Bilstein shocks and struts will continue to offer the best performance and ride quality for the longest period possible. Each shock body is manufactured with heavy-duty steel and plated with a zinc finish and a Triple-C coating for sleek looks and more strength.
Bilstein is well known for making some of the best suspension parts available in the market today, and they promote longevity and reliability. They are so confident that these shocks are built to last longer than your 4Runner they support their product with a Lifetime limited warranty.
That means if a Bilstein shock fails or breaks down, you get a brand new one for free.
Bilstein 5100 V.S. Bilstein 6112
Bilstein is one of the biggest names in the world of off-road suspension systems, and the 5100 series are not the only product they offer. The Bilstein 6112 is made with the same goal as the 5100 series, and that is to improve the ride quality and provide you with optimal performance for the longest period possible.
Since both products are made by the same company, people often don’t know the difference and which one they need to get. Here are some points to make it clear. Both products are made with chrome and zinc-plated steel for everlasting durability and performance. Both kits are covered with Bilstein’s limited lifetime warranty.
Talking in terms of differences, the 6112 are geared for heavy-duty big rigs. It features a 2.65” larger body and a 60 mm piston, which allows more fluid capacity to maintain a cool temperature. On top of that, it is more responsive on rough terrains, heavy loads, and offers superior ride quality. In addition, it gets five height settings whereas the 5100 series has only three.
The 5100 system features a small 1.95” body and a 40 mm piston. And it is made for day-to day-driving and weekend off-roading. With the 5100 series, you get the option to reuse the OME spring or buy a new one, whereas the 6112 comes with a specific spring in the box.
Bilstein 5100 Highlights:
- A full set of four Bilstein 5100s
- Front shocks provide up to 2.5” inches of lift and 2” at the rear
- Increase in suspension travel
- Front shocks fit perfectly on OEM coil springs and upper mounts
- Consistent, fade-free performance in all conditions
- Features a 46mm nitrogen gas-charged mono-tube design
- Installation instructions and hardware are included with the kit
- Easy to install
- It comes with a limited lifetime warranty
- Made in the USA
- The large piston gives superior handling and performance
- Digressive valves react to surface conditions changes to provide for maximum comfort and control, on and off-road
- It fits the 2010-2021 Toyota 4Runner 4WD & RWD except for TRD Pro models and 2020 Limited and Nightshade Edition.
- The budget-friendly price tag of $ 400 on average
The marketplace is flooded with a variety of shocks that can fit your 4Runner. Some are cheap, some are expensive, and which one to go for depends on the way you drive. Alongside the Bilstein 5100 series, you can opt-out for a more premium option which is the Bilstein 6112. They cost a lot but they are superior in every aspect.
If Bilstein is not what you are looking for, other kits like FOX 2.0 performance coil-overs, Eibach pro-truck, and the Icon 2.5 remote reservoir coil-overs are available for grabs.
Question: Are the Bilstein 5100 worth my money?
Answer: The Bilstein 5100 offers great value for money. They are better than Spacer kits and less cheap than the pro-off-road suspension systems. They improve handling, ride quality, and provide extra suspension travel and articulation for optimal off-road performance.
Question: Can I use Bilstein 5100 on factory ride height?
Answer: Yes. The Bilstein 5100 allows you to alter the ride height of your vehicle anywhere between 0” inch, which is the factory height, and 2.5” inch max lift if you own a 4Runner.
Question: How long do Bilstein 5100 shocks last?
Answer: Bilstein 5100 series are manufactured with zinc plated mono-tube body for extra durability and strength. The system is expected to last you at least 80,000 miles.
What do we think?
If you are in the market looking for a package to improve the ride quality of your 4Runner, look no further than the Bilstein 5100 series. These shocks are built with a solid mono-tube body with reactive technology that adapts to all terrains to provide you with the best performance possible. The system gives you the ability to adjust the ride height, increase suspension travel, and better off-road experience. It is budget-friendly and easy to install on the OEM mounts. With Bilstein, you just cannot go wrong.