The Old Man Emu brand has its roots firmly planted in off-road racing and draws its name from the emu’s ability to maintain great stability when moving over uneven terrain at high speeds. From humble beginnings in 1976, ARB purchased the company in 1988 and has continued to develop and test the products in Australia’s harsh 4WD environments.
With an engineering focus for off-road comfort and on-road handling, today Old Man Emu (OME) supplies tailored suspension solutions for over 200 popular 4WD vehicles. Whether it’s for work or play, touring or hardcore off-road, Old Man Emu has a selection of springs, shocks and associated suspension components that will transform your 4WD’s ride, handling and off-road capabilities.
Suspension systems, especially when referring to 4WDs, are extremely complex. Determining the right solution for each 4WD requires special attention to many factors, with weight being the most critical. Old Man Emu 4×4 suspension by ARB approaches this in a unique way.
When an emu (flightless Australian bird) runs, its powerful legs absorb most of the impact, allowing it to move over all types of terrain while its body remains virtually motionless. This is what Old Man Emu strives to achieve with its range of fully integrated 4×4 shocks and suspension systems.
Instead of offering a compilation of parts that have been chosen primarily to increase the vehicle’s ride height, OME 4×4 suspension provides a range of tuned and matched integrated systems, each offering optimum levels of comfort, load carrying capability and control characteristics.
Prototype shock absorbers and springs are tested and modified in a variety of terrains and with varying loads to ensure that each shock and spring combination is ideally suited to a vehicle, its varying weights and the terrain it is to encounter.
Old Man Emu suspension – specialised, integrated 4WD suspension systems.
Although it’s designed to carry up to the GVM (gross vehicle mass) of the vehicle, standard suspension can begin to sag the moment you start fitting accessories or carrying a load of any considerable weight. This can cause steering vagueness, affect cornering and braking performance, as well as issues with headlamp and driving light alignment.
Any accessory or substantial load that’s permanently affixed to the vehicle should have its weight compensated for with a constant load spring and shock specification.
Put simply, your vehicle’s springs hold the vehicle weight and set its ride height, while the shock absorber controls the motion of the spring during compression and rebound; keeping the tyres planted firmly on the road. Both components are designed to work together, so the changing of a spring’s specification should also require the changing of the shock absorber that controls it.
Increasing the spring rate so that it is capable of carrying more load will require the shock absorber to be valved so that it can handle the increased forces of the rebounding spring whilst also providing controlled compression. Increasing a spring’s length for greater ride height will require lengthening of the shock absorber body and possibly lengthening its range of travel in order to prevent the topping or bottoming of the shock absorber.
Clearance isn’t just about the distance between your vehicle and the ground.
Once your vehicle is loaded and the suspension settles down, the clearance between your axles and their bump stops is reduced; resulting in less upward suspension travel. This can lead to harsh bottoming out on undulating terrain, less wheel articulation off-road and poor handling on-road.
Upgrading to an increased ride height suspension can allow for longer suspension travel and unhindered wheel articulation, as well as giving more body clearance to obstacles and allowing the fitment of larger off-road biased tyres.
With the rear of the vehicle sitting lower under a heavy tow ball load, a vehicle can start to pitch fore-and-aft; causing the steering to float as the weight on the front of the vehicle is lessened.
Not only can this ride be uncomfortable, but in a situation where evasive steering or sudden braking is required, the vehicle will be unstable. Although a weight distribution hitch can help in this situation, they’re not designed for off-road driving where the vehicle needs to negotiate undulating terrain such as ruts, spoon drains and other obstacles.
Fitment of upgraded springs and shock absorbers will help carry the load, whilst maintaining correct vehicle rake and handling characteristics.
Modern 4WDs are being designed to be more ‘car-like’ in their handling and appointment level, and as such their suspension systems tend to be biased toward comfort – leaving them lacking when off-road performance or load carrying is required.
Customising a suspension package to suit your vehicle and driving style doesn’t have to mean you can’t have the best of both worlds.
Whilst your local mechanic is highly qualified in fitting suspension systems and diagnosing any issues with wear and tear on components, if they are not a licensed OME fitter, then chances are they will be fitting components that may just be original equipment replacements or be a mix of components from different brands that were never designed to be used together, not suiting your more specific 4WDing needs.
OME suspension systems are engineered as a complete package, fully tested to ensure compatibility with both your vehicle and your off road requirements. The fitment of just heavier (higher rate) springs without matching to the correct shock absorber can not only adversely affect the handling characteristics of the vehicle, but may also result in damage to associated components.
Old Man Emu’s Design Engineers have spent countless hours testing and developing spring and shock absorber combinations to best suit a range of accessories and loads that our customers are likely to fit to their vehicles.
ARB designs and engineers Old Man Emu (OME) suspension components in-house and sources from reputable manufacturers that meet our stringent quality control requirements both in Australia and internationally. ARB’s premium internal bypass shock absorbers, the BP-51, are manufactured entirely by ARB in our Thailand plant.
A suspension kit usually refers to replacement shock absorbers/struts and springs, as these are the simplest items to change in order to enable a vehicle to handle the additional requirements you are placing on it. However, that’s not where a suspension kit stops.
Depending on the type of suspension design your vehicle has, there are other components that may be complementary to the fitting of the shocks/struts/springs or require replacement as the components wear or the vehicle ages.
A suspension lift kit is designed to raise the vehicle’s ride height from the ground, giving the body greater clearance from obstacles and allowing for the fitment of larger than standard tyre sizes.
The major advantage of lifting a vehicle for off-road use is the increased ground clearance offered to the body and mechanical components, which can be further enhanced by the ability to fit larger diameter tyres. Increased ground clearance and approach and departure angles help a vehicle negotiate difficult terrain without contact with the ground, whilst the extra wheel travel associated with suspension lifts helps keep the wheels in contact with the ground providing maximum traction.
There’s a common belief that ‘off-road’ suspension is simply a taller version of factory supplied OE suspension. Depending on the brand you choose, it may well be just that! However, a properly engineered suspension lift is so much more.
Lifting a vehicle by raising its suspension height changes the vehicle’s centre of gravity which can have a substantial effect on how the vehicle handles, corners or brakes. Depending on the suspension design, it can also have an adverse effect on driveline angles which can lead to vibration issues and component failure. Engineered correctly, the right suspension system will address these issues, whilst providing an improved ride and weight carrying ability over a variety of road types both on and off road.