Saturday, 11 June 2016

Keeping your cool - Dobinson's Monotube Remote Resevoir Shock review

So my immediate thought is why does a shock fail prematurely. Apart from mechanical issues related to incorrect selection/stroke length it has to be heat. And I've proven this in the past. I went for the best on market in the NP. Whilst they held up to the punishment, they also had their issues. I came close to failure once, and this was on a short section where the suspension travel (if that is a real thing on a Pajero) was working out:

I got the shock so hot, the boot melted to the body and it became one integral piece. Not a good look, especially considering this was a series of 2 trails over the day of no more than about 15 minutes duration each.

And I'm not alone. I'm hearing from fellow Paj owners, the Bilstein can and does fail once put to the test. And by test, I'm talking about touring situations. Not hard going rock hopping. For your viewing pleasure here is a front and rear Bilstein fail on a Paj:

With concern, I am seeing more of this on the Pajero. And the corrugated boot on both front and rears leave a lot to be desired. They are certainly not made with a durable material - evidenced by the fact that in not too long a time, they all split. Not a big deal with the rears, but replacing a boot on a front strut is no easy feat.

Also, 4x4 direct used to have a disclaimer on their home page re the Bilstein "not recommended for harsh terrain like the Canning Stock Route". Great - so where does that leave you then.

You can see from the 3 examples above, its debatable if the Bilstein is coping with heat dissipation. Whilst some of that can be attributed to spring weights, load and speed/duration of travel in the rough, That's not always the case. My melted boot is evidence of that. There has to be a better way for the Pajero. And I'm not prepared to gamble on the Bilstein lottery again.

So I see Dobinson's are now releasing a range of Monotube Remote Resevoir  (MRR) shocks. Having both a greater oil volume, and larger surface area due primarily to the remote res, but also the large shock body. I am confident these will remove that one equation of premature failure -heat. Not only that, in comparison to the Bilstein, they are huge and appear to be built like the proverbial brick shit house.

So I made some enquires.I spoke with the local Dobinsons agent who subsequently spoke with Dobinson's head office. My proposal was to fit Dobinson MRR's + their heavy duty springs and Firestone air bags in exchange for a long term review of the product. They were keen and so was I. The fact I had a new clean slate to work with, had runs on the board in getting away a lot and was also about to journey down the Canning Stock Route was too much of an allure not to proceed. Whilst I have to mention here, I did not pay retail, I certainly paid a handsome sum for the privilege of putting their product to the test. So I have avenged the god of "conflict of interest". It will be an unbiased partnership and I hope to prove a better suspension avenue for the Pajero at least. And if it passes the Pajero test, what will it do to yours?

I have to mention the local agent. Not because I'm duty bound, but because I found Tom and Corey at Malaga Suspensions to be such honest and all round good blokes to deal with, they deserve the accolade that brings. It's something almost unheard of in the auto industry. Malaga Suspensions provides a whole swathe of services, from GVM upgrades to supply, fit and alignment of suspensions.

Seriously, if you are in Perth and looking for suspension work, at least give Tom a call. I have already put a fellow I know onto him, and he found the same as I said above. So its not blog bias from me. Not only that, his price was so competitive, he had a full suspension kit installed. Malaga Suspensions have been in business for over 15 years and are always busy as. You don't get that from telling and selling bullshit. And you wont get that from Tom. In fact, if you tell him you called after reading this blog entry, mentioning myself, you may find the pencil is sharpened further. Even if you are miles away, like the fellow I mentioned above (hello Steve, hope your suspension package is treating you well), you may well find its worth the drive like he did.

So the deal was done and the order placed. And in no time, I had some impressive looking product to fit:

I opted for pre assembled struts for convenience, seeing as I don't have a strut assembly press on hand. And I have to say that fitment was a breeze. Although I had to put up with some adverse weather in the process it all went together like clockwork. It has to be said that I am a fitter by trade, so playing around with this stuff means nothing to me. However, I would advise, if not mechanically able and having the tools on hand to do the job safely, the measly sum for having the product fitted would be well worth it.

The gear almost gives you a chubby once you see it fitted up. The rears with their piggy back clamp:

The rears are an upside down design. I like this idea. Its been used in off road motor sport for years with great success. And I can only see this as a plus in the dirty country the NX will traverse over the coming years.

And the fronts with their body mounted remote res:

And just for giggles, the Dobinson's 400Kg rear spring in comparison to Lovell's HD spring:

The Firestone airbags had me worried a little. A free plug for them as I received no compensation here:


Being familiar with their competitor product, I held great concerns about fitting the airline out the bottom. But once I got into it, I was pleasantly surprised. My concerns re the airline coming out the bottom have been changed. Its actually a really good way to do this. I cant imagine too many instances where the line may get damaged. And best of all, it is a far, far easier way to install. Drilling that hole in the upper spring mount with the competitors product is a pain in the arse. Hot swarf stuck in ones hair and sticking to your chest hairs, feeling like you are trying to pluck one out isn't much fun. Maybe I should really look into better PPE :) - but I did have eye protection on. The one thing that does concern me though is the bag isn't a tight fit in the spring. Maybe this is to allow the use of the kevlar sleeve the competitor doesn't have. For the time being, I have not gone the sleeve route, but if airbag man reads this, and wants to send me a set, well who am I to argue. Cheeky bugger I am. But I do have a suspicion I will need to go down that route for the Ultimate Camper, once I get around to sorting that out - most likely after the CSR.

Once all fitted, I have to say I like the look:

I parked next to my mate with his standard NW the other day. The difference was striking:

And to date, I'm a happy chappy:

So before we get onto a performance review, I should post a bit about the NX. Its been a fast build. Owing to circumstances (see on the fritz)  I purchased the NX but had the Canning Stock Route trip planned in 5 months time. So the build has been quite fast. You can see its development here:

x-marks the spot, The development of the nx

I was always so impressed as to the suppleness of the NX. And surprisingly, apart from going around corners much better, and less diving under brakes, the Dobinson/Firestone package didn't alter this. Add the added lift and to date its a winner. I however noticed a distinct difference in ride quality after adding AT tyres. That is solely attributable to the tyres, not the suspension. But the real test is to come, so watch this space as I update it on regular intervals.

But to tie it all into perspective, we need some measurements.

I weigh bridged the NX after all my mods except for the LT all terrains and winch. It came in at 2780Kg with 3/4 tank of fuel, empty auxiliary and no cargo apart from myself. So its a heavy beast. The joys of building a tourer I suppose.

And for the lift:

Dimensions = bottom rim lip to top of guard. 17" alloy = 470 OD.
FL = front left, RR = right rear etc.

as delivered from dealer:
FL 745
FR 735
RL 755
RR 745

As fitted with Dobinsons springs/MRR shocks + airbags @ 5PSI

FL 790
FR 780
RL 800
RR 790

So over the as delivered dimensions, I have gained +45mm on all corners with the addition of nearly 300KG to the rear and a steel bar at the front. You Gotta be happy with that.

I would just like to formally thank both Adam at head office and Tom/Corey at Malaga Suspensions for having the faith in me on doing the product justice. Like I said, I hold great beliefs this product will prove to be a far more effective solution than the Bilstein combo, so held as the authoritative "go" to product on the Pajero.

So a question for all - what would you like to see me to test here? I plan to take some comparative temperature readings after stretches of rough Canning Stock Route. And apart from that, just build on general observations over time on how they are performing.

So I guess its time to sign off, pending some longer term review of the suspension in action.

Watch for future edits.


EDIT: September 2017.

Well some 18 months later and I'm still smiling. You will note I had some teething issues on the rear if you read my CSR report above this post. However, I can not get over how well Dobinson's looked after me in that regard, took on board all the little engineering issues I told them that needed to be designed out and also provided the customer service one would expect from a first class Aussie manufacturer and supplier. The same cant be said for 2 other after market suppliers I had to deal with after attempting the CSR.

Some 30,000KM's later, with the original fronts still in place and revised rears, Punished over some of the worst inland remote treks the country can throw at you, I have had no issues whatsoever. The temperatures I have recorded in blog posts above this one shows me I made the right decision in going with Dobinson Mono Tube Remote  (MRR) shocks.

In April I crossed the Anne Beadell Highway, solo person, solo vehicle. And that got me thinking, so much I put the following on my social medial account:

So you're 500Km's into remote inland Australia, on your pat malone, with the nearest person or vehicle some days away. Now's not the time to realise you made the wrong  suspension choice. that's why I chose Dobinson MRR shocks and heavy duty springs. Dobinson: powering the Pajero through the worst that remote inland Australia can throw at you!


EDIT: December 2018.

Please be aware that as of the end of December 2018, My association (a personal one with no commercial kickbacks for me mind you) with the Dobinson MRR gear has come to an end. Too many failures creating unreliability for one who often ventures solo into remote, hostile regions, and now a lack of customer support, has made me bight the bullet and remove this stuff.

In its place, as of December 28, I have just fitted Bilstein/Lovell to the Paj. Its been an expensive exercise for me proving the MRR's just don't cut my mustard, but I need surety. Bear in mind, my usage is probably a lot greater than yours. At the end of 2018, I have chalked up 95,000KM's of trip tracklogs since 2011, so I get around a bit.

I will have more to say on this sorry saga once the supplier gets his sorry arse on the phone and calls me in regards to the call/follow up email I sent them 6 weeks ago with their full knowledge I have failed front struts again. If/when this happens, I will tell them the score and will be burden free at that point from sharing my knowledge to you all.

It's a damn shame, I expected greater things from the MRR gear but it just hasn't panned out.

Watch this space.

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