There are multiple ways to adjust a UTV’s suspension to suit a wide variety of terrain, driving styles, and accessory setups –– anytime these factors change, there is an opportunity to optimize your shock adjustments. Nonetheless, with that adjustability comes a lot of complexity that can leave some drivers hesitant to mess with anything at all. Hopefully this article can boil down the basics, so that you’ll be confident making adjustments and dialing in your ride exactly how you like it.
In general, start by checking and adjusting your ride height if necessary, then make any adjustment to the crossover, and finally you can slowly dial in your shock settings –– starting with compression, and followed by rebound.
Whether you have shocks from FOX, Walker Evans, or anyone else –– you’re going to have some sort of compression adjuster, usually located on the head of the shock
Using the FOX DSC, or Dual Speed Compression Adjusters, for example, you can manually adjust both the high and low speed compression valving. In this instance, however, speed is not related to how fast you drive. Speed relates to how fast the shaft moves (and moves oil) through the shock internals.
With compression adjusters in general, tightening them (typically clockwise) results in a stiffer ride.
Low vs. High Speed
As we mentioned before, speed does not relate to how fast the vehicle is traveling. Low and high speed refer instead to the speed at which the shock itself moves. Consequently, adjusting your low speed compression adjustment can be necessary at high vehicle speeds, such as in the case of body roll, and high speed compression adjustment may also be necessary for slow vehicle speeds, such as if the whoops are especially sharp. Adding compression (turning clockwise) will stiffen the system, and slow down the compression of the shock. Taking out compression (turning counter-clockwise) will allow for more articulation and comfort at low speeds, though may not have the resistance to handle higher speed situations.
When tuning, you’ll want to start with everything as loose as possible. Then, increasingly add a half turn of adjustment and repeatedly drive the same spot at which you initially felt adjustment was necessary until it feels alright. The reason we recommend starting fully plush and then working your way up is that otherwise you might be leaving plushness on the table by limiting the suspension cycling and restricting the available travel.
Low Speed Adjustment
“Low speed” means only small movements in the shock shaft, whether it be when driving fast or slow through chop or whoops, or even some g-outs and smooth jump landings. Low speed controls slow shaft movements like chop, boaty-ness, and body roll. As you stiffen the low speed part, it goes from feeling like a Cadillac with worn out shocks, to being in the proper place, to eventually being too stiff –– where you feel every small bump or rock. You’ll have to find somewhere in the middle that works best for you.
High Speed Adjustment
“High speed” is for big/hard hits, large jump landings, g-outs, or other situations that are going to move the shock quickly, and where you’re likely to bottom the vehicle out, too. If you find yourself bottoming out, then high speed adjustment will typically help. While preventing your skid plate from burying itself into the ground and hurting your back in the process is always a best practice, remember that excessively tightening the system may result in overly stiff suspension with unnecessarily limited travel.
Common Compression Adjusters
Some of the most found adjusters on the market include:
FOX DSC - or Dual Speed Compression adjuster, comes with a larger knob and smaller screw that move independently, allowing for the individual tuning of high and low speed compression. Plus, it offers a wider array of adjustability than the QS3.
FOX QS3 - or Quick Switch 3, provides three pre-set settings on the shock itself, combining low & high speed (Walker Evans compression adjustment, is also combined this way for example).
Moreover, there are also some that have adjustment capabilities from a switch on the dashboard, as opposed to only being adjustable on the shock itself:
FOX iQS - or Intelligent Quick Switch, is an electronically adjustable compression system that is dashboard-operable –– and otherwise quite similar to the QS3 with Soft, Medium and Firm settings.
Polaris Dynamix adjuster - also a dashboard compression adjuster, the Dynamix comes with the preset settings of Comfort, Sport, Firm.
Can-Am Smart Shox - offers the choice between Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ settings with a switch from the dashboard.
The last two, i.e., the Dynamix and the Smart Shox, come with extra ‘brains’ –– or semi-active suspension technology –– that automatically make internal shock adjustments on the fly in order to compensate for turns, and acceleration or deceleration, for example –– all without any required user input. As a result, it allows the compression levels of your FOX Shocks to be adjusted rapidly according to different sensors to respond to a variety of situations automatically.
For more information on the comparison between Dynamix and Smart Shox, check out our video:
High speed = big hits and fast shaft speeds; Low speed = small hits and slower shaft speeds.
Righty-tighty (clockwise) always stiffens the system
Rebound refers to the way in which the shock and vehicle rebound after compression, such as following a landing from a jump. Adding rebound stiffens the system and adds more resistance, thus slowing down the rebound or shock extension. Some FOX shocks have a rebound adjuster and some don’t, while no Walker Evans shocks do.
To illustrate, if after driving over a small jump the back ends bounces up too much, then slow the back rebound down. If, on the other hand, the front end bounces when you land, slow down the front rebound a little. While sometimes the case with compression as well, rebound is often the culprit for vehicle bucking, too.
Ideally, the vehicle should land and recover once –– not bounce two or three times afterward –– and should do so level (i.e., the front and back end respond with equal rebound). Once you’ve dialed it in and tested it a few more times to ensure that’s the case, your rebound is good to go.
General Rebound Advice
For rebound adjustment, when you turn it to the right, you’re adding rebound or slowing down the shock extension.
In the whoops, a little faster rebound is better. In the dunes, you’ll want to add a little bit of rebound to handle landings and g-outs. For rock crawling, you’ll want to have a lot of rebound in it because you don’t want it to bounce off the rocks; you want it to settle into them.
But a lot of it is personal preference.
We just want you to know what each adjustment does so you can dial it in exactly how you want.
Shock Therapy can help with more advanced tuning:
By customizing the internal valving of your shocks to facilitate different compression and rebound characteristics, we can tune your vehicle to respond exactly how you need it to with our Ride Improvement System (RIS).
If you'd like to learn more about suspension tuning, take a look at our YouTube channel and subscribe for more tips to come.
The Future of Suspension Adjustment
Just as the market has shifted away from the unnecessarily complex adjustability of manual systems with varying clicks and turns to get the desired outcome, we see the market moving even further in the direction of dashboard/electronic controllability with pre-set settings. Nonetheless, hopefully the industry will evolve beyond imprecise settings such as ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ –– and instead adopt more scenario-specific presets for dune riding, the desert, trails, rock crawling, or any other relevant situation.