5100 Install and Tips
There are countless threads about how to/ how not to install Bilstein 5100 series struts. Most of these are thrown together by someone who has had something go wrong, so I think its time for a proper review.
First off, I have an 07 4x4 Titan with Bilstein 5100's, set at the second notch, and 08 4x4 coils, all sitting on 275/70/18 BFG AT's. The struts were ordered from 4x4parts.com and the springs from Fontana Nissan (Both are supporting Vendors).
The year of your truck matters because 04-07 springs are shorter than 08+ springs, and the 08+ coil buckets are set higher than the 04-07 ones.
With that said, your results will vary depending on your truck and final setup. (EDIT #2)
This will work on all model Titans. The Rancho's and OEM shocks are put together the same way. The 08+ Pro4x springs most likely will be the hardest to compress, followed by the 08+ 4x4, then 08+ 2wd - 04-07 4x4, 04-07 2wd.
There have been a lot of post recently about if you can run the 5100's with a spacer to get more height. Answer is: you can, in certain situations. First, the spacer needs to be the same size or smaller than what is needed to level the truck. (EDIT 10/3/14)
The new 5100's with the CNC'd lower perch do not provide any lift. Bilstein shortened the overall length of the strut to compensate for the 08+'s design. If you have the older 5100's with the steel lower perch, your 5100's are .5" longer than stock, which adds .5" to the total height of your spacer. You will need new upper control arms if you use the spacer that is used to level your truck. You might
need new uca's if you use a spacer that is smaller than the one used to level your truck. For the springs used, it will not matter.
for you 04-07 people, if you have contact with your stock springs, you will have contact with the 08+ springs. The setting also does not contribute to coil bucket contact either. The setting adds preload, which compresses the spring on the shock, resulting in a "stiffer spring" and more height. You will also need cam bolts to get the alignment correct. PRG arms will give you more clearance than any other due to their design. Total Chaos, CST and Camburg will be next with clearance, then Rough Country. You can grind the coil bucket lip off where contact is occurring. Many have done this with no problems.[/COLOR]
You get cb contact from the strut being too much longer than stock. A spacer makes the strut longer. Ergo, if you install a spacer that is taller than what Is recommended, you will get cb contact. The 5100 adds .5" to the spacer because the body is longer. So add that to a 1.5" spacer and you get 2". The last inch comes from preloading the spring. Preloading the spring is stuffing the stock spring in a smaller space, which the 5100 allows you to do. This is essentially creating a stiffer spring. Same weight plus a stiffer spring equals less droop. So by putting the 5100 on the second setting over the bottom, you get a stiffer spring, less droop, and a higher ride. This is where the last inch comes from. PRERELOAD DOES NOT CAUSE UCA TO CB CONTACT.
Greg from PRG has said that 4" is the max you should lift a 4x4 without a drop bracket, due to cv angles. I wouldn't push it, because the steering rack could also go.
Bilstein has reworked the lower shock perch of the 5100's to account for the change in the suspension of the 08+. The new style of 5100's with a CNC'd lower spring perch provide 0" Lift on the lowest setting, ~1" lift on the middle setting, ~1.75" lift on the top setting (from what i have read). Select your setting accordingly.
Another thing to note. My last setup, before i sold my truck, was with a 1.5" spacer, 5100's on the bottom setting, and 08+ 4x4 coils. I was able to run the stock swaybar endlinks with this setup. I'm not saying it will work for everyone, but its something to look at and possibly save a few bucks.
When you receive your 5100's, they will include the strut, the lower coil bucket, adjustment clip, black rubber boot, aluminum boot holder, conical washer facing down (IMPORTANT) and a lock-nut up top. EDIT #3:
make sure you have all of these parts before installing. Each part is highly important. If you do not have a part, call Bilstein directly and they will send you it for free.
If you ordered the 08+ 4x4 springs, their self explanatory. Grey plastic end is the bottom.
Guys with the 08+ 4x4's will want to re-use their OEM coils for maximum lift.
Option 1: You do it yourself. Compress the spring with one of the rental tool programs from most major auto stores. PITA, and you will cuss yourself for not taking it to a shop.
Option 2: Take it to a shop. Easy to do, but this is where most bad installs come from, and you will cuss yourself for not doing it on your own.
This is for the DIYers:
Start by unbolting the swaybar from the LCA on the left and right sides. Then, place a jack on one side and give it a few pumps to take some pressure off the suspension and wheel. Loosen the lug nuts, jack the wheel off the ground, pull the wheel off. Remove the lower shock bolt from the LCA, then the three smaller nuts from the top of the coil bucket. The entire assembly should drop right out.
TIP #1: This is a good time to check your UCA and coil bucket for contact points. Simply press down on the spindle till the UCA hits the CB. If you want to grind the CB, mark the points of contact and grind around the area. This will allow for more clearance and should minimize contact during droop travel (downward movement) if there is any. I did this just for clearance reasons. I did not have any contact with my setup and no grinding, but I ground some off anyway.
TIP #2: Remember the way the strut looks, as in how the top and bottom perches are in relation to the bottom mount.
Take the strut and place it in a vice with a rag around the bottom. Place the compressor on each side of the spring. One as high and low as possible, the other on the opposite side in the same fashion. And yes, I disassembled one of my 5100's just for this.
Begin wrenching down and cussing b/c its gona be aggravating. Work each side until the spring starts spinning.
Loosen the top nut with the box end of a wrench and vice grips. Take it off SLOWLY in case there is still tension on the spring.
Once the nut is off, the coil is free to come off the OEM strut. Note the position of the rubber bushings and the top spring plate. You need to remember this.
Take the OEM strut out of the vice and place the Bilstein in, in the same fashion.
VERY IMPORTANT TIP: Check the lower spring bucket clip AS SOON AS you put it in the vice. This is the time to adjust it to your desired setting. The main point of this is to make sure the clip is set in the groove COMPLETELY. I have personally seen a clip that was not set properly come out of the grove, causing the spring to decompress with the full weight of the truck on it, causing major chaos.
Make sure the Bilstein supplied washer is on and is facing down toward the black boot.
Put an OEM black bushing on the rod, followed by the OEM metal spacer inside the bushing.
Now place the spring (grey end down) on the lower spring seat.
Then the upper spring perch with the black perch bushing between it and the spring. Line up the end of the spring with the notch on the perch bushing.
Then the other OEM black bushing.
Then the OEM conical washer facing up.
Then the Bilstein supplied nut.
Tighten the nut down using the same method as getting the OEM one off.
Before decompressing, make sure the top spring perch, bottom spring perch, and the bottom mount line up the same way as they from the factory.
Essentially, if the bottom mounting hole of the strut is parallel to you, the top perch needs to have two studs sticking up in the front and one centered in the back. You can tweak them slightly by mounting the top studs in the CB and taking your lug nut wrench, which has a flat side on the pointed end, placing it in the lower mount and twisting the assembly. I would not advise just throwing it together and then twisting it to fit like this.
Then decompress the spring.
To install the 5100, its opposite of taking the OEM one off. Top, Bottom, Torque, Done.
Oh wait, there's another side...
Start whole process over.
Now for the opinion
I took my sway bar completely off with the OEM setup before all this. The OEM setup was crap. Way to much lean in the corners which made me put the swaybar back on within a week. With the 5100's set on the bottom setting, it was a much improved ride over stock. Soaked up bumps amazingly with less sway in the corners, but it was still a little too much for me. My current setup is with the 5100's set on the middle perch and the ride is amazing. Minimal lean with a very solid feeling over bumps. Extremely happy with it. I have not tried my current setup with the swaybar on, so if anyone has any input on it, I'll add it to this.
Hope this helps with all the questions. If there is something I've missed, let me know and I'll add it in.