Is there anyone who would actually enjoy bumpy rides and subpar vehicle handling?
Neither me, nor you. Sadly, that’s what a shock absorber gone wrong leads to.
Today, we’ll be looking at the best shocks for several Nissan SUV and truck models. No matter if your ride is a 4×4 Frontier or an Armada, I’d recommend you stick to these three brands:
To be more vehicle-specific, the most optimal setups would be…
➥➥ For Nissan Xterra: The best is this Bilstein 4600 for a balanced, smooth ride. Perfect for stock height vehicles. An alternative would be the KYB MonoMax for extra heavy loads on Gen 1 2000-2004 Xterras.
➥➥ For Nissan Frontier 4×4: Bilstein 5100 is king here. This full set of shocks will have you feel the power of some high-class truck suspension with offroad-specific valving.
The runner-up is this Rancho QuickLift setup with RS9000XL shocks. Allows for more adjustability between smooth/firm ride feel.
➥➥ For Nissan Armada: Considering what the Armada’s all about, KYB’s Excel G gas struts are an affordable, well-performing option. If you want more sensitive valving, go for this twintube Rancho RS5000. It fits 2005-2008 Armada V8 5.6L models.
➥➥ For Nissan Pathfinder: There’s no other competitor as good as Bilstein B6 4600 if you want reliable, firm control over how your vehicle glides on the road.
➥➥ For Nissan Titan 2004-2014: This beast of a truck deserves a kit of offroad Bilstein 5100 shocks. Nothing more, nothing less – this is THE choice for any Titan owner.
Why exactly these choices? I’ll explain why, of course – shock absorbers aren’t the cheapest replacement part, and a one that’s quite crucial too.
Just to make sure you don’t think that’s only my personal opinion…Over at the Xterra forums, this guy summarizes pretty well why Bilstein shocks are the current industry leader. If you take a look at the whole thread, you’ll see that most guys over there go for Bils.
Also, here’s a relevant video on installing a set of Bilstein 5100s on Nissan Frontier:
Best shocks for select Nissan SUVs & Trucks:
Bilstein as #1 option
Let’s start with Bilstein.
To kick things off, both the 4600 and 5100 are monotube shocks. They deliver proper heat dissipation, and the valving they come with will help your vehicle adapt to anything from onroad potholes to offroad obstacles.
Bilstein don’t outsource their production to anywhere else – they manufacture in Germany and the US. High-class product quality, especially with the 5100s.
In fact, the 5100 shock is the most durable out of all these – KYB, Rancho, 4600 Bilsteins. The reason lies in the zinc plating that covers the stainless steel tube. It reinforces the shock against cracking and ensures additional protection against corrosion, debris, and dirt accumulation.
That’s the reason I recommend it for 4×4 Frontier, or more serious trucks that will venture off the beaten path. You’ll get a lot of stones, dirt, whatever. You don’t want your shocks to succumb to nature’s forces.
As I’ve written in my KYB vs Bilstein review, B6 4600 Bils are for stock height vehicles. The 5100 is intended for lifted 4×4 monsters.
The best choice for 4×4 Nissan adventures. Firm ride control, and superior durability. A classic.
A very good alternative for Nissan Xterra and Armada:
What KYB has to offer
On KYB shocks for Nissan Armada and the 1st generation Xterra models…
Look, these are stiffer than the B6. You can’t compress them easily either, so the installation will be a little tougher compared to Rancho or Bils.
The strong point of both KYB strut assemblies and shocks is the superior cornering you get with them. No other brand can match them in this aspect, in my opinion.
The MonoMax is one of the few KYB shocks that are monotube, just as Bilsteins. This means you get the same benefits when it comes to offroading, where your suspension system will suffer from increased heat accumulation and intense stress.
One of the best things about these is their price. For budget-seekers who ride an Xterra, this is the best meeting point of price and performance.
The weak point of KYB compared to Rancho is that they lack the diverse valving velocity the latter brand has.
As far as Bils go, KYB is great for light trucks (thus a direct competitor to 4600). However, for pure 4×4 action, it’s not as great in terms of damping capabilities and overall construction.
Rancho shocks as the runner-up for Nissan Frontier
Rancho remain a little underrated outside of the Jeep community, I feel.
I think their biggest pain point is the price. They can turn quite expensive, even more so than comparable brands in their market segment.
One of the reasons – or so I like to speculate, is the superior technology they have introduced with their ‘levels’ of valving. I’ve written about this before…It’s the fact that in one shock, you get the full range of ride handling.
You want it stiff? You get it by adjusting them. You want something smoother? Good – you can calibrate to the level you’re comfortable with!
Ultimately, another drawback they have is the tube itself. I’ve seen plenty of people complain about corrosion issues with the older Rancho generations. It’s exactly these that have direct fits for Nissan SUVs and trucks…
If you won’t be meeting too harsh weather conditions, though, it should be ok.
Here’s a quick intro to the QuickLift leveling + strut option for Nissan 4×4 Frontier:
Almost forgot to mention: I do have a Rancho vs Bilstein comparison where I discuss more on this matter.
The floor (or road) is yours:
What are your impressions?
As always with my posts, I urge people with relevant experiences to chime in and let me and my readers know of their own impressions.
If you’ve run any of these brands on a Nissan, what was it like? It doesn’t matter if it’s a 2016 Titan or an old school 2004 Pathfinder…
Write your shock absorber story – it’ll be a delight for me to read it!
Also, speaking of select Nissan vehicles…I have this guide to Nissan spark plugs, including the Titan. If you’re doing a complete aftermarket overhaul, check it out!