• Van Compass Falcon Shocks!

    Posted by Mark Hesser

    FALCON SHOCKS - THE HOW AND WHY

    Version 1.0

    General Notes

    • In this blog post we will go into depth as to why we at Van Compass made the transition from selling Fox shocks to developing vehicle specific shock packages with the technology available from Falcon Shocks.
    • We will do our best to show the differences between the new Falcon shock offerings and the equivalent Fox shock offerings we had previously sold in the past.
    • We worked exclusively with the engineers at Falcon to bring the high-end shock technology Falcon has developed for the Jeep and truck industry to the world of adventure vans, all at a reasonable price point.

     

    Applications:

    • 1994-Current Mercedes Sprinter Vans.
    • 2013-Current Ford Transit Vans

     

    The History of Falcon Shocks

    Falcon shocks is a subdivision of a well-known Jeep suspension company called Teraflex.  Teraflex suspension has been around in essence since the mid 50’s.  Officially launching as a suspension specific manufacturer in 1996, they have been a leader in innovation since the inception of the first coil sprung Jeep Wrangler, the TJ.  For years, Teraflex worked exclusively with Fox racing shocks, much in the same way that we at Van Compass did.  Pairing their suspension packages with tuned Fox shocks, Teraflex eventually saw a void in the product offerings and supply ability from Fox.  Hence, back in 2014, they began developing their own brand of high-end shock absorbers with quality and innovative features being their main focus.

     

    Fast forward 5+ years and Falcon developed a wide range of shocks packed full of innovative features you only find in the highest end of racing shocks.  However, Falcon integrated all this technology into their shocks at an equivalent price point to the lowest product offerings from companies like Fox and Bilstein.  The main reasons we made the switch from Fox over to Falcon is both supply and quality.  The aluminum body Fox 2.0 shock (known as the Performance Series 2.0) is still a great shock, however when compared to the equivalent offering from Falcon, at the same price point, the Fox falls short in every single category.

    We’ll start by diving deep into a side by side comparison of the Falcon 3.3 SP2 Fast Adjust Piggyback shock and the equivalent Fox Performance Series 2.0 LSC Reservoir shock.  Again, these shocks are nearly identical in price so we’ll start with the obvious difference, size.  The Falcon shock is bigger.  Bigger shock body, bigger shock shaft and more oil volume.  A larger shock equates to better damping performance, cooler shock temperatures and better heat dissipation which all add up to a better ride and driving experience for these heavy vehicles.  With a larger shocks shaft comes a larger DU bearing which means the shock shaft sees much less deflection and less likely hood of a leak developing at the bottom of the shock.  

    Falcon Shock Body: 2.3150” OD

    Fox Shock Body: 2.1750” OD

    Falcon Shock Body ID: 2.0”

     

    Fox Shock Body ID: 1.820”

    Falcon Shock Shaft OD: 0.750”

    Fox Shock Shaft OD: 0.625”

    The second obvious difference is the ease of adjustability.  The Fox LSC (Low Speed Compression) adjuster is a tiny lightly knurled knob that is difficult to adjust by hand.  It also has no markings at all making it very difficult to know what the shock is set to.  One simply has to go off the number of “clicks” or detents to be able to tell what setting the shock is set at.  Additionally, because of the remote reservoir / hose design of the Fox, the LSC adjuster is almost always positioned in a place on the vehicle which requires getting down on the ground, and laying under the vehicle to adjust the shock. 

    Small round knob of the LSC adjuster:

    Example of Fox Reservoir installed on 4wd Sprinter:

                The Falcon shocks feature their Fast Adjust Knob.  This knob is super easy to adjust and offers a wider range of adjustability than the Fox LSC adjuster.  Position 1 being the softest, or “lightest” setting with position 3 being the firmest the shock can get.  Position 2 engages the micro dial which fine tunes the damper specific to the vehicle weight and driver preference.  Position 2 is intended to be the fine-tuned, everyday setting for the damper.  A quick flip to position 1 softens the shock up drastically for dirt road excursions.  Position 3 firms up the shock to the point of sports car like handling for windy days, extremely winding mountain roads or heavy hauling with a trailer.  Because each Falcon shock is designed to be vehicle specific and not a universal style like the Fox reservoirs, the Fast Adjust Knob is positioned in an easy to reach and easy to see location so the shock can be adjusted without blindly laying down under the vehicle to access the adjuster. 

    Falcon Fast Adjust Knob: Large leverage for easy adjustment between positions 1-3

    The three distinct main setting with the Falcons, along with the 8 position micro-dial:

     

    Example of Falcon Shocks Installed on 4wd Sprinter: Note ease of access to adjuster through the wheel well

    Another key external benefit to the Falcon shocks are their piggyback design.  Unlike the Fox, there is no tiny external reservoir hose to damage, kink or cause potential failures due to the multitude of individual O-rings and fittings to cause a leakage.  Additionally, the piggyback design makes for a better performing shock in that the oil flow through the piggyback has a larger oil port and smoother transition into the base valve circuit of the Fast Adjust Knob compared to the tiny orifice on the Fox 2.0 reservoir hose. 

    Cutaway showing oil port on the Falcon:

     

    Side by side comparison of Fox reservoir compared to piggyback reservoir of the Falcon:

    The last detail we will discuss regarding the external features of the Falcon shock compared to the Fox shock is how they are designed specifically for their application.  With unique features like offset body caps to provide adequate clearance with the chassis when installed and Fast Adjust knobs placed in easy to access locations.  The Falcon shock packages we’ve put together here at Van Compass are engineered to work perfectly on your vehicle. 

    Now let’s move onto the internal workings of the shocks and just compare the individual components which make the shocks work.  We’ll start by comparing the Internal Floating Piston (IFP).  The IFP is what separates the oil from the nitrogen gas charge which makes the shock work so well.  The oil must be kept separate from the nitrogen to prevent cavitation (foaming of the shock oil).  If the oil cavitates and gets foamy, it will not dampen nearly as effectively.  Below are few images of the Falcon IFP compared to the Fox IFP.

    A couple of key features to note; the Fox IFP is made from plastic.  It is made as cheaply as possible.  It features a single O-ring to separate the oil from the nitrogen.  It has a lot of voids and pockets in it to potentially cause cavitation and trap unwanted air in the oil chamber of the shock. 

    The Falcon IFP is made from aluminum.  It is hard anodized gold for extreme wear protection.  It is machined completely smooth.  It features a single O-ring as well as a wear band to prevent the IFP from clocking or binding in the shock body and allowing the nitrogen and oil to mix.  Small details like this make a HUGE difference in shock absorber longevity and performance. 

    Inside the shock, the most critical component to any shock absorber is the piston design.  From a simple quality standpoint, the difference is drastic.  Again, the Fox components are made as cheaply as possible. The smaller Fox piston is made from sintered metal.  Sintering is a process of taking a metal powder and forming it into shape under heat and pressure.  No post machining is done on the Fox piston leaving a rougher surface finish making oil flow over the piston’s ports more restrictive and inefficient compared to the Falcon design.

                The larger Falcon piston is again, machined from aluminum and hard anodized gold for a perfectly smooth and extremely high-quality piston.  This piston is similar in design to what you get out of the higher end options available from Fox, King, Bilstein and ICON shocks.  However, Falcon offers this kind of quality in all their shocks, even entry level monotube shocks. 

    Lastly, the piston design itself better solves the ride quality problems inherent with these top heavy vans.  Low speed vehicle sway and rough offroad ride are the main complaints we solve for our customers here at Van Compass.  While the Fox Performance series shocks provide a drastic improvement over the stock setup, the Falcon package goes one step further for a truly fun to drive van experience. 

    The Fox piston is a traditional linear-linear design which works great for most high-speed applications. However, for controlling low speed sway without inducing harshness to the ride over rough roads and larger bumps, the Falcon’s Linear-Digressive piston design works so much better.  Here’s an explanation direct from Falcon describing their Volume Optimized Damping (VOD) philosophy:

    Falcon’s proprietary Volume Optimized Damping (VOD) features a digressive linear valve to improve vehicle feedback, stability, and control during low-speed, high-speed, and off-road driving. As the piston compresses and rebounds, the valve restricts oil flow creating a damping effect.

    VOD’s quicker ramp up increases damping volume during low speed driving as well as reduces shock bottoming at full compression during faster speeds or over uneven terrain.

    Traditional velocity sensitive shock absorbers react quickly during low-speed driving causing excessive “head toss” on rough terrain – or even driveways. Conventional damping then firms up during faster shaft speeds resulting in a jarring ride.

    With Volume Optimized Damping, stability and control are maintained throughout all driving conditions.

    To put that in van terms, no more heavy rocking from side to side when hitting bumps unevenly, extremely stable and German like feel on the road even in heavy side wind conditions or winding mountain passes and an extremely smooth ride when you hit the forest roads in search of that perfect campsite or trailhead. 

    One last thing about the Falcon 3.3 SP2 Fast Adjust shocks is the SP2 feature itself.  This is a feature we can’t even compare to Fox because Falcon invented this unique free bleed circuit which is set upon install.  This allows us to offer a shock which can change with the buildout of your van.  Installing the shock with the SP2 open engages the SP2 circuit and sets the damper for a lighter weight vehicle.  Unbolt the lower end of the shock and with the shock shaft fully extended, close off the SP2 circuit by rotating the shock shaft 360 degrees and the shock is transformed to dampen a much heavier vehicle. 

    We pride ourselves here at Van Compass on being enthusiasts first and providing our customers with the best vanlife solutions possible without selling things just to make a buck.  We spent nearly a year working with the engineers at Falcon to bring the amazing technology they’ve developed in their product line to the world of vans.  For more information, take a look at the Falcon product pages and videos available on our website.

    -The Van Compass Team

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • SAVE MONEY, GO ADVENTURE

    Posted by Cody Patton

    2007-PRESENT, MERCEDES SPRINTER 4X4, BOTTLE JACK USAGE

    General Notes

    • Please refer to your owner’s manual for bottle jack location and function
    • This blog post demonstrates the functionality of the OEM bottle jack on a 2015 NCV3 4x4 Sprinter with the Van Compass 2” Striker Lift kit and 35” tires.

    Functionality:

    The point of this blog post is to show how to safely use the OEM bottle jack equipped with the NCV3 / VS30 Sprinter van platforms.  We often get a lot of inquiries and questions from our customers regarding what kind of jack they should buy to lift their vehicle up should they need to perform a tire change while out exploring off the grid.  Hi-lift?  Air Jack?  Floor jack?  Scissor Jack?  The simple answer we tell them is none of those are necessary as the factory bottle jack is actually a quality jack that is more than capable of safely lifting the vehicle.    

    We are not going to show you how the jack works.  For that, refer to your owner’s manual or to the image instructions printed on the bottle jack itself.  This is simply meant to be a guide on the bottle jack’s use and what we at Van Compass do to change a flat on our vehicles outfitted for backcountry travel.   

    The Mercedes sprinter actually has built in jacking points on the chassis designed to take the load from the bottle jack so it can be lifted safely.  The rear jacking saddles can be seen in the image below.

    Front jacking saddles are similarly shaped and are located just forward of the front mounting bolt of the suspension sub-frame.

    However, once a van is fitted with larger tires and a lift kit, those jacking points are often too high for the factory bottle jack to reach.  Furthermore, if it does reach, the jack tends to be at it’s upper limit of safe use which makes it a bit more unstable.  So here’s what you can do to safely lift your Sprinter with the OEM bottle jack should you need to change a tire out on the trail.

    The rear is very simple and straight forward.  Position the bottle jack under the axle, outboard of the lower shock mount and directly under the leaf spring perch.  This is the perfect position to safely raise one side of the vehicle to perform a tire change.  Directly under the leaf spring perch is exactly where the weight of the chassis is carried on the rear axle. 

    Lifting the front of the van can be a bit more of a challenge, but is still very doable with the factory bottle jack.  There are actually a couple of good locations to lift the vehicle from.  If you have a Van Compass skidplate system you can position it under the skidplate, directly between the countersunk center mounting holes.  However we do suggest using a piece of wood between the skidplate and bottle jack as to not deform the skidplate slightly. 

    Van Compass Skid Plate

    Another front lifting option is the large vertical mounting bolt for the lower spring plate.  We tend to use this method more as it lifts one side at a time as opposed to the entire front of the vehicle at once.  Center the jack under the large bolt denoted below.

    This mounting bolt is loaded directly into the strongest part of the suspension subframe where the lower control arm attaches.  Again, use this point to lift the vehicle just to the point of getting the front tire off the ground.

    Now for more stability and height when on un-even terrain or soft soil, a very simple upgrade to make the OEM bottle jack work even better is to purchase a Hi-Lift jack base: https://hi-lift.com/accessories/off-road-base/

    With just a slight modification, the jack will fit great in the hi-lift base and provide for a much more stable platform in the dirt. 

    Hopefully this helps people venture of the grid with a bit more confidence.  Save the money you were going to spend on a new jack and use it to go buy some diesel.  Get out there and have fun exploring with your Sprinter van, we’ll see you out there. 

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  • VAN COMPASS 4X4 SPRINTER SUSPENSION UPGRADES - EXPLAINED

    Posted by Mark Hesser

    Suspension offerings for the 4x4 Sprinter by Van Compass. 

    Van Compass Sprinter 4x4 suspension upgrades

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  • VAN COMPASS™ FORD TRANSIT INTERCOOLER SKID PLATE (2013+)

    Posted by Mark Hesser

    Take your Ford Transit further into the backcountry with confidence.  This skid plate protects several vital engine components under the front of the 3.5L Ecoboost and 3.2L Duratorq equipped Ford Transits.  The intercooler, intercooler piping and engine oil pan are all protected with this skid plate constructed of 1/8” high strength steel and powder coated with a durable, textured black finish.  100% bolt on with simple hand tools, minor drilling and plastic trimming. This skid plate also integrates with the Van Compass Transit Front Winch / Hitch Mount and it is  easily removable for engine oil service.  All hardware is provided for installation. 

     

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  • VAN COMPASS™ FORD TRANSIT HIGH ROOF OVERHEAD SHELF (2013-PRESENT)

    Posted by Mark Hesser

    Take advantage of the empty space above the overhead console of your Ford Transit.  This bolt in overhead shelf installs easily using the original bolt locations securing the overhead console to the vehicle.  Constructed of strong, lightweight, 1/8” thick 5052 Aluminum, this shelf weighs just 15 lbs and provides an abundance of additional storage. 

    The rear lip on the shelf not only prevents goods from sliding off the back of shelf, but is also a great place to secure L-track for even more versatility. 

    2 small holes need to be drilled in the headliner for rear support tabs to be installed.  All hardware is included.  Product ships as a raw aluminum piece, install as is or paint / powder coat the color of your choice to match the interior of your vehicle for a truly custom touch.  Click below for detailed instructions on how to add this versatile shelf to your Ford Transit. 

    * We recommend storing lighter items like clothes or gear packs keeping the weight limit to 50lbs

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