Frequently Asked Questions about the Lexus LX-470 and Toyota Landcruiser 100 suspension systems. (You can leave a question in the comment section and I’ll reply to you there.):
Q: My Landcruiser 100/Lexus LX 470 is riding real bouncy/hard on the front (rear or both ends)—why is that?
A:The Lexus LX470 Automatic Height Control System (AHC) incorporates oil filled ‘shock absorbers’ on each corner. The AHC system adds (or releases) oil from the shock to adjust the height. When you drive over a bump, the oil must go somewhere if the shock is to compress and ‘absorb’ the bump. The place it goes are accumulators—one for each shock.
The Lexus and Toyota accumulators are factory pre-charged with nitrogen to several hundred PSI. The gas is on the top side of an internal diaphragm separating the gas from the AHC oil. The gas slowly leaks through the diaphragm just like air leaks out of a tire, only much slower.
Eventually (after 4 to 6 years, or 50K to 100K miles) enough gas has leaked that the accumulator becomes mostly oil filled-just like the shock. Then, when driving over a bump, the oil has no place to go and the shock cannot compress—and the vehicle gets tossed up and rides real bouncy.
Q:How can I test the accumulators to be sure they are causing the bumpy ride?
A:There are two methods of testing the accumulators. Lexus advises that when you change the height setting from ‘low’ to ‘high’, the oil level in the AHC reservoir should lower by more than 7 graduations on the reservoir (new accumulators will change level by more than 12 graduations.) Since higher pressure is needed to raise the vehicle, some of the oil goes into the shocks to raise the level, the rest into the accumulators, compressing the remaining gas.
The other method is to set the vehicle at normal ride height and then bounce real hard on each corner to see how much the shock will compress. With flat accumulators, there will not be much ‘give.’ New suspension accumulators will allow several inches of movement when you bounce hard on the corner. Another way of accomplishing this is to drive each wheel over a speed bump at about 5 mph and note the ride quality. Good accumulators will have a nearly smooth, well damped movement. Flat accumulators will produce a sharp and bouncy movement and bouncy ride.
Q:Why can’t I just disconnect or deactivate the AHC system?
A: The AHC system is integrated with the Stability Control System to reduce the body roll and sway. Deactivating the system will compromise the vehicle’s roll-over resistance. Also, the oil pressure in the shocks supports a significant part of the vehicle weight and the vehicle height will drop to the minimum height stops and ride extremely harsh.
Q: I understand the Toyota Land Cruiser 100 standard suspension (without AHC) will ‘bolt on’ and can replace my AHC. Why shouldn’t I do that?
A: Without the AHC working as designed, the vehicle stability is compromised and occupants are at increased risk of death or injury if sudden maneuvers are made. The LX-470 and LC-100 are very similar, but the LX-470 has a higher center of gravity due to the upgraded interior insulation, seats and other convenience and comfort features. Your insurance company would most likely deny coverage of any accident involving vehicle loss of control when they discover you have significantly modified your vehicle suspension without notifying them. They will decline to write any coverage at all when you do notify them.
Q: What damage may result if I continue to drive with flat accumulators?
A:Driving with flat accumulators will cause very high transient pressures in the shock absorbers when you go over bumps. This is, of course, very hard on all the suspension components, including the shock absorber mounting bushings.
The system has a safety valve which releases this dangerously high pressure back to the AHC oil reservoir. However, this is not designed for continuous activation. When the high pressure oil is released from the shocks, the vehicle will ride lower than it was. The AHC system will then add oil back to restore the height, requiring the electric oil pump to run.
The AHC computer system has an automatic shut-off to prevent damaging the pump by frequent or continuous running since that would indicate a leak or other damage. Driving on bumpy roads will cause the pump shut-off to activate and the AHC system to switch to default mode. Now when you drive over another bump, oil is released by the overpressure valve, but no oil is added back—and the vehicle level drops lower and lower on each bump.
It will reach a point that when the wheel is in the air after hitting a bump, the spring pushing the wheel back down will cause negative pressure in the oil supply line from the pump. This will suck air into the hydraulic pump past the motor shaft seal. The Lexus factory test procedure will show this condition as a ‘faulty pump’ requiring replacement (at a cost of more than $2500).
Q: Where are the accumulators located?
A: The accumulators are mounted between the front and rear wheels on the outside of the frame rails, under the running boards.
Q: How are the accumulators attached / connected?
A: The accumulators simply screw on and off the control valves mounted on the frame rail. They can be removed easily with either a ‘chain wrench’ or a 36mm open end wrench (spanner) that is no more than 9mm (3/8”) thick.
A: Someone has added water (or windshield washer fluid) to my AHC oil reservoir. What can I do?
A: Water and water based washer fluid will not permanently damage anything-but they will need to be flushed out. A low cost (relative to ACH fluid) Rust and Oxidation (R&O) inhibited hydraulic oil purchased in 5 gallon pail from an auto parts store is a good flushing fluid. Suction the fluid from the reservoir and refill it with clean oil. Then with the vehicle running and height on ‘low’, open the ‘brake bleeder’ on the right front AHC control valve. Continue flushing until the fluid is clean. Then move to the left front, then left rear, and finally right rear in succession. If all the brake bleeders show serious contamination, then it may be advisable to remove each shock and pour the contaminated oil out of them, refill with clean oil and reinstall the shocks. Drive the vehicle a few days and repeat the entire flushing process to ensure all the water has been removed.
Alcohol based (no-freeze) windshield washer fluid will damage the pump because it is a very poor lubricant. It may also attack the oil seals in the system and the accumulator diaphragms. Alcohol must be flushed out as soon as possible.
Brake fluid (glycol-ether type DOT-3 or DOT-4) will damage the oil seals and accumulators and must be flushed out as soon as possible. DOT-5 brake fluid is silicone oil and will not damage anything but needs to be flushed out.
I hope this FAQ has been useful to you. Please ask any questions you may have in the comment section and I’ll be glad to help you out.
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