Toyota Tundra 3rd Gen Suspension Upgrade: Bilstein 6112 and 5160s

In the market for a suspension upgrade without breaking the bank?  Well, jump on the bandwagon of many and upgrade to the Bilstein 6112/5160 setup…you will not be disappointed…oh and you can install these yourself, follow along.

Why Upgrade to Bilsteins?

A couple of months ago I purchased a used 2017 Toyota Tundra Crewmax.  I have owned 2 previous Tundra’s and really like their beefiness and dependability.  Knowing that my family and I would be exploring deep into the mountains of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, etc. 

I wanted to upgrade my suspension to handle a little more of those tougher terrains.  After countless hours of research and my budget in mind I realized that Bilstein 6112s in the front and Bilstein 5160s in the rear were not only a very popular option, but one that fit right into my budget.

Once the wife gave the green light, I placed the order.  As I patiently waited for them to arrive I began the research on the install process.  Just like the majority of DIY’ers I quickly started with YouTube. 

Bilstein 5160 and 6112 Instal Process

I found some videos on the install of the Bilstein 6112s for a Toyota Tundra, but found nothing on the Bilstein 5160s.  So I went to good ole trusty Google and began the search there.  I found a good reference point that covered the install process for both front and rear suspension on a Tundra for their Pro Series Fox Suspension. 

Understanding that I was not installing that said setup, I knew the process would be pretty much identical to what I was about to do.  In addition I found a Bilstein mounting document for the 5160s, and these same instructions came with them in the box. I have provided both of these resources below, and since I am providing them I am not going to go step by step in this article.  Instead I will provide my thoughts and some tips/tricks I learned along the way.

I also think it is worth noting that I am not a mechanic, nor do I do mechanic type work often.  I have done minimal things like changing brake pads and rotors, but nothing to the extent of installing suspension.

I printed both documents off, inserted them into document protectors, put into a binder and called some family and friends in to help.  The plan seemingly fell right into place as I had received the suspension on a Wednesday and both my father-in-law and best friend/Off Grid Essential Founder, Mike was coming to visit that Friday.

Before I dive into things, I want to clarify a couple of things;  People on YouTube make the process look way easier than it really is, and I had access to an Auto Hobby Shop on a military base where I was able to put my truck on a lift and have access to all the tools I needed to perform this job.

The only tool I needed that they actually did not have was a torque wrench that went up to 221ft-lbs for the lower ball joint attachment to the knuckle bolts.  But have no fear because I found an amazing deal on Amazon for a Tekton ½ inch drive, 25-250 ft lbs for $60 on Prime!  It literally came the next day.

Ok, so I have the plan, the location, the tools, and the help…all should be well right!?  Well, overall the install went ok, but there were definitely some bumps and bruises along the way…and some lessons learned. All in all, the entire process of removing old suspension, install of new, and throwing the tires back on took 5 hours with the 3 of us.  We spent 3 hours on Friday which captured almost the entire install of the front, and 2 hours Saturday morning finishing buttoning up the front with proper torques and completing the rear.

Bilstein 6112 & 5160 Overall Thoughts

Let’s first talk about the these shocks.  I had the Bilstein 6112s pre-assembled and set to the second ring.  This would give me about 1.3” on lift in the front, keeping the truck with a slight 7% rake.  This was the look I wanted.

The shocks and springs of the 6112s were beefy!  The Bilstein 5160s did not disappoint either.  The reservoir adds to the look as well as functionality and I went ahead and purchased the Bilstein Reservoir Aluminum Clamp for a nice clean look.  Overall, very impressed with the quality. For me, the first step I completed was to loosely attach the reservoir to the shock body using the clamps for the 5160s.  I did not want to waste time in the Auto Hobby Shop doing this as I would be paying for the stall by the hour.

This leads to mistake #1.  The Bilstein 5160s come shipped with a plastic retaining strap wrapped around it to keep the suspension fully compressed.  For some reason, I did not put 2 and 2 together to realize that this strap must be removed in order to install the shock properly onto the truck. 

What I did not account for was the fact that I was going to have to reuse the bushings off my old setup for the new setup and the strap would prevent all of this from going together appropriately.  So on the day of the install when we realized this, I felt like an idiot. 

So go ahead and cut this strap because it does not matter and you will have to compress the shock by hand.  The below video somewhat what I am talking about.  In the video you will see that we initially forgot to install the inner bushing which is where we caught our mistake.

Bilstein 6112 Install Tips To Avoid My Mistakes

  • Spray all nuts and bolts with liquid wrench a couple of days out…I intended to do this, but in the hustle and bustle of work/life I just did not get around to it.  If you have an older truck, save yourself some trouble and spray this stuff on!
  • Don’t be in a rush…I found myself in a massive hurry at the beginning because I was excited but also on a time crunch as the Auto Hobby Shop I was using closed down at 5:30.  This rush led me to miss some things and get a little unorganized.
  • Follow the instructions!  I spent soooo much time researching and going over the steps, that in the midst of the previously mentioned advise I found myself not going step by step cause I thought I had it down to memory.
  • Don’t try to cut corners.  I had watched a YouTuber video of a Bilstein 6112 install on a Tundra and the sway bar was not removed (or at least he did not show it) so I decided this step did not need to be done…boy was I wrong…bottom line, follow the steps.
  • While all torque values are in the steps, write them down separately on a piece of paper that you can run as a checklist at the end to ensure you have torqued everything to spec….or place a check mark next too after completion and be specific (i.e. driver side, passenger side, etc)
  • Divide and conquer!  I had a team with me, but I did not do a very good job of dividing the workload on Day 1.  A lot of this falls under advice #2, but I will also attribute it to all of us being somewhat new to this.  Regardless, I knew my teams strengths and did not capitalize accordingly on Day 1. 
  • Luckily I learned from this lesson and Day 2 was better managed.
  • Take a break ever so often.  Sometimes when you run into a problem…that is a persistent one…you need to take a step back, relax and gather yourself and then go and try to solve.  A couple times we found ourselves just trying to put shear muscle and strength into re-attaching the lower control arm knuckles to the hub that all we were doing was hurting ourselves. 

Final Thoughts

As we stepped aside and took a quick breather a bystander threw out the idea of using this massive pry bar that ultimately led to success with very little effort on our part. Simply said, if I can do this, so can you!  And with the right tools or access to the right tools and some good friends you too can save yourself some money and install this setup.  Overall I have noticed a stiffer ride that handles well on the road.  I have not had a chance to take them off-roading yet, but that will happen soon enough.

I like the height it has given to the front of the truck and it allows me to fit BF Goodrich KO2 295/70/17s…oh yeah I forgot to mention that I added some 17” Method Trail Series 703s and KO2s.  It looks pretty amazing.

Trust me when I tell you that I made the comment a few times “I should have paid the money to have these installed” but the reality is when everything was done, I felt accomplished. 

Better yet, I was able to do this with my greatest mentor in my father-in-law and one of best friends.  It was the journey…the bonding, the laughing, the cussing, the frustration…and the cold beverages that were had at the end!

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