Year-round shock oil for cold weather

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Year-round shock oil for cold weather

Post by Low_Sky » Tue Dec 18, 2018 8:08 pm

Before I ordered my 2.5" Kings from DamageWagon, I heard stories about how King shocks ride like a dump truck in the cold. Given that I live somewhere cold, I was concerned about this. I did some research. I ordered my Kings dry. I chose my own shock oil and filled/charged them myself. I've driven on them. They're awesome. Here are my findings.

Bottom Line Up Front: Maxima Racing Shock Fluid 7wt is a winner in these shocks.

First, a little technical schooling on hydraulic oils. I'm a mechanical engineer, but this is not my area of expertise, I had to do some reading.

The viscosity of a hydraulic oil changes with temperature (hence the reported cold weather dump truck ride). A number called the Viscosity Index (VI) is the measure of an oil's temperature stability. It's calculated based on the kinematic viscosities of the oil at 100*C and 40*C (roughly 210*F and 100*F), compared to a reference oil with a VI of 100. If a hydraulic oil data sheet doesn't give you the VI, you can calculate it if the viscosities are given for 100*C and 40*C. When the "Viscosity Index" was invented, 100 was a good VI. With modern advancements in additives, there are oils with VIs in the 200s and 300s (that's just what I've come across, VIs may go even higher). For shock oil, the higher the VI, the more consistent the ride will be across a range of temperatures.

The pour point is the temperature at which the oil loses its ability to flow. Obviously, we want oil in our shocks, not gelled goopy semi-solid. If the ambient temperature is lower than the pour point of your shock oil, you're gonna have a bad time. For shock oil, the pour point needs to be lower than the lowest temperature you expect to drive the truck in, and the lower the better.

So, knowing what I was looking for, I set off on a quest to find out what exactly is in King shocks. Every other brand of shock oil I could find published at least SOME technical data. Somewhere on their website you could find a full blown datasheet, or a pamphlet or flier with a few numbers on it, or a Safety Data Sheet with a few properties. King publishes NOTHING. That was kind of a red flag to me. Either their shock oil is soooo special that its properties are a trade secret, or their shock oil's properties don't stack up against the competition. Given what I had heard about the cold weather ride, I assumed it was the latter. I did a ton of internet searching and sent a few emails, and eventually I found what I was looking for. Given how secretive King is about it, I'm not going to say what they're using for shock oil. I will say it's a quality oil suitable for use in shocks, especially racing shocks that can be tuned for a fairly consistent operating temperature. If your truck is a daily driver instead of a race truck, and you live somewhere cold, King shock oil is probably not the best oil for you.

As far as alternatives go, there are a LOT of options out there. I focused my research efforts on a few alternatives that are easy to get in useful quantities, and affordable at truck shock volumes. Maxima Racing Shock Fluid 7wt and Amsoil Shock Therapy #5 are what you want in your Kings for cold weather. The Maxima has a higher VI, the Amsoil has a lower pour point. Maxima can be bought on Amazon, Amsoil is available through their nation-wide distribution chain, both are about $16 per quart.

How do Maxima RSF 7wt and Amsoil Shock Therapy #5 compare to King?

Image
(I also plotted Maxima 3wt exploring the possibility of a seasonal shock fluid change, which I now don't think will be necessary.)

The Maxima has an extremely high VI and a very flat viscosity-temperature curve. The Amsoil, not as flat as the Maxima, is still miles better than the King oil curve. The viscosity is plotted on a log scale. At the cold end, the viscosity difference between King and the other fluids is huge. Hence, the dump truck ride.

King
VI: 100
Pour point: -30*C (-22*F)

Maxima RSF 7wt (highest VI)
VI: 338
Pour point: -42*C (-44*F)

Amsoil Shock Therapy #5 (lowest pour point)
VI: 209
Pour point: -53*C (-63*F)

I ordered my 2.5" Thuren Kings valved at stage 2, wanting them to still be driveable if they firmed up in the cold. I filled with Maxima RSF 7 wt. The coldest it has been so far is 7*F (-14*C), and I can't feel any noticeable difference when the shocks are cold. I'm sure the ride is a little firmer because the fluid is colder and is more viscous (and every rubber bushing in the truck is harder), but I can't go from 0*F to 70*F instantly to compare, so all I have to go on is seat feel. I'm going to keep an eye out for lower temperatures throughout the winter, but I don't expect to find anything cold enough to change my current impression and I'm contemplating whether I want to try stage 3 or stage 4 next.
Last edited by Low_Sky on Tue Dec 18, 2018 8:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Shock oil for cold weather

Post by 1pieceatatime » Tue Dec 18, 2018 8:46 pm

Very good reading, thanks for sharing!

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Re: Shock oil for cold weather

Post by Reloaderguy » Tue Dec 18, 2018 8:58 pm

Is that oil interchangeable with existing valving and King shock oil? Meaning, do you need to change your valving to maintain the same dampening characteristics as King shock oil?
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Shock oil for cold weather

Post by Low_Sky » Tue Dec 18, 2018 9:11 pm

Reloaderguy wrote:Is that oil interchangeable with existing valving and King shock oil? Meaning, do you need to change your valving to maintain the same dampening characteristics as King shock oil?
Don knew I would be using Maxima when he sent my order to the King mothership. I don’t know for sure if that changed anything in the shim stack, but I would guess “no” given the overlap in the curves at warmed up operating temperature.

Don would be able to tell you. He’s very familiar with the Maxima 7 wt.


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Re: Shock oil for cold weather

Post by DamageWagon » Tue Dec 18, 2018 11:01 pm

The change in fluid viscosity does generally necessitate a change in valving. The viscosity change does make a really big difference without changing valving.

John I’m almost positive that is a custom stack specifically for the 7wt Maxima

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Year-round shock oil for cold weather

Post by Low_Sky » Tue Dec 18, 2018 11:10 pm

DamageWagon wrote:The change in fluid viscosity does generally necessitate a change in valving. The viscosity change does make a really big difference without changing valving.

John I’m almost positive that is a custom stack specifically for the 7wt Maxima
I guess it would depend on what temperature Don’s stacks are designed for. If he designs for ambient temp, they might be different. If they’re designed for a warmed up operating temperature, they might be the same or darned close. At 107F, Maxima 7wt and King oil are the same viscosity. At freezing, a shock full of Maxima 7wt sees the same viscosity as King oil at ~60F.


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Last edited by Low_Sky on Tue Dec 18, 2018 11:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Shock oil for cold weather

Post by BoldAdventure » Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:50 am

They indeed do ride harsh as shit in cold weather. I've been talking with Maple about switching mine out to Amsoil's shock oil.
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Re: Shock oil for cold weather

Post by PWJouster » Wed Dec 19, 2018 9:29 am

just like with drag radials, race tech is built to be at temp.
i rarely get a shock to temp on the road.

makes me feel like for a daily driver, anything that has less viscosity then kings oil may be a better bet?
im confident my truck is not at race temp for most of my daily driving excursions...of 5-30 minutes.

im an amsoil guy all the way from my motorcycle days...they dont always have the best stats comparatively, but they excel at being less prone to shearing and more stable over time.

looks like thats what ill be doing...i could look to soften the ride of my Front3.0 stage 3 and Rear2.5 stage 2 kings...
i would like to leave more of the control to valving then the oil, if that means lowering low speed compression
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Re: Shock oil for cold weather

Post by BoldAdventure » Wed Dec 19, 2018 1:49 pm

The harshness is mostly below freezing. It's been in the mid 40's this past week and they don't feel like they did when we went hunting for snow and it was 12 degrees outside.

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Re: Shock oil for cold weather

Post by 2wagons1driveway » Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:48 am

First of all great info on shock oil breakdown!!!! Super cool to see the numbers and oil breakdowns so thoroughly.

I just run King oil in mine. If you find the 2.5” rides to rough just be like Neil and take all the valving out of it lol

To me, if this is a huge deal to you, you’re wasting money on Kings and should just go with a lighter valved shock or an IFP shock (hell even less work to slap on overlands for the winter months and keep your Kings inside with you during the winter and probably cheaper than swapping oil out). In Alberta temperature change are extreme from -40*c in the winter to 40*c in the summer. And my shocks aren’t going to perform like they are intended to (with custom valving for my driving style) with a thinner oil in that heat when I’m actually driving fast enough to use them.

In all honesty you may find running less nitro (120-150psi) pressure in the winter is a far easier option to take some of the “stab” out of the shocks before they heat up enough which I think in all reality is pretty fast even in the winter months. My truck is out of the harsh phase of feeling in the winter after about ten minutes of highway driving in around -20*c so not sure any of fluid change out warrants the work you would have to put in to change the oil twice a year (not for me anyways as mine are a bitch to come in and out)

Neil seems very susceptible to plushness in his trucks and tells me a lot how nothing is ever soft enough for him unless he effs with it so I would take his input with a grain of salt with shock valving Kings and his concerns in the winter months with them. Frankly last time he valved his shocks and was telling me how many shims he removed made me concerned but he seems to really enjoy the ride now that he’s changed out the fluids and the valving a whole bunch. I found it funny because the roads in sask fucking suck lol so I’d want as much dampening as I could have to be bombing roads there but maybe that’s just me- I like to be in control rather than be riding in a giant marshmallow.

I think really the trade off’s here are all dependent what you want. We’re really not going to get a jack of all trades that suits all our needs in suspension so all depends what balance is right for you.

I think king uses pretty high quality oil personally. I’m sure maxima and redline and amsoil have great stuff too but king seems to stick with their oil because it works. I’ve heard king oil is good to 600*f which is pretty rare any of us would ever see that but I bet bombing back roads in our 8500lb trucks with families in them would be well over 300*f after a few hours especially in a 2.0” or 2.5” so to keep their race spec oil in their shocks seems like the route I would want to take. Also don valves shocks for King oil, so changing it out definitely requires a revalve to get all the intended benefits of his tuning and knowledge etc.




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Re: Shock oil for cold weather

Post by DamageWagon » Thu Dec 20, 2018 1:00 pm

I rode in Neil’s truck this year in Moab and I have to say it rode pretty dang nice, so he’s not completely full of it :)

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Re: Shock oil for cold weather

Post by BoldAdventure » Thu Dec 20, 2018 1:18 pm

Not really a huge deal to me. I'm moving to a slightly warmer climate anyways eventually so I can be closer to deserts. :)
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Re: Shock oil for cold weather

Post by Low_Sky » Thu Dec 20, 2018 2:53 pm

2wagons1driveway wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:48 am
In Alberta temperature change are extreme from -40*c in the winter to 40*c in the summer. And my shocks aren’t going to perform like they are intended to (with custom valving for my driving style) with a thinner oil in that heat when I’m actually driving fast enough to use them.
Maxima 7wt and Amsoil #5 aren't thinner than King across the board. At warmed-up off-roading temperatures, Maxima 7wt and Amsoil #5 are both thicker than King. That isn't a guess, or extrapolated. That's published right on the data sheets.
2wagons1driveway wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:48 am
...not sure any of fluid change out warrants the work you would have to put in to change the oil twice a year (not for me anyways as mine are a bitch to come in and out)
I'm talking about year-round shock oil for places that get cold. I see that the title of the thread is ambiguous, I'll try to change it.
2wagons1driveway wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:48 am
I think king uses pretty high quality oil personally. I’m sure maxima and redline and amsoil have great stuff too but king seems to stick with their oil because it works. I’ve heard king oil is good to 600*f which is pretty rare any of us would ever see that but I bet bombing back roads in our 8500lb trucks with families in them would be well over 300*f after a few hours especially in a 2.0” or 2.5” so to keep their race spec oil in their shocks seems like the route I would want to take. Also don valves shocks for King oil, so changing it out definitely requires a revalve to get all the intended benefits of his tuning and knowledge etc.
I'm not going to make specific guesses at why King chooses to use the oil they do, but it's likely some combination of cost, availability and "good enough".
I don't think I'm giving away too much to say that King isn't using purpose-designed "shock oil". They use a commercially available, high quality mineral oil for hydraulic power systems. Speaking only about viscosity, this oil is fine for race shocks that are tuned for performance at high temperature. The chart I made only spans the temperature range for Buna-N seals, but if I extended it out to the Viton operating range, the viscosity curves would continue to flatten out. As the maximum AND minimum operating temperature that the shock is tuned for increases, Viscosity Index matters less.
I'm not a race team. I don't need to buy oil by the 5-gallon bucket or 55-gallon drum. I want my shocks to handle the kind of off-roading I like to do, AND be comfortable for daily driving in the cold (race teams don't care about this second part). That second part is what this thread is all about; taking that high-temperature regime that all good shock oils perform well in, and stretching out that low end temperature so my truck doesn't ride like a brick when I cruise down the road to get coffee when it's 0*F. If I can do that by spec'ing a different shock oil (at twice the cost vs. King) and tuning for it, I'm game.

And I'm not trying to say that King putting their name on an off-the-shelf product is a bad thing. There are only so many companies taking dead dinosaurs out of the ground and turning them into other things. At some point, everybody buys something from someone and calls it something else with varying levels of tinkering (sometimes none, sometimes a lot). No big deal.
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Re: Year-round shock oil for cold weather

Post by Reloaderguy » Thu Dec 20, 2018 2:57 pm

I spoke with Don and that oil is interchangeable without revalving.
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Re: Year-round shock oil for cold weather

Post by 2wagons1driveway » Thu Dec 20, 2018 3:48 pm

DamageWagon wrote:I rode in Neil’s truck this year in Moab and I have to say it rode pretty dang nice, so he’s not completely full of it :)
Well I assume it would have rode well when it had its original tuning in it when he got his Kings but he said he had to do a lot of back and fourth with don to get the shocks soft enough for him until he was actually below a stage one... I find that hard to grasp given my setup but I guess I have a truss and go pretty hard knowing I have that truss so maybe I’m just working the shocks more I really don’t know. I think at that point Neil didn’t have his truss on his truck so maybe we just have different ideas of driving hard and how the truck should feel etc. mine will take 2’ whoops but you defiantly know the whoops are under you- it doesn’t just glide over everything like a lot of people tend to think it should after they put Kings on- the shocks are there and working but you can tell they are using everything they have to keep my airbags from deploying in my face lol

Also Neil’s engine may have something to do with it- I know I can go headfirst into just about anything knowing I have 6-800lb less weight then him in the nose.

For Neil I’m still surprised he went with the smaller diameter shock as he’s really into a plush ride I figured he would have gone with a 3.0/3.5/4.0” front instead of the 2.5” as those bigger shock diameters make ALL the difference especially once valving gets more aggressive but you want to keep that street ride for when the wheels are on the ground etc.

I’m honestly screen shotting this and saving it for the next time my shocks are out as this is really good to know. I was under the impression those oils would fall off and have much thinner viscosity at higher temps affecting performance during full
Boogie mode so to know there’s a better all around option is great news.

I may not have noticed any real issues in the ultra cold with my setup because I do run a fairly large front shock (3.5”) and rear (quad bypass 3.0”x18”)so it does tend to always ride a tad plusher then a smaller diameter piston setup would- that being said my front is an an IBP stage four/ seven so it’s not the craziest valved shock in the ride height zone which also helps on the street.

Radius arm guys you unfortunately are limited so these shock oil options will probably help you out more than the leaf spring guys with bigger shock options front and rear etc.


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Re: Year-round shock oil for cold weather

Post by Low_Sky » Thu Dec 20, 2018 4:39 pm

Reloaderguy wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 2:57 pm
I spoke with Don and that oil is interchangeable without revalving.
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Re: Year-round shock oil for cold weather

Post by Reloaderguy » Sat Dec 22, 2018 10:20 am

Low_Sky wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 4:39 pm
Reloaderguy wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 2:57 pm
I spoke with Don and that oil is interchangeable without revalving.
You're a hero, Ian.
Disregard my last post, you do have to revalve.
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Re: Year-round shock oil for cold weather

Post by Low_Sky » Sat Dec 22, 2018 11:05 am

Reloaderguy wrote:
Low_Sky wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 4:39 pm
Reloaderguy wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 2:57 pm
I spoke with Don and that oil is interchangeable without revalving.
You're a hero, Ian.
Disregard my last post, you do have to revalve.
You dam dirty liar.


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Re: Year-round shock oil for cold weather

Post by BoldAdventure » Sat Dec 22, 2018 3:45 pm

Low_Sky wrote:
Sat Dec 22, 2018 11:05 am
Reloaderguy wrote:
Low_Sky wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 4:39 pm


You're a hero, Ian.
Disregard my last post, you do have to revalve.
You dam dirty liar.


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Re: Year-round shock oil for cold weather

Post by 2wagons1driveway » Thu Jan 10, 2019 5:01 pm

Well fuck that then! Lol


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Re: Year-round shock oil for cold weather

Post by 1pieceatatime » Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:56 pm

Trading emails with Don this week as I look at going 2.5s, he said no to need to re-valve, so not sure where that leaves the discussion given seemingly conflicting answers.

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Re: Year-round shock oil for cold weather

Post by DamageWagon » Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:26 pm

I think re-valving will depend heavily on what fluids you’re considering going between and what valving you’re looking at.

If you’re asking for a different fluid from the start then things should be put together in preparation for that.

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Year-round shock oil for cold weather

Post by Low_Sky » Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:32 pm

1pieceatatime wrote:Trading emails with Don this week as I look at going 2.5s, he said no to need to re-valve, so not sure where that leaves the discussion given seemingly conflicting answers.
Well if that’s not confusing, I don’t know what is.

Alls I knows is that I hit about 35 mph on a gravel bar going over driftwood and packed snow machine tracks in a dead cold truck at -13F last weekend and I still have all my teeth. Can’t hardly beat that.


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