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Buyer’s Guide: Find the Right Rancho Shock or Strut For Your Off-Road Vehicle
BY Mike Maravilla //
December 5, 2023
Photography: Rancho Suspension
  • The off-road and overland segments continue a rapid rise in popularity, especially as enthusiasts crave complementary vehicles to their performance-minded cars.
  • For nearly 70 years, Rancho® has been dedicated to delivering suspension systems, shock absorbers, struts, and accessories that deliver rugged on- and off-road performance for Jeeps, trucks, and SUVs.
  • Newcomers to the segment may find choosing products to be a daunting task, especially within the critical suspension category.
  • The guide will help make sense of Rancho’s trio of offerings — the RS5000®X, RS7MT®, RS9000®XL — so that you get exactly what you need to tackle the great unknown.

While many within the aftermarket world think of suspension as a means to an end,  suspension — shocks, struts, springs, etc. — are integral components that are designed to help a vehicle function as intended. Whether you go off-roading on the weekend, or your vehicle doesn’t leave the pavement, shocks and struts are key parts of the suspension system. Designed to maintain vertical loads placed upon the tires, shocks and struts help ensure consistent tire-to-road contact. While OE suspension systems are governed by a “one size fits all” approach, the aftermarket industry can create shocks and struts that serve a specific need in the marketplace.

From off-roading and rock crawling to making improvements like installing larger tires or a suspension system, replacing the factory shocks and struts on your vehicle with performance shocks and struts can improve the ride and handling of your rig. Rancho® has dedicated its almost 70 years of service to extracting every ounce of that magic for the truck community. It has crafted full suspension solutions, shock absorbers, and accessories that deliver rugged on- and off-road performance for Jeeps, trucks, and SUVs. Because there are so many directions that a truck can go, we thought it best to break it down, so you get exactly what you need.


As I’ve said already, installing Rancho aftermarket shocks and struts on your vehicle delivers enhanced performance. In the off-road world, that means a lot — room for larger tires, resistance to shock fade, better handling, longer component life, and an improved aesthetic for starters — but from there, things get much more specific. Different shocks or struts are more adept at spending time on the road, on the trail, or climbing rocks than others.


At the core, the Rancho RS5000X series is chock full of innovative features that deliver improved overall on- and off-road handling and performance. These shock absorbers tout Rancho’s exclusive Cross Tuned technology, an exclusive rebound valving system, and “advanced compression phase” of the shock absorber that helps provide more control and precision. Its 2.25” twin-tube shock body diameter also allows the RS5000X to run cooler and perform predictably since the internal fluid can maintain a more consistent temperature.

The RS5000X is designed for factory height replacements and lift kits up to and including 6”. Since it accommodates OE parameters, these shocks are great for the “weekend trail warrior” where more than 70% of its total use will be on the street.


If you intend to navigate trails or tow, the RS7MT is where you want to start. This shock replaces the RS5000X series’s twin-tube technology in favor of a more robust and reliable monotube design, two characteristics that become mandatory as the trails get rough. By comparison, the RS7MT’s 2.0” monotube shock is much more effective at dissipating heat and circumventing shock fade and premature failure. Often, this damper technology comes with an undesirable symptom: a rough ride. Fortunately, Rancho developed an internal rebound bumper that negates this effect.

RS7MT shocks also feature an integrated dirt wiper sealing system that keeps dirt and debris out. Knowing that this damper would be utilized in more extreme environments, Rancho integrated a 14mm hardened chrome piston rod that resists scuffs and corrosion. Like the RS5000X, the RS7MT can accommodate factory height replacements all the way up to a 6” lift kit, but its toughness also makes it ideal for dedicated trail rigs. This is the Goldilocks tier of damper for most mixed-use off-roaders.


Off the beaten path, adaptability and pliability are everything. As the first nine-position, manually adjustable ride control series in the off-road market, Rancho’s RS9000XL shocks and struts recognize these requirements. By utilizing a combination of tools — a 2.75” tri-tube shock body (in most applications), an 18mm nitro-carburized piston rod, polyurethane performance bushings, and unique liquid metallic finish, and polyvinyl protective boot for the shock rod — the RS9000XL is built for the most extreme usage cases.

Even though it’s built to handle whatever you can throw at it, its nine positions for damping control afford enough flexibility to dial everything back enough for street comfort. When the going gets tough, that same adjustability helps counteract the additional unsprung mass inherent to large wheel and tire combinations. “Need” is subjective here, but the “want” is undeniable; although its usage case is similar to its RS7MT brethren, the RS9000XL’s adjustability allows you to really dial in your desired ride feel. Like the two others, the RS9000XL is designed for lift kits up to 6” but its adjustability makes it a prime candidate for enthusiasts who need to tow or navigate extreme environments.


Rancho’s shock and strut offerings are a pared lineup. The Rancho component you choose has more to do with how you plan to use your truck Jeep, or SUV; Rancho has done all the hard work to ensure that you’re covered with everything else. Since each tier accommodates a majority of aftermarket lift kits (0-6”), Rancho guarantees that even its “entry-level” suspension systems can keep up with your ambitions. Once your requirements graduate, its more advanced shocks and struts will happily accept more work without having to alter your wheel and tire package at the same time. In equal measure to Rancho’s engineering capabilities, this recognition is why it has sustained its position at the front of the off-road market for nearly 70 years.





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