A 2001 Ford Taurus SES sedan owner wrote to us:
“I would like your opinion on the quality vs. ride performance between the Monroe and KYB struts your company sells. Which is the best strut for my Taurus? I don’t want to order a wimpy replacement, but I would like to restore the ‘Factory’ ride.”
Here’s our mechanic’s answer:
“Both the KYB and Monroe are the same as the OE units, a twin tube low pressure design. The Monroes have a groove inside that allows extra oil bypass; the KYB has no such gimmick, and will be a straight normal twin tube (like a Ford OE unit). While neither is a ‘performance’ unit, the KYB might be slightly better from a technical stand point.”
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Shockwarehouse has developed a handy Shock Guide to help you make a decision when you need to buy shocks or struts. Driving conditions, age of your car, tires, tire pressure, performance needs and many other variables will affect your decision. In our opinion, monotube high pressure gas units offer the best dampening power, performance, and handling, but your particular driving profile may not demand that level of performance. For average driving, a twin tube low pressure unit is a good choice.
We carry a wide variety of shocks and struts for all applications. If you need more guidance, call Shockwarehouse at 1-800-245-7469 and our specialists will help you.
Premier manufacturer of performance shocks Bilstein will unveil a new off-road shock absorber series at the 2016 SEMA show at the end of October.
Bilstein is moving into the performance off-road aftermarket segment with their patented ZoneControl™ system. This vehicle specific bolt-in module combines remote reservoirs, anodized aluminum componentry, position sensitive features, exclusive fittings, adjustable bypass tubes, and more. All of these features are packaged into a kit that will elevate your driving experience, both on and off road.
To celebrate the introduction of this new series, the BILSTEIN team will drive their 2016 SEMA booth vehicle completely off-road from their US headquarters near San Diego to the 2016 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. The 400+mile trip includes some of the roughest terrain in the U.S.
The adventure starts with the team leaving Poway, CA early on Friday, October 28 and ends at the legendary 104-year-old Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings, Nevada, on Sunday. The official presentation of the new shock series will immediately follow.
Keep up with the adventure by viewing daily footage on Bilstein’s Facebook page.
What does a leveling kit do for a truck?
A leveling kit raises the front end.
A lot of people get leveling kits to get rid of the “rake”, the slightly lower front height that your truck has standard from the factory. Why do they come like that from the factory, with the lower rake? Because typically your vehicle is going to be loaded with passengers and gear, which will push your rear end down an inch or two, so the truck levels itself when loaded. Essentially your truck levels at what your manufacturer has decided is a “typical” load.
Leveling kits can add 1 to 3 inches of ride height to most trucks that have a coil spring suspension. Most trucks are taller in the rear, so raising the front suspension makes the truck sit level. Leveling kits just raise the front of your truck instead of lowering the rear–your hauling capacity remains unchanged.
What does a lift kit do for a truck?
A lift kit raises the whole truck.
Using a lift kit will give you more ground clearance room and more suspension articulation. Some drivers do it just for appearance, but it will definitely make your truck better as an off-road vehicle. Obviously it also gives you room for larger tires. Here’s a good article from a couple years ago on Pickuptrucks.com about ways to level your truck.
Making a change to lift will change your steering and suspension. Think carefully about what you need before making a decision. A higher center of gravity is a given–something your driving needs to take into account. And if you do lift it, adjust your headlights!
We heard from a customer who had relatively new Bilstein shocks: “Left shock mounting rubber at the top of the shock has broken.” That’s not covered by warranty because what the customer needs now is new upper mounting hardware. “It most likely broke because it was over torqued on installation,” our Bilstein representative told us. “He only needs to use 34 ft lbs of torque. He/his shop probably used OE torque specs which are much too high, sometimes almost double.” We thought this was worth passing along to you. This phenomenon is actually confirmed by KYB’s technical tips pages as well.
Aftermarket bushings are made from polyurethane that’s different from the material used on factory bushings, and they don’t require as much torque. If you use too much torque at installation, your mounting rubbers will be stressed. If a mounting rubber breaks, your shock is probably still fine but you will definitely need a new mounting kit. When they break you will know it because you will hear a lot of rattle and pop on the road.
Strut mounts, in front, are designed differently but they do basically the same thing as strut mounts: reduce vibration and noise. They are made of the same stuff. Strut mounts are a normal wear and tear item, so you should of course replace your mounts when you change struts. The labor costs just for changing the mounts can be high depending on the location of a worn-out mount. Check out the Shockwarehouse knowledge base article on Strut Mounts.
If you have installed shock mounts before, you know that you need a special tool to hold the interior of the shock stationary while you tighten the nut. Our chief mechanic here at Shockwarehouse advises: “If you don’t know how to tighten it, you don’t know what you’re doing, so stop.”
Good old Popular Mechanics has a decent article on replacing shocks.
This happens all the time. Especially if it’s your first time ordering and installing shocks, you may be surprised that the extension of the piston upon arrival can vary somewhat. We received this question:
“Hi. I received my shocks. One of the rears is too short. I don’t know if it’s blown or if it’s wrong.”
Fortunately, the customer included a picture so we knew everything was fine. Just to go the extra mile, we asked the head technician at Koni to give us the technical explanation for this phenomenon. Here is the answer from the Koni shock head tech guy:
“This is more than likely a case of the internal friction that is commonly seen with the STR.T shocks.* People LOVE to see shocks extend on their own after being compressed by hand. Only it has nothing to do with the actual function of the damper. Any minor differences in the seal friction, piston guide, etc. on these brand new shocks at these extremely low piston speeds can change the rate of self-extension, and in some cases the rod may not self extend at all once compressed.”
Thank you, Koni head tech guy.
* That’s the Koni orange entry level performance shock, STR.T, pronounced “street”.
Many drivers of big trucks enjoy the more precise handling that a harder suspension can provide, but that is not likely to be the case with Cadillac Escalade buyers. From a vehicle that costs $90,000 and with the Cadillac logo on it, the typical Escalade driver is expecting a smooth and comfortable ride. The Consumer Reports test of the Escalade last fall mirrored customer complaints about the vehicle, so GM issued a technical service bulletin for the Escalade as well as the Chevrolet Tahoe, the Suburban and the GMC Yukon Denali. CR acknowledged the GM fix, but says the ride improvement is underwhelming.
Arnott Industries, as you might expect, has risen to the challenge of finding a solution to the manufacturer’s engineering troubles. They are working on an aftermarket replacement for the newer Escalade’s magnetic ride control suspension. Our customers who have earlier Escalade models will sometimes purchase the Arnott complete GM shock and compressor replacement kit that provides a softer ride, though just as often will opt for a coil spring conversion kit, also from Arnott, because ultimately it gives less trouble. This kit also includes Arnott’s cutting edge technology to reliably eliminate dash panel fault codes.
People have been going back and forth on that for decades. The air suspension that Chevrolet introduced with the 1957 Impala package proved unreliable, and more than fifty years later many thousands of truck and car owners have opted to replace a fiddly air suspension system with more reliable coil springs.
With a truck, the benefit of air springs is obvious in the adjustability for towing. If you frequently tow or haul heavy loads, the air suspension is a clear benefit, though it will be more expensive to replace. If you don’t need that, a coil spring conversion will meet your needs and your truck or SUV will ride like a truck and respond to your driving.
Owners of luxury vehicles, however, are often in love with the soft-ride feeling, not having to notice every bump in the road. The luxury sedan driver may not be as interested in the gain in handling that comes with a coil spring suspension system. Of course you used to see plenty of trailers hitched to a Grand Marquis, and many people preferred a harder suspension for that use.
Short answer: it depends. If you don’t mind putting the money into it, even on an older car, you can replicate your original air suspension. It will cost more. If on the other hand you want a few more good years out of a reliable car but are not as concerned with the softness of the ride, you might opt for the savings of a coil spring conversion, which provides a perfectly safe an acceptable alternative.
The 1957 Impala was one of the first sedans with air suspension.