Saturday 21 September 2013

E21 316: Burst shock-absorber woes...

SPAX adjustable - like hen's teeth.
Well, I've had a bit of a nightmare week. As I was replacing the front n/s shock-absorber with the new spring, ready for the MOT on Saturday, the strut-insert burst in my face. To get an extra couple of inches clearance at the top and get it under the wing I'd been pushing the damper down into the insert. I figured they sit quite far down with the short-springs anyway, but eventually, probably after doing it several times, I must have plunged it further than its full operating depth and it popped, sinking the insert completely into the strut.

You wouldn't think pushing it down would pop it, considering the forces on it under load, but once its down far enough the top seal just fails under the pressure of the oil. You can have SPAX, as with most adjustable-inserts, re-filled and the seal replaced if you can be bothered to send it back to the manufacturer and pay the cost, but with time of the essence I just bought a new one.

Larkspeed in Leeds were the cheapest, though the price had gone up from £90 to £112 [and £118 now for the shortened!] for a single insert, but they claimed to have the part in stock and would have it to me by Tuesday the latest. Today I rang them to say it'd been a full week since they rang to confirm the order and still no insert. After half an hour they rang me back to say the insert had been specially ordered from SPAX, who were now lacking correct parts and can't build them until the end of October. I wish they had told me that last week as I'm now waiting on a refund...

Bilstein - fixed damping-rate and pricey,
nothing but good reviews.
I rang DC, who also claimed to have the part in stock and it would take 2 or 3 days. Before parting with any money this time I asked if they could check the insert is definitely in stock, which they are not, so it's not looking hopeful for any existing stock anywhere. I will be contacting SPAX directly from now on.

Monroe Gas-Matic - strong, but ride too soft.
So what are the short-term options? There are no ride-adjustable inserts in stock and available now, so it looks like i'm now bound to non-adjustable inserts. Stiffened Bilstein inserts are £62 each, where OEM-replacement ones can be had for as little as £20. With the springs this low, I have no idea what would work best. The sportier, better-brand damper might last longer under the stress and be a better match for the adjustable SPAX on the other side. Alternatively, the cheap, softer damper might compress better under the load and a pair will only cost £40 should the o/s one need swapping too. Another option is to replace both with Monroe gas-filled dampers for £123. The blurb says they are a heavy-duty design for trucks and vans, but according to this thread they are just too soft and will cause me to bottom out. So, £60 for one Bilstein it is, or take a chance on a cheap KYB. Hmmm, stress.

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