i've run bilsteins extensively on 99s and 900s, and like them. KYBs are
a very good cheap shock, with performance in the bilstein ballpark, but
with somewhat shorter life. they also cost about 1/3 as much. KYB quality
control is erratic, and there may be some bad shocks that have to be
returned. the choice is kind of based on what you expect from a shock;
a case can be made either way.
Although I have no experience with Bilstein and KYB on Saabs, I _do_ have a
few data points with KYB and Bilstein on other cars. I installed a set of
KYBs in my 240Z in 1983 and they are still going strong (I drive this car
fairly hard). At the same time, a friend installed a set of Bilsteins in
his 240Z. He _loved_ them, but sold the car soon after that, so I have no
idea about their longevity. His Z had better tires and rims, stronger
springs, and a Scarab conversion, so there was no way to compare
performance between his struts and mine.
Since then, friends with Euro-cars needing new shocks/struts have asked me
what to get and I always recommended Bilsteins. I helped a friend install
a set in his Audi Fox and one of the front struts froze up in three months.
I installed another set in a friend's Scirocco. Both rear shocks wore out
within two years.
I am now skeptical about the quality control of Bilsteins, and a satisfied
I've recently talked to a local mechanic who says that the symptoms I
thought were shocks (floating feeling over bumps at high speed) were more
likely due to 1) too high tire pressure and 2) tear in front spoiler. So
I'm addressing those problems first, then will see if I still notice the
"floating" sensation (no, this is not some New Age experience).
Here's my experience with shocks for my 1985 900s (non-turbo) 4-door:
The original rear end of the car often bottomed out, even with just
one passenger in the back. I couldn't find any aftermarket booster
shocks - the ones with a spring around the shock.
So I got cheap and bought 4 shocks from JC Whitney for about $15 each.
This helped the bottoming out problem, and also gave a very slightly
stiffer ride. However, within a few weeks one of the front shocks broke -
the connection between the lower part and rest of the shock came apart.
I returned all 4 shocks and got all my money and shipping back.
I replaced all four shocks with KYBs, for about $25 each. This gave a
very much stiffer ride - every bump and dip in the road was passed on
directly to the car and passengers. (The rear end has never bottomed out.)
After 2 years of a KYB ride, I couldn't take it any more. I'm still
cheap, so I replaced the 2 front shocks with Sears, for about $17 each.
I left the KYBs on the rear. The ride is now much smoother, but still
just slightly stiffer than the original. And the Sears are guaranteed
I'm using Tokico shocks on my 900T (pre APC) . (this is the same SAAB, if
you followed my postings few months ago, with the 5th gear problem --but
it still runs pretty ok). Anyway, back to the shocks: I find that the
Tokicos are good but harsh -- so, based on what you're looking for, i'd
say, go for something else. (note: Since tires are a part of the shock
absorption system, consider soft tires. I'm using Gislaved's. I like'm;
not too hard, not too soft.
You can use the rear shocks from some of the older MG's on the 95, as
they both use the same Armstrong unit. There is a rumor that Worldwide
Automotive in Madison Wisconsin rebuilds 95 arm shocks, it's area code
(608) if you want to call information to get their number.
Have you tried topping them off & exercising them? I would think this
would work if you would take them off the car & give them a good workout.
Dave Hinz (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Yes, I have a 95. Here is a company that rebuilds lever shocks:
Apple Hydraulics, Inc.
715 Route 25A
Miller Place, NY 11764
The price is listed as $59.95 each exchange.
This is from Jack Ashcraft's "Sonnet Sources, An Interchange & Data
Manual", which also covers 95's and 96's. I have not had my shocks
rebuilt yet, although I need and intend to do so shortly. I did have a
brake master cylinder re-sleeved by another company recommended by
Ashcraft, and was pleased with the result. Do you know of anyone who has
successfully converted to tube shocks? Are there plans or kits
I wrote a article for the Saab News letter years ago (maby 10) there was
a lot of follow up interest and I think someone came up with a kit.
The idea was this. I found a VERY short tube shock that bolted to the
stock lower mount and then bolted through the floor above. It came
through the floor between the fender and the third seat so the seat still
worked. The floor has to be reinforced with a inverted aluminum channel.
If you're interested I will try to find the old article and send it to you.
It gave sizes and instructions and most important the number of the shock
(from Sears and NAPA)
716 624 3052
I got a decent deal on Boge shocks from Eurotire in NJ. They
weren't that difficult to install except for the upper mount on the
front driver's side.
For other comments you might look at past SaabNet messages
like 1248, 1257, 1285, 1348.
I have had good service and great prices from R.D. Enterprises, Ph:
619-282-8550. I think it is a small operation and if you don't mind tell
them that Michael and Bill Hoza referred you.
In response to your post concerning rear shocks, here's a direct note form
the Robert Bentley official service manual on front and rear suspensions:
"The SAAB 900 shock absorbers are of a unique design incorporating a
special stop. Always replace them with SAAB original equipment shock
absorbers or damage to the suspension may result."
True, this publication is given a blessing from SAAB as an offical service
manual, so what are they going to say. I've read alot in NINES about people
using Boge, Bilsteins, and Konis. The above note did cause me to wonder
what I should do when the time comes to replace the shocks on my car. I was
going to buy the SPG shocks, but if others can give me a reason that the
above statement is not true, then probably Koni adjustables.
For the Saab, there is more than one available "factory" shock absorber.
For the 99, I seem to recall that they sell KYB and Billstein shocks.
I have each of these on different 99's at present, and they are very
different. The Billstein's are too stiff for 5" wheels, as are stock
on the 99, but are great with 6" wheels, if you don't mind a very rough
ride. The other car, with the KYB's, has been outfitted with both 5"
and 5.5" wheels (stock on the 900), and are a good comprimize shock -
not too stiff, but very predictable and reasonably good handling.
I've also had Koni's on a previous 99. These were adjustable (or so
they said) and were set to full hard. They were nothing special.
I don't recommend them for a Saab.
You ask which shock is best. By now you should realize that there
is no "best" part for any suspension system. The intended use determines
the desired parts.
I for one, don't mind a rough ride, if I also get super-crisp handling
and stability. Most people don't feel this way. As always, your mileage
I heard Bilsteins are too stiff for Saab 900.
I installed Boge turbo gas shocks on my brother's 86 900S.
He lives in Manhattan. He likes it so far.
I've had good luck with KYB Gas-A-Just on both 99s and 900s. They're not
too soft, not too harsh. But use factory rubber bushings where the front
shocks mount to the body, no matter what aftermarket shocks you may use.
The aftermarket bushings just don't seem to fit and give up long before the
NINES, the Saab Club Magazine
Watch out, SAAB OEM shocks are not what they used to be!!!
I had my dealer replace the shocks on my '88 900S at 100K miles (this
car has the lowered Turbo suspension and sway bars). I spec'd OEM
shocks since I was very happy with both the handling and durability.
The dealer dutifully put in OEM shocks, but they weren't the same as
what came on the car. They were painted orange and have a noticeably
smaller outside diameter, and they have "Togiko" stamped on them -- as
well as "SAAB".
Well, they were a far cry from the original shocks. Poorly damped,
mushy ride and generally not up to snuff. I complained a couple of
times and both times the dealer stated it was the only part available
from SAAB. He showed me that they were indeed being delivered on the
current 900's, ugh. The third time I complained because the
replacements were just about shot after only 15K miles and 8 months of
use. The dealer "researched" the situation and found the right shock.
It's painted blue and made by some English company, I think it starts
with a "W" but I can't recall the name. They put on a set for the
difference in the dealer cost from the Togikos. My car's superb
handling (and very firm ride) was restored! And I have about 30K miles
on the new shocks and they're holding up great.
% Andrew Cassino %
I don't have experience with the KYB's, but I do remember a
letter written to NINES by a guy who bought KYB's. His
comment was that "KYB" must stand for "Keep Your Bilstein's"
Larry Strollo CD Imaging Eastman Kodak Company
I got 100K uneventful miles out of my KYB's, but my mechanic has
told/showed me a few horror stories when they freeze up. Mine self
destructed without doing damage to the car.
As far as I know, OEM for the Turbo is Bilstein and OEM for the
900 and 900s are Bogue (sp?).
I replaced the KYB with the stock Saab and the handling is much better.
Sachs shocks were OEM equipment on my '88 900S, which has the same
suspension as the Turbo for that year. I like them a lot, and went
through a fair bit of trouble getting Sachs replacements installed on
my car. Retrieve the SHOCKS archive for my story.
% Andrew Cassino %
A friend of mine, a Saab mech., put KYB on his car. He had them back off real soon. They
were awful. Instead, he purchased the suspension upgrade kit from Saab for his 900 T. It
came with springs, too, so the difference in ride may have also been attributed to them, but
the new shocks must have helped because the car handles excellently now. You can't hardly
feel any bumps, and cornering is amazing!
If you don't go with the Saab set, I would recommend Bilstein. I have heard many more
good things about Bilstein than about KYB.
Name: Mark Cook
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