The Truth About Cars » Suspension http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:48:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Suspension http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/product-reviews/suspension/ Product Review: Monroe Shock Absorbers (Sensa-Trac and Max-Air) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/product-review-monroe-shock-absorbers-sensa-trac-and-max-air/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/product-review-monroe-shock-absorbers-sensa-trac-and-max-air/#comments Fri, 27 Nov 2009 16:31:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=337177 (courtesy:scionlife.com)

In times like these, folks keep their cars longer (just ask Comrade Fidel’s oppressed masses of loyal subjects). Unfortunately, faster-spinning odometers have the nasty side effect of more quickly chewing up your car’s normal wear items. Some of these components (like brakes) can get downright demanding as they die. Others, like shock absorbers and their MacPherson strut cousins, just blend into the woodwork and stay there. Much like the guy in your high school yearbook that you can’t remember, your vehicle’s shocks and/or struts get Rodney Dangerfield-levels of respect and even less attention. Symptoms of worn shocks or struts include excessive floating after traversing even small bumps in the road, greater-than-normal body roll during cornering, increased braking distance, and extreme front end dive under moderate-to-hard braking.

Having experienced all of the above in larger quantities than is acceptable even for a 2001 Mercury Grand Marquis (a GS model, no factory air suspension), I decided my OEM shocks should call it a day after 168,749 miles of absolutely mediocre service. Bilsteins not being my thing, I immediately hopped online and ordered the extremely vanilla Monroe Sensa-Trac front gas shocks (to replace the oil-filled originals) and Monroe Max-Air rear air shocks (to replace the original gas-charged rears). Including shipping, my total came to $92.

Installation varies by vehicle; however, Monroe throws in everything you need, including reasonable facsimiles of all factory bushings, nuts, bolts and mounts. The rear air shocks come with a very concise, tri-lingual instruction sheet along with an installation kit that includes a tee-valve (to be located wherever in your trunk is convenient and safely-drillable), a barely adequate amount of air line, tiny O-rings for the air fittings, and a handful of mounting brackets. Everything but the shocks and the O-rings are plastic and feel extremely questionable. Also, would it have killed Monroe to spend two cents more per package and provide an additional foot (or three) of air line? Everything went together perfectly, though, and no trips to the parts store were necessary.

I wanted rear air shocks because I frequently pull a 2,000-pound utility trailer and hooking it up always caused the back of my big Merc to go for the limbo-dancing gold. Monroe claimed its Max-Air product was just the trick, with ride height-fixing pressure being easily adjustable from a stock-looking (and feeling) 20 PSI all the way up to a coil spring-bustin’, hip-hop-video-starring 140 PSI. (But avoid extended use above 90 PSI, Monroe says, implying, perhaps, that you should only go higher for occasional heavy loads or drive-by shootings.)

Ass-in-the-air antics aside, my new pneumatic nozzles never leaked and both front and rear shocks performed magnificently: Monroe took the OEM ride and handling specs and improved on them brilliantly.

Reduced body roll rivals my car’s P71 Police Interceptor cousin, but without the slightly harsher ride of that car’s stiffer springs and shocks. Jounce is minimized surprisingly, although this reduction doesn’t seem as affected by vehicle speed as Monroe’s “Road Sensing Technology” marketing materials claim. Rebound is similarly well-attenuated – it doesn’t make the car BMW-firm, but most traditional full-sized sedan customers aren’t looking for that, anyway. (Think “less float,” not “no float.”) Only in braking do these Monroes not best their costlier OEM competitors; however, they’re certainly no worse: Nose-dive under hard stopping still happens, but it’s no longer as dramatic.

Sealing the deal for my resounding endorsement was the miracle wrought in the trailer-hauling department. A very comfortable (if slightly rear-end elevating) 60 PSI kept the Mercury’s hindquarters completely level when attached to my five-by-eight band equipment hauler. But the real story came from behind the wheel, where the transformation was downright astonishing. The nagging yaw I’d taken for granted was gone, and the up-and-down pitching motion brought on by braking had similarly vanished. Each move the vehicle made when hitched was more positive than ever before; definitely better than with similar trailers I’ve pulled behind factory rear-air-suspension-equipped Panthers.

Bottom line: If you’re not a Bilstein-level load hauler or a Koni-loving corner-carver, and you own a fairly conventional ride that serves as basic, daily transportation (but you like it and don’t plan on trading), you would be hard-pressed to find a product more capable of providing such immediately-tangible ride and handling improvements while simultaneously doing the right thing for your vehicle’s suspension.

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Product Review: Addco Manufacturing Sway Bars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/01/product-review-addco-manufacturing-sway-bars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/01/product-review-addco-manufacturing-sway-bars/#comments Sat, 03 Jan 2009 13:36:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=202892 There’s nothing like matching wits with the sweepers in a car that normally fears a bend in the road. Unless you own the well engineered underpinnings of a Porsche, Corvette, BMW or a handful of less obvious winners sporting a bona fide performance suspension from the factory, that is. For the rest of us, there are after market alternatives that allow loyalists to keep their current rides (and monthly payment) and let the inner Pistonhead shine in all its glory. With this in mind, start with better tires, and then take a look at your sway bars.]]> There’s nothing like matching wits with the sweepers in a car that normally fears a bend in the road. Unless you own the well engineered underpinnings of a Porsche, Corvette, BMW or a handful of less obvious winners sporting a bona fide performance suspension from the factory, that is. For the rest of us, there are after market alternatives that allow loyalists to keep their current rides (and monthly payment) and let the inner Pistonhead shine in all its glory. With this in mind, start with better tires, and then take a look at your sway bars.

Most cars come with a Pistonhead-averse, lawsuit-friendly pair of bars. Even worse, many rear bars are deleted entirely to please the merciless will of corporate beancounters. So Addco Manufacturing, one of the few suspension suppliers with the flexibility and knowledge to create sway bar upgrades for most any ride, feeds the need for flat cornering.

Disclaimer: while some vehicles have sway bar alternatives from their high(er) performance counterparts (a la Ford SVT or BMW M-series), buying used sway bars may not give the desired bang-for-the-buck when you consider metal fatigue, worn bushings and unrealistic pricing due to a limited supply.

Right. So TTAC’s test vehicle for Addco’s bars is my daily driver: a Lincoln Mark VIII LSC with a fully refreshed air suspension. Obviously this Lincoln is not the logical choice, but as a cousin of the Ford Thunderbird, Addco’s engineers worked with the road racing T-bird faithful (who knew?) to create three options for my wannabe GT. So I had a dilemma not unlike a trip to the hot sauce counter at Taco Bell: will it be “Mild”, “Hot” or “Fire”?

Moderation and parts matching is paramount. I chose Addco’s “Hot” offering: a pair of bars measuring a stout 1 ¼” in diameter. This is a serious upgrade from the puny stock bars, both measuring less than one inch. Considering the Lincoln’s overall mission (Boss Hogg worthy cruiser) and the relative softness of its air-filled spring bladders, going to bigger bars minimized the pain of a firmer suspension but maximized the cornering prowess. And if Addco stocks the parts to make a 3800lb pimpmobile turn tricks, odds are they got your whip covered.

Installation times vary by vehicle. I was on the losing end of that promise. For the front bar, I needed a hand and a (hydraulic) lift to get the K-member out of the way. Mercifully, the rear bar was a 20-minute job in my driveway with basic hand tools. If your favorite model-specific forum didn’t already document the swap, Addco provides stellar instructions in the box, new hardware and excellent customer support for when I had a few questions. While Addco normally includes the “red” polyurethane bushings for maximum impact, I asked for the OEM-spec “black” bushings for Lincoln levels of NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) control. Addco gladly capitulated.

The end result? No longer the victim of wallow and massive understeer, the Mark VIII cuts corners like an old school AMG Benz. Now the link-intensive suspension and the “Rich Man’s Mustang” independent rear axle have a voice. And a calling: tenaciously holding its Z-rated gumballs to the pavement. The matched, oversized sway bars made corner carving a breeze with minimal body roll: what took 50 mph now demands speeds of 60 or 70 for the same kick. I betcha this is what Ford’s engineering team had in mind for this platform from day one.

The flip side to flat cornering is the resulting tendency to oversteer. The key is to build rear steer progressively with modest levels of throttle input, not popping out like a creepy mechanical mannequin in a haunted house. Addco’s package did it right: only foolish levels of throttle (or the ill-timed downshift) make the RWD Mark change its course, provided you disengage the traction control. The extra mid-corner speed generated by these sway bars demands more respect from the driver, and little else.

No sway bar discussion is done without mentioning ride quality: the Lincoln is obviously firmer than stock, but acceptable from the first mile. As the bushings lightened up over the course of 500 miles, the ride lost its jiggle and regained composure. Its quite amazing: enjoying the insolated freedom of air suspended bliss one moment, then confidently clipping the apex another. While the Addco-fettled Lincoln cannot beat the laws of physics, it can pull a Warren Sapp and dance with a 3-series.

Though prices vary with application and dimensions, many of Addco’s bars sell for around $160 each, including bushings and hardware. In my case, I had Addco’s bars shipped and (halfway) professionally installed for under $600. Even better, Addco is one company known for offering group purchases to motivated forum junkies with loyal followers. Its an epic win for all.

[Addco Manufacturing provided these parts for this review]

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