The Truth About Cars » shocks The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 10:00:52 +0000 en-US hourly 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 (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 » shocks Piston Slap: Spicy…or Spicier? Mon, 12 May 2014 11:11:46 +0000

John writes:

Wasup, Sajeev!

I have an 06 R/T Charger and I am contemplating getting a set of Eibach springs for it. What other costs might be associated aside from installation? What other products would I need to purchase, if any?

Thanks for any input,

Sajeev answers:

Well son, there was once a time when lowering springs ruined the suspension settings of a half-assed platform: hat tip to my dear Fox Body Ford. Hopefully your German-bred Chrysler product has none of those problems.

Eibach makes two kits for your car: spicy and spicier. That’s because the lower you go, the more heat you gotta handle.

Lowering (or lifting, for that matter) springs alter any vehicle’s suspension geometry.  A wheel alignment is mandatory, and the LX forums seem to agree.  Mild lowering kits (1.5″-ish max) are usually fine with stock dampers, even if a firmer shock compliments a lower and (usually) firmer spring.  More aggressive setups usually need a matched set of dampers to go with, unless you care not about ride degradation.

Sometimes a full suspension kit includes an anti-roll bar upgrade too, which could help the feel and scrub understeer but the reduced left-to-right suspension flexibility isn’t necessarily that fantastic. More jolts don’t translate into faster lap times: do extensive research before you buy.

There’s also the matter of stock wheels: even the R/T might look a little silly with a lower body and boring-ass stock wheels. A bigger rim with a shorter sidewall is needed to “complete the look.” A different offset rim (see hyperlinked thread above) can also help with the inevitable: the meeting of expensive rubber with metal body parts. And brings me to the big problem with aftermarket lowering bits: driving style!

The more you have, the more likely you’ll avoid the punishment of potholes, pavement joints and puddles.  If you live in a place with bad roads, or flooding, you might want to reconsider.  Because nothing’s worse than a sore back, a tired ass and a hydro-locked motor if you treat a lowered car like a normal one.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

See the slippery slope here? What exactly do you want?  Looking lower requires more parts than just springs to complete the look.  That’s the stance or hellaflush look, and it ain’t cheap. Going faster for the road and track? Going full aftermarket may be overkill: I’d try some factory funded engineering perfection via SRT-springs, famously high quality dampers (like Koni, Bilstein) and stickier tires on stock wheels. That won’t make you look any cooler, but you certainly will be.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.


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Piston Slap: You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’? Mon, 07 Oct 2013 12:00:20 +0000

TTAC commentator mnm4ever writes:


I have 2 slightly older cars in my stable and both are having similar issues. We have a 2001 MR2 Spyder with 72k miles, and a 2002 Honda CRV with 230k miles. The CRV recently got new shocks and springs, new lower front control arms and front compliance bushings, and new front ball joints. While it now rides a little bit better, it still crashes over bumps and just feels like an old worn suspension even with all the new components.

When shifting between drive and reverse, there is a “clunk” in the front end somewhere, this clunk was there before all the parts were replaced, and was supposedly caused by the worn out compliance bushings, which is why I replaced all those parts as well. Unfortunately it didn’t fix the noise. My mechanic has been over the car a couple of times and doesn’t know where the noises are coming from, he says it’s just old. He is an otherwise excellent mechanic, so I am surprised at his lack of ideas, but he knows I am probably too cheap to pay him to really tear it apart anyway so that could affect his answers.

The MR2 has significantly less mileage and is in excellent shape overall. But the suspension has the same worn out feeling, it doesn’t feel “tight” anymore. Driving fast over bumpy pavement, or over speed bumps it feels and sounds pretty much the same as the CRV, almost like something in the suspension is loose or worn out. Cowl shake on an old convertible amplifies the issue. The MR2 also exhibits an odd “looseness” when I turn the wheel at low speed tight turns, like pulling in or out of a driveway or parking space, it feels like the power steering over-boosts the last little bit of steering angle, but its unnerving when you are rolling forward or backward and the car suddenly turns in more than you expected. During normal driving the steering feels properly assisted and tight, so that could just be a trait of that car. The same mechanic says the MR2 is fine and I am just spoiled by the newer GTI. We want to keep this car and I want to do a proper overhaul on the suspension, I just put brand new tires on it, and I have a shelf full of chassis bracing components and new struts ready to install, but I do not want to do the labor twice. So I am trying to figure out the right way to fix it and the right components to change so I take care of all of the weak spots at once.

My guess is that new bushings may help the problem on both cars. Forums are not as helpful as you would think… I have read pages and pages of information but the CRV drivers do not spend a lot of time working on their own suspension and the MR2 drivers are way more concerned with performance mods rather than restoring the original ride quality. So my question is: Is there any way to restore the ride quality on older cars back to something close to new car feel? Or is the CRV just too old, and the MR2 just too much of a convertible to make it as good as new?

Thanks for any advice!

Sajeev answers:

Replacing so many parts, pouring such amounts of money into a heavily depreciated, high mileage vehicle (CRV more than the MR2) is a pretty bad idea.  Stop and ponder: why do I care to make an old machine run exactly like new?  Is it really worth it?

If yes, you must be the nutty automotive restoration type.  That is, you see money and cars differently than most: as what’s poured into a 230,000 mile CRV will never, EVER come back.

Personal aside: back in ’99, I had a suspension overhaul performed in my 1988 Mercury Cougar XR-7 with 130k and 10+ years of abuse from the brutal roads of Houston’s Third Ward.  New (non-saggy) springs, shocks, bushings, end links, ball joints, etc. The only parts remaining untouched were the spindles, sway bars and the control arms’ metal skeletons. I took one fast sweeper and was sold on the $2000 spent: the Cougar felt “new” on any road, in any dynamic test.

Years later, adding 75 lbs of chassis stiffeners, Koni shocks and a ’98 Cobra rear sway bar turned a respectable machine into something pretty bad ass on the street. Which proves a point:

I justify the cost to an extinct animal (get it? Fox Cougar?) with some unique 1980s Muscle Car curb appeal, but your need for a perfect old Honda CUV is flawed.  Perhaps you need to replace every last bushing, but you’ve spent enough: make sure the tires have plenty of non-dry rotted tread on them and let it be. If it still drives you nuts, time to upgrade to a CUV with far less mileage and sell this one to someone who doesn’t really care.

The MR2 Spyder is like my Cougar: a fun toy that’s damn near impossible to replicate.  But don’t be afraid to attack the problem in stages: add the chassis bracing, install the new struts and consider putting a new (not reman) steering rack to kill any possible steering slop. Perhaps the ball joints are just a touch too loose and the bushings are past it (i.e. from abuse on bad roads), but I think you’ll be thrilled with the perfection gained from extra braces and new shocks.

Sure, you can get a Miata and I can get a new Mustang GT..but screw that. That’s loser talk!  We are in it to win it…son! 

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: The “Fat” Panther, The Self Aware Man Fri, 28 Oct 2011 13:02:46 +0000  

George writes:

Sajeev, I enjoy TTAC and your writing. Okay, I succumbed to the blandishments of you Panther lovers (and to fond memories of my father driving his Fords and Lincolns), and bought a 1996 Lincoln Town Car Cartier.  The car has about 143,000 miles on it, all in North Carolina.  The previous (2nd) owner was reportedly a little old lady, and because of the condition of the driver’s seat she could not have weighed much more than 90 or 95 pounds. It is well taken care of and straight.

The TC has a clean Carfax, and I purchased it for just under $3k. It appears to have every single option offered that year (including the phone) except a sunroof, and I’m not sure a sunroof was offered on the Cartier. (It was, so sorry! – SM)

My mechanic says it appears to have been well taken care of, and since I plan on keeping it for 5 to 7 years I am happy to put another $5k to $7k in the car, which means for under $10k I get to drive a true luxury car that gets almost 26 mpg on the highway.

After about $4.5k it has a bunch of new stuff including driver’s door hinges, all fluids and filters changed, suspension, window lifts,
headlamps, plugs and wires, Michelins, a real spare tire, a full (2-day) detail including steam cleaning the engine top and bottom, and adding iPod and aux-in ports in lieu of the 10-disk CD changer (which I’m leaving in the car).  One of my goals is to leave the car as stock as possible, while making it as safe and as reliable as possible.

I drive 10,000 to 14,000 miles per year, which may include a round trip to the Rockies every year or two. The car gets almost 17 mpg in town (16.8), and 25.5 mpg on the highway at 65 to 70 – this is a true slab cruiser and it seems to love cruising for hours.

My questions are:
- What kind of mods and specific parts/systems should be upgraded to
achieve my goal of making the car as safe and as reliable as possible?
- Should I keep the air suspension or go coils
- What systems do I need to be especially vigilant about?
- What kind of tire pressure is optimal so that instead of feeling
like I’m driving a very warm marshmallow it feels like a regular

This is a true luxo barge and it puts a smile on my face when I look at it and when I drive it.  It is also putting smiles on many other faces – I can’t stop myself waving and smiling at other drivers and pedestrians….

(I wrenched when younger but no more – my interests now are pretty much confined to running my business and making life miserable for my competitors, all of which I enjoy immensely. I tell my family and friends I have retired as I do what I want every day and hope I can keep doing it until I die.)

Sajeev answers:

And I also hope you can do just that till the end of your days, my good man.  I feel the same way about this Piston Slap gig, even if I don’t (technically) own a Panther of my own.  But it sounds like you have the perfect ride for your ideal life.  You lucky duck!

Question 1: new shocks are first on my list, preferably some upgraded units like Bilsteins.  Upgrading the swaybars is optional, but it might seriously defeat the purpose of owning a Cartier Town Car. Next up is a large, aftermarket transmission cooler.  From there, I’d get some 16” Cartier (1997-2002) chrome wheels to do the big brake swap from the later model. Depending on the condition of the transmission, doing a J-Mod will make the ride a lot more entertaining with less wear and tear. Lastly, getting an SCT reflash on the computer will speed up transmission shift logic and net you anywhere from 10-25 more ponies too. Oh, and if the plastic intake hasn’t been changed to the aluminum-plastic redesign, DO IT NOW!

Question 2: Air Suspension rocks, and Lincoln’s setup is disturbingly cheap and durable.  Ever priced a replacement system for a Lexus LS or anything European? The Lincoln’s bags (Ford parts, not the cheap remans) only last 10-12 years.  So replace the bags every 10 years and things will be just peachy. You can replace the three wear points (bags, air compressor) for probably $600 or so, and it’s quite easy to do in your own driveway, if you were so inclined.

Question 3: Vigilant? Are you serious? This is a frickin’ Panther chassis! The only things to be vigilant with a “Fat” Panther like your Cartier is to make sure your friends/family don’t cut-scuff-mar the soft touch materials: because these truly are land yachts that go toe-to-toe with other luxury cars from that era.

Question 4: Sounds like you need rebuild the suspension.  New shocks like I said before, maybe replaced the fatigued coil springs too.  This is a 15-year-old car with well over 100,000 miles, after all.  If you want a Panther that doesn’t fit the stereotypes of old American Iron, do this and forget about air pressure in your tires.

Send your queries to . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

cartier-les-must 96LTCC_1 96LTCC_2 96LTCC_3 96LTCC_4 96LTCC_5

]]> 17 Piston Slap: It Takes Two, Baby Mon, 28 Dec 2009 17:10:55 +0000 Without a paddle? (

Shawn asks:

I have a 2006 Mazda5 GT which has blown it’s second rear shock in less than 87,000 km. My question is whether I should just replace it with yet another Mazda part, or whether I should go aftermarket and replace both rear ones at the same time. My concern with this option is whether or not the ride quality will be maintained. I do not want to end up with a harsh ride with an aftermarket part. Does anyone have any suggestions? What is a good brand for shocks? Does anyone have any experience with the Mazda5 or have a suggestion for shocks? I am also tempted to just rid of the car altogether :( This would be the fifth repair related to the suspension in three years of ownership.

Sajeev replies:

Everyone justifies the need for a different vehicle, but don’t do it because of this problem. Repeat after me:  shocks and struts are normal wear items…even at this age and mileage.

And replacing them one-by-one is a terrible, terrible idea.  If one fails, odds are it’s buddy on the other side of the axle is just as worn out. (Unless you drive on roads with potholes on only one side of your lane, of course.) More than likely, you are experiencing something normal in an aging car.

I’d recommend getting a new pair (two, please!) of rear shocks from the same manufacturer this time ‘round.  There are plenty of good shock brands, and most offer a comfort shock for your needs.  Not that I’d recommend an expensive pair of KONIs, but the Bilsteins mentioned in a previous Piston Slap are right up your alley.  The Monroe Sensa-Tracs are probably softer and easier on the wallet, and might make you just has happy for years to come.  If you like the feel of the Mazda shocks when they were new and don’t mind the extra cost, go for them. There’s no wrong answer.

Provided you change your shocks in pairs, that is. So just do it.

(Send your queries to

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Product Review: Monroe Shock Absorbers (Sensa-Trac and Max-Air) Fri, 27 Nov 2009 16:31:24 +0000 (

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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