Piston Slap: Being On The Level With One's Self

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

TTAC commenter jems86 writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I need your help again. I live in Colombia and, as you already know, I am the owner of a 2000 Subaru Forester (the 2.0 EDM model). This particular model has rear self leveling struts and recently they went bust. My dealership is asking 4 million pesos (about 2235 USD) for the replacements. I really think it’s a little bit steep so I’ve been searching online but haven’t been able to find the OEM parts. I read on a forum (http://www.subaruforester.org/) that you can put the non-self leveling struts. Is this a good idea? How much would the driving characteristics of my car change? If I go this way, what other components of the suspension should I replace? Thanks in advance for your help.

Sajeev Answers:

Oh yes! This is the age-old query of removing a factory self-leveling system for something more mundane, quite affordable and probably adequate for anyone’s needs. In theory, these systems are entirely interchangeable with a conventional damper, as the self-leveling feature only comes into play when the rear of the vehicle is loaded down. In practice, there might be a different spring to go with the unique strut.

That said, don’t always trust what you read on the Internet. Look up the part numbers to make sure there aren’t two different springs for the Forester. Once that’s cleared up, go ahead and eliminate the self-leveling feature: while a great idea when new, it loses a lot of luster once the miles rack up, the complicated bits wear out and the vehicle depreciates to the point where spending thousands on a repair simply makes no sense.


And this isn’t a unique situation: people have eliminated air suspension systems for decades on depreciated iron. Switch using OEM Subaru parts and you will be just fine. Or maybe the correct Subaru spring with a new set of four aftermarket dampers from a sportier vendor like Bilstein, Koni, etc. Unless your roads are pretty rough, then stick with the stock shocks for minimum abuse over potholes.

And your wallet will appreciate it, with little to no detriment to the Forester’s performance. Perhaps the ride will gain a little harshness, but I have my doubts: fully-air suspended cars are more susceptible to this. I would have no concerns whatsoever with this swap.

Unless you are a chronic “overloader” of rear storage compartments…then you might want to buy the self-leveling bits online and find a local mechanic to install them for you.

So now you know, good luck with your decision.

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

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Athos Nobile Athos Nobile on Nov 09, 2011

    Buen día Ex-Vecino I hope this might be helpful to you. From my experience (Venezuela), having part numbers rarely works in Latin America. Most spare parts vendors work with the sample or "muestra". In your case, I'd go to the US KYB or Monroe site and download their catalog. I remember the KYB book to have the shock models required to perform the conversion on many cars. You will possibly need to change the mount or "tapa". Then a bit of cross referencing and a helpful mechanic will get it done. Also, the online US sites are usually very good when looking for parts. Using the US Google site (it won't work from your .co site), search for Subaru spare parts. It will throw heaps of them, click on some of them until you find something that says OEM catalog/spare parts or something similar. Then have a look at what you need. It wouldn't surprise me if you find a 40% overprice in the prices you got quoted. You can find very good prices in this site (for non OEM parts) rockauto.com To be able to fully exploit the US option, you need a mail forward, usually in Miami. I'm pretty much sure you won't have to deal with currency control bullshit, so you may be able to buy the parts in the US if wanted. Being me, I wouldn't even bothered to take the car for the dealer and would have looked at the US for the parts needed. Buena suerte y saludos.

  • David42 David42 on Nov 10, 2011

    Fun fact: Subaru DID sell a Legacy with air-suspension (not the same as this rear self-level system, I know) in the US. It was only on the 1st-gen cars. I think it had a special edition name, Mi6 or Alpine or some such.

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