Let’s Talk Shocks
- Written by Steve Phillips for HotVWs Magazine -
In this article I would like to talk about shocks. What kind, what do they do, and what brands. So the first thing here is what kind of vw do you have? What do you do with it? What kind of terrain do you live in or play in? Last how old are you? These are the questions I ask if you are trying to purchase shocks from me.
The brands I am most familiar with are Boge, Bilsteins, KYB and Qa1. What a shock does is dampen the up and down motion of the suspension. When and how is the important thing.
Let's start with what type of vw do you have? Bug, bus, type 3, ghia, thing, baja bug, drag car maybe. Why does this matter? Well for one, we will need a different style for one than another type. So the rear of a 1968 and later bus is different in length than let's say the back of a bug. Also in the front there are two types of mounting styles depending on the year and type. There is “eye” on the bottom and “eye” on the top on one, and “eye” on the bottom and “pin” or “stud” on the top. It's pretty easy to narrow this section down as you know what you have.
What are you doing with your vw? Is this a street car that never goes off road? Maybe a street car that you like to take around corners fast? Is this a camper that we like to take off the road and find that special spot off road? Weekend warrior off road car? Full on drag car?
What kind of terrain do you live in? Flat ground, mountianish, off road, Drag strip terrain?
How old are you? Why the hell does that matter? Well, I was young once and I used to be able to handle getting rocked around a little more than I’d like to now.
For stock(ish) bugs - if you love the way a bone stock bug rides, right from the factory, then I would put the boge shocks on it all the way around and plan on replacing them every ten years. These are a good shock but won't last forever.
On a Cal look bug, or a Ghia I would use KYB or the Bilsteins depending on your wallet. I have had great luck with the KYBs and find they are a lot cheaper than the Bilsteins. Both are a gas shock which means if you push them down they come back up by themselves. The key here is they come back slow. The Gas Riders are a softer shock then the Gas Adjust. Because of the name “Gas Adjust” people think they can adjust them. You can’t. they adjust themselves. The more frequent you move the shock up and down the stiffer it gets, kind of cool. This is a nice feature as they tend to keep your rubber on the road. If you live on flat ground and are around my age I would put the stiffer ones (Gas Adjust) in the rear and the softer ones (Gas Riders) in the front. If you are younger then maybe the Gas Adjust all the way around. That is a good option as well if you live where there are lots of curvey mountain roads.
Type Three’s are a little heavier, so again I would use the Gas Adjust in the rear and depending on how stiff you want the front end either the Gas Adjust or the Gas Riders in the front.
For Things, again the Gas Adjust in the back, but if you take it off road at all then I would do the same in the front. If this stays on the street then do the Gas Riders in the front.
On a bus, I would want the Gas Adjust in the back. This is a tank and we will need all the help we can get. On the front I will run the Gas Riders if it stays on the street and is flat ground. If it's mountains and curvy roads or an area that has lots of wind, I would stay with the Gas Adjust all the way around.
If it’s for a weekend warrior baja bug, I would do the Gas Adjust in the front and the back. The Gas Riders will just bottom out on rough roads.
On a mild drag car, my favorite car, what we want is a soft oil shock in the front. Like a stock Boge oil shock. Then in the back I like to run the QA1 adjustable shock. Why? Well in the front we need a damper, but we want the front end to lift pretty fast. On the rear we want the shock to go down fast and rebound slow, which is the opposite of what we want on a street car. Car launches and front end lifts and rear end squats. Now all the weight is on the rear tires. That’s called maximum traction. We want that weight to stay there for a bit so we want the rebound to be stiffer so it comes back up slowly.
Hopefully this helps you when you’re picking out your next shocks. There are lots of shocks out there and some better than what I have listed and a lot that are way worse. These are just pretty common shocks and scenarios that I see regularly. I like the boge, but am not thrilled about replacing them every ten or so years. KYB and Bilsteins have a lifetime warranty and I still have some shocks on some of my cars that are over 25 years old and are still good. I’m not sure on the QA1 warranty, but let’s face it, how many miles are you going to put on a drag car?
As I was writing this a friend said what about the coil over shock? Why didn’t you mention those? Well here is my opinion. I do like coil over shocks if, and only if, your suspicion is set up for them. What do I mean by that? Well on a lot of off-road cars they take out the torrison bars and put the suspension on a spring that is over the shock. The shock itself is usually an adjustable shock or at least a good shock inside the spring. We see the same thing on some high end drag cars. Not a bad way to go, but not cheap. Here is what I don’t like. There are some cheap coil over shocks out there that you just put on your stock suspension. The oil shock in them is not high quality. What happens to a spring when you compress it and let go? The energy in the spring has a huge rebound. Think of it like a pogo stick. What makes the stick leave the ground? The energy in the spring. The harder you compress the spring the more energy the other direction you get. The shock in the expensive coil overs keeps that rebound down. The cheap ones don’t. That's why they're cheap. A lot of people put them on to raise their suspension. Yeah that does work but I would rather have a good shock and adjust the suspension to get my ride height where I want it, and then put good shocks on it. Just my opinion.
If there is a topic you’d like me to write on, email us at Sales@WolfgangInt.com