Ken Fox

New member
I'm looking into new shocks for my '81 westy. Currently it has Gabriel gas shocks which were on the van when I bought it. I'm considering switching to either KYB or Bilstein's. The Bus Depot catalog indiucates that KYB's are much stiffer than the Bilsteins, and my experience with KYB's vs. bilsteins on my car would suggest the same. I would appreciate any input regarding the ride of either brand. Also, I noticed that Bus Depot has Boge replacement springs with a slightly higher rate than my OEM springs. Any experience with these? Thanks!

[ 07-01-2001: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]

Capt. Mike

VW used Bilstein as an OE supplier, also Boge. Both shocks were identical. It's been my experience the factory shocks were an excellent compromise in ride & handling. Cornering anti-roll is taken care of by the sway bars so stiffening up the suspension doesn't add much to the handling and may make it even worse in cross-winds.

The factory OE shocks typically got excellent mileage. I'm just getting ready to change mine out at 130K and that only because I'll have the suspension out for new bushings -- the shocks aren't gone yet. I'll be replacing with OEM Boges.

Don't forget the Westy is a pretty heavy duty bus already to carry its one-ton capacity. Thus factory OE is already heavy duty. Also, it's a pretty short wheelbase, so extra stiffness quickly transfers into rougher ride and more problems with washboard or dipping roads. Pitch can become heavy and unsafe. The stiffer suspension adds extra shock load to the tires, which are already near maximum capacity.

I've heard both good & bad about KYB so haven't tried any and can't vouch for them like I can the Boge & Bilsteins (and Fitchel & Sachs). Hey, you're not going to out Grand-Prix a Porsche so just enjoy the comfort of OE.

VW used three different spring rates during production; which set have you got & which is Bus Depot selling? They are color coded.

[ 01-29-2002: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]


New member
Junior member, Ken Fox emailed me directly and ask for my opinion on KYB shocks
I purchased and installed. Perhaps more people are interested....

Yes, I did install the KYB's. I have put on about 500 miles since. However, I am really not the person to ask an opinion since I do not have any real comparison. The the original shocks had about 38,500 miles and
provided little in the way of damping. I did not get the pogo stick over bumps feel so they had a little life left I guess. Weight transfer, when going over imperfections in the road, was bad. It would dive bad under any braking as well. The ride was not smooth and I remember my butt feeling it on the 800 mile journey home after I bought it.

The KYB shocks improved everything. Less dive, and much smoother ride (but I am comparing new shocks to old bad shocks). I have since put on 205/70/14 (original 185/R14) tires and I am pleased with the handling. I drove 100 miles too fast in poor conditions (dark, rain, mountains, fog), to camp over labor day. The westy felt very stable and sure-footed.

Verdict: The KYB shocks feel pretty good. I do not know how long they will last however.
I purchased them because they were much less expensive then Bilstiens. After purchasing
the van (top dollar) and paying for other need items (muffler, tires, faucet, etc.) I just wanted to get it working for the rest of the summer/fall season. I figured for $110.00 for all four I will be happy if they last a couple of seasons and next time get the Bilstiens.

I hope this helps.


New member
Having just gone through a shock and wheel/tire upgrade, thought I would add my 2 cents to this subject. The PO of my van had put KYB's on in the last year or so. He also had 185/75 *passenger* tires (max rating 1290lbs) on the 14" steel wheels. After getting severely pushed around by crosswinds and passing trucks I set out to remedy the situation. First, I put the Bilsteins on. Very happy with the results, no longer feels like I am riding on marshmallows. Improvements seen in reduced body roll, faster recovery from roll, and crisper handling. Then came the 15" alloys with 225/70 tires rated at 1753 lbs. While the stiffer sidewalls and shocks do transmit bumps in the road more directly to the van, overall control and ride quality has been greatly improved. It is much more resistant to cross winds, and turns are no longer filled with fear of flipping onto my side. This may not be the solution for everybody, but it is working out great for me.
I too am curious about the Boge(lowereing by 1.75 inches) Spring kit offered by our friends at the Bus Depot. Now that I live in the land where rust never sleeps I'd love to get my 84/1.9 Westie indoors. (The 1939 Garage won't even come close and all the parking garages are barely 7'.) I did not notice their (BD) rating the stiffness of the springs.

Thanks, Steve

Moderator note: removed section on rear suspension; it has it's own forum.

[ 08-01-2001: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]


New member
I am a novice and perhaps should not be listened to but with respect to KYB shocks it should be mentioned that there are two different models available for buses.

the GR2 : the less heavy duty smoother ride (19 bucks)

and the KG : the uber shock but maybe too hard (32 bucks)

Anyway, I hear a lot of people go back and forth about how they are too hard or just right but no one ever mentions the model they have. I like my GR2s but haven't really put them through their paces yet.
I'd be curious about other experiences. /infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif
I’m on the verge of swapping out the shocks on my 84/1.9 . The KYB’s @ 15 k seem to be very stiff/ which is giving me a harsher ride that I would prefer. Not sure which model # as there is no indication on the old sales receipt. I ‘m running the Costsco LT195/70r 14 tires which replaced the Sumitomo 186/75 r 14 and have been happy with their performance. Alas, I purchased the shocks long before I knew about this excellent site. In looking at the prices at one of the Internet retailers I see a huge difference in price between the Bilstein and the Boge units. Do any of you know what the heck is the difference to justify the additional $30 per unit?
Thanks, Steve

Kirk Kirchner

New member
Hey guys, just for the record I have replaced the ahocks on my '77 westy this past week and spent some time before hand gathering the info on which ones to get. Almost all people I spoke to said that the best set up for my van would be the KYB GR-2 for the front and the KYB Gas-a-Just for the rear. After having these installed I can tell you I love the set up so far. The fronts aren't too stiff and the backs are stiff enough. Handling has been greatly inproved and I no longer get blown all over the road in a stiff Santa Ana Wind. Hope this helps someone. Kirk Kirchner


New member
I am in need of some new shocks on my '86 Weekender and went to the local chain tire store. they said "sure we can fix you right up with this set of Monroes". I read about Boge, KYB's and Blisteins being the shocks of choice. What is the thought on Monroe. I have not found a shop or parts store that sells the "prefered" brands locally. I have not made a choice yet.

Capt. Mike

Monroe might make a set that fits; Boge & Bilstien make sets that were designed for the VW, its unusual weight & load distribution. I.e. The real thing vs. a generic substitute.

With the plethoria of VW specialty mail-order houses, local parts stores "not stocking" is more a refection on their service than a recommendation. You can get a set of OEM shocks UPS'ed to your door literally overnight, probably at significant savings over the copy. See some of the vendors recommended (or warned against) in the PARTS forum.


New member
Had sagging rear springs on my van, driving in the crosswinds was a real challenge, sometimes a bit scary. Decided to change the springs, did a little research wanted close to stock. Contacted volks cafe and they had an imported south african replacement springs, had to change all 4 corners. They came in a box marked h&r, guess they are the manufacturer. The result was a ride that felt smooth and the stiffness kicks in when you load it. Handles much better on straight aways and turns. The shocks where original with 150,000 miles on them. So since I am keeping the van, later decided to change the shocks, wanted the best so went the 300 dollars for bilsteins. They are pressurized, easy installation. 2hours later I was driving around with a vehicle that handles even better. Great investment, would definetly rreccomend. The spring were 400.



New member
Similar to what has been posted above, I switched from worn out OE shocks (156 K) to KYB Gas-a-just. So I'm comparing worn-out OE to new KYB. That said, I find that the ride is certainly stiffer, but not obnoxiously so. Handling is dramatically better. Most especially, the van is much more stable in a crosswind, or when being overtaken by a semi on the freeway (I drive under 65 mph and they ALL pass me). I will be happy to get half the mileage that the OE shocks gave.


New member
KYB shocks
thought I would add my experience. I put new heavy duty KYB shocks on my 85 vanagon last year (gas on the back). I have driven over 20000 miles in the last year over some tough conditions (mexico and Guatemala) dirt roads, etc. Though the KYB's initially seemed fine - they failed. One of the front shocks and one of the back shocks completely failed - this in less than a year. I have now switched to Bilstein and am much happier with the ride - less sway - don't get knocked into the next lane by heavy winds. I also switched from Jupiter 185/14 tires to Yokohoma 195 LT tires (got them from off the web from tire rack; good experience; good price and fast delivery.)

I would not recommend buying KYB shocks. I would also recommnend the 195 over the 185 tires. Have to wait to see how the Bilsteins hold up but have been told by a number of people that they would never buy KYB's.
hope this helps.


New member
Hi all has anyone had any experience with the cofap shocks from Brazil? I am looking for new shocks for my 85 Westy and my local Bowwow parts store here in Victoria B.C. is selling these shocks VolksCafe is also selling them.Thanks Vic.

Steve in CA

New member
what do you guys think about replacing the shocks as a DIY? The rear are easy, but I'm not sure about the front. I can rent the spring compressor, but what about any other specialized tools?

Capt. Mike

What year & model (Guideline #3). Type II's are about as easy front as rear.

There is a good description of a Vanagon in the 3 Oct '02 post under "Vanagon front suspension" topic. It is primarily for Syncros, but should give you food for though on bushing replacements while you're at it. On a 2WD, shocks alone is not difficult. See the comments about spring compressors there and be sure you get a set that clamps into place. The only other 'special' tool is that you must have a combination of box wrench or crowfoot to turn the top nut while holding the shock plunger from turning with an allen key. Removing the front seats makes this easier -- there is an access hole in the panel.


New member
Old KYB in rear- I put new Bilsteins on front in 2005. Now 70,000 miles later, van still stable. No bouncing, no wheel chatter. Good. But I'm having tire edge wear and pulling to side on level road. Took it in to local shop (I know them) they did alighment check said okay... BUT it still pulled... took to Schwab- they said the same- BUT that the Bilsteins were not Bilsteins, and were bad. HUH!? so- my input/question- how do ya know for sure your shocks are bad?


New member
SORRY CptMike- 1990 Westy. Haakeelipitta CS on rear, Yokahama on front. Load range D...
and I have new control arm bushings (2006)
that tells the rest for the above post.

Capt. Mike

The rough field test is to bounce the vehicle up and down at the appropriate corner and see if, when you stop, it settles in 2 cycles. I.e. when you've got it bouncing hard and let go at the bottom of a cycle, it should go back up over center and then return to center. If it goes any more, the shock is probably gone.

However the definitive test it to remove the shock and compare it's resistance during piston motion to a new one. A sure 'done-for' sign is if one starts to push from one extreme and it moves a small amount before taking up resistance. This means there is air in the hydraulic and the piston must move first before encountering the hydraulic damping. New will be very stiff; worn will be moving smoothly with resistance but not as hard. Westies come with heavy-duty shock appropriate for their GVWR. They will not just push & pull by hand. You'll have to really put some beef into it.

Your wear symptoms are not indicative of shock wear. Shock wear shows on tires as cupping, not bias or pull. Edge wear is camber or toe. Be sure and read your Bentley secton 44 and understand all the nuances of adjusting. Many mechanics don't bother and rely on whatever is in their machine instead of VW specs and procedures


New member
Bilstein Disappointment.

Last year, I had installed in my 91 westy new springs with Boge shocks.....firm, solid ride...literally as if it just came off the showroom floor. Then about a month ago, purchased a pristine, low miles 85 westy, but with bad shocks. I thought this the perfect time to FINALLY find out what everyone was bragging about with the Bilsteins. I took the Boges out of the 91, and into the 85. I had previously ordered and received the Bilstein B46-0820/B46-0830(from guys to deal with) and just this morning picked up the van. I was first expecting a much harsher, stiffer ride compared to the Boge.....I was surprised how soft they were.....actually rather mushy. I got out on the road, and turned the steering aggressively back and forth, back and forth......WOW....did I notice a "barrel roll" out of the entire vehicle. It was actually scary. I thought "wait a minute, how can this possibly be? Almost every single seller of shocks, including GoWesty, BusDepot, Van-Cafe, etc....ALL tout how perfect the Bilstein is for the Westy. Though my tires are a softer winter compound, that does not make up for why the Boges were much "flatter" in the corners, firmer.....whereas these Bilsteins make the van feel like a boat slipping loosely in water. Anyone else with a similar response????