Suspension refresh review

Hwycruiser

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 27, 2014
Location
DFW, Texas
TDI
2002 Black Golf GLS
I have seen a lot of posts asking for opinions before struts/shocks etc are replaced but most times never hear an update. So I thought I would share my story. Last year around Nov/Dec (about 12k miles ago) at considerable expense I did a complete refresh of my 02 Golf suspension. Replaced struts/shocks with Bilstein Touring (reg), all rubber bushings with stock, tie rods, ball joints, control arms, steering knuckles plus replaced front and rear wheel bearings. Also got a new set of BF Goodrich T/A tires. So I basically now have a new car suspension. Being an older guy now, I just wanted a comfortable daily driver. I like the car so thought it was worth the investment. My thoughts about it now is the car handles well and the old squeaks, groans, thunks of an old suspension are now gone, which is good. But I am not happy with the ride quality, it does okay on smooth pavement (don’t all) and is controlled with big bumps. The ride on rough asphalt, poor country roads and rough Interstate concrete beats me up. I’m not expecting an old Buick ride, a firm European ride is okay, but I don’t want to feel every road imperfection. Our 17 Passat is sooo much more comfortable on rough pavement. Maybe the Golf is just too lightweight with a short wheelbase for a comfortable ride? I had read that the Bilsteins could be harsh but they were low cost. My question is did I make a mistake getting the Bilstein Touring or would the Kona Special Actives I was considering been a better choice for a smoother ride? Is a smooth ride over rough roads even possible with an MK4 Golf?
 
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STDOUBT

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2007
Location
Portland, effing Oregon
TDI
dos jettas
You should get some good responses after this one. All I've had experience with is OEM Sachs (on my '03), and the Bilstein TC's ( 1 year old ) on my wife's '01. My Sachs (original at 125k mi.) are much nicer IMO than the new Billys. Although her car suffers from shorter sidewall tires than stock, I think her ride sucks! When I refresh it's going to be new Sachs no question (I'm over 50 lol).
 

red16vdub

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2013
Location
(617) City of CHAMPIONS
TDI
03 JSW 5spd
I have seen a lot of posts asking for opinions before struts/shocks etc are replaced but most times never hear an update. So I thought I would share my story. Last year around Nov/Dec (about 12k miles ago) at considerable expense I did a complete refresh of my 02 Golf suspension. Replaced struts/shocks with Bilstein Touring (reg), all rubber bushings with stock, tie rods, ball joints, control arms, steering knuckles plus replaced front and rear wheel bearings. Also got a new set of BF Goodrich T/A tires. So I basically now have a new car suspension. Being an older guy now, I just wanted a comfortable daily driver. I like the car so thought it was worth the investment. My thoughts about it now is the car handles well and the old squeaks, groans, thunks of an old suspension are now gone, which is good. But I am not happy with the ride quality, it does okay on smooth pavement (don’t all) and is controlled with big bumps. The ride on rough asphalt, poor country roads and rough Interstate concrete beats me up. I’m not expecting an old Buick ride, a firm European ride is okay, but I don’t want to feel every road imperfection. Our 17 Passat is sooo much more comfortable on rough pavement. Maybe the Golf is just too lightweight with a short wheelbase for a comfortable ride? I had read that the Bilsteins could be harsh but they were low cost. My question is did I make a mistake getting the Bilstein Touring or would the Kona Special Actives I was considering been a better choice for a smoother ride? Is a smooth ride over rough roads even possible with an MK4 Golf?


Yes, a smoother ride is very possible.
Start by checking tires and tire pressure


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Rrusse11

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2014
Location
PA Deutsch Country
TDI
2002 Golf, 5spd; 05 Jeep CRD
I'm a fan of the Koni Special Active Reds. I suspect though that you'd find
my ride a bit harsh on rough roads, although at speed they do smooth out.
 

Hwycruiser

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 27, 2014
Location
DFW, Texas
TDI
2002 Black Golf GLS
Tires are in good shape, stock size and inflated to VW spec. If Special Actives are harsh on rough pavement then I guess I should scratch them. I wasn’t aware that Sachs were that much softer riding than TCs.
 

OlyTDI

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2007
Location
Olympia, WA
TDI
'04 Golf
Your tire pressure is the biggest variable with regard to ride. Profile of tire is also important. After that, it's springs and struts/shocks.


I did a refresh a couple of years ago and put on the Koni FSDs. I run 205 55 16 tires and it's quite a smooth (and very quiet) ride in a '04 Golf.
 

IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
TDI
'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
I've never liked Bilstein TCs in MKIV cars, although many others do. I feel they're too harsh on small bumps. I've had more suspension setups than I can count on my Wagon, and Koni Reds are my favorite. However, the Wagon is heavier than the Golf. My '99.5 Golf had Koni Yellows on it when I bought it, and after playing with tire pressures I decided they were too firm. I've had customers complain about too firm a ride with Reds on a Golf, so I went with OE Sachs dampers. It rides as well as the Wagon on Konis, now. And handling is fine, in my opinion. Perhaps that's your best option. Reasonably priced, too.
 

Hwycruiser

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 27, 2014
Location
DFW, Texas
TDI
2002 Black Golf GLS
Thanks for the input. It appears that I should have gone with the Sachs. I watched all the videos about the new Koni Special Actives and was tempted but they were showing them on a new Mustang. As much as we hold on to the MK 4 as being a great car I think when it comes to the ride the new platforms can provide a better ride. New cars are definitely stiffer which eliminates a lot of the slop which translates into a rough ride.
 

IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
TDI
'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
VW suspensions are pretty primitive. I've had FSDs (predecessor to Special Actives) on my Wagon and liked them a lot. I just like the Reds better. And I put FSDs on my MKVI Golf shortly after purchase and they were way to stiff. I think Koni, like many aftermarket makers, has to pick a middle ground for valving dampers. So Special Actives have to work on a Golf as well as a Sportwagen, which is some 300 lbs. heavier. It's not surprise the Golf rides firmer.

Koni ran a demo last year where they had three BMW 328is, one with stock shocks, one with Koni Special Actives, one with Koni Yellows. They brought them to IDParts and I got to drive them back to back to back. The Special Actives were amazing on that car: they tuned out all the harshness that comes with run flat tires. I plan to put them on my 335d at some point.

When I bought the Sachs for my Golf I did a lot of research to find the exact part number that came on that car. However, it was of limited benefit as Sachs has also reduced the range of available dampers for MKIV cars. But the ones I got worked out well.

I'm fixing up my son's Jetta (his former Jetta, actually, now he has a Passat) and have been on the fence about what dampers to put in it. I'll probably go with the Sachs because I'm not certain I'll be keeping the car and don't want to put too much money in it. But if I do keep it I suspect I'll be happy with the result.
 

Hwycruiser

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 27, 2014
Location
DFW, Texas
TDI
2002 Black Golf GLS
IMHO I am becoming more convinced what I have always experienced with small cars. I enjoy driving them for their mileage, handling and maneuverability but their downside is that its almost impossible to get a comfortable ride. A decent ride on smooth pavement is possible but road imperfections pitch them around. I have experienced this with small Hondas and Fords in addition to the Golf.
 
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Rrusse11

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2014
Location
PA Deutsch Country
TDI
2002 Golf, 5spd; 05 Jeep CRD
Wheelbase and weight IMO have a lot to do "ride". I'm happy with my
oil dampened Red Special Actives. No experience with gas shocks on my Golf.

I've also made an effort to keep my wheels as light as possible, which helps with response time.
If I take railroad tracks quick, it's smoother than 10mph slower.

No free lunch with the light nimble car, but I much prefer that to the
"improved" compliance of the more modern suspensions.

Primitive the MkIV may be, but there's a lot less between you and the road, and I like that. Others will differ.

Your mileage WILL vary,,,,,,,,,,,,
 

IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
TDI
'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
Light wheels really do help. I've almost always run 15s on my Wagon, and have an old set of Kosei Ki1s that weigh 13 lbs. each (see below). Right now I'm running AVUS 1s, which weigh just under 17 lbs. I pay attention to tire weight, too.
 

red16vdub

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2013
Location
(617) City of CHAMPIONS
TDI
03 JSW 5spd
IMHO I am becoming more convinced what I have always experienced with small cars. I enjoy driving them for their mileage, handling and maneuverability but their downside is that its almost impossible to get a comfortable ride. A decent ride on smooth pavement is possible but road imperfections pitch them around. I have experienced this with small Hondas and Fords in addition to the Golf.


I disagree with the size of car being the issue, imo you get what you pay for. I’ve driven many small cars in the islands, the roads are much worse than in the states and I haven’t had that experience.
My A4 avant- wagon rides amazing on 19” and I think it’s smaller than my mk4 . It’s all in the chassis not just the overall size imo.
Now I run 18” - 225/40 on my Tdi wagon year round, My suspension setup is Bilstein sports with H&R modified springs , I love the ride , is it firm , yes it is . That’s my preference, but every now and then when I decided to do some Spirited driving, it puts a huge smile on my face and open many eyes.


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IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
TDI
'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
Keep in mind that ride quality impressions are very subjective. I know many people who feel MKIV cars ride great with Bilstein HDs. I'm not one of them. I had HDs with Shine springs on my Wagon years ago and hated it. Switched back to stock springs with the HDs, still hated it. That's when I put Koni Reds on it for the first time, which was a night and day improvement.

I was unhappy enough with the ride on my MKVI Golf with 17" wheels and stock suspension that I bought a set of 15" Passat wheels. Much better. And other than track days I've never been happy with wheels larger than 15" on my MKIV.

My BMW 3 series with stock suspension and 17" wheels rides softer than my VWs, much to my surprise. So much for the ultimate driving machine. :)
 

sriracha

Veteran Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2014
Location
805
TDI
2005 Jetta Wagon 5mt, 1982 Rabbit truck (gas)
Currently, I have Koni Reds with stock springs on my Jetta Wagon, rolling on 17" Audi TT Fat Five wheels. The ride is very smooth and comfortable. When I had the stock 15" wheels on my wagon, the sidewall flex from the tires made the wagon feel unstable. Just changing the wheels made a significant difference in handling, stability and perceived safety.
 

Hwycruiser

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 27, 2014
Location
DFW, Texas
TDI
2002 Black Golf GLS
I have noticed in reviews of the Subarus in particular their Crosstrek it has been mentioned that it has an excellent ride due to the extra consideration for off road manners allows for better road manners on rough roads. So maybe that is why they are so popular lately. I don't need the all wheel drive but a small car with an excellent ride is appealing.
 
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