Bilstein shocks: We show how to check you’re not buying a dud

  • Counterfeit shocks – don’t fall into the fatal price trap
  • Local importer lists defects to watch for before buying
  • If the price seems too low, DON’T BUY!

2016 fake Bilstein shock-absorbers

DON’T BE FOOLED INTO RISKING YOUR FAMILY’S LIVES: This is the kind of shoddy work you can expect on the fake Bilstein shock-absorbers. Below is a list of other defects to watch for. Image: Bilstein/Motorpress

JOHANNESBURG – Bilstein South Africa, which imports and distributes Bilstein gas-pressure shock-absorbers, has warned vehicle owners to look out for counterfeit versions of the brand’s Airmatic spring/dampers.

“Using them,” the company warns, “will severely compromise a vehicle’s stability and safety.”

Damper (shock-absorber) assemblies with integrated height-adjustable air springs are fitted to a number of upmarket SUV’s and sedan cars and provide extra ground clearance off-road and a secure lower ride-height on tar.

2016 fake Bilstein shock-absorbers
THE REAL DEAL: If you’re going to buy Bilstein shock-absorbers, this is what you should be looking for. Image: Bilstein / Motorpress

They are, the company told The Corner in a media release, complex and sophisticated and combine electronically controlled hydraulic wheel damping with air-springing and can react instantly to road conditions, steering and speed.

“They can, however, be counterfeited or inadequately refurbished and sold at prices way below the real thing,” Bilstein SA warns, “often with the inference that their performance will be the same or similar to that of the original.”

So, look out for the forgeries by checking several key visual differences:

For starters, a fake “Airmatic” can be 40mm too long. Dimensional accuracy is critical and if the suspension is forced to work through an abnormal arc it will not only cause incorrect geometry but also the premature failure of rubber bushings and mountings and accelerated wear of other components such as constant-velocity joints.

It’s also been found that while a valve cylinder controlling oil transfer to the main damping tube was genuine it had been harvested from a discarded assembly and attached to the fake in a completely non-functional manner: there was no link between the two so while the fake still controlled the ride height the technology to control damping rate didn’t work.

A check on another assembly found the wrong air-bellows attached by inadequately crimped retaining rings which could, during a sudden harsh suspension movement, suspension collapse with potentially catastrophic consequences.

So, Bilstein has given The Corner a series of images which will help to identify fakes. Here are some of the key differences:

2016 fake Bilstein shocks
CAN YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE? It’s easy, really… the fake Bilstein is 40mm longer (top) and has a glossy black finish. The real deal (bottom) is classier, shorter and has a satin black finish and the correct stickers. Image: Bilstein/Motorpress
  • The 40cm extra length of the fake assembly.
  • A Bilstein unit’s remote valve cylinder is invisibly laser-welded to the damping tube; the fake has uneven spot-welding.
  • The Bilstein yoke which straddles the suspension arm has an open tube pressed on to the shock body and is welded above and below. The fake has a casting closed at the bottom, a longer boss and is welded to the shock body on the upper side only.
  • Viewed from below, the genuine part has a dimple in the centre of the end cap; the fake is smooth.
  • The edge of the bellows on the Bilstein unit is precisely aligned to the steel crimping ring. Extra crimping marks and a large and/or irregular overlap of the rubber are tell-tale signs of a fake.
  • The Bilstein has a satin black finish; the fake is gloss black.
  • Bilstein’s trademark blue-and-yellow colours are prominent on information stickers. Text includes the part number and the word “Germany”. The fake says variously “High Quality”, “New Shock Absorbers” [sic] and “New Product”.
  • Some of the above differences are only apparent by removing and examining the unit carefully but one of the most obvious – and important – giveaways in situ is the area at the bottom of the damper where the fork joins the tube. The fake has a longer boss which is clearly welded to the tube on the upper side.

Finally, if the price of what appears to be a Bilstein shock-absorber seems to be very low against that of other retailers, it’s probably a fake and you could be risking your and your familiy’s lives by being suckered.

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