R-Package Bilsteins vs HD Bilsteins: Differences and hard tech by FCM - Miata Turbo Forum - Boost cars, acquire cats.

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Old 12-01-2010, 01:27 AM   #1
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Default R-Package Bilsteins vs HD Bilsteins: Differences and hard tech by FCM

Started off by sending this:

Hi,

Been discussing FCM vs SD on the miataturbo (c word that will not be spoken)... mind if I ask why you require HDs instead of rpackages? We've been trying to think of why.

Thank you,

(redacted)

Not expecting too much of a response, I instead get all this:

We used to work on R-pkg shocks but here are some reasons we don't do it any longer. It's a personal preference, not saying you can't use them, but I've seen more issues with refurbishing older shocks vs. revalving a new (or fairly new) HD.

1. The '93LE and all the 94-97 R-pkg Bilsteins use a 3 piece rod guide. This design has thankfully been obsoleted by Bilstein in favor of a 1-piece style, of which there are a few variations. Any of the 1 piece styles are preferred to the three piece which is harder to work with, more than likely has seen many years more of wear and is simply not as well-designed in comparison. If you're curious, have someone take apart an R-pkg and give their own impressions. That leads me to...

2. The used Bilstein shock oil in an R-pkg is about the foulest smelling substance I've come across. I'm an suspension tuner, not an undertaker.

3. Newer HDs come with a single upper snap ring. This makes it much easier to get into the shocks. Every R-pkg and from what I've seen, all OE Hard S or MSM, also have double snap rings which usually forces us to use our shop press to get clearance for removing the upper ring. If your shocks have a visible flat at the top, that means the shock is using a double snap ring.

4. The newer HDs have a more robust single-piece upper cap that a) keeps the rod guide from being pushed down under extreme loads, b) prevents the need for a double snap ring.

5. Another benefit to the newer HDs is they come with a shaft wiper (below the upper dust cap) that helps keep grit out of the rod guide, improving longevity. This is also why Bilstein doesn't require dust boots on the newer shocks (I spoke with an engineering in Poway about this).

6. The lower eyelet bushings have typically deform after 15 years of use, esp. with the strong rebound of the R-pkg jacking the chassis down over and over again. Another item to pay for/replace.

7. Depending upon where the shocks have lived, we'll see the bodies have been damaged (probably off the car, possibly on it) leading to corrosion. Shaft threads also can rust esp. if they've been exposed to the elements. Shafts will usually be serviceable but I've seen wear/discoloration of the chrome coating. All of this is a non-issue starting with a new HD.

8. The older 'symmetric' (both rebound and bump halves were mirrors of each other) hydraulic piston went through a design change at some point in the late 90's/early 00's. I know because all R-pkg/Hard S seem to use the earlier design and starting with MSM/HDs, was the newer asymmetric style. From some testing we've done, the new 'asymmetric' piston design allows more flow than the earlier symmetric design. This makes the forces more dependent upon the valving and less influenced by the piston port sizes. I'd rather start with a piston that flows more and restrict as needed for the application/usage. The new asymmetrical allows the builder to do tricks like preloading the bump bleed, which can be useful in certain situations.

9. Sometimes the separator piston o-ring has failed on the older shocks, so that requires replacement. Piston bands may still be functional but I recommend replacing them (or starting with a new shock...).

BTW, ALL our revalves (not just the race customers) get new AMSOil 'Shock Therapy' 5w shock oil. The Bilstein stuff foams and fades rather quickly in comparison, esp. on warmer days/during longer drives or lapping sessions. If you're using a lot of rebound you may not notice it, but we don't like to overdamp our shocks.


Regards,
Shaikh Jalal Ahmad, CEO

Good tech! In interest of sharing, I emailed:

Could I have your permission to post this on the forum?

And he graciously:

Thank you for asking. I wrote it assuming it would be posted, so by all means. Realize this is my preference, based on my experience. If anyone has a different opinion based on their experience, they're entitled. We're much happier using new HDs and we also able to offer a 60 day money back guarantee on new coilovers, plus a 1 year parts and workmanship warranty on new shocks or new coilovers. Simply put, I have more confidence working with new shock, utilizing the latest technology Bilstein can provide.

PS Please add the above at the end of your post.


Regards,
Shaikh Jalal Ahmad, CEO

So! FCM comes through again.
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Old 12-01-2010, 02:47 AM   #2
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^^Whoa...very detailed and technical reply from Shaikh. It is this depth of knowledge he has that made me part my left arm to get a full set of FCM coilovers (height adjustable only) which I am enjoying tremendously!
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Old 12-01-2010, 05:49 AM   #3
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I've only ever had good experience with him, never met him, but I bet he is a good guy. At the very least he takes his work serious and knows what he is doing.
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Old 12-01-2010, 10:34 AM   #4
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Cool guy, I wish i could give him my money.
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Old 12-01-2010, 11:48 AM   #5
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Some of that is pretty interesting. Of course working on new shocks is easier since nothing is worn or rusted-the Rpacks will be pretty rough if they've seen any weather.

All that being said, I'm a bit leery of some of the claims that Shaihk makes regarding competitors products. I think his business image would improve if he spent less time critiqing competitors products and more time revalving and delivering shocks already ordered. Some of his customers wait 6 months to a year for shocks.
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Old 12-01-2010, 02:17 PM   #6
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He wont use the older Bilsteins because he doesn't have a way to open them and close them back up. He was having to send them to Bernie to do the service.///thread
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Old 12-01-2010, 07:42 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jacob300zx View Post
He wont use the older Bilsteins because he doesn't have a way to open them and close them back up. He was having to send them to Bernie to do the service.///thread
Is this a case of Shaikh not having the correct equipment? I know he doesn't have the correct equipment to repressurize a Billie without adding a shrader valve.
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Old 12-01-2010, 08:46 PM   #8
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Bernie at Stewart Development
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Old 12-01-2010, 08:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jacob300zx View Post
He wont use the older Bilsteins because he doesn't have a way to open them and close them back up. He was having to send them to Bernie to do the service.///thread
Quote:
Originally Posted by wannafbody View Post
Is this a case of Shaikh not having the correct equipment? I know he doesn't have the correct equipment to repressurize a Billie without adding a shrader valve.
Seemed to me that he explained why not to use R-pack Bilsteins pretty clearly..

So SD can make it work.. is that a good thing?
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Old 12-01-2010, 09:32 PM   #10
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C'mon, guys. I've got no problem with discussing one vendor vs. another, but try to keep it civil.

Not pointing any fingers, just saying try to play nice, mmkay?
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Old 12-01-2010, 09:58 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kotomile View Post
Seemed to me that he explained why not to use R-pack Bilsteins pretty clearly..

So SD can make it work.. is that a good thing?

Bernie knows Bilsteins. Bernie has the correct equipment to work on Bilsteins. Bernie can revalve Bilsteins. Bernie works on shocks for some serious race cars. Logic would tend to lead one to conclude that Bernie knows a thing or two about what he is doing. Logic would tend to lead one to conclude that's a good thing. If you don't understand that's a good thing then maybe your logic board is fried

Seriously, If a set of shocks are toast, I'm sure Bernie would inform the customer that he's better off getting new shocks.
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Old 12-01-2010, 10:18 PM   #12
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I'm not trying to bash anyone, its just a simple fact that Shaikh can't do a crimp top Bilstein. He makes a great product for a certain type of customer. He also revalves with Bilstein parts originaly designed in the 70's, yet shock technology has progressed significantly. You guys can choose your own company for a revalve but I will state why I like SD better.

can use any Bilstein including crimp tops
can shorten shock bodies
revalves higher rates
price
knowledge
uses custom parts in the shocks, like ohlins and showa valves
understands roadracing
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Old 12-02-2010, 12:31 AM   #13
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I think it's wise to encourage the sharing of expertise from as many vendors as possible. As you can see from my signature, I'm running a turbo system that I feel is the best of both (for me) from two of our top FI vendors.

In regard to shock tuning, I'm enjoying the education I'm getting from the open exchange of information from both Shaikh and Bernie. For example, for what it's worth, Shaikh brings a wealth of Miata specific tuning to the table. Let's not make this a contest between vendors. Let them share their information and we can all individually make up our minds on our own cars.

Personally, I look forward to anything Bernie, Shaikh, Keith or Emilio posts - and I'm running Konis!
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Old 12-02-2010, 01:20 AM   #14
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i've dealt with another vendor for a different car. This person has a history of talking people out of purchasing what he feels are unneeded parts or expensive parts that he doesn't feel offer the best value/performance for the customer. He loses some short term sales but has a reputation of saving customers money. I think even though his $$$ per sale is lower he makes up for it by appealing to a larger customer base who view him as putting the customers best interest ahead of his own. Some vendors are more flexible when it comes to meeting individual customers needs than others. Buy from the vendor you feel most comfortable with. Luckily, the Miata world has some pretty good vendors to choose from.
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Old 12-02-2010, 11:00 AM   #15
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Funny thing is that I've seen AX vs RR vendors end up with flame wars on other forums. Tuners set cars up differently depending on the venue. It's good to buy suspension parts from guys who specialize in more than just AX setups.
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Old 12-02-2010, 04:40 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kotomile View Post
Seemed to me that he explained why not to use R-pack Bilsteins pretty clearly..

So SD can make it work.. is that a good thing?
It's a good thing if you're competing with your R-car in a stock class, or if you want your older shocks brought back to like new without the cost of new shocks.

How about if you're racing Spec Miata; do you want to purchase new shocks every season (or every few races), or send them in for a re-fresh?

Suppose you have a LE-package daily driver, and discovered a seal's begun to leak......but you get the point.
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Old 12-02-2010, 06:08 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thucydides View Post
It's a good thing if you're competing with your R-car in a stock class, or if you want your older shocks brought back to like new without the cost of new shocks.

How about if you're racing Spec Miata; do you want to purchase new shocks every season (or every few races), or send them in for a re-fresh?

Suppose you have a LE-package daily driver, and discovered a seal's begun to leak......but you get the point.
If all you're talking about are replacing seals and worn parts, Bilstein themselves do that as well. All for less than $300 a set.

Thanks for stepping in Joe, I'd also like to see a little less vendor vs vendor and little more discussion of the information provided in the OP. Flame wars accomplish nothing.
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Old 12-03-2010, 05:57 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by wannafbody View Post
Some of that is pretty interesting. Of course working on new shocks is easier since nothing is worn or rusted-the Rpacks will be pretty rough if they've seen any weather.

All that being said, I'm a bit leery of some of the claims that Shaihk makes regarding competitors products. I think his business image would improve if he spent less time critiqing competitors products and more time revalving and delivering shocks already ordered. Some of his customers wait 6 months to a year for shocks.
Okay, this delay has been mentioned numerous times so let me clear a few things up. I spend very little time online, largely due to the sheer volume of inquiries/consultation requests/emails/phone calls/vendor contact/bookkeeping and other time commitments. As to criticizing, that's the way I roll. I deal in facts or my hands-on experience and point out what I see as design flaws/oversights. It's my training and more importantly, my nature; I can't help it. When I've made a mistake, I take note so it goes both ways. I make no bones about this. Deal with it.

Yes, it sucks that I'm nearly a year behind in delivering double-adjustables to the customers who've paid for them. I had a design ready earlier in the year but the performance wouldn't have been as optimal as I'd envisioned and before I could invest the month in enhancements, other things in life interfered. About the worst thing that could possibly happen, happened. That aside for now, the nuances of remotely locating a adjuster away from the shock body brought up a lot of design considerations to get what I'd call optimized performance. I now shudder to see trunk or engine-mounted reservoirs.

I've been in contact with each D/A customer and they understand the various reasons for this delay. They have either received an interim revalved setup or a single-adjustable from us, or is using their current setup which is getting the job done until ours is completed.

I don't like testing in the field. So far, we have been very successful with products once installed in our customers car. I want to keep things that way. Nearly ten years of my work life out of school was at semicon companies who used customers (sometimes with permission, often not) as beta sites. From inside our company, most of us in R&D or Manufacturing felt terrible shipping something we weren't confident it. Inevitably, the calls or emails would start. That was when I had to be on cell phone call, sometimes all night. You guys are cake in comparison! I felt the pain and frustration of the Korean or Japanese service engineer trying to understand the cause of his problem, who had to then explain to his customer why their $500k process tool was down and costing them $$$ until it was working again and how quickly it'd be fixed. Yeah, it made an impression. I had to go overseas numerous times to fix engineering problems on prematurely-released products. I got pneumonia once from it and nearly got fired by refusing a follow-up trip when I was sick (threatening a lawsuit kept my job but perhaps explained why I was laid off 4 months later). It became a recurring theme and one I took note of at other companies. The monetary costs to a car enthusiast may not seem as high, but an improperly functioning suspension can be more frustrating than waiting longer than you'd like for something that actually performs the way you need.

So yes, I'll err on the side of not releasing until I'm as sure as I can be it's ready. The 'worst possible event' I referenced above was the death of my father in July, which began with his first heart attack in March following successful knee replacement surgery. A lot that happened this year sucked. Still sucks. If anything, work has been my obsession since August and especially after observations made at Solo Nationals on improving valving/finding more grip/I don't think I'm alone here in losing a parent or family member, but adding a new set of responsibilities while running a business was pretty overwhelming.

I'm not expecting to be loved by everyone for what I say or post, nor do I expect or want pity for what I've endured. It's life, beautiful and tragic at the same time. I get where those customers who haven't received their product are coming from. But if you're not one of them, then you're really not helping anyone by naysaying. Though this is the Internet after all

Each purchase someone makes, or each time they say 'thanks for your advice' I take as a sign of trust that I appreciate more than I can say. This whole Fat Cat business started because I wanted to understand how suspensions worked and see where it got me! It's not what I listed as my dream job in high school (F14 pilot!) but it's a close second. I LOVE it, and no matter what anyone says I will hold to my standards of integrity, whether it's speaking the truth or not releasing until ready. I'm also not an idiot (believe it or not!) and learn from my mistakes. To be sure, I've learned a lot the past few years. In the end, those who can exercise some patience have been very satisfied. We continue to improve our processes and efficiency and I remain excited to get to work in the morning, or staying until 2am yet again, because I'm just that crazy.

Okay, back to work!

Last edited by Shaikh_A; 12-03-2010 at 06:07 AM.
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Old 12-03-2010, 06:21 AM   #19
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He wont use the older Bilsteins because he doesn't have a way to open them and close them back up. He was having to send them to Bernie to do the service.///thread
Incorrect - I did have several sets of OE crimp tops converted to take-apart by Bernie (those included a Ford heavy duty truck, Pontiac Solstice, Toyota Tacoma and some OE NC/RX8 Bilsteins). After conversion, we added a Schrader valve to make the shock function as a standard race take-apart that we're accustomed to working with (and as Bilstein/Penske supply as well).

When we need a shock or shaft shortened, I use Bilstein - or turn the shaft on our lathe. We've just had about 6 sets of NC Bilstein HDs shortened at Poway and finished an NC coilover install today.

In terms of swapping other parts, I'm curious which ones. I've used Ohlins pistons (linear) in the past, but I didn't see an advantage to them vs. a Bilstein linear piston or stacking the Bilstein digressive to achieve our goals. Bernie may have other tricks up his sleeve, but I'm quite happy with how our systems integrate. BTW, we're continuing to develop new components on our own, including new pistons.

We don't just tune for autocross, as our winning track customers demonstrate.

I guess I ought to stop talking about products since I'm not an official sponsor, but when we get mentioned my ears burn and eventually I had to speak up.
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Old 12-03-2010, 09:57 AM   #20
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As to criticizing, that's the way I roll. I deal in facts or my hands-on experience and point out what I see as design flaws/oversights.
Since we've all heard your criticism of all the other setups on the market, would you care to share the criticisms that you have about your own product line (from a component and performance standpoint). That would go a long way in helping those of us in the market have not only a better understanding, but make the selection process one we can justify based on our own needs. My own conversation with you in the past seemed to end with your feeling that all other products/options have shortcomings that make them substandard, but what you offer is perfect.
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