Where your tire is the connection between you and the ground when you are driving, your shocks are the pillow that softens any blow your tires take. Your springs may lighten the initial “thwack” of that pothole, but your shocks are needed in order to keep your tires in contact with the road, and you, in effect, much safer.
So, people, please pay attention to your shocks, and if they’ve gone bad, replace them!
Once you finally realize you need new shocks or struts, your next question will probably be what brand is best? The major players include KYB, Monroe, Bilstein, Gabriel, Fox, and Rancho among others. This article will compare two of the biggest names, KYB and Monroe.
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KYB vs Monroe (Which is Better?)
More than likely, you’ve done some research on Autoanything.com, Oreilly’s, or any of the other name brand auto parts stores. You may have even found a bunch of offerings on Amazon, but now you need to know which of the two cheapest options are the best for your money.
Of course, Monroe is the cheapest and will probably do the job you want them to. However, in my research, it seems like Monroe isn’t built as well as KYB on its base model.
Both are decent shocks, but as always, “buy once, cry once” and go with the KYBs. While they do cost a little bit more, they offer much more value for the money and you won’t wear out your springs nearly as fast.
Plus, with the progressive springs rates included in the KYBs, your car will handle much better than it did from the factory.
Now, this isn’t just me ganging up on Monroe shocks as a brand, they do make a good product if you want your car to be like it was from the factory. Also, Monroe shocks are made in the USA from what I could find, so if that’s a big factor in your buying process, more power to ya!
However, if it was my money, I’d spend what amounts to 20 extra dollars and just go with the KYB offering as they seem to last longer, improve performance, and are very easy to install yourself. Plus, the KYBs come with some extra bolts that are extremely helpful if your old ones are corroded for some reason.
See Also: KYB vs Bilstein
Specific Model Comparisons
Note: Links below show sample products in each brand’s catalog. You’ll need to search for shocks for your specific vehicle on Amazon or auto parts merchant of your choice.
“Restoring to Original”
This is the base model of both brands and is meant to do one thing: restore your vehicles handling characteristics to what it was from the factory.
From KYB, it’s their Excel G Shock line, and Monroe, the OESpectrum shock absorber. Upon some Google searching, I can get the KYBs for about 5 dollars less than the Monroes, yet most customers prefer the KYBs because they’ve most likely heard from a friend or other reviewer that KYB is the best for performance.
In actuality, these two specific models are meant to only bring your car back up to the way it was upon leaving the factory, and to that, I say go with the cheapest option you can find.
“Better Than Stock”
KYB brings their monotube Gas-a-Just and Monroe comes to the table with their OESpectrum Monotube variant. Both of these options are comprised of a single tube, but with separate chambers inside to allow for the gas to expand and contract without negatively affecting the dampening characteristics of your vehicle.
From what I could find, Monroe offers the cheapest in this class of shocks, but most customers would rather go with the KYB because they tend to last longer when put to the test.
Heavy-Duty Truck Things
Longevity has been a problem for many customers of the Monroes, but at almost a $30 dollar savings per shock, you could save money in the long run if you were to go with the Monroes.
If it were me, and I may sound like a broken record, I’d go with the KYB option. This is because they’ll likely last longer, are built with stronger internals, and more customers tend to like them for hard use.
How Much Will All of This Cost?
Factoring 3-4 hours of labor, a job like this will cost you $400-$800 for all four corners at an auto shop. For you to do it yourself, just factor in the cost of parts ($200-$300), and then maybe 4 hours of your time and all of your Saturday to get it done.
I say this because you are probably going to want to replace a bushing, sway bar end link, or even do some fluid work while you are down there.
If you consider all of your bushings, your springs, and drivetrain components rely on your car moving down the road smoothly without taking too much abuse from the road, then I’d say your shocks are pretty dang important!
If you do a lot of off-roading or like to “drive spiritedly”, then make sure you pony up and pay some extra dough for the shocks that will actually improve your driving experience, performance, and safety.
How to Know Your Shocks Have Gone Bad
We actually have this covered in depth in this article, but for a short version, here’s your best bet for deciding whether you need new shocks or not.
You Don’t Know When They Were Last Replaced
This one is pretty easy, and may well be the best advice I’ve ever received regarding car repair. “If you have no idea when it was replaced last, get a notebook, replace that part, and write down when you did it.”
Your Car or Truck Bounces
While this method will vary from vehicle to vehicle, it’s been a pretty good measure for me throughout the years.
First, go around to the back of your vehicle, place both hands over either of the right rear wheels. Then, push down with your entire body weight and add some force to it.
Take note of whether it bounces 2-3 times, or just once. If your shocks are good, your car should maybe bounce once and not feel very sloppy.
Think about it this way, if your shocks aren’t doing their job, then the springs are going to be taking up some of the other slack, and your car will behave more like a spring! Bouncy.
Do you remember those old 80s Cadillacs that moved more like boats over bumpy roads? You’d be more floating than driving, and the shocks were hilariously under-dampened so they wouldn’t provide very much if any handling improvements over just having springs under your ride.