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Old 03-17-2011, 02:50 PM   #1
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Monaco Factory Installed Bilstein Shock Information

Hopefully this post will be informative to Monaco owners that originally had Bilstein shocks absorbers installed from the Monaco factory. Please, it is not a discussion as to what brand shock is the best so letís keep this only about Bilsteins.

I talked to Bilstein factory representative that actually was involved in the design of the shock absorbers used on Monaco MHs and I would like to pass this on to all. I think it answers a lot of question about what owners have observed or had problems with.

I think some Monaco owners have already figured out that there is a dividing line on the year of the Monaco MHs and the type Bilstein shock used. Congratulations you are 100% correct. On most Monaco coaches made in 2002 and earlier the Bilstein shock valving design was oriented more towards performance than comfort. In case people donít know the internal shock valve controls the speed, rate and resistance of the shock piston to suspension movement. So if the valving is designed for performance it normally makes the shock have a harsher ride and you feel more of those road expansion joints and pot holes. Most Rvíers do not like to feel all that and complain that they want a smoother ride. This harsh ride that is immediately fixed when the original Bilsteins shocks are replaced on a 2002 and earlier Monaco by ANY of todayís top three brands such as Bilstein, Koni or Road King shock absorbers and leads to the assumption that the initially installed Bilsteins were bad. In most cases that is an incorrect assumption because they were just not designed the way we want them.

Monaco motorhomes 2003 and later have the Bilstein shocks absorbers with the updated valving for comfort and control and normally these shocks as with all premium shocks will last over 100,000 miles so changing them out at and early mileage to another brand probably will not result in much change in the way the MH rides and may in fact make the ride a little harsher or different to the ride with the original Bilsteins. Monaco purposely redesigned the Bilstein shock for the 2003 MHs to give you the best ride and control. My ride and control on my 2004 MH is superb with the factory installed Bilsteins and I would not consider spending all that money to change them. With 8 or 10 shocks we are talking are fair amount of money. So it is important to be careful on judging your 2003 and later Monaco based on 2002 and earlier ride complaints.

The life expectancy of any of the top three brand shocks, such as Bilstein, Koni or Road King, is normally over 100,000 miles. Bilsteins are used on UPS vans and exceed 100,000 mile life on a regular basis as would the other top brand shocks. Bilstein shocks use what is called a wet seal at the top of the shock body where the rod enters the shock which means it will seep a little oil every once in a while to keep the seal lubricated. Occasionally a small amount of oil may leak out and run down the side of the body of the shock and this is considered to be normal and as long as the body of the shock is not flooded or soaked with oil. I have seen a little oil on the body of two shocks on my MH and was going to change them but I wiped the oil off with a paper towel and solvent and the oil never came back so according to Bilstein the shocks are still good. I think the reason mine leaked a little oil was that the MH was stored for two years and that seal dried out a little so when I initially drove it leaked until it got wet again and resealed.

I have seen several posts where Monaco owners have complained that the top rubber doughnut eye bushing has failed and the shock is loose or banging around. Monaco specified that Bilstein use a different design eye on the top of the shocks so they could use a larger rubber doughnut bushing to reduce the road noise and vibration being transmitted through the shock into the frame. It appears that this Monaco specified rubber bushing does not have the life expectancy of a stock Bilstein bushing. Failure of this rubber bushing does NOT mean the shock is bad and has to be replaced. A replacement bushing can be obtained from Bilstein by calling them at East Coast 1.800.745.4636 or West Coast 1-800.537.1085 and asking for them to send you the special Monaco top rubber bushing. They are four dollars each and can be soaped down or sprayed with silicone and inserted into the eye on the top of the shock and you are good to go again. You can tell if your top rubber bushings are bad either by looking at them with a flashlight or reaching up there with your hand and see if they are cracked or split. If cracked or split then you should have the shock taken off and that top rubber bushing replaced. If the bushing totally goes and you have metal to metal then you may hear it banging around or it may break off the top mounting bolts and do some real damage to the area above the top shock mount. The standard Bilstein bottom rubber bushing will normally last the life of the shock.

Hopefully I have written down everything that they told me. I thought it to be a big eye opener because it pretty well covered all the stories or complaints I have read on this forum about Bilstein shock absorbers. I am not paid by Bilstein in any way and I owe them nothing. I am more interested in Rvíers getting the facts and not spending money on something that is not broke or understanding what is really causing their harsh ride. Feel free to copy this post and put it in other Forums so all can know.

Please remember this is not a discussion on which brand shock is best but on the problems Rv'ers have experienced with Bilstein shocks from the Monaco factory. Thank you.
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Old 03-17-2011, 04:05 PM   #2
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Mike.....You have a very long coach and I'm sure that really enhances the ride. On my 36' 2005 Diplomat, the ride was HORRIBLE with the Bilsteins. I initially replaced just the front four shocks to see if there was any change. The difference was HUGE. The bone jarring ride was about 90% eliminated. I later replaced the rears with no change in ride, but better handling, which surprised me.

I know companies like Bilstein build shocks to a company's spec, such as you described, but I think they would have to build several versions to work with coaches in the 36' range and 28000 pounds to a 44' probably weighing in at over 40000 pounds. I doubt that the shock on your coach and mine was a different model.

Again, I think your info is good and Bilstein is now designing some specific shocks for various 8 & 10 bag Roadmaster chassis.
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Old 03-17-2011, 04:35 PM   #3
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Don,that is an interesting point especially with your Diplomat. For a 2005 Diplomat there are possibilities of two different part number shocks and both are specified to be Comfort shocks and both have 8 shocks total but one is a RR8S with the ISL 400 motor and one is a RR8R with ISC 350 motor. According to my data Monaco states that all the different length MHs withing each chassis have the same gross weight but state there is 5000 lbs difference beween the gross vehicle weights of the 8R and the 8S. There is no consideration given to length or weight of the MH within that specifified chassis for shock valving with any brand shock. So theoretically a short Diplomat with one slide takes the same shocks as a long Diplomat with multiply slide. There has to be a weight difference between a short one or a long one or one that has two slides or one that has four slides. The other problem is that a short wheel base MH cannot be as stable as a long wheelbase MH. A short wheel base will want to porpoise more over bumps than a long wheelbase.
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Old 03-18-2011, 05:28 PM   #4
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Not sure what Monaco coaches you are including but maybe mine was not high enough on the food chain to get the Bilstein's, even though I have the RR8R chassis. It came with Monroe's, which were hard riding beasts. I changed to Koni FSD's a couple of years ago for a significant improvement in the ride and handling.
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Old 03-18-2011, 05:55 PM   #5
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Jim, I don't know what the requirement was for what brand shocks on what models. Were your Monroe's blue color? I know all RV Bilstein's are yellow, the early Konis were red and the FSD is gold.

Hey Diplomat Don, what color were your old shocks you toook off>
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Old 03-18-2011, 09:12 PM   #6
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Mike, my mistake. They were yellow (I still have them) so they must be Bilsteins. We had an 03 gas Vacationer before we bought the Ambassador which had Monroe's so I guess I just assumed Monaco used Monroe's on everything. I did not know about the color ID thing. Still, I thought the ride was too harsh which is why I went to the Koni's. The new shocks, new tires, a Safe-T-Plus and a lighter wallet made the coach much more pleasant to drive.

Thanks for the information.
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Old 03-19-2011, 07:51 AM   #7
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JDT, I know that lighter wallet feeling well. My mistake on the color of Monroe shocks. The Monroe RV shock is yellow also which is confusing. So now we have yellow Bilsteins and yellow Monroes. I wonder if that confuses people as to which shock they have or had. On all the Bilsteins I have seen the top part of the shock which is just a protective cover coming down over the rod is made of a flexible plastic and I believe the Monroe is hard steel.

When you get a chance can you look at those old shocks and see which ones they are and let me know. I am trying to make a spread sheet as to what was installed. So far it appears that Monaco used both Bilsteins and Monroe shocks. In my opinion those Monroe shocks are very bad riding and sure don't last very long.
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Old 03-19-2011, 09:04 AM   #8
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Our 2006 Diplomat had Monroe shocks and when I replaced them at 15,000 miles with Koni FSD's they were shot. Going to the Koni's was like having our cake and eating too. The FSD (Frequency Selective Damping) shock gives you a good ride as well as good handling because the shock responds according to the speed of the recoil. I am not saying the Koni FSD is better than any other brand but just pointing out that not all Monaco's came with Bilstein shocks.

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Old 03-19-2011, 10:12 AM   #9
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Mike, thank you for your well documented research, a standard all should strive to meet on these forums.

The ride of our 05 Dynasty is dramatically better than that of our 99 model. No indication of shock or ride deterioration at 78,000 miles.

As an interesting aside, Tom at Massey's Diesel in Phoenix uses an infrared thermometer to check shocks. Other than obvious leaks a working shock should be above ambient temperature.
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Old 03-19-2011, 10:29 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JDT View Post
Not sure what Monaco coaches you are including but maybe mine was not high enough on the food chain to get the Bilstein's, even though I have the RR8R chassis. It came with Monroe's, which were hard riding beasts. I changed to Koni FSD's a couple of years ago for a significant improvement in the ride and handling.
Our '01 Holiday Rambler Endeavor had the original Monroes on them and we had the new Bilstein Comforts added....wow what a difference. With the RR8R chassis they made an incredible difference.

Shox.com is where we got them and they also sell Koni's. I was ready to spend the extra $$'s on Koni's; however the sales guy (I repeat sales guy) told me that there would be little difference between the two. He said the biggest improvement would be to get the Monroe's off and something new on.

Also...are we sure there isn't some factor of time that we should be including here? I ask this because when a coach is 9-10 years old, yet doesn't have 100k miles, I figure there is still an impact on the shocks due to the weight of the MH. THoughts?
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Old 03-19-2011, 10:33 AM   #11
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I just had my coach servied at Masseys. Did you need to request that Tom check the shocks?
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Old 03-19-2011, 01:41 PM   #12
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Mike, for one of few times in my life I get to take back a "my mistake". I just checked the old shocks. They are Monroe and they are yellow.
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Old 03-19-2011, 03:08 PM   #13
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One thing is that is showing up here that I am in perfect agreement with is that Monaco's decision to use Monroe shocks was a bad one and has caused a lot of heartburn and $$$$$. Let me expand a statement in my first post in this thread about if you replace the 2002 and earlier Bilsteins with any of the top three brands you are going to have a great improvement in ride to add if you also replace the Monroes with any of the top three brands being the Comfort Bilsteins, the Koni FSD or Road King you are going to see a great improvement in ride comfort and control. I would bet that unless somebody did a back to back test with all the top three brands you will not be able to tell the difference from one to another.

Another thing here is that a lot of people may have assumed that because the bad shocks were YELLOW that they were Bilsteins but they were really Monroes.
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Old 03-20-2011, 01:04 AM   #14
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I agree with Mike,but have to say that the FSD made the ride better.
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