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Shocks: Koni + General Install Tips & Review
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CTB
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 5:56 pm    Post subject: Shocks: Koni + General Install Tips & Review Reply with quote

This weekend I installed my new Koni adjustable shocks on my bus. I thought I'd pass along some info/tips/etc that I learned along the way.

My setup: 1984 2wd, Carat springs, 15" SA wheels, 195/70-15 Conti VancoContact 2 tires. Bus weighs 3400 lb - no middle or rear seats.

For both front and rear: The Konis are not gas pressurized, so they do not extend automatically. I recommend turning them upside-down and stroking the shock rod until you notice a large decrease in damping. Then set the damping level to where want and and extend them fully while still upside-down. The twin-tube design means they starve for oil when upside-down, so this enables you to extend them prior to installation, even when set on stiff. If you don't do this, it's a lot more work to extend them when set to stiff. Remember, the adjustment is only on rebound. It's easy to compress them while installing, so it's best to have them too long than too short.

Rear: No rear-specific tips. The rears are very easy and accessible on a Vanagon.

Fronts: The Konis do not have a "blade" on top of the shock rod like the stockers. The have a 5mm female allen head. My 5mm allen did not fit in there once you have the shock on the bus. I recommend going to Lowe's, etc., and getting a set of allen wrenches for $4, use an angle grinder to shorten the 5mm, and then bend it so that the long arm clears the structure of the bus. Here's a picture of what I made, compared to an unaltered 5mm:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


I found it difficult to find a combo of tools that would insert into the front of the lower control arm (LCA) without interfering with that support strut that goes to the sta-bar link area. The best combo I found was a breaker bar, a shorty 1/2" extension, and a non-impact 7/8" or 22mm socket:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Impact sockets are thicker and can get stuck in the LCA. Nothing you can't handle with some jiggling around, but it's easier with the thinner sockets. For the rear side of the LCA, access is easy. I used a deep-well 7/8" socket. Again, same thing - impacts are thicker and don't have as much clearance.

I recommend putting the bolts in from the front if you can. My van wasn't symmetric - I could only do this on the driver's side, so do whatever works on your van. Torque is 110 lb-ft on that bolt. The upper nut is 22 lb-ft, but there's no torque wrench I have that fits up there. 22 lb-ft is essentially "not much," so I did it by hand.

I set all my shocks to full stiff for the initial install, just to see how far they could go. I was surprised at how livable this setup was. Not harsh and a big increase in body control. However, I found that this setup induced some seat shake (caused by the rears - I installed them first and drove the van), and it was a bit abrupt and over-damped up front. The bus would get choppy (a 5-7Hz bounce) on certain surfaces, and was just too vertically busy for max comfort.

Today was such a nice day (81 in Detroit!) that I decided to adjust the shocks. I backed the rears off 1/2 turn from full stiff, and backed the fronts off by, let's say, 5/8 turn. It was more than 1/2, but not 3/4, so there you go.

This helped quite a bit. Most of the seat shake is gone, and now the van breathes a bit more over the small stuff without being floaty. I *may* have gone a bit more soft than I'd like on the front, so I might go a real 1/2 turn out if I get bored someday. However, in this setup, my van is a very nice place to be and is a lot more responsive, etc. Ok, fine, it's not a limo, but it never will be. It's not harsh, probably even less harsh than with my original shocks, and well controlled. I think the rolling plushness is better as well. Even if I lived in CA with smooth roads, I'd still back them off of max with these springs to regain a calm freeway ride.

As a bonus, at full-stiff, the incessant squeaking of the front end was reduced drastically since the van simply didn't move as much. Since going softer, the squeaking has increased a bit and is ammo for maybe making one more adjustment up there.

I'm very happy with the purchase. The adjustability did exactly what I wanted - I was able to pick *my* level of control, and the Konis seem to have a nice range of adjustment. I was initially unsure of what I was getting with these, but I'm now very pleased. We'll see how it goes as I get more miles on them and possibly adjust them one more time.
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speedtek
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 6:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So, you can adjust them so they are fairly stiff? I'm looking to limit suspension travel a little in the front of mine as the bigger tires can catch the fenders in full luck turns and hitting a good bump.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If hitting a bump is your problem, these won't help. Your situation could be band-aided by more compression damping, and no Vanagon shocks I know of have compression adjustment. The Konis are rebound-adjustable only - the compression has one setting. What you really need are taller bump stops to physically limit your suspension travel. You could do that with your current shocks by removing them, putting an additional ring of jounce bumper material under the one that's already there (inside the plastic dust shield), and then reinstalling. The downside of that is you will bottom out more, and that's generally a harsh event. I'd pick something made of MCU to make the impact less harsh, which many modern jounce bumpers are made of these days. It's that yellowish foam stuff you see on cars now.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

speedtek wrote:
So, you can adjust them so they are fairly stiff? I'm looking to limit suspension travel a little in the front of mine as the bigger tires can catch the fenders in full luck turns and hitting a good bump.


My 2WD with 215-75-15 rubbed under a similar situation, so I put a 3/4" thick suspension bushing over the shock shaft under the bump stop. It was something I found in the junk bin, just plain rubber.

It has worked well, I have never bottomed my tires out since. You might also want to consider stiffer springs as stock are pretty soft.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2011 5:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

With the Vanagon suspension's motion ratio, a little goes a long way. That is, a small reduction of travel at the shock will be a much larger one at the wheel. I'd start small and work my way up. I forget the exact ratio, but 3/4" at the shock is around 1.25" or so at the wheel. That's a lot.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

CTB,

That's a very nice write up and photos, thanks for the helpful post.
(I wish I had this to read before I put mine in last year!)

BTW, shox.com has generally good prices on Konis, if folks are looking to buy some.

-CJ
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, CJ.

I had already ordered mine from Tire Rack during the 20% off Koni sale (might still be on?) when I remembered Shox.com. They would have saved me the cost of shipping. Oh well, at least I've always gotten good service from Tire Rack over the years, so I didn't feel too bad.
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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2011 9:39 pm    Post subject: Re: Shocks: Koni + General Install Tips & Review Reply with quote

CTB wrote:
This weekend I installed my new Koni adjustable shocks on my bus. I thought I'd pass along some info/tips/etc that I learned along the way.

My setup: 1984 2wd, Carat springs, 15" SA wheels, 195/70-15 Conti VancoContact 2 tires. Bus weighs 3400 lb - no middle or rear seats.

For both front and rear: The Konis are not gas pressurized, so they do not extend automatically. I recommend turning them upside-down and stroking the shock rod until you notice a large decrease in damping. Then set the damping level to where want and and extend them fully while still upside-down. The twin-tube design means they starve for oil when upside-down, so this enables you to extend them prior to installation, even when set on stiff. If you don't do this, it's a lot more work to extend them when set to stiff. Remember, the adjustment is only on rebound. It's easy to compress them while installing, so it's best to have them too long than too short.

Rear: No rear-specific tips. The rears are very easy and accessible on a Vanagon.

Fronts: The Konis do not have a "blade" on top of the shock rod like the stockers. The have a 5mm female allen head. My 5mm allen did not fit in there once you have the shock on the bus. I recommend going to Lowe's, etc., and getting a set of allen wrenches for $4, use an angle grinder to shorten the 5mm, and then bend it so that the long arm clears the structure of the bus. Here's a picture of what I made, compared to an unaltered 5mm:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


I found it difficult to find a combo of tools that would insert into the front of the lower control arm (LCA) without interfering with that support strut that goes to the sta-bar link area. The best combo I found was a breaker bar, a shorty 1/2" extension, and a non-impact 7/8" or 22mm socket:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Impact sockets are thicker and can get stuck in the LCA. Nothing you can't handle with some jiggling around, but it's easier with the thinner sockets. For the rear side of the LCA, access is easy. I used a deep-well 7/8" socket. Again, same thing - impacts are thicker and don't have as much clearance.

I recommend putting the bolts in from the front if you can. My van wasn't symmetric - I could only do this on the driver's side, so do whatever works on your van. Torque is 110 lb-ft on that bolt. The upper nut is 22 lb-ft, but there's no torque wrench I have that fits up there. 22 lb-ft is essentially "not much," so I did it by hand.

I set all my shocks to full stiff for the initial install, just to see how far they could go. I was surprised at how livable this setup was. Not harsh and a big increase in body control. However, I found that this setup induced some seat shake (caused by the rears - I installed them first and drove the van), and it was a bit abrupt and over-damped up front. The bus would get choppy (a 5-7Hz bounce) on certain surfaces, and was just too vertically busy for max comfort.

Today was such a nice day (81 in Detroit!) that I decided to adjust the shocks. I backed the rears off 1/2 turn from full stiff, and backed the fronts off by, let's say, 5/8 turn. It was more than 1/2, but not 3/4, so there you go.

This helped quite a bit. Most of the seat shake is gone, and now the van breathes a bit more over the small stuff without being floaty. I *may* have gone a bit more soft than I'd like on the front, so I might go a real 1/2 turn out if I get bored someday. However, in this setup, my van is a very nice place to be and is a lot more responsive, etc. Ok, fine, it's not a limo, but it never will be. It's not harsh, probably even less harsh than with my original shocks, and well controlled. I think the rolling plushness is better as well. Even if I lived in CA with smooth roads, I'd still back them off of max with these springs to regain a calm freeway ride.

As a bonus, at full-stiff, the incessant squeaking of the front end was reduced drastically since the van simply didn't move as much. Since going softer, the squeaking has increased a bit and is ammo for maybe making one more adjustment up there.

I'm very happy with the purchase. The adjustability did exactly what I wanted - I was able to pick *my* level of control, and the Konis seem to have a nice range of adjustment. I was initially unsure of what I was getting with these, but I'm now very pleased. We'll see how it goes as I get more miles on them and possibly adjust them one more time.


Nice write up..thx for the info..just got my Koni's and weitec.
I'm a little confuse on adjusting the shocks front and rear while
installed...I guess the rears just pull the bolt and adjust..fro the front,
do you just loosen the top nut and turn the allen key hole?
and lastly what are yuo running for springs?
Thanks again for the info..I'll tackle the job tomorrow.
Cheers,
Ogi
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CTB
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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 2:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You can't adjust the Konis while installed. The rears are easy - remove the lower bolt, compress the shock, adjust it, extend, and re-bolt. The fronts have to come off completely because, like the rears, you have to compress them to adjust them. There's no easy way to do the fronts, but you do get pretty good at doing shock jobs after doing it twice. Smile

I have Carat springs.

As an update, I backed the rears off a bit more since I wrote the post above. I'm now running them backed off one full turn from full stiff. This helped with the seat shake. I'm still debating doing another front adjustment, mostly because of the time/work involved. The rears can be done in 15 minutes.
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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 8:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds good..thx for the update.
got my Koni's from Shox.com and
the fronts came with only 1 white washer Shocked
do I even need this? maybe I can make another
one.

Cheers,
Ogi
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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I didn't use either of the white washers on mine. I'm not saying that's right, but so far no issues without them.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2014 7:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I ordered Konis for the rear and they just don't seem to want to slide into the bracket so that I can bolt them on. Any ideas??



The shocks I am replacing easily slide into the mounting bracket.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2014 7:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SteelB12 wrote:
I ordered Konis for the rear and they just don't seem to want to slide into the bracket so that I can bolt them on. Any ideas??
The shocks I am replacing easily slide into the mounting bracket.


Take a large Crescent wrench and bend open the bracket a little bit.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2014 7:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i'll give it a go, but it being me, i'll tear off the entire bracket
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2014 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the great write up. I just had 4 KONIs installed by my mechanic, who also has an early AC Vanagon, all 4 set on softest setting. The thinking is to stiffen them up over time as needed as they age.. So, without any test tuning I find the improvement in handling much to my liking. Of course, anything would be better than the factory shocks..and with a fresh set of D load rated Continental VANCOs driving this underpowered, overweight marvel of late 20th century automotive engineering and design actually feels...safe..
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Thanks all! All the best, John in GA
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