The Bilstein Showdown: 5100 vs 6112 vs 5160 Shocks

by | Auto Tools, Comparisons (Cars)

I think I’ve praised the Bilstein 5100 enough in previous posts here. However, one guy duly noted in my Bilstein vs KYB post:

I haven’t talked much about the Bilstein 5160 shocks…or the newest 6112 series either.

Lack of info about Bilstein shock absorbers? Not on my watch!

Let’s take a close look at these three monotube, zinc-plated beasts.

Important note: The 6112 come with the newest generation of Eibach springs. The dampening on these is monstrous, even though you can stick them only at the front.

Not to offend the 5xxx series shocks, but straying off the beaten path with a set of 6112s is the smoothest it’s ever been.

Kicking things off with a short summary first..

Billstein 5100
  • Bilstein 5100
  • Best for:
    Moderate offroad driving, affordable price and great performance. Go-to choice for most lifted vehicles and mild offroad warriors.
  • Piston size:
    46mm.
  • Shaft diameter:
    14mm
  • Heat dissipation:
    ★★★★
  • Capacity:
    ★★★★
Bilstein 5160 Pack Tab
  • Bilstein 5160
  • Best for:
    Extra reservoir allows for longer shock life, more capacity and better heat dissipation. 360° rotation swivel banjo hose for a clean install.
  • Piston size:
    46mm.
  • Shaft diameter:
    14mm
  • Heat dissipation:
    ★★★★★
  • Capacity:
    ★★★★★
Coil 6112 Bilstein
  • Bilstein 6112
  • Best for:
    Bilstein's newest front coilovers for extreme offroading. Heat resistant, superior dampening, and 5 adjustable heights. Pair with 5100/5160 at rear and enjoy.
  • Piston size:
    60mm.
  • Shaft diameter:
    18mm
  • Heat dissipation:
    ★★★★★
  • Capacity:
    ★★★★★

Bilstein 5100 shocks are great for general offroading on most vehicles. They’re Bilstein’s go-to shock absorber for any SUV or light truck.

Actually, they’re very similar to the 4600 series – but with the lifted support you’d expect for bigger vehicles. While they’re the cheapest among the trio I’m discussing here, make no mistake:

They’re not cheap in terms of manufacture.

Digressive piston plus zinc plating for more durability on top of some tough steel. White can shocks or, say, Monroes or even KYB can’t even compare. You can clearly see this if you read the numerous positive reviews they have from people riding anything from Ram to SIlverado or Tacoma 🙂

However, the 5100 absorbers lack something important that the 5160 series has. Let’s see what is is.

The 5160 shocks come with an additional remote reservoir. Bigger oil capacity and increased wheel travel mean you want them if you’re gonna go deep with your offroad adventures.

Because of that reservoir, they also cool off faster which contributes to longer shock life. If you’re going to get dirtier and rougher than your moderate weekend offroading, this reservoir will be an important improvement over the 5100.

Here’s how they look like in the wild:

Luckily, Bilstein are good at the design side of things so the reservoir actually looks slick. It’s not some clunky, dangling extra part that will cause you headaches instead of an important edge for offroading matters:

Bilstein 5160 vs 5100: An increased reservoir goes a long way...

The Bilstein 6112 are on a totally different level and I’m not sure to what extent can we compare them to 5160s, what’s left for the 5100.

First of all, they go from a 46mm monotube design to a 60mm monster.  This effectively means that you cannot just push them anywhere and they require vehicle-specific tuning.

They’re also pretty darn tough. Seriously.

An example would be their linear springs – they’re custom engineered and cold-treated so they can weather extreme conditions to the optimum. That’s latest generation Eibach springs for you!

The 6112 series is for late model SUVs or trucks. You need to have a front coilover suspension support to run them.

The optimal setup would be 6112 in the front and a pair of Bilstein 5160s at the rear. 

This is what Bilstein themselves recommend, though you can pair them in a set with Bilstein 5100 too.

6112 is the real Bilstein monster for extreme offroading. These will ride the smoothest on rough terrain or under increased vehicle load. Of course, they also require shelling out a bit more $$$.

I know you have more questions, so let’s go further with the differences between these.

Bilstein 5100 vs 5160 vs 6112:
Where are these shocks produced?

An excellent question!

I’m glad to say that Bilstein have never outsourced to cheap manufacturing plants which is evident when we look at their quality.

There are minor differences in the manufacture between these three shock series.

Namely, the 5100 shocks are made either in the US, or in Germany. Both the 6112 and 5160 shocks are strictly made in the US, without any overseas involvement in the production process.

But you know – I sure wouldn’t complain about German quality considering what they’ve done for the automotive industry. Right? 🙂

What about lift differences?

This is important too, right.

So, the 5100s or 5160 come with lifted vehicle support. This is the extra mile from Bilstein’s previous 4xxx generation – like the 4600 which support only stock height vehicles.

However, the 6112 series offer more height support. While 5100s allow for only 3 height settings, you can get 5 with the Bilstein 6112.

The 5 lift adjustments are as follows:

  • 0.8”

  • 1.2”

  • 1.6”

  • 2.0”

  • 2.5″

All in all, pretty great. If you want some more serious lifting going around, you can either consider trying out something like Fox shocks or tinkering around with the various lift kits on the market.

What are the common points of these Bilstein shock absorbers?

Different as they are, all of these share some of Bilstein’s trademark of doing suspension the right way.

All of them use upside-down monotube technology. Better support, better distribution and increased longevity compared to older twin-tube shocks.

Also, all of them are zinc plated. This is quite important as offroad driving will involve a lot of dirt, mud and whatnot to accumulate. Zinc plating shields you against the elements too, warding off the dangers of harsh weather conditions.

Note: You can consider ceramic coating/treating the 5160 reservoir if you’re worrying about rust.

Bilstein shocks are generally also relatively easy to install. While not as close to OEM as, say, KYBs on Asian cars, you shouldn’t need more than an hour or two if you have some DIY experience.

The 5100 and 5160 are especially easy to install. Things can get a little more tricky with coilovers but Bilsteins were never manufactured to complicate your installations. You’ll just need more patience:

Closing thoughts

Well, that was fun to write out! I hope this article has also been informative for you as a reader and potential user of any of these Bilstein shock series.

As always – if you have used any of them and have any points to make, let me know in the comments below. Other readers will also surely benefit from what you can share about your own experiences.

Founder of ToolingFun. Couldn't even change a lightbulb in my teenage years. Discovered the joy of DIY projects during my 2nd year in college. All about tinkering around, trying fun tools and projects, and giving my opinion on industry brands!