Bilstein vs KYB Shocks: Here’s The Difference
If mileage finally wrecked your OEM shocks (or struts), KYB and Bilstein are two solid choices. Both are a superior aftermarket substitute to any original parts.
Pitting both brands against each other has raised a lot of discussions on auto communities. Does Bilstein deserve its slightly higher price tag? Are the KYB classics good enough?
My personal opinion is that Bilstein shocks are indeed better in terms of quality and longevity. I especially recommend the 5100 Series – they work great with both light vehicles or 4×4 monsters.
I don’t know your driving habits, but a crucial advantage of Bilstein setups is how well they cope with off-road driving.
KYB’s main issue compared to Bilstein is that their shocks and struts are stiff. I mean the you can definitely feel that level of stiffness. Any Bilstein shock or strut will give you a smoother, more comfortable ride – without losing on the firm control over your ride.
For me, that’s enough to justify paying a little bit more $$$.
By the way – no matter your decision, I recommend you to pick monotube design parts. All these shocks I listed above are monotubes…and I’ll explain why this matters quite a bit further into this article.
But first: what does better mean anyways? There are exactly 3 things I care about when it comes to replacements:
Quality manufacture so I know that I won’t be changing them in 3-4 years.
Good, firm control over the vehicle.
Versatility: I want them to perform well in, say, off-road conditions on top of city roads.
Do both KYB and Bilstein shocks tick all the boxes?
Yes, they do. However, a pair of KYB shocks will generally stay with you for 5 years or so. Bilsteins can work as new for well over a decade if you take care of them properly.
Yes, Bilstein shocks run more expensive. However, they also last longer, provide overall increased performance, and a tighter grip on how your vehicle behaves.
KYB vs Bilstein:
Are there manufacture differences?
If by manufacture differences you mean cheap Made in China ‘quality’, rest easy.
Both companies conduct rigorous testing on their shocks absorbers.
KYB gets the recognition of Japanese-born production. Let’s be honest, there’s a reason why Japan has dominated the automobile industry. They put out affordable, yet efficient and quality cars based on their culture of handcrafted manufacture even to this day.
KYB does the same with shocks.
On the other hand, Bilstein come from another land of auto traditions: Germany. Some people say German people have a strange sense of humor…well, Bilstein accept no jokes with how they manufacture their shocks!
In both cases, there will be no cheap outsourcing. Bilstein live up to their slightly higher price with better manufacture, however.
The shocks themselves:
How do they compare?
As I mentioned, KYBs drive significantly stiffer compared to the smoother Bilsteins. I know some people prefer this stiffness, but generally gentler absorbers are more easy to run miles on.
The bigger difference between these two brands lies in the technology.
I spoke about the monotube design, but what does it look like? Well, Bilstein’s 5100 Series has a typical monotube design:
Monotube shocks have self-adjusting, digressive valving and run on high pressure. They are an updated version over standard low pressure twin tube shocks that run on velocity sensitive valving.
Generally, monotubes help with better vehicle handling and improved responsiveness to changes in road conditions.
Bilstein shocks are usually monotube. KYB usually stick to twin tubes, with the exception of Monomax and Gas A Justs – which is why I recommended them.
Especially if you want to do some more extreme stuff like towing other vehicles or hauling, the elegant Monomax is KYB’s best offer:
Stick to Bilsteins if you’re driving off-road. KYBs are a good, yet somewhat limited upgrade over OEMs. Bilstein raises the bar higher, think of them as a premium improvement that fares well with dirt roads and bumps/obstacles.
As I pointed out earlier, KYBs fare very well with cars from different Asian manufactureres. Gas A Justs are a favorite of Hyundai Elantra owners, for example.
Surprisingly, KYBs also perform better when it comes to cornering. If you want smoother turns and overtaking those pesky corners, you might consider a pair of KYB absorbers.
Both brands will give you a better shocks experience if you compare it with hard, only semi-responsive OEMs. But there’s no doubt that Bilsteins are the more premium choice – especially for car owners who are looking into off-road driving or sports driving.
KYBs are a good choice for people on a budget who own a Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai…Just make sure you stick to their monotube designed shocks so you’re on the edge of technology. Because with better technology comes better control and performance, after all.