Mileage and time got to your OEM shocks or struts, and now you’re looking for new shocks. Are both KYB and Bilstein shocks a solid choice? Absolutely. How do they actually compare to each other?
Now that’s a question you can’t answer in just a few sentences. Today, I’ll be comparing their most popular shocks, the Bilstein 4600 and 5100, and KYB Monomax and Gas-A-Just.
For general applications, I’d recommend Bilstein 4600 shocks. This is a balanced shock for stock height SUV/light trucks, both price and performance-wise. Unless you ride a heavy-loaded truck – in that case, MonoMaxes would be better.
If you have a lifted 4WD and are looking for more offroad action: Neither the 4600, nor Monomax are optimal as off-roading shocks. The right choice would be a Bilstein 5100 kit. For sedans/passenger cars, Gas-A-Justs will drive the smoothest.
Here’s a quick summary before my thorough review:
KYB Monomax vs Bilstein 4600 or Bilstein 5100?
I’m not sure why people decided to compare either the Monomax or Bilstein 4600 to the 5100 series. Seriously.
The 5100 shocks come with lifted vehicle support and customized valving and damping to accommodate that. This is a shock designed for modded vehicles and heavier off-road purposes.
This is why you’ll see it loved by various 4WD crowds: from Ford F350 owners with their sets to people who go off the beaten path with their Tacoma, Jeep, etc.
The 5100 is not a shock-emulating OEM-style performance. It’s made for exploring the extreme.
It’s a tough steel beast with zinc plating that protects the monotube body from cracking and extreme terrain stress. Firm, but not too stiff – allowing superior control on uneven surfaces.
4600 Series and KYB’s Monomax
Both of these aim to deliver OEM performance and are mostly targeted at more casual SUV/truck owners. By casual I mean people who mainly drive on the streets, but also go for the occasional off-road adventure from time to time.
I won’t lie to you – both shocks are very close in performance in general situations. However, there are a few significant differences to note:
- If you drive a half-loaded vehicle or plan to do some towing, Bilstein 4600 is a better choice.
- On a full load, the Monomax makes more sense.
- However – if you plan to do more offroading, just stick to Bilsteins. Way better damping/durability.
- If you’re a hardcore OEM ride fan, KYB has always made the OEM replacement shocks.
Monomaxes are stiff. Seriously – they’re probably twice the stiffness of how smooth the 4600s ride. Some people prefer firmer control, but on a half-load a set of Monomax shocks can just get uncomfortable.
They do have the coolest looks among the mid-range shocks, though:
Both the 4600 and 5100 series from Bilstein come with a digressive piston design. What this really means is that they’re premium shocks specifically designed to cope with uneven patches and provide superior damping if you go through rougher roads. This will not only provide a smoother ride but in the end, it’ll keep your shock absorbers intact for longer too.
If you see someone complaining that their Monomax shock absorbers busted after 3 years – that guy’s done a fair bit of off-road driving. Bilsteins cope better in such an environment.
- Similar function like B4600 – for SUVs/light trucks.
- Rides better on heavy loads, otherwise feels too stiff.
- More budget-friendly than Bilsteins.
KYB vs Bilstein Shocks for Sedans & Strut Assemblies
When it comes to choosing between KYB and Bilstein shocks for sedans and strut assemblies, there’s no clear winner. It all depends on your needs and preferences. You don’t really need to shell out that much cash. Bilstein shocks will be a financial overkill.
KYB shocks have been around for a long time, so you can expect their products to be reliable in terms of quality and durability . Its gas-A is just the best option simply because:
- Compared to the Monomax or any Bilstein shock, they drive smoother. Not to mention that they’re significantly cheaper too.
- KYB is probably the best suspension manufacturer for Asian cars. The company has deals with leading car makers like Toyota.
Gas-A-Justs are nothing else than an improved OEM with better control, better cornering, and better shock life.
Struts & Strus Assemblies: KYB all the way
If you’re looking for something close to OEM rides, the KYB strut assemblies are your best choice.
Remember that struts differ from shocks by having a secondary role: they also serve as structural support to your car’s suspensions and keep your tires aligned.
To be honest, Bilstein doesn’t really focus on quick strut assemblies due to their target market of SUVs and pickups. On the other hand, KYB offers two different strut lines: Excel-G gas struts or Gas-A-Just struts.
I suggest you go for the Excel G. Gas-A-Justs can be way too stiff as struts and will send you into a whiplash if you hit a pothole or anything bumpy.
Sure, Excel-G are twintubes and might feel like older tech, but they are smoother on the road. Or better yet – just go with a complete corner unit assembly like this one:
Best performance for the price, exact fitment from the leading OEM manufacturer. Superior cornering.
So, overall, Bilstein shocks aBilstein shocks are overall more durable and better for off-road driving. Using them for heavy duty/4×4/SUV and KYB shocks for lighter vehicles/Asian cars is a good rule of thumb. On the other hand KYtter for off-road driving. Using them for heavy duty/4×4/SUV and KYB shocks for lighter vehicles/Asian cars is a good rule of thumb. On the other hand KYB shocks are a bit better with cornering. Their corner strut assemblies are a bargain too.
It is important to keep in mind KYB is definitely stiffer – with Bilstein you will experiences a smoother, more comfortable ride overall. This is due to their digressive piston design which deals better with road unevenness and damping.
In any case, you should pick shocks with a monotube design as they allow for better vehicle handling.
Are there manufacturing differences with KYB vs Bilstein?
Most drivers will comment on buying aftermarket parts as being ‘suspiciously cheap’ compared to original struts. The Made in China quality does not imply that the products lack performance. Both KYB and Bilstein conduct rigorous testing on their shock 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 comes from another land of auto traditions: Germany. Some people say German people have a strange sense of humor, and Bilstein accept no jokes about how they manufacture their shocks!
In both cases, there will be no cheap outsourcing. Bilstein lives up to their slightly higher price with better manufacture, however. Also, they shift the manufacture to American soil for their higher-grade shocks – like the 5160 or 6112 shocks.
What does better mean anyways?
There are exactly 3 things I care about when it comes to comparing KYB vs. Bilstein shock absorber replacements:
- Quality manufacture, so I know I won’t change them in 3-4 years.
- Good, firm control over the vehicle.
- Versatility: I want them to perform well in 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. If you care for them properly, Bilstein shocks can work as new for over a decade.
Yes, Bilstein shocks run more expensive. However, they also last longer, increase performance, and give a tighter grip on your vehicle’s behavior, especially in more extreme conditions.
KYB vs. Bilstein – Unleashing the Tech behind the Suspension
As I mentioned, KYB shocks drive significantly stiffer compared to the smoother Bilsteins. I know some people prefer this stiffness, but generally, gentler shock absorbers are easier to run miles on. The bigger difference between these two brands lies in the technology.
Bilstein’s 5100 Series has a typical monotube design, like all Bilstein shocks.
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. Stick to them if you’re driving off-road.
KYBs is a decent yet somewhat limited upgrade here. Sure, an improvement over entry-level suspension replacements like Monroe or Gabriel, but…
Bilstein raises the bar higher. Think of them as a premium improvement that masters dirt roads and bumps or potholes – they are truly the better choice when it comes to off-roading shocks.
As I pointed out earlier, KYB shocks fare very well with cars from different Asian manufacturers. Gas A Justs are a favorite of Hyundai Elantra or any Toyota owners, for example.
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. If you want a more in-depth look at them, check my detailed comparison of the 4600 and 5100 series.
KYB shocks are a good choice for people on a budget who own a Toyota, Nissan, or Hyundai…Just ensure you stick to their monotube designed shocks so you’re on the edge of technology. Because with better automotive technology comes better control and performance, after all.
We hope you liked reading our article about Kyb vs Bilstein shocks and that now making the decision of which shock absorber to pick becomes way easier.