Beware of fake parts

2016-05-24 06:00
 A 40mm difference in overall length will force the suspension to operate in a sub-optimal arc, causing accelerated wear. PHOTO: motorpress

A 40mm difference in overall length will force the suspension to operate in a sub-optimal arc, causing accelerated wear. PHOTO: motorpress

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Vehicle owners should be careful of counterfeit parts.

Bilstein South Africa, the local importer and distributor of Bilstein gas pressure shock absorbers, has warned motorists not to be misled by counterfeit versions of the brand’s Airmatic spring/damper, the fitment of which will severely compromise a vehicle’s stability and safety, according to a press release by Motorpress,

Damper assemblies with integrated height-adjustable air springs are fitted to a number of upmarket SUVs and sedans. These complex, sophisticated assemblies combine electronically-controlled hydraulic damping with air springing and can react instantly to road conditions, driver inputs, and speed.

Unfortunately, they are frequently copied or inadequately refurbished and sold at a price much lower than the original – often with the inference that their performance will be the same as or similar to that of the original.

These counterfeiters go to great lengths to pass their product off as a Bilstein but there are a number of key visual differences that can be used to verify the authenticity of the product. For starters, a fake “Airmatic” was 40 mm too long. Dimensional accuracy is critical and if the suspension is forced to work through an abnormal arc, it will cause not only incorrect geometry under certain conditions but also premature failure of rubber bushings and mountings and accelerated wear of other components such as constant velocity joints.

Key differences between real and counterfeit units include:

. On a Bilstein unit the remote valve cylinder is invisibly laser welded onto the damping tube, whereas on the fake item uneven “spot” welding is evident where it attaches using a similar interface.

. One of the most obvious differences between the real and the fake is how the yoke, which straddles the vehicle’s suspension arm, is attached to the damper tube. The Bilstein item has an open tube which is pressed onto the shock body and then welded both above and below. The fake uses a casting which is closed at the bottom, has a longer boss and is welded onto the shock body on the upper side only.

. Viewed from below the genuine part has a dimple in the centre of the end cap.

. The edge of the bellows on the Bilstein unit is extremely accurately and precisely aligned relative to the steel crimping ring. Extra crimping marks and a large and/or irregular overlap of the rubber are tell-tale signs that the bellows has been replaced, or that the entire unit is not Bilstein.

. The Bilstein unit has a satin black finish while the non-genuine item is gloss black.

. Bilstein’s trademark blue and yellow colours are prominent on the information stickers. Text includes the part number, and the word “Germany” – a reference to the country of manufacture. The non-genuine item described itself variously as “High Quality”, “New Shock Absorbers” [sic] and “New Product”.

Some of these differences are only apparent by removing and examining the unit. One of the most obvious giveaways is the area at the bottom of the damper, where the fork joins the tube. The fake has a longer boss which is clearly welded to the tube on the upper side.


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