Installed Bilstein 5100's - thoughts, impressions, lessons learned

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tri650

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I was not a fan of the stock suspension on my 17 Ford Expedition Limited. Had a few ass puckering moments going over rough pavement and decided to upgrade to Bilstein 5100's, based on opinions on this site. I decided to take on this project myself as it looked so easy on the youtube video's. Here is what I learned:

- Youtube video's lie: I watched a number of youtube video's on changing out the struts on my Exp and they made it look so easy. Not so. Compressing the springs - to take off and then mount on 5100's - was a major pain in the ass. I admit I did not have an industrial strength compressor, but it took forever to compress the springs. Not the 2 minutes they show on the videos. Getting things aligned, then keeping them in place was also painful. I bet I spent 75% of my time ******* around with the springs. You can get spring compressors at Auto Zone, etc., for free to use and return.

- Bribe a friend or family member to help: I did this by myself. Having another set of hands would have saved a lot of time and effort. Plus, I could have used someone to calm me down and stop me from throwing a wrench through garage window (did not happen but had it cocked and ready to throw)

- I wasn't crazy about the build quality on the struts. One shelf (stock setting) for the spring clip chipped and would not hold the lower spring holder. Had to get a new strut. Not sure if this is aluminum or not but surprised it shipped so easily.

- I did not do a great job of measuring. The new struts, with clip in "stock" position , raised the rear by about 2.5-3". I put the clip on the front struts to "stock" and I was at least 2.5" - 3" higher in the rear. It looked odd. I wished they would have made some mention that the 5100's are longer on the product description.

- I decided I would just add a lift kit to the front as opposed to going back in and disassembling the front strut again to change the spring clip to a higher setting. At this point I was worn out and could not see myself digging into the whole spring compressing thing again. Sorry, but at 70 years of age the body just doesn't like all of that physical activity anymore. Even with the 2" lift kit it still is not level. Back end is still higher, but probably I am the only one that will notice.

- With the additional lift I barely makes it into my garage. In fact, if I raise the tailgate with it it parked in the garage it hits the garage door and wants to bounce back. Something I did not consider. If I add bigger tires I will need to remove the top luggage rack to get it into the garage.

- Would I do it myself again?: Hell no. Way to physical for this old man. Only exception is if I had help.

- The ride: After all of this work I would say it was worth it. Previously I would bounce off bumps and the suspension would wallow over big bumps. I would lose contact with any rough surface. I had a few moments where the back end decided to move on its own when I went over anything with a washboard surface. I now absorb the bumps and don't lose contact with the road. It is definitely stiffer, so you feel the bumps but you still stay connected to the road. Even my wife commented how much smoother the ride is after a 350 mile trip.

- Other thoughts: Now that it is raised I need some new tires and wheels. Stock wheels look puny when you look at the space I now have with it lifted. Falken Wildpeak or Milestar Patagonia have been recommended. Pricey but worth it.

I understand that by publishing this I am opening myself to ridicule and mockery. I accept my fate. Bring it on.

I'll add some pics this week.
 

Alwaysthinkin

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I understand that by publishing this I am opening myself to ridicule and mockery. I accept my fate. Bring it on.
No ridicule and mockery from me. I appreciate your desire to do the project yourself and understand things aren't always as easy or straight forward as it seems for others. Personally, it always seems to take me 3 to 5 times as long to do something as described by others. Your description of your experience is sure to help someone else down the road and, personally, I appreciate your thread and your willingness to put yourself out there. Of course, I suppose my being 70 also is part of my appreciation for your doing the work yourself!
 

JasonH

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Compressing springs can definitely be a chore if you don't have a good compressor. At least you didn't replicate my error. The first time I did struts, back in the early 2000s, I put some Eibachs on my Accord. Only I reversed the springs and put the rears in the front. That was an (unpleasant) learning experience. The rate was way too low up front so I scraped everything until I was able to have a shop swap them.
 
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