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Help evaluating used shocks for '97 Seville STS (PICS)

2323 Views 5 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  wachuku
Car: 1997 Seville STS.

Problem: Right rear shock leaks through air-ride leveling boot. Temporarily disabled air-leveling compressor. Shock requires replacement. (Broken shock seems to cause unstable ride, including "fish-tailing" over some bumps)

Related Option Codes: F45 and FE3. Electronically variable F45-type shocks (continuously variable road sensing suspension, CV-RSS). FE3 "sport" suspension stiffness.

Goal: I'd like to retain the original features of the car. Thus many of the aftermarket shocks that are not electronically variable are not ideal. On the other hand, new shocks incorporating all of the OEM features are cost prohibitive -- it's not that I don't want to spend the money; it's that I simply don't have the money. (~$1000 for pair at place like rock auto, best price).

A Potential Solution: I have received from a junkyard a pair of used shocks from a '97 Seville SLS (see pics below). The junkyard has agreed to allow me to examine the shocks before purchasing them, and I am hoping that forum members will help me understand what things are important to consider in this situation. The asking price is $250 for the pair, and I’d like the shocks to last at least two more years -- after which I hope to replace all four shocks if the rest of the vehicle continues to do as well as it is doing now. Indeed I am dubious about purchasing ten year-old used shocks, but the combination of my desires and constraints appears to render used shocks the sole option.

A Caveat: The following is not a main issue of the thread, but nonetheless seems worth mentioning. The '97 SLS has F45 shocks like the '97 STS, but the SLS has an FE1 "softride" suspension stiffness, whereas the '97 STS has a FE3 "sports" ride. However, the ACDelco replacement part numbers are identical for rear shocks for both the '97 STS and the '97 SLS, so I'm hoping that FE1 versus FE3 pertains to aspects of the suspension other than rear shocks -- although I'm not certain of this. Any input would be appreciated (more details are available from a previous thread: )

Main Questions:
  • Air-Ride Boots. The air-boots on both used shocks have small cracks throughout (see second and third pics below). The cracks become particularly apparent on whatever portion of the boot happens to be stretching to roll underneath itself and onto the lower arm of the shock as the arm slides into the upper piston body. Is such cracking an ominous sign of ensuing failure, or is it a normal aspect of all these types of shocks? (I could see either case being true).
  • Life expectancy over time, not miles. I suspect that at some point the sands-of-time overtake miles-of-use as the main factor leading to failure. If these F45 shocks don't fall victim to mileage, what is their typical time expectancy? Is it common for these shocks to last ten+ years?
  • Other considerations. What other things should I be considering while evaluating these shocks? (I am going to try and take the shocks to a local Cadi dealer for evaluation, but I’m not expecting the dealer to be very helpful).

    (I could post more pics to examine any other issues).


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I never noticed any severe cracking in the rubber boots on the ones on my '97 SLS, but I don't think I ever looked that close either. All rubber naturally degrades over time, and eventually, those cracks will become severe enough so as to leak and not hold pressure. I would add 50 psi of air to the shocks and see if they hold pressure.

The rear shocks (and front struts) are still original on the '97 that I used to own, and that my brother now owns. They ride fine and hold air perfectly. They were never subjected to much road salt. But I don't think it's "typical" for them to last so long in such good condition.

Now that you have them, I'd slap 'em in there and see what happens. If they don't work all that great, I'd seriously give up on used and look to the aftermarket. Monroe (to my knowledge) makes fully electronic air shocks, and Arnott and Boston Suspension make passive (non-electronic) air shocks. The air leveling still works, but they are no longer CV-RSS units. But there is a small chip in the shocks that causes the computer to still think the CV-RSS electronics are still installed, so they're plug-n-play.
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Whoa...... 50 psi is way too much pressure. Ten psi might be too much.
Pump them up with a bicycle pump and dunk them in water just like checking for a flat tire.
The shocks on my 97 look just like those and hold air just fine. How much longer they will last I don't know.
UPDATE 25-JUNE-2007.

Over the weekend I ended up replacing just the right-rear shock with a used shock. (The right-rear was the sole broken shock).

The reason I didn't do the pair is a little bit of a story. First, I couldn't remove either of the rear shocks myself. This was because I could find no way to prevent the single top-side mounting bolt from spinning. Indeed, the bolt has a torx slot on it's top, but such is useless for a rusted nut. So I asked a local mechanic to heat the bolt, and he called back saying he couldn't get the bolts off either. So then I asked him to cut the shock off, and he said he cut it with some sort of fire cutter.

Since removal of the original shocks required that they be destroyed, I decided to leave the original left shock on, because it was still functioning. That way I have the second of the used shocks as a back-up in case either of the present shocks goes in the future -- which could occur anytime given their ages (10 years).

As for not replacing the pair, I was thinking that because the used shocks were of identical age and comparable mileage to mine, they'd be near equivalent. If I were replacing the old shocks with new, then yeah, perhaps pair-wise replacement would have been necessary, but hopefully replacing an original shock with a similar used one is OK to do in singles.

As for the comment by tpis15, yes, the functioning shock on my car had cracking similar to that shown on the used shocks.

I took the car for quite a test drive, and it seems to ride fine with the replacement shock. Also the air-leveling is working again.
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