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Front strut issue and thoughts on overall suspension durability
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Thread: Front strut issue and thoughts on overall suspension durability

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    Front strut issue and thoughts on overall suspension durability

    For the past 3k or so miles I've noticed the front end of my 16 X has felt looser or less precise. The steering feels lighter and the shocks feel flinty. I decided to rotate my tires by hand so I could inspect the suspension, brakes and tires myself. First, let me just say that the X has held up impressively well to 74k miles. The back side of the engine and all suspension components are clean and look new. No oil leaks anywhere and all cv axle boots and ball joints are undamaged. Front brake life is also impressive. This car has been driven entirely in suburbia as a food delivery vehicle and yet the front brake pads still appear to have 60-70% life left. I do have a manual so I do utilize more engine braking then someone with an automatic, but I don't see any reason why anyone would need front brake pads before 100k. The right rotor does suffer from a few gouges on the surface and whatever caused it could be causing the occasional brake squeals that I get. But no reason to change the brakes anytime soon. The rear pads have about 50% life left. All the suspension components front and rear appear to be tight, with no play.

    Rotating the tires did lessen the pull to the right I've been having but did not change the less settled feel to the front end. The only thing that I can think of after my inspection is one or both of the front struts isn't operating properly. They don't float over big bumps but they seem much harsher then the rear and feel loose over sharper bumps. Interestingly, during my inspection, I noticed the rear strut housings have an FSD by Koni sticker on them but the fronts did not. Anyone know if the front struts are for sure supposed to be FSD?

    I'm a bit torn on what I should do. The loose feeling front end had me considering trading in because I felt front shock replacement this early was disappointing, not to mention expensive because there are 0 aftermarket options for the X. That being said, the X has never been a nice riding car so I'm wondering if new struts will improve the ride enough that it kills my desire to move on. After my inspection, the car looks so good underneath and the engine runs so smooth, it seems to trade. Anyone know how much a dealer charges to replace the struts?
    2013 Fiat 500T Rosso
    RRM rear sway bar, Koni front struts, El Gato front chassis braces, 500Madness GoPedal, NeuF muffler delete, EC V4.1 intake, Gofastbits DV+, RRM lightweight crankshaft pulley, LED interior lights.

    2016 Fiat 500X Pop Arancio
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    Glad to hear your pulling to the right has gotten better. I checked and the fronts use FSD technology, too, like the rear.

    Being in the car biz, shocks going at 74,000 miles are not unheard of. Depends a lot on the roads. Then again, I'm in NY- rotten road land, USA. Are the struts leaking? It is acceptable to have some wetness. Here are the guidelines, courtesy of FCA:

    SUBJECT:
    Shock Strut Weeping Condition Identification
    OVERVIEW:
    This bulletin involves correctly diagnosing strut or shock absorber conditions involving fluid
    residue on the external surface.
    SYMPTOM/CONDITION:
    The customer may describe fluid residue on the external surface of the strut or shock
    absorber.
    DISCUSSION:
    Strut/Shock absorber piston rod seals perform 3 functions:
    1. Provide sealing of internal fluid.
    2. Seal the shock from dust and contamination in the environment.
    3. Self lubricate by applying a thin film of fluid to the piston rod.

    NOTE: Residual fluid near the rod seal at the top of the strut/shock is normal. Only
    when there is noticeable dripping of fluid down the strut/shock should
    replacement be considered.

    Use the following images as a guideline for strut/shock replacement.

    Shock-leaks-a.jpg

    Light fluid film in the top one-third of the strut/shock is considered normal.
    Strut/Shock replacement not recommended, provided the strut/shock is functioning
    (dampening) as designed.

    Shock-leaks-b.jpg

    Minor weep - drops of shock fluid extending down beyond one-third or more of the
    strut/shock body length or below the Spring seat on a strut/shock. Strut/Shock replacement is recommended.

    -OR-

    Major weep - fluid covers two-thirds or more of the strut/shock body length (Fig. 3).
    Strut/Shock replacement is recommended.

    -----------------------------

    How are the tires? Tires start to ride hard as they get old, too. I see the OEM struts are around $200 on Rock Auto. (search part# 68285143AA for one of the shocks - note: I just did a quick search, so maybe get the part #s from your dealer to be 100% certain when searching).

    https://www.rockauto.com/en/catalog/...ion,strut,7584


    Bilstein has stuff in Europe. Probably be the same price or more:

    https://www.bilstein.com/int/en/blog...-500x-2wd-4wd/

    The struts are straightforward to replace, but if you aren't going to do it yourself, shop around and I bet you can get someone to do it for a reasonable price to save money. Make sure you get new OEM strut mounts.

    Keep in mind aftermarket suspension parts can be ****e. Even the Bilsteins, if they are the lower level, aren't built like the mono-tube Bilstein Sport shocks. I have some replacement Bilstein shocks on our Audi A4 and they are probably around the level of Sachs replacement shocks. Not high end Bilstein/Koni products, but probably better than the Gabriel / Monroe stuff that retail parts stores sell. Are the OEM Cofap shocks better? Good question. But they do have the FSB technology and you did like the ride when they were new, so that may be the way to go.

    Keep us in the loop.
    Last edited by Fiat500USA; 12-02-2018 at 10:50 PM. Reason: added rock auto link and oem number
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    I'm not a mechanic, but it seems odd if your rear brakes are worn more than your front brakes. Also agree that many new cars will go 100K miles on the original pads, but it all depends on driving style and how hard you use the brakes. As an example, my Abarth went about 55,000 on the front pads before I replaced them, and that's due to a lot of autocross events, while the rear brake pads had a lot of life left.
    2013 Rosso Abarth with 61K miles, Koni yellow shocks, Madness springs, Neu-f rear sway bar, EBC Yellowstuff brake pads, DOT4 brake fluid, K&N air filter, autocross 17 inch Ciao Milano wheels with Bridgestone Potenza RE71R, daily wheels stock 16 inch Dunlop DZ102. 2017 1st place HS Tidewater Sports Car Club: 2016-2015 1st Place TSCC GS class; 2014-2013: 2nd place in SCCA South Carolina Region G Stock.
    My Car blog: http://www.nms-racing.net/

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fiat500USA View Post
    Glad to hear your pulling to the right has gotten better. I checked and the fronts use FSD technology, too, like the rear.

    Being in the car biz, shocks going at 74,000 miles are not unheard of. Depends a lot on the roads. Then again, I'm in NY- rotten road land, USA. Are the struts leaking? It is acceptable to have some wetness. Here are the guidelines, courtesy of FCA:

    Shock-leaks-b.jpg

    Minor weep - drops of shock fluid extending down beyond one-third or more of the
    strut/shock body length or below the Spring seat on a strut/shock. Strut/Shock replacement is recommended.

    -OR-

    Major weep - fluid covers two-thirds or more of the strut/shock body length (Fig. 3).
    S

    The struts are straightforward to replace, but if you aren't going to do it yourself, shop around and I bet you can get someone to do it for a reasonable price to save money. Make sure you get new OEM strut mounts.

    Keep us in the loop.
    The main reason I did the tire rotation was to check for strut fluid leaks. The right strut was bone dry. The left had a few patches of darker residue but nothing to indicate obvious leakage. But compared to the smoother more composed ride provided in my 500 with aftermarket performance struts, the front struts must just be worn out on my X. It really crashes going slow over sharp speed bumps.

    Do you happen to know or can get the instructions for changing the struts? Strut replacement is usually pretty straight forward but the X has a few things that could make it difficult to replace for me and my dad. First, the stabilizer bar end link attaches to the strut body instead of the control arm or steering knuckle. Wouldn't it be difficult to reattach this to the strut when the bar is under stress from being jacked up on one side?? Second, the upper strut mount looks difficult to get to, are there any special things that have to be removed to gain access? How difficult the job is will determine whether I enlist my dad or pay a shop.
    2013 Fiat 500T Rosso
    RRM rear sway bar, Koni front struts, El Gato front chassis braces, 500Madness GoPedal, NeuF muffler delete, EC V4.1 intake, Gofastbits DV+, RRM lightweight crankshaft pulley, LED interior lights.

    2016 Fiat 500X Pop Arancio
    500Madness GoPedal, custom Abarth style exhaust (resonator/muffler delete.), Gofastbits DV+, RRM lightweight crankshaft pulley, RRM Ultimate tuner, LED interior lights.

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    Quote Originally Posted by carfreak09 View Post
    The main reason I did the tire rotation was to check for strut fluid leaks. The right strut was bone dry. The left had a few patches of darker residue but nothing to indicate obvious leakage. But compared to the smoother more composed ride provided in my 500 with aftermarket performance struts, the front struts must just be worn out on my X. It really crashes going slow over sharp speed bumps.

    Do you happen to know or can get the instructions for changing the struts? Strut replacement is usually pretty straight forward but the X has a few things that could make it difficult to replace for me and my dad. First, the stabilizer bar end link attaches to the strut body instead of the control arm or steering knuckle. Wouldn't it be difficult to reattach this to the strut when the bar is under stress from being jacked up on one side?? Second, the upper strut mount looks difficult to get to, are there any special things that have to be removed to gain access? How difficult the job is will determine whether I enlist my dad or pay a shop.
    You've got mail.

    Yor remove the cowling sides to access the 3 strut mount hold down bolts. That's not too hard. The 500 is similar, but you can just lift the sides and get your wrench in there. On the 500X, you just have to remove the cowl sides, so it isn't the whole thing. It's a couple of screws/push pins.




    The sway bar end link is easy. Just use a floor jack under the control arm to relieve the tension on the end link when you remove / install it. Below is an image of me doing it on my Abarth.




    Just take enough pressure off it so the stud slides easily out of the strut.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fiat500USA View Post
    You've got mail.

    Yor remove the cowling sides to access the 3 strut mount hold down bolts. That's not too hard. The 500 is similar, but you can just lift the sides and get your wrench in there. On the 500X, you just have to remove the cowl sides, so it isn't the whole thing. It's a couple of screws/push pins.




    The sway bar end link is easy. Just use a floor jack under the control arm to relieve the tension on the end link when you remove / install it. Below is an image of me doing it on my Abarth.




    Just take enough pressure off it so the stud slides easily out of the strut.

    Thank you so much for the email and the suggestion on the sway bar end link! Immensely helpful. It looks doable. Now I gotta decide whether I want to harass my dad over the xmas holiday. I just got an RRM Ultimate tuner that I think I'm going to hook up to the X and see how much it wakes up. Since I drive the X way more then my 500T and it's heavier and in need of more power, I figured the piggyback tuner would be put to better use there. I can always transfer it to the T later.
    2013 Fiat 500T Rosso
    RRM rear sway bar, Koni front struts, El Gato front chassis braces, 500Madness GoPedal, NeuF muffler delete, EC V4.1 intake, Gofastbits DV+, RRM lightweight crankshaft pulley, LED interior lights.

    2016 Fiat 500X Pop Arancio
    500Madness GoPedal, custom Abarth style exhaust (resonator/muffler delete.), Gofastbits DV+, RRM lightweight crankshaft pulley, RRM Ultimate tuner, LED interior lights.

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    For what it's worth, I remember a difference in the marketing of the 500 Abarth vs 500X (and 500L). As I recall, the 500 Abarth is said to come with Koni FSD struts (Frequency Selective Damping) in the front (only), whereas the 500X and 500L were said to come with struts with Koni FSD techology. So, I take that to mean that with the case of the 500 Abarth, the car has front struts actually made by Koni, whereas with the 500X and 500L, it's possible that Koni licenses their (I'm assuming) patented blow-off valve technology to another OEM manufacturer- which may perhaps be not as durable as the Koni's.

    Koni and also Bilstein struts, at least back in the day, were reported to have very long life. That might still be the case today, but I couldn't say- in any case a mute point for the purpose of this discussion, as I did a search for aftermarket struts for the 500X and came up with zilch, nada as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronbo10 View Post
    For what it's worth, I remember a difference in the marketing of the 500 Abarth vs 500X (and 500L). As I recall, the 500 Abarth is said to come with Koni FSD struts (Frequency Selective Damping) in the front (only), whereas the 500X and 500L were said to come with struts with Koni FSD techology. So, I take that to mean that with the case of the 500 Abarth, the car has front struts actually made by Koni, whereas with the 500X and 500L, it's possible that Koni licenses their (I'm assuming) patented blow-off valve technology to another OEM manufacturer- which may perhaps be not as durable as the Koni's.

    Koni and also Bilstein struts, at least back in the day, were reported to have very long life. That might still be the case today, but I couldn't say- in any case a mute point for the purpose of this discussion, as I did a search for aftermarket struts for the 500X and came up with zilch, nada as well.
    Interesting point. They could be lower quality shocks then if they had come directly from Koni. Yea, there is no aftermarket support for the X which is disappointing. I was just quoted over $800 for front strut replacement from a Fiat dealer. No thank you....I'll either push the shocks to 100k and replace them or replace them at Xmas with the help of my dad.
    2013 Fiat 500T Rosso
    RRM rear sway bar, Koni front struts, El Gato front chassis braces, 500Madness GoPedal, NeuF muffler delete, EC V4.1 intake, Gofastbits DV+, RRM lightweight crankshaft pulley, LED interior lights.

    2016 Fiat 500X Pop Arancio
    500Madness GoPedal, custom Abarth style exhaust (resonator/muffler delete.), Gofastbits DV+, RRM lightweight crankshaft pulley, RRM Ultimate tuner, LED interior lights.

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    $800 sounds pretty pricey, alright. Commenting more generally, I've noted that as our cars age, the ride, handling precision etc. get subtly worse, but it's something that can happen so slowly that the driver can almost forget just how well it rode when the car was new, and so that benchmark becomes fuzzy in our minds. Suspension component bushings can age too, in particular as cars really get on in age, as they can become weathered and hard, or brittle. It seems your X would be too young for this to be an issue. Bushings can wear as well, of course, irrespective of age, in particular if your driving environment is riddled with poor street surfaces.

    When you inspected your suspension components, I imagine you were looking at that sort of thing along with everything else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronbo10 View Post
    $800 sounds pretty pricey, alright. Commenting more generally, I've noted that as our cars age, the ride, handling precision etc. get subtly worse, but it's something that can happen so slowly that the driver can almost forget just how well it rode when the car was new, and so that benchmark becomes fuzzy in our minds. Suspension component bushings can age too, in particular as cars really get on in age, as they can become weathered and hard, or brittle. It seems your X would be too young for this to be an issue. Bushings can wear as well, of course, irrespective of age, in particular if your driving environment is riddled with poor street surfaces.

    When you inspected your suspension components, I imagine you were looking at that sort of thing along with everything else.
    Yep, I was looking at the condition of all the ball joints and bushings. Everything looked almost new. And jiggling stuff showed no looseness. Florida roads are generally smooth but I do go over numerous speed humps daily as well as the ever present water drainage channels in front of driveways. She's definitely become a rough rider. My 2013 500 turbo with Koni adjustable struts turned to their firmest setting rides better. It's just weird the shocks feel so rough and yet still show good compression control over dips.
    2013 Fiat 500T Rosso
    RRM rear sway bar, Koni front struts, El Gato front chassis braces, 500Madness GoPedal, NeuF muffler delete, EC V4.1 intake, Gofastbits DV+, RRM lightweight crankshaft pulley, LED interior lights.

    2016 Fiat 500X Pop Arancio
    500Madness GoPedal, custom Abarth style exhaust (resonator/muffler delete.), Gofastbits DV+, RRM lightweight crankshaft pulley, RRM Ultimate tuner, LED interior lights.

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