<u>Modifcation:</u> Shock and Spring Upgrade for FWD Passat
<u>DIY Rating:</u>Moderate (with pneumatic impact wrench) semi-difficult (w/o pneumatic impact wrench)
<u>Time (real world):</u> 2-5 hours depending upon tools, breaks, rust, etc.
<u>Tools Required (are you ready?)</u>:
7mm Long Arm Allen Wrench
13mm 3/8" drive socket
16mm 1/2" drive socket
17mm 1/2" drive socket
18mm 1/2" drive socket
16mm open/box-end wrench
18mm open/box-end wrench
1/2" torque wrench
Strut Compressor and appropriate socket (hardened version if using a pneumatic impact wrench)
Bench Vise (not an absolute necessity)
1/2" pneumatic impact wrench (if possible)
Air Compressor (if possible)
Long Nose Tin Snips
WD-40 or Liquid Wrench
Neuspeed Sport Springs: 55.10.60 and Bilstein Sport Shocks: B36-2081(fr) BE3-2533(rr)
This is probably the most common upgrade made by most Passat owners. There are a plethora of opinions on the various spring and shock manufacturer combinations that is beyond the scope of this page. I am here to lend my experience in the installation of whatever combination of suspension components you eventually arrive at. The installation is generic; no high or low VIN issues, nor will it cover 4 Motion as I have yet to perform a full install on my own. There are two thoughts on the removal of the front strut. The first is to remove the four rubber covers that hide the 13mm nuts which allow the strut assembly to drop from the upper control arm plate. While this would be ideal, the truth is, some A/C and brake lines run right over some of the plugs and are close enough that sockets are useless. On 98' models, it's less of a problem but on 99'- present, it's next to impossible. So the other method, which I have standardized on, is the removal of the (6) 16mm bolts. It adds another two steps but is much easier to do.
WARNING: this procedure uses a strut compressor. Regardless of the brand or type, extreme caution must be exercised when dealing with what can potentially be a crippling and/or lethal projectile if all precautions are not taken.
ALWAYS WEAR EYE PROTECTION
ALWAYS WEAR GLOVES
ALWAYS USE THE SAFETY LOCKS, PINS or RETAINERS that are part of the compression device. And if you are ever unsure about doing this procedure, STOP and ask for the assistance of a qualified mechanic. Safety is paramount here!
INSTRUCITONS - FRONT
Note: I am using a combination of pictures from two different installs.
Jack up the car and set on jackstands and remove the front wheels.
Under the upper plate that holds the upper control arm, you should see a retaining clip that looks somewhat like a washer. This cannot be spun off; it must be removed using a long nosed tin snip. It's assumed this clip was used during the assembly but it's no longer required:
Once this is removed, use an 18mm socket and 18mm boxend wrench and remove the lower control arm that hold the lower shock/strut. You will notice the long bolt is facing towards the lower-rear control arm and that the bolt will not clear easily. Turning the steering wheel completely in one direction helps give some clearance. Ultimately, you will have to use a long 3/8" drive extension (to help drive out the bolt) and lots of downward force to free the bolt! Expect some scratches on the control arm when this is done. It cannot be avoided.
Next, remove the upper control arm from the swing arm using a 16mm socket and 16mm boxend wrench:
If the area around the swing-arm is rusted, use a 3/8" drive extension and a rubber mallet and drive the control arm pins up. You should also use Liquid Wrench or WD-40 to help loosen the rust. DO NOT use a screwdriver or chisel to widen the slots; you can potentially crack the swingarm at that location.
Next, use a 16mm socket to remove the (3) bolts that hold the upper plate to the chassis:
With the assembly free, work the strut assemblly free, being careful not to tear the CV boot below (if you tilt the upper portion towards the engine and push down on the lower control arm, you should have enough clearance to get the lower strut mount past the lower arm:
Set the assembly in a vice and remove the upper plate using a 13mm socket to remove the two nuts that hold it in place; note which holes were used.
With the upper plate removed we can now compress the springs. Place each compressor such that they are exactly 180 deg. from each other. Be sure that ALL of the lock pins are in place on each end of the compressor blocks. Then tighten each bolt evenly. Care must be taken when using a pneumatic impact wrench so you don't over do one side over the other. Keep check on the compressors to ensure they continue to remain on opposite sides as you work the bolts; sometimes they tend to creep towards each other along the spring if you do not compress them evenly.
Once you have compressed the spring sufficiently, you can remove the retaining nut by using a 16mm socket clamped by a Vice Grip plier; this has to be clamped very firmly to ensure it doesn't spin. Take a 7mm allen wrench to hold the shaft in place while you loosen the nut. In the first photo, you can see how much spring was taken up before enough tension was aleviated.
Here’s all of the components laid out.
Depending upon the shock absorber you purchased, you may end up using the bump stop, lower perch, upper perch and the retaining washer (the tiny gold washer just to the left of the spring) as well as a different lock-nut. Read the instructions that came with the shocks; some like Koni's will require adjustment, others may or may not ask for the bumpstop to be cut.
Loosen the compressor and compress the new springs; if the spring is a lowering spring, you will need to judge where to put the jaws of the compressor since there will be less coils to grab onto. Once you've compressed the spring sufficiently, mount the new shock into the bench vise; use a rag to protect the paint. When installing the lower spring plate, position the "drain hole" such that it will face towards the engine. Be sure the shock shaft is fully extended before mounting the upper spring plate.
When installing the upper spring plate, VW suggest you position the plate's two studs 11 deg. from the lower bolt axis. This is why I made it a point to note which holes were used when you removed the plate in Step. 8 since you will need to be sure it's aligned properly when the upper control arm plate is placed back on. Use the 16mm in the Vice Grip, and the 7mm long armed allen wrench, to tighten down the nut. VW requires about 50Nm (37 ft.lbs.) of torque which is hard unless you can obtain VW's special tool. But 37 ft.lbs. is about good arm strength tight. The springs tensions will ensure it will not come loose!