I’ve been a fan of my STaSIS Ohlins SL “Challenge” coilovers for some time – they are a top of the line setup that rides nicely for a daily driver, yet excels at the track or canyon drives, too. The only major downside to these coilovers, besides cost, was that they are intended to be rebuilt every 2 years or 25,000 miles according to the manufacturer (1 year and 12k miles for Motorsports owners) due to certain components being built to race spec and thus needing replaced over time. STaSIS offered these rebuilds at a fairly affordable price of $500 for a full refresh, but when STaSIS went out of business that option vanished, leaving STaSIS/Ohlins owners with few alternatives.
Below is what I discovered, but ultimately if you’re in need of a rebuild I strongly recommend Feal Suspension for great service, affordable prices, and a quick turnaround.
How to Tell if your Ohlins need Rebuilt?
First – how to tell if your coilovers need rebuilt…the telltale sign is leaking black/dark fluids around the shock body, but other signs that you may need a rebuild include exceeding the mileage suggested by STaSIS, excessive track use, noises, or in my case the ultimate sign was an incredibly sub-par ride quality…over time, the ride quality got worse and worse, until it felt like I was riding in a dump truck or a Civic with cut springs. Every bump was painfully noticeable, and the car was no longer pleasant or fun to drive anymore. I was getting to the point where I’d rather drive my wife’s Focus, which is when I realized it was time for a change…to be fair, my Ohlins coilovers had almost 4 years of use, 4 track days, 30k miles, and plenty of use/fun out of them – so it was probably far past the amount of time/use for a service interval I should have gone…point being you’ll know when it’s time for a rebuild if it is for deteriorated ride quality…
Performance Shock Inc. (PSI)
Performance Shock Inc (PSI) in Sonoma, CA is the most well known STaSIS/Ohlins rebuilder in the Audi scene and came recommended to me by forums and local shops alike, so I gave them a call first to get a quote. I was flabbergasted by their price quotes and turnaround times, and overall had a terrible impression from them – when I called and was told “A minimum of $225 per shock for a standard rebuild and about a 30 day turnaround, but sometimes we’ve seen rebuilds cost over $2,000 if other components need replaced.” When I told the person on the phone I’d have to be crazy to spend $2k getting coilovers that only cost $2,300 brand-new, he didn’t have much of a response. They also wouldn’t budge or indicate if 30 day turnaround time was the norm or if that was the upper limit of time, and it really felt like they thought they were “doing me a favor” by talking to me at all.
Still, PSI had such a good reputation that I thought maybe I just got a misinformed sales rep who was having a bad day – so I emailed them using their web form a few days later and had two different sales folks respond IMMEDIATELY with the same story – at least $225 per corner, 3-4 week turnaround. It seems like they employ way more sales people than technicians…at this point, I was frustrated and there was no way was I going to spend over $1,000 after shipping & taxes to have a shop take a month to rebuild an old set of coilovers – so I started looking for alternatives, including maybe going to a new coilover setup all together…
Finding alternatives to PSI was difficult – most shops I emailed or called only dealt with Ohlins motorcycle dampers, not applications meant for 4,000 lb Audis. I searched far and wide, emailing or calling about a dozen different places, before I came across Feal Suspension in Ontario, California. Their website was a bit low-tech, but after exchanging emails with the owner, Odi, and researching their reputation on online forums (specifically Subaru boards), I felt that it was worth a shot – for a quoted $100 a corner ($400 total) it was much cheaper than PSI, and best of all they quoted a 5 day turnaround – much better than several weeks I was quoted by PSI. Odi spoke to me on the phone and email and I had a good feeling about his shop, and he continued to be proactive in communicating with me throughout the entire process – they even offered to remove and re-install the suspension if I were to drive there for an extra $300, a very reasonable labor rate for Southern California.
Feal exceeded my expectations (as well as their own estimates) and had the shocks rebuilt and over-nighted back within 2 days. They only charged $20 for return shipping (a total of $420 out the door), and gave me prompt updates via email as well as followed-up with questions. The service was excellent and so was the price, so I couldn’t wait to get them back on the car and try it out. A few days later the coilovers are back on the car and WOW, it is immediately noticeable.
Driving Impressions after the Rebuild
The Ohlins are back to how I remember them – a great daily driver coilover that is nice and firm, yet can absorb imperfections in the road and ride nicely, too. In hindsight I wish I had maybe gone to softer springs while I had the setup off the car – originally I had replaced the STaSIS-supplied Eibach springs for stiffer Swift Springs and now that I track less and moved to the harsher roads of California, going back down on spring rates would probably make sense. Feal is also a Swift Springs dealer so it would have been easy to go down about 100 ft/lbs per side but alas, maybe next time. Still, the ride quality is so much better and I’m happy with it once again.
Overall, the rebuild made a huge difference in ride quality and I enjoy driving my car once again. If you’ve noticed your car rides poorly (and it’s not due to worn out tires) or it’s just been a long time since you’re Ohlins based coilovers have been serviced, find a week when you’ll be out of town and bite the bullet and get this done – it’s $420 well spent. It’s also a good idea for preventative maintenacne, as if you go too far past the service interval you may cause damage to the dampers that will cost beyond the “basic service” charges from Feal, PSI, etc. For what it’s worth I had a local shop do the labor for me and they charged a reasonable ~$300 for the removal and re-install. While I haven’t gotten any track time yet on the rebuilt suspension, I did do a spirited canyon cruise and fell in love all over again with the car, and it’s still my daily driver so plenty of time behind the wheel to and from work.
Thanks for reading, and if you go with Feal let Odi know I sent ya!