Gabriel Ultra Shock Absorbers

[3/7/2006] Reviewed by: Stuart Hayashida -

Applicable to: '90 - '97 1.8 liter

Front and rear shock absorbers, purchased for $40 each plus ~$5 each shipping from Autozone.

I'm 90% sure that my '97 Miata had the original shocks still at 90K miles. I bought the car 6 weeks ago with 89K miles on it from the second owner, who had the car since 18K miles and kept all receipts. I installed the rears first about two weeks ago. After removing the first shock, I hand tested the old and new side by side. Based on that non-precision test, I thought I had made a mistake buying these inexpensive shocks. They seemed to be a bit softer than the old originals, and the rebound damping seemed weaker. However, compressing the old shocks quickly showed that they had little high speed compression damping left, so with some reluctance, I installed the new shocks. Ride was not significantly different in general driving, so I tried some parking lot speed bumps. Where the old shocks bottomed out and the rear kicked up sharply, the replacement shocks maintained control, smoothing the speed bump without bottoming. Good deal. The old front shocks seemed to be holding up well with good rebound damping, and acceptable high speed compression damping- using my highly calibrated, hand-shove test. After installation, the ride has improved with better control. Handling seems very good with better wheel control through bumpy corners. One caveat- the new shock/spring assembly went in and out easier than the originals. Although I didn't measure them, my guess is that the Gabriels are about 1/4" shorter than the originals. I would assume that this lowers the ride height by a simalar amount, but not having measured it before, I can only assume as I don't notice any difference. Time will tell how well they last, but I am very pleased with the product so far. One more note- two of the four shocks had what looked like a bit of paint overspray on the polished rod. I removed this with some polishing compound to help insure that it didn't abrade the seals. One other had some fine scratches on the rod. I ! also used some polishing compound on this to try to make sure there were no sharp edges that might again abrade the seal. Pretty disappointing to find on 3 of 4 shocks coming from unopened boxes.

My experience with Miatas is limited to about 1100 miles in this new-for-me '97 M edition. My prior car (no plans to sell it) is an '89 Merkur XR4Ti that I've had since it was new. After driving the Miata and then getting back into the Merkur, it feels rather large, much smoother, and very fast with a stiff clutch and a somewhat stiffer shifter. The older Gabriels I had in that car were too soft. The replacement KYB GR2's are much better suited to that car's stock suspension. Prior cars also include a '74 Capri, '72 Mustang, '84 GTI, and several street and dirt motorcycles.

Over 30 minutes to remove completely

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