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Suspension is one area where a dramatic increase in performance can be gained simply by upgrading components.
The syncro has the potential to have pretty good suspension, discount but the stock components are not up to the job. Better shocks, clinic springs and suspension-related bushings can significantly enhance the feel and performance of the vehicle. Ground clearance can also be modestly increased through stiffer or taller springs.
The goal when upgrading the suspension should be to maximize the performance of the existing design. That means keeping static ride height within the range that the system was designed for in order to avoid topping out problems and to permit the wheels to drop into holes.
The damping on the stock Boge shocks and on the Old Man Emu shocks (which are valved a little stiffer than the Boge “C”) also impose limitations. Both shocks are valved for 14″ wheels (the Boge “N” shocks are valved for 16″ syncros) and neither is re-valvable or adjustable. This puts an effective limit on tire/wheel weights and spring stiffness options that will in fact result in optimized performance.
Specifically, a custom spring that is more than modestly stiffer than stock or a wheel/tire combination that is more than modestly heavier than the stock 14″ setup will impose forces beyond the performance parameters of the damping of the available shocks.
Consequently, if you want to upgrade to bigger wheels and tires, the more they weigh than the stockers, the more they will impact negatively on suspension performance due to inadequate damping/valving of the shocks. The van will top out easier and the front end will pop wheelies easier over whoop-de-doo type bumps, especially at speed. It may affect cornering, too. In addition, if a custom spring is too stiff for the stock shock rebound valving, it will also cause the vehicle to feel too bouncy and too busy over bumps. The further away from stock you get in wheel/tire weight and spring stiffness, the worse the symptoms will be.
For this reason, unless you are going to have custom shocks made, or are going to purchase Boge “N” shocks for the 16″ syncro, or do not mind some degradation of suspension performance, it is best to stay reasonably close to both stock spring stiffness and stock wheel/tire weight when making upgrades. Choice of tires is also critical to suspension performance since the tires work with and act as a de facto component of the suspension. (See the Tire page.)
VW sells only one stiffness in coil springs for all of the syncro configurations despite the great variations in vehicle weight. As a result, the stock springs are simply too soft for the heavier Westfalia models, and they produce symptoms of “wallowing,” “kneeling” and shifting in the wind on the heavier vans. Moreover, the one-size-fits-all stock springs are expensive at about $1,200 a set. There are several options available for custom springs that address these problems and also provide increased ride height.
The stock shocks (USA models) are not adequate for sustained off-pavement use. They do not hold up well, fade easily and require frequent replacement with routine off-pavement use. VW does list two stiffer Boge shocks, one for heavy use for 14″ syncros One is the “M” shock, which came standard on 14″ syncros sold in Australia. The “C” shock that comes on USA sold syncros was not stiff enough for Australian use.
The “M” shock has stiffer damping and is designed for “heavy duty” use with 14″ wheels. The other shock is the “N” shock for the 16″ syncro. The “N” shock has stiffer compression damping like the “M” shock, but it also has stiffer rebound damping to compensate for the heavier 16″ wheels. These shocks are not standard USA parts and are difficult to get and are also very expensive.
The only other option for shocks are the Old Man Emu shocks or custom made shocks. Here is info on each option:
Stock Boge Shocks VW Part Numbers for the three different sets of VW Boge shocks available for the syncro
251 413 031 C standard 14″ syncro shock (USA)
251 413 031 M 14′ HD shock “Schlechtwegepaket”
251 413 031 N 16′ syncro shock.
251 513 031 D standard 14″ syncro shock (USA)
251 513 031 M 14′ HD shock “Schlechtwegepaket”
251 513 031 N 16′ syncro shocks
Bushings are also critical components of the steering and suspension systems. Worn bushings introduce slop into the performance and subject other parts to wear and damage. Stiffer poly bushings are tougher than the stock rubber ones, and tighten everything up for a more responsive ride, but they also flex less and thus absorb less vibration than the softer rubber stock bushings.
Bushings are found in the following Syncro components: Upper control arms, lower control arms, thrust bars, stabilizer bar, shock mounts, power steering rack and rear trailing arms. There are also bushings in the steering linkage. There are also rubberized bushings/mounts for the engine, transaxle and front differential.
251 407 077 Upper control arm bush (4)
251 407 183 Lower front A-arm bushing (2)
251 407 625 Front wheel bearing, Syncro (2)
251 407 629 Front wheel seal, Syncro (4)
Other Wear Items
Other wear items that will significantly affect performance include upper and lower ball joints, tie rod ends, and the power steering universal joint. Be careful of shoddy after market items. There is great variation in quality. It is not worth the cost in labor to install cheap parts in these critical areas which are subject to severe stresses.
251 407 187 Lower Ball joint (2)
251 407 361 Upper Ball Joint (2)