Copyright 2017 - Checker Car Club of America, Inc.
There are lots of reasons for getting new shock absorbers installed in your Checker.
For me, the key reason was to reduce the chance of "bottoming out" with my 1973 Aerobus when carrying up to 12 people in the car. While this does not happen very often, it is a jarring and scary experience for everyone in the car and especially for the owner. Imagine not knowing if any bad damage was done to the suspension, transmission, rear axle or any other part of the undercarriage. So, the simple (although not the foolproof) solution for me was to get stiffer and 'higher performance' shocks.
Other reasons noted on the Monroe web site include:
Control excessive body and tire movement
Reduce vehicle bounce, roll and sway - plus brake dive and acceleration squat
Help to maintain consistent handling and braking
Help maintain wheel alignment
Help to reduce the potential of premature wear on tires and other suspension components
Having not done this before, my first challenge was to find out if the front and rear shocks for my Aerobus were the same as for a Checker A-11 or A-12 model. Thankfully, the answer is YES.
Next, and not knowing what shocks were on the car, I had to find out what make and model number shocks were appropriate and available. This was not a simple task and involved a few Checker Car Club members, searches in our document archives and cross reference checks by my mechanic and the parts guy at the local NAPA store.
To make a long story short, the appropriate shock absorbers for our late model Checkers are:
Front: Monroe 34868 (or NAPA 76868)
Rear: Monroe 34909 (or NAPA 76909)
Note on the rear shocks that one is shown in compressed mode and the other in extended mode.
It should be noted that not only Monroe (or more correctly Tenneco) makes shocks for our Checkers. One alternative is KYB with models KG5429 (Front) and GK5404 (Rear). I did not go with these since I wanted the higher performance (and also more expensive) shocks.
With this knowledge, my mechanic ordered the four shocks, let me know when they came in and then set up an appointment for the installation. Since we have a great relationship, I asked him to take photos of the 'swap out' as he was doing it.
The above photo shows the old front shock absorber that turned out to be a Monroe SensaTrac. While the SensaTrac looks nearly identical to the new Gas-Magnum, the latter is very different on the inside and affords a much stiffer/stronger ride. In fact, my mechanic told me that this old shock was really not good enough for an Aerobus.
The old rear shocks also turned out to be Monroe shocks but came with the MAECO designation. This is a bit of trivia and Monroe history and meant that the shocks were made by the Monroe Auto Equipment Company. In fact, I was able to determine that the date of manufacture was 1973. If I am right, this means that my rear shocks were NEVER replaced since the car was manufactured by Checker that same year!
So, above is the photo of the new Monroe front shock after installation. Below is the rear shock as installed on my Aerobus.
As they say, "the proof is in the pudding." Thus, I am able to tell you that the new shocks made a big difference to the way my Aerobus drives. The most obvious difference is that the car is now at least one inch higher off the ground. It's my guess that this is mainly due to the hydraulic fluid in the old shocks having deteriorated so it could no longer adequately support the weight of the car. In addition, the car feels more closely connected to the road surface with less bounce, roll and sway in all directions.
According to my mechanic, the 'swap out' took about 2 1/2 hours of labor. As you may imagine, it took longer to remove the old shocks than installing the new ones. But, that is nothing compared to the hours spent figuring out which shocks were the right ones for these Checkers.