Bilstein vs Rancho Shocks - Comparisons and Real World Advice

The Debate Continues

Bilstein vs Rancho

We cover the "Rancho vs Bilstein Shocks???" debate that rages on across numerous automotive forums. There are so many different types of drivers and uses of a truck or Jeep, its hard to get an objective read on what these two brands of shocks mean for your vehicle. We're going to lay out specs for you to figure out the best shock for your intended use.

We've been fortunate to test both Bilstein 4600 & 5100 series, and all of Rancho's offerings on a few different vehicles; a Ram 2500, a Jeep Wrangler, and a Silverado 1500. After thousands of miles on all the different shocks, the damper's behaviors all feel very similar regardless of application.

We've been running the Rancho RS9000XL shocks on our new Power Wagon for a few thousand miles now, we've got some first impressions and how they stack up against the factory Bilstein shocks that came on this beast.

Piston Size

Body Material

Rod Size

Shock Design

Finish

Bilstein 4600

46mm

Steel

14mm

Monotube

Painted

Bilstein 5100

46mm

Steel

14mm

Monotube

Zinc

RS7MT

46mm

Steel

14mm

Monotube

Zinc

RS5000X 35mm Steel 16mm Twin Tube Painted
RS9000XL 31mm Steel 18mm Tri-Tube Painted

What does it all mean?

Besides the bullet pointed differences, lets get into what the specifications actually mean and translate to for your vehicle. All 3 shock series are under a high pressure nitrogen gas charge. Neither company reveals exact PSI numbers on the nitrogen gas charge, but we expect Bilstein to be approaching 200psi, while Rancho is closer to 150. Higher PSI typically translates to firmer ride due to internal shock pressures, which affects valving and damping characteristics.

Bilstein 4600/5100 vs Rancho RS7MT

  • Bilstein 4600/5100 and Rancho RS7MT shocks are very similar in design, in that they're both monotube, high pressure gas. But there's a key difference, Bilstein uses a digressive piston, while Rancho uses a linear piston. Bilstein's digressive piston restricts oil flow more than Rancho's linear piston, which means a firmer response from the piston (and shock). Firm isn't always bad, in this case it gives Bilstein the upper hand on overall handling, reduction of body roll, and helping reduce both nose dive and rear sway under load.
  • This gives the advantage to the Rancho RS7MT in comfort over bumps, potholes, and rocky trails. The additional oil flow of the Rancho linear piston equates to a bit looser feel compared to Bilstein, so while small bumps and chatter are subdued, you sacrifice body roll and handling a bit compared to Bilstein.
  • Bilstein has legendary durability, frequently seeing 100k miles of use under normal driving conditions, daily driving, easy trail use. The RS7MT hasn't been in the wild very long (only since 2021), and their previous RS7000MT was redesigned. On average we see Rancho customers replacing their shocks inside of 50k miles very often.

Bilstein 4600/5100 vs Rancho RS5000X

  • The RS5000X is a twin tube model, still gas pressured, but with significant less capabilities.
  • Twin tube designs are usually less durable than monotube designs, this is based on feedback and second-purchases from our thousands of customers of both Bilstein and Rancho.
  • The 35mm piston inside the RS5000X is drastically smaller than the Bilstein 46mm piston, this leads to less consistency in damping, and much worse rebound valving which leads to extra body roll and less off-road capability.

Bilstein 4600/5100 vs Rancho RS9000XL

  • The RS9000XL is a tri-tube shock, but not much different than a twin tube. There's significant oil volume in the RS9000XL that benefits sustained offroad use and protects against fade, this is a strength over either Bilstein option.
  • The RS9000XL is using the same linear piston as the RS5000X, 35mm, which is significantly smaller than the Bilstein 46mm. Due to the size of the piston, Bilstein can valve rebound a lot better, which results in better offroad handling during hard bumps and moderately tough terrain (less bucking up hard off obstacles).
  • The RS9000XL is adjustable between very firm and very soft. From our testing on our Silverado 1500 and Ram 2500, the firmest RS9000XL settings were most equal to Bilstein's baseline feel, but still not as tight.

Pricing

Bottom Line

If you want a tighter handling vehicle, with long-term dependability, then our choice has been Bilstein on our own vehicles. We enjoy a sportier ride, firmer handling, and better load response while hauling or towing. There's just too much secondary bouncing that occurs with Rancho shocks up driveways and speedbumps. So while Rancho wins on comfort, we dont like the tradeoff of poorer handling. But that's just us!

If you prefer tried and true design and performance, we highly recommend the Bilstein 5100 series, one of our best sellers for most available applications. Both shocks seldom suffer from warranty issues or premature failure, so the comparisons are a wash there.

Rancho has more shocks available for lifted truck and jeep applications, whereas Bilstein is more limited to the major applications in their 5100 series.