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Delete Your Nivomat Rear End - 855

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Here's a lengthy post about Nivomat Replacement - 855-T5. Yes, you know, that self-contained self-levelling super special Sachs suspension system that some 855's were blessed with (like 7 series and 9 series) by the factory. The Nivomat, like most things, is a compromise; it helped keep the level on the wagons when laden.

After discussing this quandry (what to do about my bloody Nivomats) many years ago on other people’s threads, we finally sorted the suspension on my 1997 850-T5 in January 2014. No sense in rushing these things, eh! I thought I’d contribute a write-up for those in my position. I'd found myself with lots of conjecture, and few well-developed threads. Mostly people seem to discuss, make a decision, and then we'd hear nothing.

To recap:
I acquired my very stock 855-T5 back in 2006. It sported 144k kms, was New Zealand new, had most of a full dealership service history. I soon discovered I’d been ‘blessed’ with Nivomat. And mine were approaching shagged out. Yes, as in the English vernacular, not a trip back into the 1970s.

This was bought into stark relief when I replaced the front end suspension. After a full wheel alignment where the suspension tech noted it was difficult to align at the front, that the bushes were approaching 'too much play', I'd ordered an FCP kit including tie rod ends, lower control arms, end links...

and a front end suspension strut kit, including Sachs OEM parts - Sachs Super Touring struts, strut mounts, strut bearings, dust gaiters, and all hardware...

My good mate Bob and I installed the lot, in the sunshine on the driveway. My old coil spring compressors were dusted off, overall it went together very well. This really put the front end back together - it aligned easily, firmed up the front, turned into corners with much more control.

However, the rear just felt dead - and clunky. It was clearly necessary to sort out the Rear Suspension. Two choices:
1. Nivomat - new nivos, and perhaps new springs?
2. Delete nivomat, go with standard shocks and springs.

It’s interesting that most of the information around t’interweb provides for suspension options “not nivomat” or “non-nivomat” only - when you’re shopping for springs or shocks. Accordingly it can be a challenge to sort out exactly what’s needed when one decides to eliminate Nivomat.

I trawled many many internet threads. Nivomats for my particular application - Nivomat P/N 9140238
- appear to be (as at mid-2013) NLA (no longer available). I didn’t fancy finding used - similarly flogged-out replacements. As the Nivomat runs a softer spring, I needed to identify the hardware to replace the springs and associated hardware to go with the new conventional shocks.

So the main considerations were:
- what shock for my application?
- what spring? (I needed a non-nivomat spring)
- what other hardware as part of the Nivomat deletion?

I decided to go with Sachs Super Touring rear shocks, in order to match the damping with the front end - remember I’d replaced the front end just a few months before. I'd thought of Bilsteins, Konis... I still wasn't sure about how long to keep this car, so in the end matching the front end seemed like the most sensible approach.

I needed to figure out the springs - I had no info to determine what my existing front springs were. We'd checked when replacing the front shocks - only a couple of colour bands, no part numbers. I had the feeling they were a factory sport spring. I hadn’t been able to find any info on the factory shocks I removed either - the part numbers yielded no hits on google.
I eventually decided to go with a set of H&R Sport Springs - p/n 29955 (not the 29955-2 which is the Nivomat version) - again I wanted the spring rates to work together.

Parts List
Concentrating on the parts list - in addition to the springs - the kit list I used to make the exit from Nivomat to standard:
2 x Bump Stop (Febi Bilstein 3516327)
2 x Shock Mount (Meyle 9461524)
2 x Spring Anchorage Lower (Volvo 3546435)
2 x Shock Mount collet (Volvo 915631) - holds the bump stop upside down in position
2 x Sachs OEM 105-828. Note these come *with* nuts so I didn’t need the Volvo 272284 rear shock mounting kit.

I followed this how-to - found it very useful.

We did the rear first. It lifted the rear 15mm (I think it was a bit sagged to start with), made it lovely and firm. On driving it briefly before starting on the fronts, I was quickly convinced that a full spring set was the thing - the front spring rates were all wrong with the H&R’s in the rear. A mis-match between the front and rear had it pitching over bumps. Sorting out the front (a simple removal of the strut assembly, spring compressors, disassembly, spring change, then reverse) took us about 90 minutes or so.

Upper Shock Mount
Turns out the Nivomat shock mount is HD and thicker than the standard (taller). I elected to change it as it was about 179k kms and and 16.5 years old. It was in pretty good condition still, to be fair.

Spring Perch

I'd recommend replacing this - the old ones seemed flakey when we removed them.

Did it work?
Swapping out the front springs settled things down - now with spring rates and damping balanced front to rear, I had a new car to get used to.

Afterwards, the front was down by 15mm, the rear up by 15mm. Check out the images to see the differences.





So how is it?
More than six months on, I really like the way the car drives. I’ve never found myself overloaded in the rear, so losing the self-levelling from the deletion of Nivomats has not been an issue at all. Having better damping, and the rear running with a working suspension has seen crashing over bumps consigned to an unpleasant memory.

It’s certainly firm; the springs are something like 20% stiffer than stock? I feel the rising-rate under compression, and like the way they work.

In summary

  • if you’re in a quandary about deleting Nivomat in your old 855, don’t fret! Your Nivomat setup is probably well past it’s use by date.
  • If you’re wondering about H&R Sport Springs for the 855 - firmer, a little lower, much more poise in the corners
  • If you’re wondering about Sachs + H&R - I think they work pretty well.

It’s very nice cruising on the motorway, pretty good on suburban roads, and more confidence inspiring in terms of control. Cornering is more authoritative. My wife hasn’t complained, and this car is now her daily driver. It’s much more planted on the road - no wheel hop, tyres never lose contact with the road. Result.

I’m now interested in exploring either new anti roll bar (sway bar) bushings, or even the IPD sway bars and bushes.

Oh, and bonus? Tyre wear has been significantly reduced!

Hope you found this helpful. Greetings from downunder.


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For those of us who are visual thinkers, I dug out this image of what the rear-end parts haul looked like - along with the H&R spring set - prior to installation.


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many thanks Ashvolvo, yeah I'm very pleased with them. I'm considering them for my BMW as well (they're the OEM for my car as well), instead of going Koni.


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