New vs. Used Tailgate Struts for a Volvo 240 Series (245, Volvo wagon)

I drive a 1991 Volvo 245 (240 wagon). The tailgate struts on my own car needed replacement, and this seemed to be the type of part that one would want to buy new, not used — especially since I could get new replacement units for less than $11 each. I was so convinced that this is a part to always buy new that I wrote a mini-article explaining why I don’t offer good, tested, guaranteed used tailgate struts for sale.

Well, after last night, I changed my mind. I DO offer used tailgate struts for sale.

In no way am I disrespecting the vendor from whom I bought these parts. They’re nice people, and they specialize in Volvo parts. Their website was easy to use, and the parts arrived quickly and in good condition.

The sticker on the new parts announced that they were made in Taiwan. For me, that’s a positive. Yay for Taiwan! I prefer to buy items that were not made in Communist China. So far, so good.

The parts did not automatically come with the little hip joint on the car side, or the slide clip for attachment on the tailgate side. No problem. My car has its own clips and hip joints anyway.

The specs on the new parts showed a length of 470 mm, and a force of 700N (Newton). I Googled that and learned that this means: 157 pounds. With the two combined, that’s 314 pounds of lifting force. That seems like a lot to me. I can’t imagine a tailgate weighing that much.

The specs on the Meyle brand, made-in-Germany used tailgate struts that I removed from my car showed “as per Volvo 1 254 916″ and a force of 400N (90 pounds). So, the used struts, when they were new, provided 400N x 2 = 800N (180 pounds) of lifting force, combined. That seems a lot more realistic.

The used tailgate struts showed a production date stamp of 1998. So, this being a 1991 car, I can conclude that the original Volvo parts lasted for seven years, and the Meyle ones lasted for 17 years, since 1998 … this being 2015. Arguably, one of the Meyle used tailgate struts is still lasting … it seems to be in good working order. The other one was completely devoid of pressure.

Even with one new part installed, the tailgate stayed open by itself for the first time since I’ve owned the car. That’s good. And, although it was a little noisy when the tailgate opened and closed, the new part was able to hold the entire tailgate up solo. Problem is, even if the used one were still generating 400N of lifting force, then one strut would be at 700N and the other at 400N, so the former would be doing more work and presumably would wear out faster. For that reason, I initially decided not to mix the old and new parts, with one on each side.

I installed the second new tailgate strut too. Would the tailgate be too hard to close?

Yes! Wow. For me, it was very hard to pull the tailgate down. Granted, I’m female, so I’m not as muscular as a guy, but I’m also tall and athletic. My mom, who’s 5’2” and neither young nor athletic, would probably find this tailgate impossibly difficult to close.

The bigger-is-better premise such as applied to tailgate struts lifting force is hardly a good idea. Hair driers used to have a similarly irrational one-upmanship. Over the years, I have watched their advertised wattage numbers keep increasing. Presumably the clueless buying public concluded that hey, a 1200-watt hair drier must be better than a 1100-watt unit, so buy the former without even understanding what the concept even means.

Why, perhaps I could help natural selection along and offer to folks with that mindset a 100,000-watt hair drier and wow wouldn’t that dry their hair even faster? No doubt. It probably would also instantly incinerate the hair and probably much of the person holding the hair drier and part of the bathroom besides.  Applying this flawed premise to tailgate struts isn’t a good idea either, it turns out.

After trying to close the tailgate a few times, I decided I dislike the effects of the extra force enough to mix the old and new parts, with one on each side.

I put back the better one of the two used tailgate struts, and I’m keeping the other new part on the shelf for future use. So now my tailgate closes as easily as I’d like it to do, with one new tailgate strut and one 17-year old one.

This exercise really was a stark personal validation of the value I try to add with my little Volvo used-parts business. Even to me, it seemed counter-intuitive to put a used tailgate strut on my beloved Volvo, as a replacement — when I could by a brand-new one for less than $11. And yet, now that I have more-detailed information, I can see how buying a good, tested, guaranteed used tailgate strut can make perfect sense.


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