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Discussion Starter #1
I have a 1999 Grand Caravan. As noted in the title of my post, it has the tow package and ride leveling. I want to get new shocks that preserve the handling of the tow package shocks, but I am unconcerned about the ride leveling function.

What shocks do I get? Can I just not worry about the ride leveling, or do I need to 'turn it off' (supposing it is still actually working anyway)? The factory shocks are both blown - leaking all over the place. They also look realy large...

I am only doing the rear right now because the back end bounces like a low rider when you go over a bump; front end is no where near as bad (129k on van).
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Am I correct that the Nivomat system is internal to each shock? If I get a towing strut without NIvomoat, will I notice (will my wife notice) a difference in the vehicle's handling? The reason I ask is that these shocks seem to run $200 a piece....
 

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I don't think that standard shocks will work here, at least I don't think that they will. The rear suspension has different dimensions from what I understood. I know others who have wanted to save money, but couldn't get around not buying the correct Nivomats.
This is second hand information to me. I have never been directly involved with this service question.
They have an internal pumping mechanism that uses the bumps in the road to raise the rear end to the proper height. It seemed to work very well as a passive load-levelling control.
 

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The reason I ask is that these shocks seem to run $200 a piece....
That's actually a good price. Back when I had my '00 T&C Ltd AWD I had to replace the Nivomats (both leaking) the dealer price was ~$400 per shock plus installation ($900-$1,000 total). I ended up getting them from a auto parts store in Northern VA for $200 each plus $50 shipping. Then another $65 to have a local shop install them. Well worth the price. If your van is equipped with Nivomats, I would stay with them. IC is correct, standard shocks will not work with a van that was originally equipped with Nivomats. And yeah, the Nivomats are 3x as thick as standard shocks - and no, you can't just turn them off. As IC mentions the motion of the van traveling down the road pumps up the shocks - they really do work well. Despite having 2 adults, 2 teens, 2 small children, car top carrier and assorted luggage you would have never known we were stuffed full - the Nivomats did a great job leveling the ride out.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Again, my question is whether or not I can substitute non-Nivomats and if I can, whether or not I will notice a handling difference?
 

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As stated above, you can't without work. The rear springs are unique so you'd be swapping more than the shocks.
 

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Whether it is because of a different shock mount spacing or interference with another component, Nivomats have to be replaced with Nivomats. A standard shock just won't work here. Find your best price.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Not to continue to stir the pot again, but I have been told that on the 99 Caravan, the only difference between Nivomat and normal is the diameter of the shocks. I was told by one person that he installed standard shocks on his Caravan with no issues....
 

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I have a 2004 with 208,000 kms and now one rear Nivomat has locked into the extended ride height position. For what its worth, all of the above information from Imperialcrown is correct. Don't substitute shocks on a load leveling van. Unless you want to change the springs to a non load leveling type your van will certainly sag and begin riding on the rubber snubbers on the axle, and handle poorly. These Nivomats are an integral part of the suspension. Normal shocks don't have the same lift ability. Autoparts stores are more than happy to sell stuff right or wrong. I just ordered the correct pair on line for $235 each. I have read on other minivan forums where owners had to remove incorrect shocks and replace them. Nivomats really aren't just a shock.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Update. Based on a thread on another site, I opted to try a substitution. I used Monroe Sensa-Trac shocks with the spring for towing. I installed them in November. So far they are just fine. Van rides like it should and is not riding low. If anything, it is a little higher. I did need to shim the shocks as the mounting point on the shocks is no-where as wide as the Nivomats. Shocks were too close to ths frame and the bolts were too long. The diameter of the holes was identical. I used old shock spacers in my washer jar. I will certainly report if they fail, since this would be of interest to others in my situation.
 
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