Shock absorber company hits pothole?

| Wednesday, October 16, 2002

After problems with SilcRide Shock Absorbers and unresolved complaints, OOIDA members are questioning the reliability of these shocks and the viability of Russell Industries LLC, the company that introduced the silicone shock absorbers earlier this year at trucking industry trade shows. The company has moved its offices, discontinued its toll-free number and currently cannot be reached at other company telephone numbers.

SilcRide Shock Absorbers seemed to have all the makings of a top-notch innovative product when Russell Industries LLC introduced the silicone shock absorbers at the 2002 Mid-America Trucking Show. The small Ohio company even caught the attention of Land Line. After giving the product some ink, Land Line and OOIDA began receiving calls from unhappy SilcRide customers, who were unable to reach Russell Industries.

The company's web site still touts SilcRide as being made with fewer parts for higher reliability, and filled with biodegradable silicone fluid, instead of hazardous hydraulic fluid. The web site even assures potential customers with a 300,000-mile/3-year warranty. Since March, the company has sold 1,500 to 2,000 sets at $400 to $600 per set.

Nevada OOIDA member Ron Swerny says the SilcRide shocks provided a smooth ride when he first left Reno for a run to Effingham, IL, but the front shocks broke about halfway through the 1,900-mile trip. After calling the company, he sent the broken and worn-out shocks back via UPS, as instructed by the company representative. Two weeks later, he received his old shocks back marked "can't deliver - business closed." Repeated messages left with Russell Industries went unanswered until OOIDA and Land Line began looking into complaints.

Swerny first heard about the shocks from his friend, Nevada member John Eaton, who also purchased a set of SilcRides, which he says are just spot-welded together. Because he did not like what he saw, he didn't install the shocks and called the company. He too had trouble reaching Russell Industries.

Robert Palmer, a member from Sagola, MI, received no installation instruction or warranty paperwork with his shocks. He tried reaching the company, only to find their toll-free number was no longer working.

After receiving complaints from Swerny, Eaton and Palmer, OOIDA and Land Line began looking into the complaints. In late September, Land Line was able to reach Russell Industries CEO Sharon Russell, who said she was concerned about the company's customers. Apparently, the company has moved its operation to Frankfurt, OH, and has discontinued its toll-free number. She acknowledged receiving a few complaints, but says the problem is with certain suspension systems and truck models, not the shocks.

"We are very eager to take care of (the customers)," Russell said. "We've had a few problems because we're a new company, and this is new technology. We sent out letters to customers saying we're re-engineering due to a manufacturing problem. We're planning to take care of everybody."

When asked if the company was in a position to make refunds to unhappy customers, Russell said, "Well no, we never gave a money-back guarantee. We want to make the customer happy with our product. We're doing the very best we can."

After Russell spoke with Land Line about the complaints, a company representative phoned Swerny, Eaton and Palmer. He promised Swerny a new set of re-engineered shocks in 10 to 12 weeks. He also promised Palmer a new set, but Palmer informed the company he has already received a refund from his credit card company and does not want another set of shocks. Eaton informed the company's representative, he wanted a refund and would return the shocks, unused and still in the package. However, the company representative would not commit to when Eaton might receive his refund.

If you've purchased SilcRide Shock Absorbers and are unhappy with the product, the chances of your getting them replaced or getting a refund are not positive. The OOIDA and Land Line investigation did not yield positive results. Who do you complain to? At press time, Land Line could not reach Russell Industries at any of the telephone numbers given by the CEO just two weeks earlier. However, on Oct. 14, Russell Industries did issue this statement via e-mail:

"Manufacturing is restructuring. We do have a large number of completely satisfied customers. And SilcRide will be back to where it left off, momentarily. SilcRide apologizes for any inconvenience to the handful of dissatisfied recipients. SilcRide is making great strides to pull through in this unforgiving economy."

As with any consumer complaint not addressed by any business, consumers may report unresolved consumer issues to their attorney general's office, the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. Here's the contact information for this particular situation:

  • Better Business Bureau (703) 276-0100
  • Ohio Attorney General 1-800-282-0515
  • Federal Trade Commission 1-800-382-4357
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 1-888-327-4236

If you paid for your purchase with a credit card, you may be able to receive a refund through your credit card company. To find out, call your credit card company.

--Rene Tankersley, feature editor