Monday, December 3, 2012

Springs, Shocks or ?

Maybe someone a little more mechanically inclined could help here. I am looking for a way to help out the suspension on our 2005 Ford E450 V-10 motorhome chassis.
Like most motorhomes, we constantly run overweight. I have been thinking about the best way to beef up the suspension and have been advised to install everything from heavier shocks to adding a leaf to the springs to installing air bags. Every suggestion seems to make sense to me when it is made but I do not want to do all of the above if I don't have to.
A better ride with less swaying when being passed by a bus and a little smoother ride over bumps would be my goal(s).
Any opinions would be appreciated.


  1. Like most motorhomes, we constantly run overweight.

    I think most motorhomes have no idea if they are overweight or not. You've obviously weighed (no pun intended!) the risks involved with being overweight and decided that you're comfortable with it, so I won't get into that.

    We have a lot of weight in behind the rear wheels and our rear springs were actually weak. What I decided to do was to install adjustable airbags between the rear leaf springs and the frame rails. Therefore I could adjust the height of the vehicle to make it level when we were carrying around 500 lbs worth of fuel behind the rear wheels. This really doesn't do anything to increase the amount of weight that is allowed to be on those rear wheels but it does seem make it handle better, and it certainly looks better.

    Newer/better/different shocks won't do anything to increase your carrying capacity however they may make things a little smoother over bumps and that is what they're designed to do in the first place. If your shocks are weak, new ones will likely help with your swaying issue as well, but you could also see if the front and rear sway bars have an optional upgraded size available as well. Also check your current sway bar bushings for wear.

    Adding a leaf to the springs will help with your carrying capacity, but of course it doesn't help the other suspension parts or tires that aren't designed to have that much weight on them.

    Seems to me that your goals are what I see a lot of motorhomers want to improve on. That must mean that most motorhomes of that style (as well as our own) kind of tend to drive like a truck to begin with. I've read of people spending thousands with very little improvement. I think new/better shocks is what I would start with for the most bang for the buck. Then, if ride height is an issue I would install rear airbags.

    Hope this helps.

  2. Air bags, Croft! You control the amount of air you need - based on weight. Many RVers we've spoken with rave about the subtle differences once air bags were installed. If you can find a Class 'C' RVer who has air bags, you would get some pretty insightful feed back. Good luck with the decision.

  3. Hi Croft:
    Eric says airbags...we have them on the truck and they work great. You can control the level of air depending on the load.

  4. For overweight I go with Kevin re the air bags and for handling we installed KONI FSD shocks, more expensive but wow what a difference in handling on our coach regarding sway etc.. We have a 1999 Holiday rambler 36 foor class A.
    We just had our coach weighed by individual wheels and found out that we are only slightly over weight in the rear with full fuel and both waste water tanks full.
    Good luck

  5. I've added leaf springs to trucks, it is easy and cheap but the truck rides rough as a cob. The airbag does the same thing as the leaf spring and is adjustable; not cheap. The shock is lipstick on a pig as far as weight support but it has the advantage of slowing down the up and down motion of the camper. Cost wise in Mexico, the extra leaf or two and extra heavy shocks should do what you are looking for. The new leaf springs can be picked up in a bone yard, look them over good for cracks, buy new U-bolts that are a bit longer. The U-bolts get stressed when pulled down, it is always good policy to replace U-bolts even when staying with the same number of leafs. The shocks should fit in the old brackets, they will just be fatter. They do sell combo air/piston shocks but most are too light for what you need. norm's two cents.

  6. I put air bags on my one-ton with Lance Camper as it swayed. They were great! And I would check out the rest of norm's suggestions.

  7. Some thoughts... buffeting and swaying could be addressed both a sway bar and shocks. Roadmaster makes a beefier sway bar than what comes with the E450 that might help.

    I found a table at a vendor website of suggested remedies you might take for different problems that might be helpful. I put a screen capture of that table at:


    The table suggests that the body roll issue can be handled only with a sway bar.

    As to air bags, I found the following two posts with somewhat differing views at

    My answer would be, why do you need the air bags? Before you do anything with the air bags, I would check the springs. I considered going with air bags to improve the handling and ride height in my 30 ft. Class C. Before I had Camping World install them, they referred me to a local spring shop. They suggested adding a leaf or two to the springs to increase the height (2 inches) in the rear and install a set of Bilstein shocks. That is what I did and the ride and handling improved dramatically. From my understanding, the air bags are designed to increase load capacity for short periods of time, after which you lower the air pressure down.
    The problem with a motorhome is that you always have plenty of weight on the air bags and as you load and unload, you should be adjusting the air bag pressure accordingly. Some motorhomes actually have an onboard air compressor that takes care of the task.

    And a different thought:

    I put them on our 11 year old E350 chassis because it was a tail dragger... and had a couple of casters mounted to the hitch to prove it. The E350 springs are nearly at max anyway, and the airbags improved things a lot. Now I need to get the frontend aligned to account for the change in ride angle. It now sets level to (slightly) tail up - much better. Yes, we could have done the spring shop thing, but we'll see how this works for us. The spring mods may be something to consider for the future. With the airbags, we have the option of softening or hardening the ride and tail height to match our load. We tend to run with minimum extra weight anyway - we don't tend to carry a bunch of stuff around with us.

    The bags are pretty easy to install; I put the airlines back to the rear storage compartment so they were out of the weather, and out of harm's way.

    If it were my rig I would go sway bar/shock absorber route first. I have often read about the significant improvement that the better shock absorbers (Bilstein, Koni and the like) make.

    That's two more cents! :)


  8. Thank you for all the thoughtful comments everyone! I don't know if I can do anything here in Mexico but now I have something to start with. Thanks again.

  9. I have a 35' class A Winnebago on a Ford F53 chassis. I added air bags and was still unhappy about the sway. Went down to a spring shop here in Portland OR and they added a leaf spring to each side on the back axle. It was the answer finally with out spending thousands. The cost was less than $400, and worth every penny. Also make sure you have quality gas shocks.
    Alan Hester