The suspension system is vital to the ride and safety of your truck camper rig. The suspension includes not only your truck’s wheels and tires, but also your truck’s springs, shocks, and steering. All are critical in how your truck rides and handles, but their importance is amplified even more when you’re hauling a 3,000 pound, top-heavy truck camper. Can anything be done to improve a truck’s ride when carrying such a heavy load? Fortunately, the answer is, yes. There are several quality products available in today’s market that address rear sag and sway, the most common handling issues. That’s the good news. The bad news is that none of these modifications actually improve your truck’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) or your truck’s payload capacity. If that’s your aim, then you’ll need to buy a bigger truck. Sorry, but that’s the truth. The purpose of the article is to identify the top suspension modifications and how each modification works. In no particular order, let’s take a look at the top six:
1. Torklift Stableloads
The Torklift Stableload is an outstanding suspension modification for pickup trucks requiring load leveling and sway support. Torklift Stableloads work with your truck’s overload springs, ensuring that they’re engaged from the start instead of engaging only when your leaf springs make contact. The benefit of doing this is that you’ll notice a more level ride and less porpoising on bumps as well as less sway and body roll on turns. The hinge mechanism of the Quick Disconnect Stableloads (pictured here) allows you to quickly disengage them to easily return your truck to its original stock ride (this is a great feature for those who use their truck as a daily driver). Note that Torklift produces two types of Stableloads: permanent fixed mounts for upper overload springs, and the quick disconnect version for lower overload springs. To learn more about Torklift’s outstanding truck camper and truck camper suspension products, click here.
2. Timbren Suspension Enhancement System
If you’re looking for a great suspension mod that addresses both rear sag and sway, then look no further. The Timbren Suspension Enhancement System (SES) addresses both of these issues in a simple yet effective way. The Timbren SES consists of two Aeon rubber spring assemblies that are mounted in place of the jounce bumpers that came with your truck. The regular SES springs sit about an inch above the rear axle unloaded. When your truck is loaded, the SES springs make contact with your axle. As you drive, the rubber springs expand and contract, providing your rig with the proper amount of load support. Timbren also makes an SES Severe Service kit especially for slide-in truck campers. Unlike the regular SES kit, the Severe Service kit is designed to rest on your axle in an unloaded state in order to provide maximum load support. The great thing about the Timbren SES is that no adjustments or hoses are needed like air bags. A terrific suspension mod. One of my favorites! Just install it and forget about it. Truck Camper Adventure’s detailed review of the Timbren SES can be found by clicking here.
3. Hellwig Rear Sway Bar
For those experiencing excessive sway or body roll during turns, a sway bar is an excellent option. What exactly is a sway bar and how does it work? A sway bar is simply a torsion spring, a metal bar with several bends. When the truck leans to the outside on a turn the sway bar applies a resistant force to the suspension on the opposite side. Most of the three-quarter-ton and one-ton trucks coming off of today’s assembly lines are equipped with a front sway bar only, but a rear sway bar is sometimes needed for added stability when hauling a truck camper. One of the best sway bars you can buy is the Hellwig Big Wig. The bar weighs 45 pounds, has a diameter of 1 5/16 inches, and is made of heat-treated 4140 chromoly steel. Unfortunately, sway bars aren’t particularly suitable for going off-road. If you do take them off-road one end of the bar will need to be disconnected to allow the axle to freely articulate. For an in-depth review of the Hellwig Big Wig Sway Bar, click here.
4. Firestone Ride Rite Air bags
Looking for an adjustable load leveling solution? Air bag helper springs might be your best choice. Air bags install either inside your coil for coil sprung trucks, or on the leaf or axle for leaf sprung trucks. Most air bags, like the Firestone Ride Rite 6781, offer up to 5,000 pounds of support. Air bags not only correct rear sag but they can also be adjusted side-to-side for proper leveling support. Some kits even come with an on board control system that allows you to control each air bag from the comfort of your truck’s cabin. When installing air bags ensure that the air lines to each bag are plumbed individually so that they can be individually inflated. The best thing about air bags is that they’re adjustable, but they’re also prone to leaking, can create too much roll when they’re overfilled, and aren’t particularly suitable for off-road use (they can amplify rebound). They also require a minimum of 5 psi even when they’re not under load to prevent damage to the bellows.
5. Hellwig Steel Helper Springs
Need a more robust load leveling solution to correct rear sag? You might want to look into getting a set of steel helper springs. Steel helper springs install quickly and easily on top of your existing leaf springs. They can be purchased with either a progressive rate, which automatically adjusts based upon the load, or a constant rate, which provides the same amount of support at all times. Steel helper springs are installed using common hand tools and are hassle free once they’re installed. Just install them and forget them. Hellwig helper spring kits can be purchased with a wide range of capacities ranging 500 to 3,500 pounds. Most hard side truck camper owners gravitate to the LP-35 kit, a beefy four-leaf stack with a 3,500 pound load capacity. The LP-35 is made specifically for three-quarter-ton and one-ton trucks while the LP-25 is made for half-ton trucks. When ordering be sure to also purchase the appropriate mounting hardware kit to complete the installation.
6. Shock Absorbers
The damping effect of your shock absorbers is important in how well your truck camper rig rides when going over rough and uneven roads. While shocks can help with sway their primary function is to control the rate of movement over bumps and uneven surfaces and to help maintain control of your rig. Shocks come in two basic forms: self-adjusting or manual. Self-adjusting shocks, like the Bilstein 4600 or KYBs, do exactly that, they adjust based upon the force asserted each time they’re compressed. Manually adjusted shocks, like the popular Rancho RS9000x, allows you to change how much damping is applied based upon the weight you are carrying. The pros and cons of each are pretty obvious, it comes down to personal preference and cost. An important note. Shocks are made for both lifted and non-lifted trucks. Ensure you buy the right ones for your truck.
Before You Buy!
If you can remember just one thing about this article, please remember this. Don’t rush out and spend money on any of these suspension modifications until you first see how your truck camper handles on your truck. Otherwise, you may waste a lot of money on hardware that you really don’t need. I see this happen all the time. Based upon the opinion and advice from friends and what they’ve read on the Internet forums, new truck owners will immediately shell out big bucks on new shocks, air bags, and Stableloads before even buying a truck camper or taking a test drive. This is backwards. See how your truck handles with your truck camper first before buying anything. If you’re truck is experiencing porpoising, rear sag, or sway with your camper mounted, then you can address each particular issue with the appropriate modification. Moreover, only one modification should be made at a time to determine its true effectiveness.