If your truck camper rig is suffering from an acute case of rear sag or sway, the good folks at Hellwig manufacture a variety of suspension products to cure these troublesome ailments. In an effort to learn more about Hellwig’s superb products and to get the latest scoop about the Hellwig-Lance Rule Breaker Adventure Rig, I spoke with Mike Hallmark, the West Coast/International Sales Manager.
TCA: Thanks, Mike, for taking the time to talk. How long has Hellwig Suspension Products been in business?
Mike: We’ve been in business for 71 years. We got our start in a garage manufacturing Helper Springs for passenger cars in 1944, but didn’t start approaching customers until 1946 due to the War and lack of steel. We are a family owned business on our fourth generation of Hellwig leadership.
TCA: Are all Hellwig products made here in the USA?
Mike: Yes. We proudly manufacture all of our steel components in Visalia, California.
TCA: As you know, rear sag is a common problem for truck camper rigs. What products do you offer to correct that ailment?
Mike: We currently offer a wide array of steel Helper Springs ranging from 500 pound level load capacity (EZ-550 model) up to 3,500 pound level load capacity (LP-35 model). We also offer three different air spring level load kits ranging from 5,000 pounds up 5,600 pounds with our Big Wig Air Spring (air bag) system.
TCA: What advantages do steel helper springs have over air bags?
Mike: Steel springs are great because they are a set-it-and-forget-it type product. Once installed there is no maintenance and no need to touch them again unless you want to fine tune them. All of our Steel Helper Springs can be adjusted for the amount of pre-load you do or don’t want on the factory suspension. We’ve found in the case of slide-in campers, one side of the vehicle might want to sag a bit more due to extra weight on that side. The consumer can adjust that side to a stiffer preload to maintain a level load from side-to-side as well as front-to-back. Most applications are a progressive rate spring that have little to no effect on the unloaded factory ride quality.
TCA: Another problem that commonly afflicts truck camper rigs is sway. Truck campers tend to be top-heavy which can magnify the issue. What products do you offer to correct this?
Mike: To reduce excessive body roll and decreased stability in corners or while driving in windy situations, we offer a full line of sway bars to keep the body as parallel to the plain of the road as possible. Specifically in regards to trucks with campers, we came out with our larger diameter Big Wig rear sway bar to combat the higher center of gravity. Our Big Wig rear sway bars are made from solid, hot formed and heat-treated 4140 chrome moly steel with a diameter of 1-5/16 inches. Most of our Big Wig rear sway bars have three adjustment points so the consumer can fine tune the rate of sway/roll to their specific application. We also offer larger diameter front sway bars made with the same processes and material for trucks that need extra sway/roll control up front. On a side note, a majority of trucks currently offered from dealerships do NOT come with a factory rear sway bar. The ones that do, typically have a smaller diameter sway bar that will not control the rate of sway/roll like our performance and safety minded bars do.
TCA: When it comes to making a sway bar, does the size of the bar really matter?
Mike: You bet size matters, this is America! Seriously though, the diameter of the sway bar is the key factor in determining how much the vehicle will or won’t sway/roll in a corner or during aggressive steering maneuvers. Another key factor is the type of metal that is used and the steps taken while manufacturing the bar. By hot forming and properly heat treating our bars it causes the metal to have a spring effect ensuring the bars always stay true and straight from the day they were made. Off topic of size (diameter), most of our Big Wig rear sway bars have three adjustment points which essentially change the effective length of each arm acting as opposing levers. By shortening the distance between the end link mounting point and the perpendicular portion of the sway bar (mounted directly to the frame), it decreases the mechanical advantage the vehicle has on the sway bar itself, resulting in less body sway/roll. Again, having these adjustments allows the consumer to dial-in the suspension for the desired rate or extent of sway/roll.
TCA: Do you have a specific product to correct porpoising (front-to-rear bounce)?
Mike: Our Helper Springs and Air Springs can help reduce porpoising by helping to distribute the weight of the camper more evenly over the front to rear axles/wheels. By keeping the load/vehicle level it reduces the amount of weight that is trying to shift fore and aft of the vehicle’s center of gravity. This would be a secondary effect of our load control products as they aren’t specifically designed to overcome this phenomenon. I believe the true solution for this issue would be a good set of shocks specifically designed for trucks with campers or higher bed weights.
TCA: What is Hellwig’s best-selling suspension product?
Mike: Our top-selling suspension product in regards to sway control for the truck and camper market is hands down our Big Wig rear sway bar. As mentioned before, most trucks do not come from the factory with a rear sway bar. By adding our Big Wig sway bar it ensures all four wheels are planted and help to distribute the weight over all four wheels. This results in more control, which then provides a safer driving experience and instills confidence in the driver.
For load control it is a tossup between our LP series Steel Helper springs and Big Wig (5,600 pounds) Air Springs. Both help to level the load and more evenly distribute the weight over the front and rear axles. The Big Wig Air Springs shine with their on the fly adjustability when partnered with one of our air solution kits. When running our Big Wig (5,600 pounds) Heavy Duty Air kit with dual gauges the consumer can control the air pressure in each rear air spring to give the proper support needed at the individual corner. A perk of this system is it can act as a “rear corner” controlled vehicle leveling system to compensate for uneven parking surfaces once the consumer has arrived at their camping destination. For more information on our “air solution” products please visit our website.
TCA: For those who like to take their truck camper rigs off-road, which product would you recommend to correct sway without hampering axle articulation too much?
Mike: Again our adjustable Big Wig rear sway bar is on deck. The versatility of our Big Wig sway bars keep the vehicle planted on the highway at speed yet still allow the suspension to articulate when navigating uneven or rocky terrain. By changing the mounting point of the end links the consumer can adjust the rate of roll and suspension articulation to suit their driving needs both on- and off-road.
TCA: Let’s talk a bit about the Hellwig-Lance Rule Breaker Adventure rig that you recently debuted at the Las Vegas SEMA show and that we’ve covered extensively here on TCA. We hear you’ve made some additional modifications to it. Is that true?
Mike: Yes. Since the show we’ve added a Transfer Flow extended range fuel tank, Hi-Lift jack and accessories, and a shovel and mounts provided by Krazy Beaver Tools. These are all awesome additions to the build and will help it along its journey. I’ve taken this beast camping several times ranging from standard campgrounds, urban camping and full overland boondocking. I can honestly say that I’m equally impressed with its on- and off-road handling characteristics, spacious living quarters, amenities and all around “holy cow” visual factor.
TCA: Can you tell us specifically which Hellwig products were used to build this rig?
Mike: We used our Big Wig Air Spring kit, part number 6306 (featuring our 2,800-pound springs); our Auto Level Compressor kit part number 4880; our Tall Frame Compressor and Air Tank Mounting kit, part number 4893; and our 1-inch diameter Adjustable Rear Sway bar, part number 7847 (includes adjustable heavy-duty end links).
TCA: How has the Rule Breaker Rig been received with the public so far?
Mike: Since the show we have received a ton of press and positive feedback, I can’t keep track of the inquiries to purchase the rig. Believe it or not, this thing has taken on a personality of its own and is taking the world by storm. To my knowledge the Rule Breaker has received exposure in several countries, on numerous continents. I have driven this truck regularly since we finished the build and it turns heads everywhere I go. My most favorite response to date was at a gas station when a gentleman came up to me pointing and said “excuse me, what the heck is this thing and where can I get one.” The Rule Breaker has proven itself as an overland rig as well as a great marketing tool to gain exposure for Hellwig, Lance and our build partners. I can’t wait to show everyone where it goes next.
TCA: The positive feedback is no surprise. It’s a great looking rig. Before we close, can you tell us about Hellwig’s warranty?
Mike: We have a Lifetime warranty on all of our steel products.
TCA: Perfect! Thanks again, Mike, for taking the time to talk.
Mike: It was my pleasure.