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Old 07-07-2019, 07:14 AM   #1
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Installed Kelderman Airbags

As will many I have been looking for ways to improve the ride of my MH on a F-53. I first installed Sumo springs front and rear. Didn't help much with the ride smoothness, but did improve the side to side rocking.
After much research, I made the first step hopefully in improving harsh ride of our MH. I purchased and installed Kelderman front airbags along with load leveling valves. The job took me about 25 man hours to complete. I should point out this is not the type of project for the average shade tree mechanic. The removal of the original springs, cutting Huck-bolts, mounting of new panhard bar mounting plates, welding of gusset plates to the lower airbag mounting plates, cutting of various chassis plates, are not the average maintenance tasks usually performed in the owner's yard. The installation went well with the exception of the very good installation instructions that came with the kit. I received many parts not mentioned in the install instructions. Kelderman has improved the kit significantly with several components that make much of the instructions obsolete. I few calls to them helped greatly.
Our first trip was to Washington DC., about 550mi. each direction. The jury is still out on how much of an improvement the airbags made. The expansion joints and the basic poor condition of our interstates still rattled the MH pretty good. At 60mph it was hard to determine if the pounding was from the front or the rear axle. I am going to get in contact with Kelderman to see if there is tweaking that can be done to help.
I think there is room for improvement with my setup. There are several variables that can be adjusted that may improve the performance considerably. I believe the Kelderman airbag setup on the front axle is the closest you will get to a true air ride suspension on an F-53 chassis. (there is LiquidSprings, but at $15,000 just for the rear axle, that was out of the question) You will always be limited by the solid front axle and the mass/velocity physical limitation of the solid axle weight verses a true independent front air suspension. When Kelderman says they replace the front springs with softer ones they aren't kidding. The replacement springs are only serving to hold the axle in place. With the airbags deflated the springs fully collapse and flatten the airbags. So in essence you are riding solely on the airbags for suspension.

1) The initial setup recommended Kelderman is to inflate the airbags to 7 1/2". For me this was about 55 psi. I carry about 6300 lbs on the front axle and 13,200 lbs on the rear. Maybe dropping pressure to a lower inflation height might help?
2) I did reduce my tire pressure to 80 psi as per the Michelin inflation chart for 235/80 22.5 tires with my axle weight.
3) A good portion of the rattling jarring still being experienced by expansion joints and pot holes was from my rear axle. I truly believe that if someone chooses to do this upgrade, do both axles. Time and money didn't allow me this year. I will be installing the rear kit next year.

I will post updates as I go forward.
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Old 07-07-2019, 08:01 AM   #2
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Glad to hear from someone who has done this. I suspect that it is the only way to tame some of the F53's. I know someone who has a 1999 Fleetwood Storm. They say it rides like a dream. I looked at the front suspension and I found that Fleetwood had some something terry much like this during manufacture.
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Old 07-07-2019, 07:33 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Kahoona View Post
Glad to hear from someone who has done this. I suspect that it is the only way to tame some of the F53's. I know someone who has a 1999 Fleetwood Storm. They say it rides like a dream. I looked at the front suspension and I found that Fleetwood had some something terry much like this during manufacture.
Hmmm? My 2017 Storm rides like a Chuck wagon on bad roads. Very smooth on nice roads. But I would never call it a dream, it was a nightmare when I first got it.
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Old 07-08-2019, 05:24 AM   #4
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Nice to see someone share details who has actually done Kelderman. My understanding is the front replacement leafs are half the spring rate of stock and progressive rather than linear. Along with actual ride height valves to adjust psi based on compression rather than a static amount makes that system similar to a diesel pushers air ride. I have seen some Freightliner front ends that use the same setup, a very weak front leaf to locate the axle with airbags holding most of the weight.

The rear is even better since they detach the rear shackle and put an airbag between leaf and frame making a it a true two stage system, again with actual ride height valves.
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Old 08-14-2019, 04:13 PM   #5
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Update; I called Kelderman and gave them all the specifics on my MH and the less than stellar difference the airbags made in improving the ride. Their first advice was to try different shocks. I explained they sold me the current shocks with the airbag kit, are you kidding? I then asked if reducing the bag height (pressure) would help and how far could I go? No real response from their person.

That said, I figured I was on my own. I reset the ride height adjusters down 1" to hold a 6 1/2" height. This dropped the pressure to about 42 psi. We had a camping trip this past weekend. Round trip was about 350 mi. mostly on the northern end of I87. Dropping the bags an inch and the reduced pressure made all the difference. The frost heaved expansion joints and poor bridge transitions are GREATLY reduced. It's not as smooth as a true air ride independent suspension on a pusher, but it's as close to it as your going to get a F53.

I plan to tackle the rear end next spring and install Kelderman's 2-stage.
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Old 08-14-2019, 06:04 PM   #6
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That said, I figured I was on my own. I reset the ride height adjusters down 1" to hold a 6 1/2" height. This dropped the pressure to about 42 psi. We had a camping trip this past weekend.
Unfortunate that Kelderman was not much help, they should provide better guidance for such an expensive upgrade.

Bottom line, which I have tried to explain on this forum a few times is for comfort you want the softest spring that will not bottom out under normal circumstances. That is assuming you have good sway bars to prevent body roll.

My stock front ends rides at 6 1/2" from frame so sounds like you might be getting back to stock ride height. It makes sense lower pressure gives you softer ride so long as your not bottoming out bags on normal bumps.

Another option would be to add ping tanks if they weren't part of the package, this increases working volume allowing a higher pressure for more ride height while still being as compliant.
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