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Old 04-09-2016, 07:48 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 53
96 Itasca Sunrise 31RQ Suspension Upgrades

Hello All,

Last weekend we returned to Chesapeake VA from a 3000 mile round trip to the mid-west in our 1996 Itasca Sunrise 31rq riding on a F53 chassis with about 50,000 miles. The old dog (the RV not me) did a great job of getting all of us including our dog there and back with one exception. We had strong cross winds (up to 50 mph) all the way from KC to Virginia. It was white knuckle time for the whole 16 hours. We also dragged the left rear corner leaving a gas station that had a rather steep downward slope. Everything was fine on the exit until the coach pitched left and I heard the scrape. This little incident tore the lower half of the left corner trim completely loose.

So when we got home I checked into the suspension system front and rear and found that the shocks are bad, the rear sway bar bushings are completely gone and the front leaf springs need help. My solution, a new set of rear sway bar bushings, a new set of Bilstein shocks front and rear and (here's the best part) a complete set of Firestone air bag stabilizers with onboard compressor and individual air bag pressure control panel.

I'll start the repairs next weekend and I'll post before and after pictures. i'll also let you know if I think it was worth it or not when I'm done.

Talk to you all again soon.


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Old 04-10-2016, 07:31 AM   #2
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How about pictures of air bag install. Wanting to do this.

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Old 04-10-2016, 08:17 AM   #3
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You might consider Koni shocks all around. They are pricey but I just installed them on my '97 Aerbus F53 chassis and what a difference. It already has rear air bags but it's extremely smooth and handles so much better. With the new Konis. I have Bilsteins on my other class c motorhome and a tad harsh. I also replaced the rear sway bushings since mine were pretty much gone. Just my opinion but good luck with your upgrades. I'll be interested to see how it comes out.
'74 F350 44K,'79 11' Mitchell Camper, MINT All Original
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'97 Rexhall Aerbus, 60K, 460, F53, MINT All Original
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Old 04-10-2016, 09:17 AM   #4
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cwit, I've never posted photos on this site but I intend to photograph each step of the install and post as much as I can. Everything will be before, during and after. I'll start with the sway bar bushings, then the shocks and finally the airbags. I'll include the tools needed to do everything.

Inthe70s, I read most of the posts on the best shocks for an old Class A F53 chassis and the comments for Monroe Magnum, Koni and Bilstein and I suspect that you're right about the Bilsteins and I seriously considered Koni but I got a great price on a set of Bilsteins so I went with them instead. My coach is rough and I'm just hoping to get another 5 years out it. I bought it 2 years ago and was promised on a stack of bibles that it didn't need anything and since then I've replaced the tires, steering stabilizer, water pump, radiator, coolant expansion tank, almost all the hoses, thermostat housing, the complete engine A/C system, right exhaust manifold, cut-off, repaired and welded back the exhaust crossover pipe, removed a mouse nest from the furnace burner, replaced the furnace ignitor, install a hot water heater maintenance kit, stripped the headliner, removed the mouse mess from the rear A/C unit and closed off the mouse runs in the roof styrofoam installation, remounted the front fiberglass nose section with custom brackets (it was falling off) and tried so far unsuccessfully to seal the top of the windshields (the waterfall has stopped but it still leaks). So as ironic as it may seem, NOW I'm trying to control some of the cost.:face palm:

I'll also include pictures of the rear corner damage and the repair. You really can't tell me I don't know how to have fun! The good news is that since the repairs I've been able to take my family on two really fun cross country trips so far and we hope to do a lot more soon.
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Old 04-16-2016, 07:26 PM   #5
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[Following up, today I installed the rear sway bar bushings that I purchased on eBay and the front and rear Bilstein shocks. I ordered the bushings on a Sunday and they arrived by Wednesday.
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The photos show that the bushings are completely gone from the axle mounts and almost gone from the bar end links.Click image for larger version

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I'm replacing the rear shocks anyway so I removed the rear shocks to make replacing the sway bar bushing much easier. I completely removed the sway bar so I could scrap and clean all of the old bushing contact surfaces. Make sure you clean the inside of the caps and the contact surfaces of the cap to the axle mounts. Use liberal amounts of silicone grease and spray when you reassemble the sway bar and bushings.
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When you install gas filled shocks, make sure you don't cut the plastic bands until you have them mounted at both ends. Mount the top end first then you can pull the plastic band from each side to retract the shock to line up the bottom mount with the bolt. You have to be quick but it works every time.

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I took if for a road test I couldn't believe the difference in the ride. Much smoother and instead of slamming on every expansion joint it was a soft bounce. Next weekend I'll install the air bag kits. That's it for now. Thanks.
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Old 04-16-2016, 07:31 PM   #6
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Sumo Springs if they make them for the OP's unit.
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Old 04-25-2016, 11:07 AM   #7
Join Date: Jun 2015
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Quick update.
I installed all four ride-rite air bags over the weekend. The rears went on without too much difficulty but the fronts were more difficult because I had to work around the steering arm on the left and the steering stabilizer mount on the right.

Because I needed to drill mounting holes in the frame, I removed and reinstalled the wheels as I mounted each airbag.

The instuctions don't mention it but the front airbags for the F53 chassis require that you turn the air ride hose connectors to the rear because of a cross member bolt on each side that blocks the connector. Originally I wanted the hoses to exit towards the front to go around the front of the engine and avoid the exhaust system and I would have been screwed if i hadn't prefitted everything before I did the final installation. I ended up routing the right airbag hose back and up over the engine at the back of the engine box. I then brought it down the left side to the hose "T" that connects the left and right bags together.

I have the onboard compressor mounted and I'll complete the hose install up to where i plan on mounting the control panel tonight. As soon as I get everything installed I'll post the final update with a few pics.

By-the-way, I purchased the universal frame mounting kit for the compressor but it didn't fit because my frame rails are wider than the kit brackets. Too bad because it would have made the compressor install much easier.

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Old 04-26-2016, 08:53 PM   #8
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Not much to say tonight other than I got the control panel wired and the air hoses connected. I still have to mount the control panel but at least I can say that it WORKS! The front and rear ride-rites are working and seem to be holding air. Tomorrow I need to install the compressor air filter and button up a few things then I'll take it for test drive.


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suspension, upgrade, itasca

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