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Old 12-14-2015, 03:26 PM   #1
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Vortex tab review (Airtabs)

Vortex "tabs" (brand name Airtabs)

Here's my experience in 2015 on a 35 ft Fleetwood Motorhome on a F53 Ford gas powered chassis:

Gas Use Improvement: Marginal at best. But the verdict is still out. After a trip from the east coast to Phoenix Az. I measured NO improvement. Trouble is there are so many variables changing all the time I did not get a 100% confidence in my conclusion. I'll do this after my next 1000 mile plus trip.

Truck Blow By: Generally a significant improvement. My rig suffers from this tremendously so this was a BIG thing for me. I think it's a gas rig / F53 chassis problem more than a diesal pusher one due to all the numerous chassis differences (you can find these on line).

Wind Sway: Depends on the amount of wind and direction. Moderate to low winds from front and back- not bad, some improvement. Strong cross and head winds-- forget it. No help but I doubt anything solves this. Its just the nature of a "refrigerator on a skate board" as they say. A big wind sail isnt going to be solved by some itsy pieces of plastic.

For anyone interested in more of the story:
I decided to add vortex tabs to my RV after viewing a Youtub video and reading some on line reviews. Like all of us who drive a longer motorhome, especially a gas powered one on the notorious F 53 chassis, my wife and I have suffered for years from the driver fatigue, and jangled nerves caused by truck blow by, cross winds, and general bad drag/ bad air dynamics. Six miles to a gallon of gas tops off the problem and speaks for itself. At anyrate Airtabs and their customers claimed to help. I gave it as much careful thought as I could and had a more than small amount of skepticism. The experience and 'opinions' on this product were all over the place, good and bad. Plus if they were any good why didn't all the big trucks out there use them? Last of all Outfitting my RV would cost nearly $300 without the time and effort involved to paint, prep and put them on. Although not a huge investment by any means if they were just another online scam, or at best a marginal , throwing $300 away was not something I do gladly.

My decision to take a chance was based on these conclusions:
The driving stability problem was so troublesome as to warrant almost any improvement.
The cost of the Airtabs was significantly less than other chassis/suspension upgrades such as heavier sway bars and better shocks/springs. So they were the natural first best attempt.
The negative online information seemed to come from people who had never actually used the things. These people were just suspicious and cynical (here I don't blame them at all but talk is easy).
There were a couple of solid positive reviews by people who had applied the tabs fully on their RV's or trailers.
Although the verdict on gas improvement was marginal at best, gas was not my main concern. Important yes, but reducing the stress on my old age nerves was the big item.
Supposedly truckers went in the direction of those under and behind trailer air baffles (or what ever they're called). These are supposedly more significant solutions but not something us RVers can do at least easily.

The bottom line is gas savings NO, truck blow by YES, wind yes and no.
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Old 12-15-2015, 04:47 AM   #2
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Thank you for the review! How about the rear of the Coach/TOAD staying cleaner?
I have read where they all but stopped the road dirt on the back end due to changing the vortex/air flow around the back end? Especially when driving in the rain?
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Old 12-16-2015, 09:13 PM   #3
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Put a rear track bar on your rig that will stop the sway in cross winds. My 36' long F53 chassis was scary to drive on cross winds until I did that.
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Old 12-16-2015, 09:34 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by palehorse89 View Post
Thank you for the review! How about the rear of the Coach/TOAD staying cleaner?
I have read where they all but stopped the road dirt on the back end due to changing the vortex/air flow around the back end? Especially when driving in the rain?
I think Airtabs are worthwhile. They cost me under $ 250 and are easily self installed. I painted mine to match my coach base color.

I have Airtabs on my Vista and had them on my Cambria before that. Yes they seem to keep the back of the RV from getting dirtier than the sides. They also seem to keep my tow vehicle cleaner when driving on dry roads, but they do not seem to make much difference to the tow car getting dirty when driving wet roads.

The stock Vista 27N was just scary to drive on the highway the first time after I took delivery a few months ago. But its scary handling is all totally fixable with add-ons. Air tabs, Cheap Handling Fix (CHF), and a steering stabilizer.

Airtabs help keep the rear of the RV from moving as much side to side from truck air wash. It helps handling some but not enough to eliminate need for other handling fixes. I also have done CHF and still plan to add a Safe-T-Plus in 2016. Had one on my Cambria Class C and can tell the difference with not having it on my Class A.
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Old 12-17-2015, 10:43 AM   #5
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what bar?

Quote:
Originally Posted by HerbZilla View Post
Put a rear track bar on your rig that will stop the sway in cross winds. My 36' long F53 chassis was scary to drive on cross winds until I did that.
I have the stock bar on my fleetwood f53 and it seems useless plus one bracket holding the bar to axial has broke twice.
What bar did you use? I know there are heavier duty upgrades possible but given the slim reviews (and some of those where self serving via a garage who puts them on) I have hesitated in forking the money. Please tell me more including the cost you incurred. Did you have to bore for new attachments or reuse the existing? I'm a "do it yourselfer". Can I manage the install myself with standard toolbox? etc.

Any other experiences in rear bars would be helpful.
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Old 12-17-2015, 10:55 AM   #6
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Safe T Plus is good

Quote:
Originally Posted by powercat_ras View Post
I think Airtabs are worthwhile. They cost me under $ 250 and are easily self installed. I painted mine to match my coach base color.

I have Airtabs on my Vista and had them on my Cambria before that. Yes they seem to keep the back of the RV from getting dirtier than the sides. They also seem to keep my tow vehicle cleaner when driving on dry roads, but they do not seem to make much difference to the tow car getting dirty when driving wet roads.

The stock Vista 27N was just scary to drive on the highway the first time after I took delivery a few months ago. But its scary handling is all totally fixable with add-ons. Air tabs, Cheap Handling Fix (CHF), and a steering stabilizer.

Airtabs help keep the rear of the RV from moving as much side to side from truck air wash. It helps handling some but not enough to eliminate need for other handling fixes. I also have done CHF and still plan to add a Safe-T-Plus in 2016. Had one on my Cambria Class C and can tell the difference with not having it on my Class A.
I had ok results from adding the Safe T Plus steering stabilizer (on my 35ft f53 motorcoach) but it was just slightly better than nothing at all and after 2 years had to be replaced due to becoming slack enough to negate much of the original stiffening. I went directly to the mfg and they replaced it free of charge (if thru them it comes with a lifetime warrantee). I had much better results however by rebalancing my weight and distribution. When weighed I was not surprisingly overloaded in general and on the rear axial and under on the front. So no surprise the steering was loose and all over the place. Removed 300 lbs and shifted several hundred from back to front. That made a BIG difference. I would imagine if I had the weights done first the Safe T Plus results would have been better. And part of the present BIG is likely from this product. ??
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Old 12-18-2015, 07:54 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lckign View Post
I have the stock bar on my fleetwood f53 and it seems useless plus one bracket holding the bar to axial has broke twice.
What bar did you use? I know there are heavier duty upgrades possible but given the slim reviews (and some of those where self serving via a garage who puts them on) I have hesitated in forking the money. Please tell me more including the cost you incurred. Did you have to bore for new attachments or reuse the existing? I'm a "do it yourselfer". Can I manage the install myself with standard toolbox? etc.

Any other experiences in rear bars would be helpful.

Just to make sure we are talking about adding a track bar and not a new rear sway bar. My unit Winnnie Vista 35B only came with the rear sway bar. I added the track bar myself. The track bar locks the rear axle to the chassis in the horizontal direction while still letting the chassis move vertically with the springs and shocks. I went with the blue ox track bar and it was about 500 delivered to my house. I went with them because I like their products and on my rig the rear can be an English or a metric differential and they give you the adaptor for both. The only thing what could be considered special is that the bolts need to be torqued to about 160 ft-lbs so having a torque wrench helps. That and a tube of loctite for the bolts. The hardest part was getting the 3 original bolts out of the pumpkin. They are in there tight. I installed it in about an hour or so.

Click image for larger version

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I have to say it was the best investment I made to my rv. Before that it was white knuckle ride in high winds or when big rigs drove by.
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Old 12-18-2015, 07:55 AM   #8
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The part that goes on the chassis is a clamp arrangement so no drilling holes are required.
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Old 12-18-2015, 12:56 PM   #9
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I also agree with you about balancing weight. I think I read that the f53 chassis wants to see about 30 to 35% weight on the front axle. I noticed with mine right after I fill the fuel tank the front end feels a little light for 50 or so miles. Also could just be my wallet that is feeling lighter!!
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Old 12-19-2015, 11:13 AM   #10
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Track Bar

Quote:
Originally Posted by HerbZilla View Post
Just to make sure we are talking about adding a track bar and not a new rear sway bar. My unit Winnnie Vista 35B only came with the rear sway bar. I added the track bar myself. The track bar locks the rear axle to the chassis in the horizontal direction while still letting the chassis move vertically with the springs and shocks. I went with the blue ox track bar and it was about 500 delivered to my house. I went with them because I like their products and on my rig the rear can be an English or a metric differential and they give you the adaptor for both. The only thing what could be considered special is that the bolts need to be torqued to about 160 ft-lbs so having a torque wrench helps. That and a tube of loctite for the bolts. The hardest part was getting the 3 original bolts out of the pumpkin. They are in there tight. I installed it in about an hour or so.

Attachment 114425

I have to say it was the best investment I made to my rv. Before that it was white knuckle ride in high winds or when big rigs drove by.
thanks much for the photo, a great help. and you're right we were talking about different things. Your add on looks interesting and for $500 for good results may be my next project. I'm concerned about my clearances above my axial. Mine looks less than yours. Also getting to the 'pumpkim' bolts will be tough let alone enough clearance for my wrench with extension. Guess I'll take a good look for a product that goes on below rather than above.
thanks again for the photo/response.
LCK
ps: my stock 'sway bar' is also horiz and connects axial to frame although the config is much different as well as bolting to the axial on both sides of the pumpkin (is your stock bar the same?). What does your add on do thats different-just more? wish I also had a photo to show. next time under I guess.
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Old 12-19-2015, 05:42 PM   #11
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There is so much clearance in the picture because it is up on the leveling jacks. There is not that much clearance with normal ride height. The site dips back so have the bring the back up enough to level it with the front. A socket with a breaker bar or an impact is all you need to loosen those bolts. I just mentioned it because really that was the only thing that could have been considered hard about the job. Do not install it under the pumpkin!
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Old 12-19-2015, 06:00 PM   #12
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So sway bar helps with body roll and rebound after you make a turn. The track bar helps with the wag of the body in strong wind gusts or when a semi goes by you. My factory sway bar is mounted just like yours. Just think of it as a big torsion bar. As the vehicle leans into a turn it loads up to help it right itself as it comes out of the turn. When you think about your shocks and springs they help the coach in the up and down direction but doesn't do anything to hold you in the side to side motion that you get with a wind gust. But the springs and shocks are what connect the body to the axle so in reality it is like a giant pendulum. The track bar locks the body to the chassis in this side motion allowing the springs and shocks to work in the direction they work best which is up and down.
I know this is a simplified explanation on how it works but to me you can visually see in your mind how it interacts. I will be out at my rig on Tuesday and can take more pictures. One thing I liked about the blue ox is that you order it for your make model and chassis weight so you don't have a problem with it fitting. Your track bar may look a little different than mine but it will work the same.
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Old 12-20-2015, 11:58 PM   #13
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If you want to reduce the Driver Fatigue, I would suggest installing Steering Stabilizer, a larger Rear Anti-Sway Bar and a set of Centramatic Wheel Balancers. The MH rides very smooth due to the Wheel Balancers stopping the wheels from jarring and being felt thru the suspension and the Stabilizer helps with road wander and the Sway bar helps with the tail wag. You could always add a rear panhard bar also.
The other thing to do is set tire pressures to your weight, not the max pressure on the side wall or the pressure stated by the manufacture. As long as the pressure is less than or equal to the max side wall pressure then you are OK.
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Old 12-21-2015, 07:36 AM   #14
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The rear pan hard bar is the same thing as a rear track bar. For the money the track bar is better bang for the buck. Plus they do two different things. From what the OP wants to cure the panhard aka track bar is the way to go. He already stated that he has installed a steering stabilizer.
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