ABCs to Class A Handling and Suspension
By Craig Gosselin
I have been reading some of the concerns of both new and oldtime RVers as they talk about down the road handling of their rigs. I have assembled this small view into your Class A MH and its ability to make you find added comfort as your motor down the highways.
First and foremost….I am not a suspension expert. What you read here is certainly not RV gospel….it is just some handy points and accumulated thoughts to help you better choose how to achieve safe motoring.
Driving and maintenance:
One of the big factors in handling in our Class A motor homes concerns maintenance. The proper chassis lubrication, tire pressure, steering component maintenance, bushing maintenance, level height, and load balance makes more than sense. It makes for a safe driving experience.
Tire pressure, Tire Pressure, tire pressure and finally proper tire pressure in your RV is more important to driving safely than having fuel in the gas tank. A blow out in your RV, while you are driving or a constant pull to one side can really put you in the perfect place to dislike life. Perform this task easy task…if need be….buy an inexpensive portable compressor and use it before leaving on a trip. Tires affect handling PERIOD.
Each of our MHs is equipped with more than a handful of grease nipples. Making sure that the proper type and seasonal frequency for lubrication of these suspension system and drive train lubrication points adds to the drive experience by giving you a smooth feel to the steering of your MH. Also as the coach motors down the road….the swaying chassis can more easily shift its weight if the chassis has no snag points due to lack of lubrication and friction. The usual frequency for chassis lubrication is every 12 months.
Another easy to over look but very important suspension area on the RV rig is bushings. The one place I have recently discovered in my own older MH is the anti sway arm bushings. These bushings can crack and dissolve in time and really are an area where down the road comfort can be maintained. I replaced the rotting set of both front and rear anti sway bar bushing with some polyurethane bushings and immediately was able to feel the driving change. As the MH sways back and forth while driving the anti sway bar places a left to right tension on the chassis to keep the vehicle body centered and upright. The bushings takes the road vibration and tension off the bar and keeps the noises from bothering us. I consider this a do it yourself project….but I have jacks and wrenches.
Level height is not an adjustment in my particular rig but some of you have the ability to load level. This is a place where you are taking the time to review the tension on your front and rear suspension and matching the MHs normal height to the load that you are carrying. If you have this adjustment…. Make sure you are using it to the pleasure and safety of your drive experience.
Load balancing and rig capacity is another very important area that can make more than common sense. I am a pack rat…I bought my MH to carry my life with me when I leave the brick and mortar home and head to where ever my wallet can haul me. As I fill up the MH with my goodies….it is important to remember that I have a maximum safe hauling capacity for my rig. In my closet there glued to the inside closet door is the specs for my Bounder and what each tire should be filled to, how much weight I can add and what PSI my airbags can achieve. What is not in the specs…is the even distribution of the weight I haul so as to allow the MH to smoothly transfer the load as we travel. If you want to read a little about weight distribution and load placement, I think you might look at the owners manual. Some suspension shops have load testing scales and can weigh your rig to give you some perspective as to your safety values.
Other areas that start to move towards suspension improvement include shocks, steering stabilizers (another type of shock), springs and air bags. I have added a replacement set of airbags to the front suspension of my Bounder with no real improvement to the shoving around I was getting when tractor trailer vehicles passed me on the highways. I added similar air bags to the rear axle and I did find some improvement. Remember in a long bodied vehicle the rear sways as much or more than the front.
The steering stabilizer/damper (a shock looking device that bolts onto the stabilizer bar and the steering bar) takes up much of the vibration and pounding we get from the forces that want our drive wheels to jerk left or right as we hit pot holes or the weight in the rig shifts abruptly. I swapped my OEM steer damper with a Safe T Plus type. I was impressed. The new damper changed the angle at which the force was dampened and seemed to have a bigger shock piston. This was a great add on for my driving.
Safe Steer was another device I added. It is a spring loaded device that keeps the wheels straight as you motor down the road. It bolt to the cross member and the steering knuckle and added 400 pounds of tension to each of the front wheels making them stay true as I motor down the road. This was a great add on.
Shock upgrades on my rig were OEM to Bilstein. This is the final area of improvement that I made but not the final area of improvement available. Here I gained a smooth glide to the ride. The rig floats almost effortlessly and translates the road pounding better so I do not have to feel it in my wrists and back. Koni and KYB make good upgrade shocks too.
Additionally you have bell crank parts, drag link parts and tie rods parts that need to be examined as improvable areas. I will add a link to the site for those wanting an area to review but I will not dwell into the topic since I am not an expert here.
STEERING DAMPERS - Safe T Steer
How Does It Work? | SteerSafe.com
Improved RV Steering and Handling