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Old 04-23-2013, 07:35 PM   #1
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E350/E450 Handling and Caster

I am a new member to the iRV2 forum BUT I want to help anyone who is going through the frustration of not being able to get a good E350/E450 alignment job.

Our 2004 E450 28 Foot handled terrible until we added additional + Caster to the front wheels. This unit is stock except for rear air bags.

The Ford Spec for front end CASTER is:

LH +1.3 to +6.8 Degrees
RH +1.8 to +7.3 Degrees

Our unit was:
LH +3.3 Degrees
RH +3.5 Degrees

We added + 2.0 degrees, so we are now at:
LH +5.3 Degrees
RH +5.5 Degrees.

IMO, alignment problems on the E series follow the 80/20 rule in the sense that TOE and CAMBER is 20% of the story while CASTER is 80% of the story. TOO LITTLE CASTER will amplify any external force many fold to the detriment of stability.

If your unit feels like the steering box needs to be tightened up it is because of TOO LITTLE + CASTER.
If cross winds and wind gusts cause havoc it is because of TOO LITTLE + CASTER.
If you think the tail is wagging the dog it is because of TOO LITTLE + CASTER.
If you are needing to drive it all day and never relax it is because of TOO LITTLE + CASTER.

If your unit drives GREAT, like an SUV, it is because you have a proper amout of + CASTER which I am guestimating to be about +5.0 degrees or more. (Note: The RH caster is always more then LH (CROSS CASTER = LH - RH))
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Old 04-24-2013, 10:12 AM   #2
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Harvard, good info for those who have similar troubles; far to often an alignment shop will look at the spec's and the gauges read out and say they can't do anything because the alignment is with-in specs, instead of making adjustments that they should know will correct the customers complaint.
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Old 04-26-2013, 12:42 PM   #3
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Thank you for posting your experience/results. I own an '04 E450 27 footer and although it drives great I still feel at highway speeds it tends to wander a bit especially when the 18 wheelers go by.

Going to get our alignment checked out soon as well as replace shocks on each corner, hopefully I will feel the change next time we hit the road.
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Old 04-29-2013, 07:04 AM   #4
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Thanks for the info!

I'm having a similar issue with a brand new Fleetwood Jamboree 31N with a Ford E450 chassis. It feels like there are two straights on the steering wheel. Ford just realigned it (the Fleetwood dealer paid for it) because the steering wheel was off-center from the factory. On the ride home it seemed centered pretty good. Now it is off center again on the way to the camp ground and back. I did add some gas to the tank since bringing it home from the alignment job, but that's it. Would a full take of gas change the steering that much? The gas tank looks to be centered on the frame. Looking at the front two wheels it seems to be visibly toed out. So either the equipment needs tuned or my eyes do, but my wife says she sees it too.

Here's the specs on the alignment sheet:
Left: Camber +.2, Caster +4.3, Toe +.02
Right: Camber +.6, Caster +4.7, Toe +.02

Should I take it to truck suspension specialist and pay for an alignment or take it back to Ford?

Also, I was thinking about getting an air suspension system for all four wheels. I'm definitely getting it after reading this post.

Air Lift, Hellwig or Firestone? How about the on-board compressor and air tank so you have the ability to adjust PSI on-demand?

Thanks for all your help in advance. I know this is a lot at once!
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Old 04-29-2013, 07:32 AM   #5
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On our Aspect a good crosswind will cause the wheel to be off center on the highway, but the real test is how it handles when a semi passes you or a moderate wind gust hits. In ours' it was all over the road. I installed a SteerSafe and the problem virtually disappeared. I can now drive with a cup of coffee in one hand (I know, bad idea), whereas before it was a constant, exhausting white knuckle drive.
That said, I wish I had known about the front end adjustments mentioned above, because I would have tried that before throwing money at the problem. The SteerSafe was ~$300 something.
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Old 04-29-2013, 11:01 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shultz01 View Post
I'm having a similar issue with a brand new Fleetwood Jamboree 31N with a Ford E450 chassis. It feels like there are two straights on the steering wheel. Ford just realigned it (the Fleetwood dealer paid for it) because the steering wheel was off-center from the factory. On the ride home it seemed centered pretty good. Now it is off center again on the way to the camp ground and back. I did add some gas to the tank since bringing it home from the alignment job, but that's it. Would a full take of gas change the steering that much? The gas tank looks to be centered on the frame. Looking at the front two wheels it seems to be visibly toed out. So either the equipment needs tuned or my eyes do, but my wife says she sees it too.

Here's the specs on the alignment sheet:
Left: Camber +.2, Caster +4.3, Toe +.02
Right: Camber +.6, Caster +4.7, Toe +.02

Should I take it to truck suspension specialist and pay for an alignment or take it back to Ford?

Also, I was thinking about getting an air suspension system for all four wheels. I'm definitely getting it after reading this post.

Air Lift, Hellwig or Firestone? How about the on-board compressor and air tank so you have the ability to adjust PSI on-demand?

Thanks for all your help in advance. I know this is a lot at once!
I would drive it a bit more to see how the steering wheel bias feels, it will depend on the road crown and cross winds etc. Notice how your RH caster is slightly more then your LH caster. That is good because it biases to suit driving on the right hand side of a crown. If you are on a one way street and driving on the left hand side of a crown then you may feel the need to bias the steering wheel to the right.

Something you need to know about adjusting the E350/E450 CAMBER and CASTER, in the past they were not adjustable as shipped from the factory, you had to install 3rd party eccentric sleeves to make them adjustable. For example, Ingalls 594 sleeves are made to adjust the Ford E350/E450 CAMBER and CASTER. You may already have something like them installed. Take a look at the top of the upper ball joint to see if there are any markings. You may want to take a wire brush to the tops first to see any markings.

For best results you want to have as much +CASTER as feasible but stay within the spec. I do not know of any sleeves that will give any more then 2 more degrees. Best to talk this over with a potential alignment service shop before committing to have them do the alignment. That is easier said then done!

My experience with CASTER is on a vehicle that already had rear air bags installed. I do not know how my unit would have handled without the air bags and the little amount of CASTER. My air bags are pressured up via a Shrader valve, I use a 12VDC portable compressor and I set them to 80 PSI (max 100 PSI). I suspect the rear air bags serve to prevent some of the sway but that is just speculation on my part.
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Old 04-29-2013, 01:24 PM   #7
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Thanks for the replies.

When I was out over the weekend there was very little wind. I was on a two-line road with no other traffic. Understanding the crown situation (this road was crowned) my steering wheel may be between 11 and 12 o'clock in this situation. However, it was between 1 and 2 o'clock...Definitely off.

I'm thinking it's a combination of alignment and weight change with gas tank being full now.

Should I go with rear air bags and then get it realigned?

I can always add front and an on-board compressor later.
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Old 04-29-2013, 02:32 PM   #8
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Thanks for the replies.

When I was out over the weekend there was very little wind. I was on a two-line road with no other traffic. Understanding the crown situation (this road was crowned) my steering wheel may be between 11 and 12 o'clock in this situation. However, it was between 1 and 2 o'clock...Definitely off.

I'm thinking it's a combination of alignment and weight change with gas tank being full now.

Should I go with rear air bags and then get it realigned?

I can always add front and an on-board compressor later.
If you did the rear air bags first then you could experiment with your theory of rear end weight vs steering position. As I said, I do not have any experience without air bags to be much help. What ever you decide to do, do it one change at a time for best feedback. IMO
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Old 04-29-2013, 03:42 PM   #9
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Change out stock shocks and wimpy stock sway bars and then get your alignment, will make a big difference.
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Old 04-29-2013, 04:33 PM   #10
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I thought the sway bars kept me from leaning when I'm cornering? I'm not getting that.

I'm getting fluctuations in alignment based on weight distribution/load.
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Old 04-29-2013, 05:00 PM   #11
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Really, I have just about same rig, handles better with a load. Check out other threads about Ford E-450 handling, especially the 31 footers. It will be better with shocks and sway bars, for sure. Really helps with bump steer and sway from passing semi trucks.
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Old 04-29-2013, 05:09 PM   #12
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Really, I have just about same rig, handles better with a load. Check out other threads about Ford E-450 handling, especially the 31 footers. It will be better with shocks and sway bars, for sure. Really helps with bump steer and sway from passing semi trucks.
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Old 04-30-2013, 05:23 AM   #13
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I'm taking it to a local truck shop to have the alignment checked out. I have the "Before and After" sheet from the Ford dealership. If they check out the alignment now it should give them a good clue as to what is going on and needed. I'll report back as to what their opinion is. Replace the stock sway bars and shocks and/or air bags. Stay tuned.
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Old 05-03-2013, 09:16 AM   #14
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I just got back from the local truck suspension place. The got my rig aligned. I added airbags yesterday before today's alignment appointment and also cleaned up the hastily run electrical conduit along the frame while I was under there. Man am I sore!

Milasman...they did recommend a sturdier rear sway bar.

They also commented that building up the springs is an alternative to air bags. I prefer the airbags because of the adjustability.

So I just ordered the sway bar and will install it as well prior to any of our lengthier trips this summer.

Thanks all for your help.
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