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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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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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Old 12-15-2019, 10:47 PM   #7
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Talking Keldeman Air Ride for Front Suspension

Have had the Kelderman Air Suspension for the front of my 2000 Bounder 34D for about 12 years. I have a manually inflated pair of air bags with a Guage mounted on the lower dash panel. I generally run the gauges @ 35-40 psi (bags extended about 7"). Has worked well, is NOT an air ride suspension. You still feel expansion joints/bad roads, ie. any interstate in Indiana. This, coupled with Timbren SES (Suspension Enhancementioned System) which replaces the bump stops and eliminates the side-to-side rocking up front. Been down the road of ride improvement on the Ford F-53 chassis, have added the following: Koni shocks; rear track bar, eliminated the tail-wagging-the dog movement; had a Davis True Track Bar but it had to be removed to install the Kelderman Air Suspension, also prevented the front CHF due to front spring clearance; completed the CHF on the rear; Safety-Plus Steering Stabilizer. After all this, and $$$$ ride is much improved, however, it will NEVER, ride like a motorcoach with air ride suspension. I would recommend the Kelderman Suspension for the front, can't speak on the rear system, could only help, just more $$$$.
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:11 PM   #8
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With the Airbags and the front panhard bar, there should be no need for the leaf springs behind the rear axle. What I you cut the springs off like the entry level diesel pushers with "I" beam front suspension and air bags?

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Old 12-17-2019, 06:52 AM   #9
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With the Airbags and the front panhard bar, there should be no need for the leaf springs behind the rear axle. What I you cut the springs off like the entry level diesel pushers with "I" beam front suspension and air bags?

Richard
Kelderman normally replaces the front leaf with one having about half the spring rate so the airbag can take up the rest. That along with ride height valves allows the spring rate to be the minimum needed to carry the weight at the correct ride height allowing the softest ride. No need to cut the leaf.

The i-beam pushers I have seen have a full leaf spring in the front but it looks to have minimal spring rate, just there to hold the axle and let the airbags do most of the work here is the Freightliner one:

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Kelderman in the rear detaches the rear shackles of the leafs from the frame the wedges a airbag between the frame and the shackle putting the airbag in series with the leaf making a true two stage tender spring.
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Old 12-17-2019, 07:31 AM   #10
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Kelderman in the rear detaches the rear shackles of the leafs from the frame the wedges a airbag between the frame and the shackle putting the airbag in series with the leaf making a true two stage tender spring.
And that's the system I'm seriously considering for my Sprinter 3500, as it's far cheaper than other systems, though it is a series spring setup and won't be as soft as a full air suspension system. But to be honest, I'm not sure the performance difference between the Kelderman and the full suspension replacement systems is all that much.

Unfortunately, you can't soften the leaf springs also, as they still have to carry the full load. Though adding a low-profile air bag where the bump stop is would take some of the bending load off the springs so you could. Hmmmm.

Sprinters aren't F53's, but the principles are the same. And Kelderman looks like a solid company.
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Old 12-17-2019, 07:35 AM   #11
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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 loaded up a set of front Bilsteins last year and drove about 15K miles on them. A month ago I visited an alignment shop that recommended that I upgrade my shocks to Koni FSD (all 4). I was hesitant to do so as I had installed them on a car and didn't really feel the difference but had them do it anyway. It did make a world of difference believe it or not. I'm not sure that it's a complete BS answer from them to try new shocks but you'd think they would supply the best with their kit. I didn't think it would make as much difference as it did for me. This is assuming that you aren't already running Koni's.
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Old 12-17-2019, 07:52 AM   #12
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Unfortunately, you can't soften the leaf springs also, as they still have to carry the full load. Though adding a low-profile air bag where the bump stop is would take some of the bending load off the springs so you could. Hmmmm.
Would be interested to see what system your talking about for the Sprinter. Pay attention to where the airbag is placed in the system. If it replaces a bump stop and the leaf is still attached on both sides then it is parallel not series and spring rate will basically go up not down making the suspension stiffer. This is a helper spring not a tender spring.

The front Kelderman system is parallel which is why they replace the leaf with a much softer one, if they left it alone like a lot of people do with air bags or Sumos your just adding spring rate to existing leafs.

The rear Kelderman turns the leaf into a sort of trailing arm by detaching rear shackle, it does not start acting like a spring again until the airbag is compressed. The air bag is the first stage then leaf second stage.
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Old 12-17-2019, 09:38 AM   #13
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Would be interested to see what system your talking about for the Sprinter.
Same system, just smaller. It's definitely in series with the leaf springs. I've linked a video also, which shows the air suspension taking most of the suspension travel.

It's not exactly two-stage progressive (like 'helper' springs not engaging until main springs are deflected enough) in the sense that the leaves don't deflect until the air bags bottom - since they're in series, any increase in axle load will deflect both, just not as much in the stiffer leaf packs. Visually, in the video, it looks like a very large ratio of deflection, with the air bags taking most of the travel, by a lot. And that means a softer ride.

https://kelderman.com/shop/2014-spri...air-suspension

You can actually see the leaf springs separate at the rear while accelerating a few seconds in.

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Old 12-17-2019, 09:57 AM   #14
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It's not exactly two-stage progressive (like 'helper' springs not engaging until main springs are deflected enough) in the sense that the leaves don't deflect until the air bags bottom - since they're in series, any increase in axle load will deflect both, just not as much in the stiffer leaf packs. Visually, in the video, it looks like a very large ratio of deflection, with the air bags taking most of the travel, by a lot. And that means a softer ride.
That's definitely two stage series just like the larger F53, the rear leaf shackles are cut from the frame and attached to the pivoting frame for the airbags.

Yes since they are both springs the leaf is deflecting some even when the bag isn't bottomed like any dual rate spring system, its just the bag has a lower spring rate than the leaf so it deflects more for the same force, once it bottoms its no longer a spring and only the leaf is left at its original spring rate for the second stage.

On a air suspension with swing arm instead of leafs, the air bags are the only spring since the arms don't flex.

If put in parallel like the front then the two springs split the load increasing final spring rate rather than lowering it in series the full load goes through both lowering total spring rate.
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