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Old 09-10-2020, 06:49 PM   #1
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97 F53 Definitive Suspension Recommendations

Hi Everyone. I know Definitive is a strong word but after ALL these years is there a solid list of suspension upgrades for the F53 chassis? I know my 97 doesn't qualify for the CHF (cheap handling fix for us newbies) but are there other fixes (listed in order of effectiveness) for my chassis? I know shocks is a "whole can of worms" depending on preference and co$t but should I start in the front or rear? I have 2 teenage children, so money is a limiting factor.



So as a guide here are my questions. Track bar front or rear? Rear sway bar addition? (probably too much money right now) Front air bags? More air pressure in the rear? Poly sway bar bushings/links all around? Anything else I'm missing? I'll probably put fresh Monroe RV magnum shocks and fresh steering damper @$250 for the set is something I could afford. ($500+ for Safe-T-Plus is outta my budget



I was ready to pull the trigger on a front Davis Tru Trac because several users thought it was the biggest single improvement you could make, but another post said that the rear track bar was much more effective? I read some posts by TeJay (Tee Jay or is it Tay Jay?) He seemed to have some great suggestions but his rig is newer than mine. Ok so I know this is kind of a novel (or novella) but that's just the highlights! Thanks all!

PS: 1997 Dolphin 5330 (33.5 ft) 7.5L Banks System
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Old 09-10-2020, 08:56 PM   #2
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I have a ‘97 Fleetwood Bounder 35’ on a 1996 F53 Chassis. My biggest issue was getting sucked away and into the other lane as Anything from SUV’s up to Semis passed. I literally was tensed and worn out after a two-hour drive. I home-built and installed a rear track bar and immediately I can drive with one hand and feel safe.

I installed Scooter Dud’s bushings on my existing sway bars, and installed a new steering damper at the same time. For less than $200 this made my RV safe and mostly fun to drive.

Prior to that I replaced the Monroe shock absorbers with Bilsteins. I could tell no improvement. Were I doing that again I would use Koni’s based on what I read on this forum, but my point is if your shocks need replacing they need replacing, but don’t expect that a miracle will happen as a result. At least in my case it didn’t. My ride was still bumpy and the rig porpoises after large bumps. I am told Koni’s would help but as best I can tell they help significantly on some and not so much on others.

TeJay is the real deal. It is true his F53 is newer and with larger tires so he has some advantages we don’t have, but a lot can be learned from his posts and experiments.

Several of us have been experimenting with ways to improve the terrible bumps we get when driving down interstates and hitting dividing strips or bridge transitions. My RV had aftermarket air bags installed by a previous owner. They did very little to aid the ride and the springs are plenty strong without them. However, by adding individual ping tanks to the air bags, and airing up the air bags to give me 3/4-1” lift over the what the springs lift, I’ve found the bumps are significantly mitigated. I no longer cringe when seeing a bridge transition ahead. Now, having said that, a large bump is still going to be a large bump because I’m only gaining air bag/spring help up to 3/4-1”.

You can search threads on these topics to get more ideas and see some of the successes and failures several of us have experienced.
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Old 09-10-2020, 11:49 PM   #3
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Since you can’t do the chf I’d suggest aftermarket front and rear sway bars.
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Old 09-11-2020, 09:44 AM   #4
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We have a '97 36' Aerbus w/tag axle built on the Ford F53 chassis with 460. When I bought it, I went through the engine to bring it up to speed from a maintenance perspective, including adding the Banks exhaust system, which made a HUGE difference in power. As far as the chassis, I did replace the rear swaybar bushings, new Michelins all around, and I went with the KONI shocks all around. It had bilsteins on it previously. I believe that the KONI shocks, while pricey, made a huge difference. It handled like a totally different motorhome. I am going to get an alignment done on it this fall and install a new steering stabilizer/damper on it this coming spring. It handles extremely well right now but I would like to see if I can reduce the wander on highways as much as possible. Good luck and keep us posted of your progress!
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Old 09-11-2020, 01:44 PM   #5
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With a chassis that old there is a good probability that the leaf springs are weak. I would start by putting on airbags all around. Our 99 chassis did that in the rear at about 9 years of age and bags were a very effective solution.
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Old 09-11-2020, 03:14 PM   #6
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You didn't say what your handling issue is, yet you've gotten all sorts of recomendations.

What are you trying to fix ?
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Old 09-12-2020, 04:01 PM   #7
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Mostly wandering in the lane and constantly correcting with the steering. I’ve seen the video of the Class A towing a vehicle and has a front blowout which is scary as hell (link on Safe-T-Plus website). Do I need something like that or does my Monroe steering damper offer any blowout protection?

So bottom line do I start on the front or rear of the vehicle or a little of both?
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Old 09-12-2020, 04:32 PM   #8
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Start with a accurate four corner weight and the best tires you can afford, aired according to your weight. Load the vehicle as closely balanced as possible. Remember the chassis was never designed to be a rolling home.
It is a municipal delivery chassis, made to carry bread or similar cargo without excessive overhang.
As a former owner I went thru the same thing. Koni's, Hellweg sway bars, track bar, AirLift bags in the rear with great improvement, but still couldn't stomach a four hour drive. Still got blown around, maybe half as bad.
Still had a bumpy ride, even though we threw thousands at it. Still had marginal brakes, little CCC, wouldn't tow much and everything constantly needed tightening and tweaking.

Selling it for a DP was our final answer to cure all of the above.
(not trying to get into the DP vs. F53 debate, just been there, done that)
I almost got what I spent in handling improvements back out of it, although I ate my labor. Didn't matter, I was ready to drive it off a cliff anyways. Hopefully you results will be better than ours.
Good luck!
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Old 09-12-2020, 04:41 PM   #9
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Front wheel Alignment first. If OK, then rear sway bar upgrade.
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Old 09-12-2020, 06:18 PM   #10
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" Remember the chassis was never designed to be a rolling home. It is a municipal delivery chassis, made to carry bread or similar cargo without excessive overhang."

Umm. F53's have no other purpose. They are designed and built to be an RV chassis, and that's all. The same plants also make F59's which are destined for use as step vans and other short haul cargo vehicles. Like UPS trucks. Though they share many parts the F53's and F59's are definitely not the same.
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Old 09-12-2020, 09:06 PM   #11
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Based on my experience with a similar age/size, I would get the alignment checked and maybe camber increased a little if you are having a problem with wondering over the road with no wind or passing vehicles.

If the problem is mostly being pushed and pulled by passing vehicles or light wind, I would to the rear trac bar first or next.
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Old 09-12-2020, 10:34 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GypsyR View Post
" Remember the chassis was never designed to be a rolling home. It is a municipal delivery chassis, made to carry bread or similar cargo without excessive overhang."

Umm. F53's have no other purpose. They are designed and built to be an RV chassis, and that's all. The same plants also make F59's which are destined for use as step vans and other short haul cargo vehicles. Like UPS trucks. Though they share many parts the F53's and F59's are definitely not the same.
Very similar, same frame RBM @ 50,000, brakes, suspension options, drivetrain. Different axle gear ratio options. Basically the same platform with a different code. The F53 can be configured with longer "after frame" vs the F59, making them suitable for MH applications. So yes, the F53 is still a pie wagon chassis spec'd for the RV industry. Sorta like ordering a 450 chassis with all the HD suspension upgrades vs a standard 550 chassis.
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Old 09-14-2020, 04:30 PM   #13
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First place to start is getting the toe-in correct. 5/16" positive toe-in is what works best. Front panhard bar (Davis True Track) is a big help. It keeps the chassis from moving laterally across the axle. Rear track bar is not necessary. The rear springs does a good job of controlling lateral movement. I added a rear track bar with no noticeable improvement. Took it off. Waste of $$. Those claiming your need a rear track bar are talking about 99 and later V10 chassis. That's all I've done to my 95 F53 (same chassis as yours) and it drives very well. Very little push from passing trucks.
Use only tires with all steel cord. Michelin XPS or Bridgestone Duravis R250. Your 235/85R16 tire has a very tall side wall, and all others will allow too much sidewall flex. Made that mistake once.

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