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Need advice on pickup campers and truck suspension

13 posts in this topic

I have a 6.5' pop up P/U camper on my '97 Ford 4x4 ext. cab. The suspension is pretty plush and struggles with my the camper and hauling a heavy boat. I need to "beef" up the suspension to handle the heavy load. Anyone have any experience in this?

Someone told me I need air shocks that I can inflate/deflate according to the load. I have also heard about overload springs. Where would I go to have someone do this kind of work?
Thanks.

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CD,
I have a '97 F250 4X4 extended cab. Two years ago, I looked for a hardside camper. Many new campers at the dealers weighed about 2000 pounds and were "designed" for a short box. I thought that was a lot of weight for my truck.

I found a used 9-foot camper that weighed 1600 pounds. I bought it. My truck is equipped with factory air leveling system in the rear. Everythig was cool till a bag blew out. Result: the suspension was down to the axle on that side.

Healy Spring in Mpls., is the place to go. All the dealers send their customers to them. The air-leveling system in my truck is kind of goofy. I only had two leaf springs and the air bags (which inflate and deflate automatically) Healy installed one more leaf spring and an overload on the bottom ($450). I'm going back to have them put in one more leaf. I don't want to rely on the air bags in the suspension. I've had two air bags go bad already.
I suspect you have a F150? Talk to Randy at Healy Spring (612-379-2080)and tell him Dave with a silver F250 referred you. (I just spoke to him this morning about beefing mine up some more)I trust they'd tell you exactly what you need to beef up your truck's suspension.

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Dave,
I understand about the automatic air suspension in the Fords. Mighty spendy when they go out!
I have the Lariat F150, with wimpy suspension. My pickup camper was made for the smaller trucks, like the S-10, Ranger, Dakotas, and it is very light compared to my cousin's 8' pop-up I bought for him last summer. I went with the smaller one for less weight, and surprisingly there is just about as much room in my unit as his.

When I attach my boat, the truck really sags, but does not quite hit the overloads. I only hit the overloads on bumps on the highway, maybe slow driving too sometimes.

I live in Fargo, far from the cities. Before I start calling around I need some of your guys' knowledge, so thanks for the input.

If I add another spring, am is that going to make a substantial difference in the ride when the truck is empty?

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I'm not a suspension expert. But this is pretty obvoious. I'd be careful putting in an extra spring. It will make your ride pretty rough when you don't have a load on. My old man put a set of air bags in his suburban and he loves them. He did it himself. These bags are set up so that he can adjust them through compressor valves. This works great for when you need to adjust your shocks for the given load. With this system you can gauge the pressure to match your tongue weight. I'm not sure where he got them or the exact price, but I will give him a call and ask him. I really think that this will work the best for you.

I just talked to him and he said they were from firestone, and he paid about 250 for everything.

[This message has been edited by Bigguns3 (edited 02-22-2002).]

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Another thought. My father-in-law has a Chevy extended cab. He also runs a 8-foot popup. When he bought his 17-foot Sylvan, he asked that they adjust the boat trailer for minimum toungue weight; shifting the axle forward. I can lift the boat trailer tongue by hand and he said it still pulls great down the highway.

When I had leafs addeed, I now shut off the air suspension and it rides better than before. If I need the air bags, I'll turn them on. It will depend on what leaf you add as to how they ride will be later. That's why I suggest you talk with an expert. The may be able to put in a stronger lower leaf, another semi-wimpy leaf in the middle. Many ways to do it.

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the adding extra springs will make the truck ride a little rougher. i don't trust airbags due to leaks and once in a while a blow out. i went the cheaper route and ordered a pair of coil over shock absorbers. it stiffened up the rear suspension and did make it ride a little rougher, but not bad. be careful about shifting the tongue weight on a boat. you need to keep a certain balance for safety when traveling. most shops can get these after market things. just talk to your mechanic and call some of the rv and 4x4 places. they will be a good sourse of information. good luck del

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There are also overloads that are only in use as the suspension sags; when needed. So, everyday comfort doesn't suffer.

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Thanks guys. I am going to see if I can just install some sort of overloads to not sacrifice the ride. I'll have to find a pro in my area and see what can be done. I guess there are several ways to do this, and no "right way" to do it. If anyone has any other experiences with this, please share opinions.

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Hey D-man...
You said your buddy took his truck to Hooze, how much damage did they do to his wallet if you know off hand? I'm lookin at fixin up the truck I just got, but I don't have a shop or the time to monkey around....
Thanks

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Hooze is down the road from me. While their prices seemed close to Healy Spring, I went with Healy for suspension upgrades cause all the dealers recommended them cause they know the factory specs, etc.... I know you didn't ask me smile.gif

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Healy is in Mpls., South of Washington on University. $$ depends on type of work. They custom make the springs for your vehicle.

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