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How to Improve Suspension for a Heavy Load

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#1 biggman100

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Posted 23 August 2013 - 10:00 PM

Hi, guys. This is a question about preference and real world advice. On a 2005 crew cab Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 truck used to haul a large car trailer (19 foot, 2500LBS. empty), and at times a heavy equipment trailer, which would be better for the rear suspension:  to add air bags or the metal spring helpers that bolt over top of the rear springs? Sometimes, with the car trailer and a medium size car, the rear does drop a bit, and with the heavy equipment trailer, with a bobcat with a bucket on the front of it, it sags every time.

 

The other vehicle is my 1994 Dakota 4x4. I dont haul anything heavier than an occasional 2 wheel dolly or my jet ski trailer, with a yamaha 1100 triple and a polaris slt780 two seater on it.  It seems to tow ok, but with the jet skis on the back, the drop is noticeable, even with new rear heavy duty shocks, so i am wondering which would be better to use on the rear suspension of this truck as well:  the air bags or the spring helpers?



#2 Moses Ludel

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Posted 25 August 2013 - 12:38 PM

I'll launch the first reply to your post, biggman100...The heavy duty shocks, unless coil spring boosted, will not help ride height.  For either truck, the first consideration is a load distribution hitch and appropriate hardware.  (See the exchanges with JoeMac51 at our trailering forums.)  If you cannot readily control ride height with a load distribution/equalizing hitch, then rear spring rate is next.

 

I'm not a fan of air bag boosters, though I encourage others to defend their success with this approach.  My visual on leaking or blown out bags is not a pretty picture:  The sudden impact on vehicle handling, including loss of vehicle control with a severe load wavering across several lanes of traffic.

 

If a set of moderate, properly designed helper springs will not do the trick, custom springs with added leafs might.  Here, however, we're approaching the limits of chassis/frame design, powertrain limits, braking limitations and the vehicle's original intent. 

 

The Ram 2500, if originally a factory "Heavy-Duty" package, should handle this load with a moderate spring rate increase to no more than the level of the 3500.  Frankly, I'm more comfortable with a bona fide 3500 chassis, though both the 2005 2500 and 3500 are essentially the same if Cummins equipped or a factory "Heavy-Duty" package.  The 3500 has the dually option, which is a good idea for hauling equipment.  As an ex-heavy equipment operator, I'm fully aware of off-highway construction equipment weight, even for "lighter", owner/operator equipment like a Case 580 with backhoe.  This is dual real wheel towing territory.

 

For the Dakota, again consider the chassis, axle and powertrain limitations.  This truck does have a 3.9L V-6 and AX15 transmission as your barometer.  About the time the load taxes the rear springs dramatically, you've also overloaded the 3.9L V-6, AX15, the axles and brakes.  That's why we have various tiers of chassis GVWR.  This means something:  Like time to look for a heavier duty truck if necessary.

 

When wife Donna and I stood on a local Dodge/Ram lot in October of 2004 and looked at 50 new 2005 4x4 units, mostly 2500 and 3500 models, I singled out the SWR Quad-Cab 3500 4WD with the short box and 140.5" wheelbase.  Why?  I knew it would handle well with the lesser wheelbase and that we tow, seldom carrying anything in the bed.

 

Was the 3500 overkill for our intended use?  The Cummins diesel would deliver better fuel efficiency than any of our other light trucks, including the 1/2-ton and 3/4-ton varieties, our Suburban 4x4s and the Jeep 4x4s and SUVs.  I knew the longevity of this truck was assured...In our case, we ran the original front brake pads to 105K miles, and they still had 50% material left when I changed them—typical for a 1-ton capacity chassis with our kind of highway and periodic towing, using trailers that have well-maintained and adequate brakes! 

 

On that fall day, when the salesman asked whether the heavier springs were necessary, I shared that they were the least of our concerns—quite the opposite, if the ride quality was not unbearable, we planned to drive that 3500 empty 85% of the time...Turned out the ride quality was outstanding and no different than a comparable, single rear drive 2500.  The only time the 3500 spring rate aspect comes into play is when there's a heavy load on the truck's back end like you're describing, biggman100!

 

Moses



#3 joemac51

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Posted 26 August 2013 - 04:46 AM

Hello Men,

 

In my opinion all that Moses stated is correct you can't beat a WDH - but you have to have correct ride height otherwise you're stressing your suspension including the shocks as well as the springs. HD shocks are needed for heavy loads but shock modifications are a bandaid as shocks keep your tires on the road - you really have to address your load bearing vehicle dynamic.

 

INHO - Don't ever use air bags! Add HEAV DUTY Super Springs!    www.supersprings.com   I did that on my Chevy 2500 to help with my payload and they were excellent!  VEHICLE DYNAMICS were much better and the suspension worked very well.

 

Joe Mac



#4 biggman100

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Posted 26 August 2013 - 09:21 AM

Joe Mac, do the super springs make your truck ride any harsher when there isn't a trailer attached? For my neighbor's 05 ram, i don't see where that is an issue, but on my Dakota, making it too stiff might cause me problems on the roads around here. Most of the roads around here are barely maintained dirt and gravel, which is why i did the heavy duty shocks originally, so that on the washboard sections of our roads, the truck didn't jump all over like my durango used to.



#5 Moses Ludel

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Posted 26 August 2013 - 10:01 AM

We're in accord here, Joe Mac.  I did not go into detail about the load-leveling ability of the distribution/equalizing hitch.  Following up on Joe Mac's comments, the hitch can place a heavy load over all of the truck and trailer axles and nearly level the tow vehicle.  You set the tow vehicle's chassis height with the torsion bar tension at the equalizing/load distributing hitch.

 

Note: Case in point, I like a slight drop at the rear bumper.  I measure the front and rear bumper heights of the Ram without a load.  With the loaded trailer attached, I carefully adjust the torsion bars to achieve reasonable weight on the ball.  (I know where my 3500 truck sets with a 400#-500# load in the bed and use this as my criterion.)  My formula is to stay within the platform hitch rating.  I adjust the torsion bars to achieve an approximate ball weight of no more than the platform hitch's rating without an equalizing device.  In other words, I want the ball load to stay at or below the ball load rating when there is no equalizing hitch involved.  This drops the rear bumper around 1/2" or so, depending upon the cargo load, which assures even braking, helps eliminate forward pitch on braking and still keeps normal headlight height...There will be a correct bumper height setting for your truck's spring rates and the loaded trailer weight.

 

As Joe Mac importantly describes, there are limits to the spring capacity, and the load distributing hitch cannot become the "solution" for weak or underrated springs on the tow vehicle.  In the case of our Dodge Ram 3500, the spring capacity is extraordinary for trailering.  I can load distribute with the equalizing hitch when pulling a 7,500# to 9900# load and barely impact the rear springs. 

 

It's also worth noting that the hitch and load distributing equipment must be designed for leveling the loads you pull.  The hitch, vehicle frame and hardware must also match for strength.  This involves design integrity and goes back to my premise that the truck itself must be up for the task, the reason I bought a 3500 SRW instead of a 2500.

 

The heaviest load I've pulled has been the car hauling trailer loaded with a 4310 John Deere diesel compact tractor, front end loader and scraper box plus a bunch of shop tools on board.  This was a hefty and critical load, and my responsibility went beyond preserving our truck and the cargo.  It also involved all of the other folks on the highway that rely on the integrity of my tow equipment and driving skills.  Equipment includes trailer brakes, the brake controller set properly and routine wheel bearing service on the trailer...

 

As for shocks, of course I use heavy duty types and recommend them, typically gas charged as with the Mopar lift kit.  On the other hand, shocks buffer the coil or leaf spring oscillations, they do not bear significant weight.  Ultimately, its comes back to frame and spring integrity, spring load ratings and the truck's fundamental design.

 

Moses





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