Here’s some suspension tips for vehicles and caravans.
G’day, Chris here.
I have the honour of belting out a few words on technical stuff for RView, and I’m certainly pleased to be part of Andrew’s vision of helping our fellow travellers get the most out of their touring plans.
First up I’m covering suspension, more so an overview to start with because it’s one of the biggest issues we see from all types and modes of touring. Be it car or 4WD, towing a van or steering a motorhome, we load them up with every conceivable accessory and convenience, and then wonder why we’ve turned our normal everyday pleasurable drive into a shopping cart with a square wheel.
Here at FNB 4WD Supplies we have pretty much seen it all, the good the bad, the ugly, and it’ll be pretty hard to describe it all without sending readers off to sleep so I’ll concentrate on the main points to look out for. I will cover more component specific stuff later.
Weight distribution is a balancing act. Be it side to side, fore and aft, tow ball weight or axle weight, it is important to know what you’re doing. Stop and weigh what you’re adding on. Take you vehicle across a weigh bridge and see what you’re starting with and how much room you have to play with. Especially when loading your van with stuff, place the bathroom scales at the door of the van, and every time you step in look at the figure. A note pad inside will help you quickly jot down the weight of that armful and where you’ve put it, less yourself. It’s really simple and works with any vehicle.
Suspension upgrades are worth doing well. We don’t all have money to throw away, but the quickest way to do it is on cheap, poor quality suspension. These mechanical parts that sit between your two, maybe three tonne vehicle and your tyres take all the load, braking dynamic loads, towing forces, bumps, shocks, and everything else the road throws at you. Why would anyone sit their forty, fifty or hundred thousand dollar set up on cheap and nasty components. It doesn’t make sense.
Rear support systems add options.
Your rear suspension on any vehicle has a big job to do, comfort most days and control a load of weight on demand, and generally it’s a compromise. The advent of air assistance means the springs can now get that extra support without you losing the comfort inside. I am referring to bags and bellows, not air shocks. Air shocks are rubbish and the wrong use of components. Shock absorbers are not that in fact, springs are, but using shockies to lift a vehicle instead of dampening spring movement is a waste of time. I will cover more of this in a later shockie blog.
Maintenance is crucial and you can help. Whether you’re a DIYer or prefer to use a professional outlet to service your vehicle, a simple oil change is not a service. Checking components throughout a vehicle keeps you informed of what is going on. Look for weeping around the piston seal of your shock absorbers, easiest seen at full stretch so jack you vehicle up. Safely! Whilst there, check the often used rubber bushes at joints, are they showing signs of tearing? Is the pin through a bush starting to look off-centre? Can you move the vehicle easily sideways, suggesting bush wear. By the way, pumping up and down on your bonnet to test shocks is a waste of time, its not a true test.
Ask for assistance in selecting the right suspension. There is a reason we process loads of information, invest in training people and spend thousands on equipment. So you don’t have to. Trial and error with suspension should not be an option when putting your vehicle on the road and pointing it at an oncoming family at 100kph. We have seen some dangerous stuff, and we let people know it too. Using the right suspension gear first, seeking advice from competent people, and maintaining your suspension is vitally important, and can make driving a pleasure, not a risk. The right people will ask you lots of questions about your vehicle, loads and driving habits, will know their product and application inside out and backwards, and will have a maintenance program that coincides with the product warranty. Price should be the least of your concern.
Well hopefully this blurb offers a little insight as to my style.
I’m a straight shooter as such. I welcome comment and questions.
I’ll be back in a month to write some more about batteries and systems.
See you Outback. Chris