Why Would Your Brand New Truck Have Problems?
When you have made an investment on a pickup of upwards of $30,000, and then discover you have a problem that the dealer or even a representative of the manufacturer tells you there is nothing that can be done to fix the problem, this will most likely not be the end of it.
This rear end shudder caused by axle wrap, was not just an isolated case, a significant number of truck owners faced similar scenarios. After doing some research trying to find a solution to the problem, one particular gentleman found the Roadmaster Active Suspension (RAS) through his research and shared his findings with members of an online community forum, where members were having the exact same problem.
Because of other aftermarket rear leaf suspension products on the market, such as helper springs or air bag suspension, many people unfortunately associate the Roadmaster Active Suspension with these products, designed mainly to reduce rear end sag and assist with load carrying. Roadmaster Active Suspension (by engineering & design) inherently offers a lot more in terms of reducing sway, eliminating axle wrap and improved handling. Luckily for this group of people, after visiting the RAS web site they realized there was a possibility that they may have found a solution to their problem.
The Online Research
People often rely on aftermarket traction bars to help reduce an axle wrap issue, the reason the RAS was attractive to this group of people was the prospect of the RAS providing all the additional benefits of a traditional traction bar while also improving performance even while towing or hauling.
The hesitancy was there at first, due to experiences they had previously with promises made by other aftermarket suspension companies, but with the 30 day money back guarantee they decided it was worth a try!
A Test Run
A member of this online forum, decided to be the guinea-pig and purchase a RAS to see if it would solve their problem. With much patience, he took the time to document everything from installation, unloaded performance, partial load performance to full load performance. This he posted as a thread on the forum, stating that RAS not only helped to rid the truck of the shudder or axle wrap, but also received rave reviews and thanks from a growing group of individuals that decided to install the product to not only solve the shudder, but also for all the other advantages RAS provides.
Check out F150forum.com, you will be sure to see a host of rave reviews spurned from a small group of truck owners looking to fix a common problem.
Because the Roadmaster Active Suspension is more than just a helper spring (which also does the job of a sway bar and traction bar) we are constantly receiving inquiries from truck owners regarding a wide range of issues.
Earlier this year, I had several people contact me with an issue they hoped we could help solve. This issue seemed to be more unique to one particular make and model truck. The problem was a rear end “shudder” when accelerating at a low speed and became worse when the vehicle was carrying a load. Before getting into the fine details of what causes this issue, we suspected this was a case of axle wrap!
Here Is What Was So Odd
Every person that contacted us had a 2011 Ford F150 Ecoboost Supercrew. Ford introduced the Ecoboost engine in 2011 and in the same year this vehicle was named the Motor Trend Truck of the Year. To complicate matters, we discovered there is a slight difference in the rear leaf springs of the standard 2011 F150 and the 2011 Ford Supercrew Ecoboost F150. When looking to find the cause of an axle wrap issue, one should first have to look under the hood, to see what engine the vehicle has. Diesel engines are notorious for causing an axle wrap/wheel hop issue due to the high amount of low end torque that is produced. This causes down force on the rear, when the axle twists and causes the rear of the leaf springs to de-arch and then rebound.
Let’s Learn More About This Truck
The standard 2011 F150 5.0 V8 pushes out 360 horsepower with 380 foot lb of torque, compare that to the Ecoboosts’ 3.5 V6 that pushes 365 horsepower with 420 foot lb of torque. The torque curve on this is similar to a diesel truck and according to Ford spokesman Michael Lord, the truck generates 90% of it’s torque at just 1700 RPM. Now that’s some engine!
The Ecoboost max tow is rated at 11,300lbs, 1,300lbs more than the standard 5.0 V8. While Ford obviously designed these trucks to be able to handle this sort of weight, there is bound to be the odd problem when introducing a substantial upgrade such as this to market. Being in a niche automotive market, we seem to have found the problem that has plagued a some owners of this model Ecoboost pickup.
Several of the people that had contacted us looking for a solution, explained that they already had their truck in the Dealer shop several times to no avail. One truck owner explained how his truck had spent nearly a month repeatedly in the shop, eventually having the leaf springs replaced, but even this did not solve the problem. Eventually a Ford engineer flew in to try to identify and solve the issue. He was shocked when the engineer after driving the truck, told him it was axle wrap, and this was to be expected and there was nothing he could do about it!
What happened next? Tune in next week for the rest of the story!
We have covered several topics related to suspension over the last few weeks, but what do we all care about?
We care about happy customers!
Perhaps our biggest application is for load carrying/leveling capabilities the Roadmaster Active Suspension provides. Here is what Tim from Texas had to say when he recently installed the Roadmaster Active Suspension on his 2011 1500 Chevy Silverado LT.
“I’ve had the Road Master Active Suspension on the truck for a little less than 2 weeks now and it’s working great.”
“For the first test I towed a 3800lb car/trailer from Dallas, Tx to Lukenbach, Tx, via Austin, Tx for a total of 562 miles, a 1/4 of the trip was made on curvy roads going up and down grades and I was impressed with the newfound handling from the RAS system.”
“Around town unloaded the truck retained it’s soft comfortable ride but does handle freeway cloverleafs and curves better than before with less rear roll.”
“As a longtime fan and user of airbag systems I have to say I’m very impressed with the RAS system, it did everything I was told it would. A much easier system to install and maintain than airbags, nothing to worry about once it’s installed.”
“Installation took about 1 hour and was accomplished with a couple wrench’s, socket/ratchet, floor jack, and jack stands.”
“…. it worked as advertised and appears to be a great product.”
-Tim from Texas
As you see, the Roadmaster Active Suspension combines all the benefits of a traditional overload spring or helper spring with a normal sway bar application. From the installation, to the performance loaded and unloaded, to the ride quality, there is no other product on the market like it. If you haven’t already, you have simply got to try one yourself!
Leaf Versus Coil Springs
Most trucks and many older cars and SUV’S come with leaf spring suspensions from the manufacturers. The question over which is the better suspension has a long history. Leaf springs have been around for centuries while coil springs for only a hundred years. Both have proven their respective advantages. Which is better will always be a point of contention, but the answer largely boils down to the intended use. A leaf spring suspension is made of a series of long, relatively thin sections of spring steel metal attached at both ends to a frame and suspending the axle in the middle. Coil springs look just like one imagines a spring would, and sits on top of the axle or lower control arm and the chassis
In terms of function, leaf spring suspensions are much simpler, since the axle is suspended by the spring, and does not require the complicated suspension geometry of the coil-spring set-up. Leaf springs are also much sturdier, and are capable of handling much higher loads with less deflection than coils.
Coils spring suspensions offer more range of suspension movement, and allow the user a wider turning envelope through the suspension range than leaf springs. Practically all high performance applications use coil springs. Coil spring suspensions usually perform better, having better engineered geometry than leafs.
For heavy, hauling or budget-limited applications leaf springs should be considered the rear suspension of choice. By design, leaf springs used on pickup trucks are the ideal suspension as most of these vehicles are used for load carrying applications However, there are only a few applications which will benefit from leafs compared to coils.
The two main drawbacks to a coil spring suspension are load-bearing. Cost isn’t so much an issue, if the vehicle was originally equipped with coil springs, retro-fits can be very expensive and time consuming. Coils are not generally favored for heavy load carrying, as the coil on axle setup isn’t nearly as stable or strong as a leaf spring.
Be sure to check out Part 1 of Knowing The Difference: Air Suspension, Helper Spring & RAS
Typically, the larger the vehicle, the more robust or “heavy duty” the leaf spring pack will be to allow for the heavier vehicle weight and heavier duty carrying capability. Pickup truck or van owners who have vehicles that are regularly heavily loaded to the vehicles load carrying limits, will typically turn to a after market helper spring or air suspension application, when the leaf springs begin to flatten due to these loads
While the concept and design of traditional helper or air suspension applications are typically sound in terms of doing the job for what they have been designed to do, many people are surprised when they experience a less desirable ride quality. Most traditional helper springs and overload springs will only come in to play when the vehicle is loaded down, while air suspension may engage even when unloaded (depending on PSI applied). Many complain about a harsh, or “bouncy” ride inherent with these products, due to their design that resists the load.
Roadmaster Active Suspension Makes The Difference
This is where the fundamental difference between the Roadmaster Active Suspension (RAS) and all other product lies.
RAS strengthens and enhances the original design of the leaf springs by introducing variably rated tension coil springs that attaches to the leaf springs and works in conjunction with the leaf springs. Once installed, the Roadmaster Active Suspension converts a Passive suspension system to an Active suspension system that keeps the leaf springs in their optimum bowed design and instantly absorbs and dissipates load force energy, resulting in significantly improved vehicle stability, balance, traction, control and ride quality with or without a load.
RAS is the only system that, besides improving load carrying, will also reduces sway and body roll, improves driver control and overall performance. Roadmaster Active Suspension must not be compared to any other helper spring products, as the Patented design is unique to RAS.
Being in the automotive suspension industry for many years, the most common question we get asked on a daily basis is:
What is the difference between an air suspension, helper spring and the Roadmaster Active Suspension?
First Things First
When explaining the difference, it is important first to look at the concept and design of each product. The concept and design of the Roadmaster Active Suspension system is completely different than any other suspension upgrade system on the market, by converting traditional passive leaf spring suspension to mechanical active suspension, it has so many features and advantages that no other rear leaf spring product can offer.
Air suspension has been around for many years and is traditionally used on a wide range of pickups, vans, conventional and cabover trucks and buses. Air suspension offers several features such as adjustability and ride comfort, when air pressure is adjusted to support the load and kept a vehicle level.
All light to medium duty truck suspension upgrades, whether an air, helper or overload spring suspension system, work the same way, by resisting the load. The air suspension systems, also referred to air bag suspension, are installed either between the leaf springs and frame or between the axle, next to the leaf springs and frame. Once installed, air pressure is then set to the desired PSI to support the additional load. Although air suspension is affective in load carrying, when supporting a very heavy load the PSI must be set to a much higher pressure, this unfortunately can cause undue strain to the frame of the vehicle and this can result in damage to the frame.
Basic air suspension kit are inflated by hand, while the more expensive kits can be inflated in the cab with a regulator panel and gauges. It’s important to note that the benefits of these more sophisticated kits are great, but can run upwards of $1000.
Helper springs work much the same way also by resisting the load. These products are really only designed to do one thing, that is to support the load and keep the vehicle level when under load.
Next time we will compare the Roadmaster Active Suspension’s concept to these products.
Leaf Springs are one of the oldest forms of suspension dating back to medieval times. Some times referred to as a semi-elliptical spring or cart or carriage spring. The springs come in many forms and are mostly in a bowed shape made from flat spring steel. The center of the spring provides a location for the axle, while locating holes are provided on either end to be attached to the under side frame or chassis of the vesicle. Most leaf springs are made from several leaves stacked on top of each other, often with progressive shorter leaves located below the top leaf.
Lately manufacturers have introduced Parabolic springs, in this design, inter-leaf friction is unwanted, and therefore there is only contact between the spring at the ends and at the center where the axle is connected. This design is characterized by either only one leaf or fewer leaves whose thickness varies from center to ends following a parabolic curve. Aside from a weight saving, the main advantage of parabolic springs is their greater flexibility, which translates into vehicle ride quality approaching that of coil springs. However there is a trade-off in the form of reduced load carrying capability. The characteristic of parabolic springs is better riding comfort and not as “stiff” a ride as conventional “multi-leaf springs”. It is widely used on buses for better comfort.
The Solution to Your Axle Wrap Problem
The majority of pickup trucks have layered rear leaf springs, those with powerful engines producing additional toque, could have a problem with axle wrap and wheel hop. This occurs when the rotational force of the tires causes the axle housing to twist, during hard acceleration from a standing start. The twisting motion of the axle housing reacts to torque from engine forcing the springs to bend into an S-shape, this causes the tires to lose traction and jump, or hop. Once traction is lost the springs snap back into their original position. This happens over and over until the driver reduces torque input by letting off the throttle. The best way to eliminate axle wrap and wheel hop is by installing a Roadmaster Active Suspension (RAS) kit on the vehicle. The RAS supports the rear leaf springs in their optimum bowed position and prevents axle wrap and wheel hop from accruing.
The hazards of 12 and 15 passenger vans has been widely publicized, With over 750,000 on the roads today It’s a vehicle commonly used by Churches, Colleges and many Government Departments, just to name a few. There is documented proof that when a 12 or 15 passenger van is fully loaded it is three tImes more likely to roll over in an emergency situation.
The good news is, there is a revolutionary, patented product, Roadmaster Active Suspension (RAS), that when fitted to these vehicles will significantly improve the road holding, load carrying and above all SAFETY.
Not Just For Trucks
Although the vast majority of kits that Roadmaster Active Suspension manufacture are for pickups trucks. To prove how much safer 12 and 15 passenger vans can be made, RAS decided to have independent tests performed at the Transportation Research Center (TRC) in Liberty, OH. After two days of extensive tests, performed with and without the RAS on a 15 passenger van. The tests proved concisely that when the RAS is installed, the stability and handling is greatly improved. These tests were so impressive that the Salvation Army and six of the major insurance companies now strongly recommend or require RAS be installed on all passenger vans they insure.
Everything You Need
RAS combines the function of a helper spring, sway bar and traction bars all in one product. No other rear leaf spring products on the market can provide all these benefits in one product. It must be understood that complete rollover elimination on 12 and 15 passenger vans is impossible due to the vehicles design and complexity of a rollover event. But with the addition of the Roadmaster Active Suspension system installed, the vehicle will become safer and less prone to rollover.
What You Need To Know
The design and physics of a passenger van are completely different than any passenger vehicle on the road thus, they will handle and drive completely different. Most states have completely outlawed the use of 12 and 15 passenger vans as school transportation due to the safety risk, nearly all universities, churches and organizations that use the vans require the completion of a driver training program before a van can even be driven.
According to the NHTSA, one of the primary cause of 15 passenger van rollover accidents are tire blowouts. Tire blowouts lead to lack of driver control and oversteer, this is a recipe for disaster, especially when the vans are over loaded. NHTSA also recommends ALWAYS check the tire tread depth and pressure before driving,
The major automobile manufacturers have implemented their form of stability control, to nearly all of their line of vehicles to make their vehicles safer. However, many people assume that this feature is the solution, when in fact its is often not enough. This addition helps during a skid or slide, but does nothing for the rear leaf spring suspension. Roadmaster Active Suspension hits the root of the problem by holding the rear leaf springs in there optimum bowed shape at all times, turning the normal passive leaf spring suspension into an active suspension system, this will not allowing the wheels to tuck under the wheel arch, causing the vehicle to lean when going round a curve in the road and help greatly during a sudden maneuver.
You just bought a new pickup truck. Now, how do you know what you can safely tow with that pickup truck? What guidelines should you go by and what types of products are available to help the capability of your truck?
These are some of the questions you should ask. You wants to get the most of your pickup truck! We have already tackled the issues of what goes in to the GVWR equations and what components are affected, so let’s choose the correct trailer/camper for your truck!
When additional weight from a trailer is added several feet behind the rear axle of your pickup truck, stability and driver control of your truck will be instantly affected. Similar to a teeter totter having unevenly distributed weight, your truck should experience some negative side affects. The additional weight in the rear will cause your rear leaf springs to flatten out, the tires will bulge and driver control will diminish due to the front/rear weight disparity. You’ve got to find a trailer that not only fits your needs, but also works well with your truck!
The Numbers Game
When deciding whether your truck is suitable to tow a specific trailer, the first numbers to compare are you GVWR and the Gross Trailer Weight(GTW). When working the numbers, remember to figure in weight of person(s) in vehicle, gas in the tank, additional luggage as well as any additional items or full tanks in the trailer itself. Now that you have the GTW, multiply the number by 10% and you’ll have the approximate tongue weight to compare to the truck’s max towing capacity (this should be found in the vehicle manual).
Now that you have the numbers figured out, it’s important to select the right hitch for your set up! With 5 different hitch classes along with the 5th wheel and Gooseneck trailer setups, it’s important follow the guidelines to avoid catastrophe. Classes I and II are light and can typically be safely towed by most passenger cars and small trucks, when looking at classes IV or V you may want to consider a weight distribution hitch to help distribute the weight more evenly.
Next time we’ll look at the benefits of the weight distribution hitch and whether or not it can be combined with the Roadmaster Active Suspension… Stay Tuned!
Tire inflation is the most basic principle of vehicle safety that people forget about or choose to ignore. Whether you are driving around town, towing your trailer or hauling your 5th wheel, having the appropriate tire pressure should be near the top of list! Having improper tire pressure can result in short and long term consequences. Think about it, the wheels are the “feet” of a car, and the tires are the “shoes”. There is a reason we don’t play baseball with bowling shoes or work in a steel mill wearing tennis shoes, Just as wearing incorrect shoes for different tasks, having the incorrect tire pressure is bound to produce a blowout, that can lead to serious consequences.
Know Your Truck
Having a properly inflated tire is the most important factor in tire care. Recommended tire pressure is listed inside the door jamb on all vehicles. The pressure shown on the door jamb is based on the normal load for the vehicle and the maximum capacity of a pickup truck. Having the correct constant pressure for a car is fine, but pickups are a different story. Pickups will typically carry a great range in load, this will call for various recommended tire pressure. An over inflated tire for a truck that is loaded, will result in severe tire wear when unloaded, and vice-versa.
Tire Pressure & PSI
Tire pressure can be affected by several natural factors. Tire pressure can change by 1 psi for every 10 degrees in temperature change. Think about that, temperatures can fluctuate as much as 40-50 degrees from month to month, in some areas of the United States. That’s 4-5 psi due to temperature change alone. Tire pressure is also affected by time, as much as 1 psi per month is considered normal.
Over Inflated Tires
Over inflated tires will cause traction problems, as the tire to road foot print will be reduced, steering response will be heighten causing oversteer problems. The ride will also be harsher than normal going over bumps, contributing to a noticeably stiffer ride. Bruising and damage to tires typically becomes more common.
Under Inflated Tires
This is the most common cause of blowouts and the leading cause of vehicle rollovers. Under inflation will cause the tire side walls to continuously flex and bulge, causing internal tire heat build up, cornering and stability will now become sluggish and in emergency situations reduce maneuverability. Under inflation also leads to increased tire roll resistance, which will decrease fuel-mileage and cause excessive tire wear.
The tell-tale sign of under inflation are increased tread wear toward the outsides of the tires. Unfortunately lives are lost every year due to something as simple as improper tire pressure.
So how well do you know your truck? Have you had any issues that you have noticed from weather or time? Tell us about it in the comments below!