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!
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.