Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Ask Dave: How can I enhance RV’s suspension and increase engine power?

Dear Dave,
We’re looking to upgrade our RV’s suspension for a smoother ride as well as increase the engine power. Would love to have your recommendations! Thank you! —Thomas, 2016 28′ Fleetwood Terra SE

Dear Thomas,
I would start by making sure everything on your current suspension is OK, as your 28′ Terra is on a Ford 18K GVWR chassis and is the shortest and lightest floor plan offered that year. It should have a pretty good ride and power with the Triton V10 with 362 hp. It is very possible the shocks are getting weak, bad, or bent, and maybe something has happened to the leaf springs.

Weigh the rig

Then weigh the rig to make sure it is not over 18,000 lbs., which I doubt with a 28’ unit that should have a pretty light dry weight. The brochure does not list the dry weight, but rather recommends looking at the weight sticker on the rig. It should look something like this one that was for a 5th wheel.

In any case, I would take it to a CAT Scale and make sure it is within specs. The best thing to do is get it weighed by individual wheel position so you know it is not too heavy on one side or the other. This typically can only be done by a weighing team such as RV Safety & Education Foundation (RVSEF) or some organizations and rallies like Escapees or FMCA. RVSEF recommends not loading the coach to maximum GVWR, but rather take off 10%.

When you have your weights identified, you need to check the psi in your tires. The number on the sidewall is maximum psi at maximum weight cold. This may not be the proper psi for your rig if it is not at the 18,000 lb GVWR. You will need to visit www.rvsafety.com and get a tire chart for your brand of tires and find what is the proper psi. You might also want to check out the article by Roger Marble here.

Maybe upgrade the shocks

Once you know the weights are good, I would suggest taking a look at upgrading the shocks. Most of the Ford chassis came stock with a medium-duty shock. Since they are more than 6 years old, you might want to upgrade to Bilstein or similar. I would contact Roadmaster to look at not only the shocks they have but other suspension enhancement products. What I like about Roadmaster is they don’t just swap out parts but inspect the existing chassis to make sure it is up to specifications. Nothing worse than putting new parts on a bad chassis and it doesn’t work.

They have different products for the various driving issues you might be encountering such as the anti-sway bar for the body roll condition, Davis TruTrac™ to reduce wandering, and the Reflex Steering Stabilizer. We installed the Davis TruTrac on a 1992 Itasca Suncruiser for RV Repair Club and it was night-and-day difference. However, that was on the old P30 chassis that was like an elephant on roller skates to start with.

If you think your driving issue is more due to the rear springs, several owners have installed Sumo Springs and most are very happy with the results. etrailer.com has several products and videos, again depending on what issue you are having.

Most important steps to take

So the most important steps to take regarding the RV’s suspension are to make sure your stock components are in good working order, your weight is within specifications, and your tire pressure is correct and they are in good shape. Then start looking at what your driving issue is and what product might help correct it.

Increasing engine power

As far as increasing engine power, I once again wonder why the smallest floor plan and lightest rig on that F53 chassis isn’t burning rubber when you take off. That same engine and transmission is sitting under the Thor Challenger 37K we have been using for videos this week. That one is a little “slow to go,” but yours should not be. There is not much on the market that I know of that will boost engine performance outside of looking at a Banks® system or other major addition—which is not an inexpensive endeavor.

With a little more info on the driving condition and what you would like to accomplish with engine performance, we might be able to provide a little more information. Maybe our readers have found something else. I typically have not gotten too deep into the engine performance, as that is a specific chassis-related issue that most dealers won’t be able to work on.

 You might also enjoy this from Dave 

How can I improve the ride of my 2016 Thor A.C.E.?

Dear Dave,
What would be the first step in suspension improvement for a 2016 Thor A.C.E. F-53 Ford chassis? —Bernie

Read Dave’s answer.

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”

Read more from Dave here


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Dave Solberg
Dave Solberghttp://www.rv-seminars.com/
Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club. He has been in the RV Industry since 1983 and conducts over 15 seminars at RV shows throughout the country.


    • Yeah, if only… Not a sponsor, but that would be nice. No compensation from them, but I guess Dave likes their products. Have a good night, Gary. 😀 –Diane

    • Hey Gary, I have been working with Roadmaster for 20+ years because they don’t just throw parts on as a bandaid to a bad suspension part! They have also weathered the RV “storms” for many years and always take care of the owners. I have no sponsorship in the products I promote just a passion since 1983 to help people with good products and proper diagnostics. Thanks for reading and as always…reaching out!

  1. At the price for new motor homes I don’t see why they can get a better designed chassis from Ford. That’s the same chassis that is used in commercial medium duty trucks. I had a ‘99 Bounder with that chassis and it was the worst for trying to keep it in the road, and the V10 engine was so under powered and overworked it only got 4.6 mpg at 60 mph. I got rid of it and bought a unit with the Workhorse chassis and 8.1L GM engine and went to good handling and 9 mpg. Of course that combo is no longer available since GM filed bankruptcy in 2009. I was hoping International would continue the chassis but they didn’t. Ford has no competition so they don’t improve anything, but I bet their prices have gone up.

  2. My 2016 Fleetwood Storm 28MS, same F53 chassis, was horrifying to drive until I added an additional rear sway bar, reset the front sway bar to the stiffer setting and added a steering stabilizer. Your “elephant on roller skates” was a perfect description.


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