So, did upgrading the suspension on my F-53 chassis work? Well, the bottom line is…
It didn’t make much difference.
I spent about $8,000 to add KONI shocks, SumoSprings®, Roadmaster track bars, and enhanced stabilizer and steering equipment; I didn’t notice much difference in the ride. Here is my assessment:
I took my newly upgraded rig on a 3-week trip up Interstate 5 to visit my family in Oregon. I was very excited about driving with my cats without my teeth chattering and cabinet doors flying open. You can read about my Newbie saga and my rants about the Ford F-53 chassis here. I have learned a great deal from all of you and from my friends here at RVTravel.com. So, before my trip I did the following:
- I installed a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) that measures real-time pressures and temperatures of all six of my tires.
- Downloaded the tire load/pressure table for my Toyo 265/75R22.5 tires so I knew the real limits for the tires and not the maximum as stated on the tire wall.
- I weighed my rig at a CAT Scale before loading and after loading. Ideally, I would have done a four-corner weight, but I was only able to do a front and rear axle weight.
- I did a better job of securing my cargo in cabinets. I was grateful Jose fixed the refrigerator brackets so the fridge wasn’t flying out of the cabinet when we hit bumps. (Again, read my Newbie Saga.)
- I tried to keep my expectations low.
My first leg of the trip took me out of the Coachella Valley and through greater Los Angeles to hit Interstate 5. OMG! What a nightmare! I now call the greater Los Angeles area Mordor! Almost every mile of the freeway was or had been under construction, so my new suspension was tested to the max. It did not fare too well. The four-foot concrete potholes and cracks in the road nearly took the coach apart. (You must know by now, I love hyperbole). I did appreciate the nice, tight steering provided by my Safe-T-Steer equipment, but I inwardly moaned about the money I spent.
Weigh your rig!
Fortunately, I had the weights. Thank you, Roger Marble and Ross Regis, for the continued education regarding tire safety and GVWRs. Keep in mind this Newmar Canyon Star is on the Ford F-53, 26,000 lb.-rated chassis, and each axle has its own weight rating. I consciously lowered my cargo weight for the trip by removing several hundred pounds of unused bunk beds in the garage. I added a propane quick-connect hookup so I did not need to lug a separate portable tank along for the grill. The new suspension equipment likely added some weight to counterbalance.
Weights before loading: Front axle: 8,400 lbs.; Rear axle: 15,120 lbs.
Weights after loading (1/3 fresh water tank, empty gray and black tanks, full gas tank): Front axle: 8,700 lbs.; Rear axle: 16,080 lbs
The tires were rated at a maximum 110 psi. I had them filled to 100, knowing my rig was only 24,780 lbs., well under 26,000. When I consulted the Toyo tire load and inflation table, I was able to lower the pressure to 90 psi and still be well within the safety limits.
Note: Every tire manufacturer has this table, so you can set your tire pressures accordingly. Ideally, each corner of the motor coach should be weighed and pressures set. With only a two-axle weight, I had to combine the loads and multiply the single and dual load limits by 2x and 4x for my front two tires and my four rear dually tires. Also note that each coach or trailer has individual axle weight limits which are well below the above tire pressure/load ratings. Your rig’s weight must be within both the axle and the tire load limits. ** Table has been corrected. Thanks Bill!
It was only when I reduced the tire pressures did I notice a distinct improvement. Lowering the tire pressures made a huge difference in my ride. Interstate 5 outside of LA was pretty smooth driving, but I still encountered many rough spots so I could judge the difference— much better. I wasn’t expecting a cushy ride at all. The rig still drove like a truck, but it drove like it should, for the most part. I was quite comfortable and felt safer.
Did I just waste $8,000?????
The nagging question is this: Did I just spend $8,000 to get a better ride when I could have just reduced the tire pressure??!! I can’t tell if the new shocks and springs make an appreciable difference; I think they are making some. The steering upgrade made a difference—I had no instances of being blown sideways by a passing semi and the rig steered very straight with no drift.
But to get this ride, I limited my carrying capacity to be able to set my tires to lower pressure and do it safely. The limiting factor was the front tire loads. I had room to add weight in the rear, but I think keeping the weight lower helped with the ride.
If I had to do it over again, I would have considered the LiquidSpring as a required option on this F-53 chassis, or I would have bought a diesel pusher. But maybe I should follow my friend Tony Barthel’s advice and buy a V-8 gas truck and pull a towable. However, I would have to leave the cats at home and that wouldn’t be good for my mental health.
Let’s hold Ford and the RV manufacturers to better standards: No more F-53 chassis!
I firmly believe that Ford and the RV manufacturers should not be selling motor coaches on the F-53 chassis without a minimum shock and spring upgrade. But they should also make available the LiquidSpring suspension as an option from the factory floor.
I am in agreement with many experts that no coach on the F-53 should be longer than 32 feet. This is my humble non-expert opinion. Many have accused me of placing blame on Ford and the manufacturers when I should be blaming myself for being so uninformed, making poor choices and likely driving overweight. Okay. I will take the blame for my mistakes. And now I want Ford and the manufacturers to own up to their culpability. I emphasize that I air my problems and mistakes so that you all can avoid and learn from them; I certainly hope it helps.
Future trips will feature light loads and lower tire pressures and, I hope, a more comfortable Karel and her cats.