Helper springs for Astro - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-23-2007, 05:40 PM   #1
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I own a 2000 Chevy Astro van. I have 420lbs. tongue weight and would like to take away some of the drop in the rear end when I hook up the camper. What is the best and most economical way to do this? I see that you can spend from $50.00 to $350.00 what are the do's and don'ts. I have already removed the 2 rear seats and that alone helped some.


Thanks,
Gary Little
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Old 04-23-2007, 07:40 PM   #2
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I vote for air instead of steel; that is, add air springs instead of extra leaves or a stiffer replacement spring pack. "Overload" leaf springs only come into play when the suspension is already compressed too far, and are always there even when the load isn't. Air, on the other hand, is there when you want it.

Air springs to add onto leaf suspensions (such as Firestone Ride-Rite) are more expensive than the bags added inside coils (like the Firestone Coil-Rite in my Sienna), because they need a set of brackets to mount them; they are almost certainly more expensive than any add-on leaf spring. The most expensive setup would include an air compressor and automatic control, which would be nice but is not necessary, and can be added later if desired.

"Air shocks" add an air spring to the shock, but a separate air spring such as the Ride-Rite provides a larger and more effective spring, and is more appropriately mounted to carry load.

I use Coil-Rite air bags inside the coils on my Sienna for this purpose, and I like them.
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Old 04-23-2007, 07:41 PM   #3
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Also, keep the ball as close to the van as possible... even a little bit helps the leverage situation.
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Old 04-23-2007, 08:46 PM   #4
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I added air shocks to the rear of my 94 Astro. It really helped alot with the droop. I agree with Brian about the helper springs. My dad always had heavy duty springs on our family cars and it was like riding in a truck.

Why so much hitch weight?
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Old 04-23-2007, 09:11 PM   #5
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I added air shocks to the rear of my 94 Astro. It really helped alot with the droop. I agree with Brian about the helper springs. My dad always had heavy duty springs on our family cars and it was like riding in a truck.

Why so much hitch weight?
Thanks for the info. The only problem I have with air shocks are the addition stress on the factory shock mount. Have you ever had any problem with that?

The hitch weight is high for my Gross (2700 lbs). But that is what the 2006 17'6" X-treme lite tips on the scale. I feel that alot of people out there has more tongue weight than they may realize. I used a electronic pallet jack with a digital scale built into it. With the trailer level and in pull height that is what it weighs with battery and full LP tank. The factory, Sun Valley inc., list it as 220lbs before options. There is no way it could ever be that light.

Thanks,
Gary
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Old 04-23-2007, 10:42 PM   #6
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I added Firestone Ride-Rites to my Ford Ranger and like them. When I'm ready to pull I just connect my bicycle pump and give it a very few pumps on each side to boost the pressure to 20lbs, then let the air out so I can have a more "normal" ride when the trailer is off. I can really tell the difference when I'm driving with the airbags pumped vs not. $235.00 from SuspensionConnection.com plus about five hours to install them.

--Peter
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Old 04-24-2007, 08:38 PM   #7
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I added Firestone Ride-Rites to my Ford Ranger and like them. When I'm ready to pull I just connect my bicycle pump and give it a very few pumps on each side to boost the pressure to 20lbs, then let the air out so I can have a more "normal" ride when the trailer is off. I can really tell the difference when I'm driving with the airbags pumped vs not. $235.00 from SuspensionConnection.com plus about five hours to install them.

--Peter
Thanks Peter. Does the Ranger feel more stable?

Gary
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Old 04-25-2007, 09:49 PM   #8
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Thanks Peter. Does the Ranger feel more stable?
Yes. Having towed with the airbags un-pumped as well as pumped there is a slight but very noticable difference towing my Scamp 5th wheel (which weighs about the same as a Casita 17', btw). Less driver fatigue. I might not get them for a 13' trailer, but when you get up to around 2000 lbs they make the pull a lot easier.

--Peter
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Old 04-26-2007, 03:59 PM   #9
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One thing to remember about adding springs (be they more leafs, overload springs or air springs) to the rear end is that they do NOT level the entire vehicle the way a WDH does, they merely jack up the rear end of the body so that part is level, but the weight distribution (and the underlying suspension, wheels, axles, steering, alignments, etc.) remain essentially unchanged.

However, they do stiffen the rear end of the TV so it is slightly less vulnerable to sway effect, in the same manner as stiffer sidewalls on the tires would.

I used Firestones on my old pickup and wouldn't spend the money for them again -- For my truck, they came in one-size-fits-all pickups and mine was at the bottom of the range -- When I had the minimum recommended air pressure in them and was not towing, the suspension was too stiff, just as if I had put stronger leaves in my rear springs.

Also, I had occasional problems with air leakage from one side and one has to be very careful to let all the air out of them before the vehicle is put on a lift and then must reinflate before driving off, according to the owner's manual.

True overload springs DON"T make a stiffer ridge when unloaded because they don"t
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Old 04-26-2007, 04:54 PM   #10
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One thing to remember about adding springs (be they more leafs, overload springs or air springs) to the rear end is that they do NOT level the entire vehicle the way a WDH does, they merely jack up the rear end of the body so that part is level, but the weight distribution (and the underlying suspension, wheels, axles, steering, alignments, etc.) remain essentially unchanged...
I agree, of course, that the springs just change the height of the end of the vehicle where they are installed, and they don't change weight distribution (but Gary wasn't asking to change distribution, only to correct suspension drop) [b]but...

If the front suspension alignment is changed due to the change in front axle load, then the extra rear springs won't help... but if this is a problem, the suspension sounds pretty bad to me: maybe it's a Ford "twin I-beam" or something equally crude. I'm not trying to trash Ford, but that single-arm design has huge camber change with travel, far more than is normally tolerated in a modern suspension, which is why it is now rare.

If the suspension alignment is changed due to the change in relative heights of the front and rear, then raising the rear (or dropping the front) with springs will reduce the problem. Also, if a degree or two of tilt causes problematic alignment, something more fundamental is wrong - a couple of degrees of increased caster should not cause problems. Of course, in a really short vehicle with a lot of drop it could be more than a couple of degrees, but the Astro is not so short and supposedly has a capable suspension.
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Old 04-26-2007, 05:00 PM   #11
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I'm guessing Pete was starting to type "True overload springs DON"T make a stiffer ride when unloaded because they don't have any effect until the suspension is compressed by a heavy load." Pete, let me know if I guessed wrong!

Sure, which means that a bunch of this dreaded droop must happen before they engage to keep it from getting much worse. This is a rising-rate spring system used to compensate for changing load, and while I agree it's better than a simple fixed-rate spring, it's still second choice to really changing the spring to match the changing load.

I suspect that every truck now made with leaf springs has at least one overload leaf as standard equipment... they do make sense, they're just far from the ultimate solution.

Air springs can leak, so they are not mechanically trivial, and I agree that this should be considered.
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Old 04-27-2007, 05:57 PM   #12
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You are exactly correct Brian -- I was at a library terminal and was running out of time. Some of the add-on overload spring devices don't even make contact between the axle and spring-pile until the stock springs are compressed with a significant load.

I put the part in about non-leveling of the suspension for those who might read this thread and not have a beefy truck! I have found it to be a common RV misconception that jacking up the rear end is a complete cure for too much weight in the rear of the TV.
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Old 04-29-2007, 06:09 AM   #13
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I recently added a leaf to the rear springs on my 2000 GMC Safari. The cost was $200 Can + tax.

As the van was getting older I found myself tightening the WDH in order to get the vehicles level. This was putting too much stress on the trailer (not an egg) frame and overloading the trailer wheels.

Dieter
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Old 04-29-2007, 11:04 AM   #14
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[quote]
I recently added a leaf to the rear springs on my 2000 GMC Safari. The cost was $200 Can + tax.


I hate to be a contrarian but I just finished installing a set of Air lift air bags on my 05 Toyota Tacoma pu.
The only problem with Toyota PUs is the fact that after market items are not as readably available as with domestic PUs.
I bought an overhead camper so I can take my boat when I want a to go on a fishing trip
I still have my 13' Scamp.
This will be the 3rd PU that I have had suspension air bags on and I prefer them over an overload leaf in the springs.
I have never had a leak problem. As long as you maintain the manufacturers minimum air requirements you shoud be OK and still have the original ride of your vehicle.
I installed them myself. the cost for the air bags was $219.84 including shipping.

John
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