I’m always looking at other RV’s out there … comparing what others are driving (and living in) against what we are driving and living in. All in all, we both are quite satisfied with our current home on wheels. It’s a 2002 Airstream 36′ diesel pusher motorhome. It’s built on a Freightliner Custom Chassis and is powered by a Caterpillar 3126 (300 hp) 6 cylinder diesel engine paired with an Allison 3000 6-speed electronic transmission.
It has enough room for us .. with one 13′ slide out that includes the couch and kitchen and another smaller slide out in the bedroom. The body and the paint finish is in very good condition and now that we’ve remodeled the interior, it really feels more like home to us than ever before.
However, as the driver, I wondered if we couldn’t make some improvements to the ride and handling and so I started to read (and watch You Tube videos) on some of the upgrades that were applicable to our unit and what they would do for us. After a few months, we finally took the plunge, ordered the components, and had a local RV shop install the parts for us.
The first upgrade I wanted to do was to add a Safe-T-Plus Steering Stabilizer. I had talked to other RV’ers who had installed one of these and they told me it made the driving so much easier and far less tiring. As we criss-crossed the country over the last year, I found that I was always moving the steering wheel back and forth correcting and over-correcting every time we got a gust of wind or when a large tractor-trailer passed us. It seemed I was always fighting the wind. Now, after installation, the stabilizer keeps the rig running smoothly down the center of the road with very little help from me. I can actually take my hands off the wheel totally for a few hundred feet. The difference is amazing.
The stabilizer is a shock absorber that is self centering. It resists being pulled all the way open and also resists being pushed closed.
It’s a very easy installation that can be done by any driveway mechanic, that is, providing you have an impact wrench, a torque wrench, bottle jacks and jack stands capable of supporting the weight of your truck or motorhome.
One end of the stabilizer mounts to the axle and the other end attaches to the tie rod with “U” bolts so it can be adjusted easily after installation if necessary.
The second upgrade was the installation of a new steering Bell Crank.
The bell crank bolts onto the frame and is the pivot point that provides the 90 degree connection for the idler arm that attaches to the tie rod and the steering gear box. When the bell crank gets old, the needle bearing tends to wear and excessive play and slop in the assembly transfer and is manifested as loose steering control at the driver’s wheel. By replacing this component, we further tightened up the front end so it only responds to my pressure on the steering wheel and not to every bump and hole in the road.
Here’s a short video that explains the difference between a factory original equipment bell crank and the Super Steer SS-100 Bell Crank
The third upgrade we did was the installation of Motion Control Valves.
These are really nothing more than small orifices that install in each air line supplying air to the airbags adjacent to each wheel. These orifices slow down the rate at which air moves into and out of the air bag. The reason this is helpful is that after installation it lessens the amount of side-to-side rocking of the coach when we drive into or out of a driveway, especially if we’re approaching the curb or drop on an angle which is typically the case. Those of you who drive a large motorhome know what I’m talking about. It’s when you pull out of a gas station and the whole coach rocks side-to-side so violently that the cupboards fly open and out come the glasses and dishes! By slowing down the rate of air travel from one bag to the other, the violent rocking is minimized as well.
Another short video from Super Steer on the Motion Control Valves and what they do.
Here’s a short video from the manufacturer showing the easy installation of the steering stablilzer, the motion control valves, and the bell crank assembly;
Our final suspension/steering upgrade was installation of a rear anti-sway bar. The coach already had a front anti-sway bar installed, however as the guys were under the coach installing the other components, they found that all the bushings in the front bar were GONE! They had worn to the point that they had just fallen out of the brackets. The shop ordered new bushings and got them installed along with all the other work.
The anti-sway bar is connected between the axle (suspension) and the frame and once installed lessens the “roll” so often experienced from wind and passing trucks.
The rear anti-sway bar was ordered directly from Roadmaster, as Amazon did not carry this part. Normally, it’s a pretty simple bolt-on installation, but as it turned out, Roadmaster had installed their product on a chassis SIMILAR to mine, but not identical. Because of this, there was some drilling to be done by the shop and that took extra time since the frame is about 3/8″ thick.
But all in all, the job was completed along with installation of a new slide topper (to keep rain off the top of the slide and subsequently into the coach) and we’re “Happy Campers”.
I know it might seem like we’ve spent a lot of time and energy updating and repairing our home on wheels, but the way I look at it, it’s still a LOT less expensive than buying a new quality-built coach and we really like being debt free.
Thanks so much for riding along with us on our journey and we hope to see you “down the page” or better yet “down the road” somewhere!
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