Suspension and Steering Upgrades To Our Coach

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.

To see what we’ve done inside, you can follow this link and to take the exterior tour, follow this link

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.





Saf T Plus Steering Stabilizer

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”.

Installing the slide topper

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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And now for the REST of the story …

As a follow-up (part 2) to Honey, shouldn’t we get those toad brakes installed? I wanted to let you know that all is well.

The folks at Little Dealer Little Prices in Prescott Valley, AZ did a great job.  We had stopped in a month or so ago and talked with one of their technicians (Lance) and he told us it would probably take 4-6 hours to get the system installed in the coach and the car (toad).

I called the service desk last Friday, talked with Colt Sullivan at the counter and we made the appointment for today (the next Tuesday).  We got there about 9:30 and Lance was ready and got right on it.  He finished up about 4:00 p.m., we hooked up the car to the tow bar and Kathy and I took a spin or two around the lot and all worked beautifully – just as Roadmaster had promised.

I have to say it was a real pleasure working with the folks at Little Dealer Little Prices.  They actually did what they said they were going to do, they did it on time, they didn’t charge me more for things they “found” and we were treated by any of the staff we encountered with courtesy and respect.  They have a comfortable and clean customer lounge (the old western schoolhouse) and their WiFi is open and works great.

I shot the video of their showroom and placed it in part 1 of this post, but since then I shot a few of the hallway and offices, wanted to share these with you.  The slide show is below.  If you’re viewing this post from an email sent to you, you MAY not see the slide show.  Just click on the post title up at the top of this email (by my head shot) and you’ll be taken directly to the blog where you will be able to see the slide show.

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So we’re back home for a few more days until we head out to Quartzsite.  I’ll write more about that as we head that way and once we’re there in the desert.

Honey, shouldn’t we get those toad brakes installed?

Kathy’s been asking me this for a while now and yes, I know the answer should be in the affirmative.  But I’ve been putting it off for far too long.

We have driven this coach with the Saturn (Toad) in tow from Ohio to San Diego and back, from Ohio to Vermont and back, and most recently from Ohio to Camp Verde, AZ then from Camp Verde to Tombstone and back, and next week we’ll be towing to Quartzsite.  All of this has been without any braking assist system installed in the toad.DSC_0033

My rationalization for not getting the system installed was that the car (’06 Saturn Vue) is mostly plastic and only weighs about 2200 pounds.  Each time we pulled it I proved to myself that I can stop “ok” even with the toad cramming up our back end.

But it was not a real comfortable feeling.  Especially when it was a HARD stop, like when that light turns yellow just at the wrong time.  Yes, we stopped but nonetheless, it was a bit anxiety provoking.

So, I recently bought the Roadmaster auxilliary braking system. brakemaster This is a small air cylinder that gets installed in the toad and actually pushes the brake pedal when I push the brake pedal in the coach.  There are no wires or electric hook-up .. just an air line from the rear of the coach, over the tow bar, through the toad engine compartment and on into the drivers compartment and then connected (via a quick coupling) to the air cylinder that applies pressure to the brake pedal.   This is a truly proportional braking system.

A month or so ago, we were day-tripping over in Prescott Valley and stopped to talk to the service department at Little Dealer Little Prices.  I had already ordered online the BrakeMaster kit, but I needed to talk with one of their mechanics to make sure he was comfortable installing the system and to get an estimate on how long it might take (cost).

So today was the day to come on over with the coach and car and get it installed.  Kathy and I will “walk the lot” looking over their inventory and there’s a TSC (Tractor Supply Co) right next door so we can walk over there, that’s a cool store to look around in.  But first down the road a bit for breakfast at Dennys.2017-01-10-09-42-45

Then we came back to the shop and I shot a short video of their showroom.  This place is SO COOL!

They have their showroom set up like a campground (at nite) and all the offices look like an old western town.  Cute idea, I wish I was creative like the person who dreampt (sp?) up this theme.  But I guess that’s why they get paid the big bucks, eh?

Here’s the video of their showroom … Check it out

We’ve been here since about 9:30 – it’s noon now and hopefully we’ll be back on the road to Rancho Verde RV Park in Camp Verde later this afternoon.

If you are on Facebook, do me a favor and Like us (the park) on the park Facebook page.  I’ve recently been assigned the task of ADMIN there and am trying to post some content of interest and get the LIKES up.  On Facebook, look up @ranchoverdegreenoasis (or follow this link) and LIKE us.  Thanks.

I’ll post an update later today when we have the task completed and do a test drive with the TOAD hooked up and travel back home.