Van 6 Ways to Improve Your Camper Van’s Suspension
Engines and transmissions often steal the show when it comes to performance and mechanical attention but suspension plays a critical role as well. Suspension parts influence your handling on the road, off road and these key components essentially support everything sitting on top of them.
Upgrade Your Shocks
One of the quickest ways to increase suspension capabilities is through new shocks. Not any shocks will do however. It pays to go high quality with a trusted brand. Not only will they last longer than the cheap versions, high quality shocks will absorb more impact and improve ride comfort alongside performance.
Blistein Shocks are among our favorites for their durability and performance value. Your shocks help cushion the load and assist spring compression on bumpy roads. Your van might not be entering into off-road races but driving everything from unmaintained city streets to old logging roads covered in rocks and stumps will benefit from more capable shock absorption.
Struts Control Suspension on the Corners
Struts are often overlooked for some reason but in the world of vans, they are a critical point of ride control, especially on the corners. A large majority of energy is forced over your struts on turns and they must absorb and recoil constantly, working hard on nearly every drive.
Depending on the model or aftermarket setup, the strut springs may coilover the shocks, making them appear almost as a single unit. On stock vehicles, they are often independent but generally located adjacent to each other. They actually work together, with the shocks lightening the initial load forced onto the struts.
Upgrading both independently makes for a smoother and more responsive ride on pavement and off-road. Opting for the integrated coilover also increases performance and adds more control over stiffness, height and the general ride performance.
What Tires are You Wearing?
You can have the most capable suspension system out there but it won’t save you from inadequate tires. Poor tire quality disrupts handling, load capabilities and traction. Hitting a patch of ice or mud requires quality tires to prevent slipping and the suspension will help with the recovery and balance. In the same respect, traction on sand, snow and smooth rock surfaces will increase with tread patterns designed to grip beyond the pavement.
When it comes to tire selection, always consider the environments and terrain you most often tackle. For full-timers or folks exploring a wide variety of climate zones, highways, cities and trails, All Terrains are hard to beat. They can do everything well and you will instantly notice the performance improvements.
For highway driving only, a solid highway tire is likely the best choice unless you plan to drive in wet and snowy conditions with any frequency. Adventure van owners who are upgrading suspension parts however, will more often opt for the all terrain models to tackle a more diverse set of surfaces.
Install High Quality Air Bags or Overload Springs
There are actually a few different approaches to handling the weight added to your rear. Vans with camper builds, loads of gear and those towing trailers for hauling a motorcycle will benefit from additional rear suspension.
The simple solution to carrying more weight in the rear is adding a leaf spring. Add-a-leaf kits are pretty simple to install and they can help but often not enough for a full camper setup.
Air bags are next in-line and they are an excellent option on many rigs. The bags are adjustable which is nice for cabover campers on trucks and folks changing loads frequently. They do require a compressor to make those adjustments and are susceptible to puncture, which is never great on a road trip.
For most vans however, there is another option that we absolutely love.
Sumo springs are essentially maintenance free after installation and they respond to variable weight loads. Rather than using two chambers to hold air, the springs are encased by thousands of air cell pockets that respond individually and never puncture. The load absorption is progressive and exacting. The dampening of shock on rough terrain combined with weight carrying capacity and ride quality make them a win for every van on the road in our opinion.
Check and Replace/Upgrade Important Suspension Components
Every element in your suspension system is important. When ball joints, tie rod ends or anything else take a dive, you’ll feel the handling tighten up or go wobbly. Pay attention to the suspension system in your vehicle’s manual and grease every zert when you change oil and inspect the components with some regularity. When the steering and handling doesn’t feel quite right, it often correlates directly to a suspension component.
Swap Out Wheels
Wheels do not often make the list when talking suspension parts and for good reason. They have a negligible effect on suspension in most cases. That said, if you’re upgrading the suspension and tires, throw on a killer set of wheels because they look fantastic.
The primary impact on wheel design connects to the tire sizes used and the wheel impact on your suspension system. When selecting wheels, make sure they will not have a negative impact on suspension performance by being oversized and choose a model that is aesthetically pleasing but also strong, durable and highly rated.
Your van deserves a makeover
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