Upgrade Your Travel Trailer Suspension for a Smoother Ride

Most Americans are familiar with travel trailers, fifth wheels, and RVs for road trips, camping, or living a mobile lifestyle. The latest trend focuses on minimalism and includes adapting utility trailers into travel trailers for living. When it comes to living in a travel trailer, the suspension becomes the most crucial part.

The suspension is responsible for supporting the load that a travel trailer can carry. If it breaks down, it can jeopardize the entire structural integrity of your rig. A faulty or broken suspension can damage the trailer’s frame or even cause the floor to fall apart. Upgrading the suspension not only increases the load capacity but also provides a smoother ride, reducing wear and tear on your truck or SUV.

In this guide, we’ll help you determine the best upgrades for your travel trailer suspension to enhance its lifespan and improve your ride experience. However, it’s essential to approach any major mechanical overhaul with caution. Always refer to your owner’s manual or consult a professional for expert assistance.

Travel Trailer Suspension System Basics

The most common suspension option for travel trailers and RVs is factory-installed leaf springs and shackles. Leaf springs have been used in suspension systems for centuries. Modern manufacturing techniques have significantly improved their strength, reliability, and smoothness compared to their medieval counterparts.

Leaf springs consist of a main spring with eyelets at each end and progressively shorter springs fastened by a center bolt. They provide about two inches of vertical travel on your wheels. However, any shock not absorbed within that two-inch movement is transferred to the frame, sidewall, cabinets, and cargo.

Travel Trailer Suspension

Reasons to Upgrade Your Travel Trailer Suspension

While leaf spring suspension systems have been around for years, they can be considered antiquated when compared to today’s travel trailers that have become nicer and heavier, while roads have gotten rougher. Over time, the suspension will wear and require maintenance or repair. Signs that it’s time for an upgrade include:

  • The trailer leans to one side.
  • One tire sits higher in the wheel well than the others.
  • The tires on one side of a tandem suspension are not the same distance apart as the tires on the other side.
  • Excessive turbulence or motion.
  • Clunking, grinding, or creaking noises while being towed.
  • The trailer sways back and forth.

These conditions might be caused by poorly distributed trailer contents or indicate broken or worn suspension components.

14 Upgrades for a Long-lasting, Quieter, and Smoother Ride

There are various upgrades available for travel trailer suspensions to handle heavier loads and provide a smoother, quieter, and more comfortable ride. The upgrades depend on the type of suspension your travel trailer has. Consider upgrading the following components:

1. Reinforce the Leaf Springs by Adding Coil Springs or Consider Upgrading to Air Springs

Most travel trailer and fifth-wheel suspension systems use leaf springs due to their mechanical simplicity and cost-effectiveness. These springs flex to absorb road shocks and prevent them from being transferred into the trailer. Adding coil springs or upgrading to air springs can enhance weight absorption and redistribution, reducing wear.

Flipping Trailer Axles

2. Flip the Axle

Flipping the axle involves moving it from over the leaf springs to under them. Underslung suspensions lower the trailer’s center of gravity and reduce wind resistance on highways. However, situations may arise where it’s advantageous for a travel trailer to sit higher, such as off-pavement travel. Axle-reversal kits make this process simple, providing all the necessary hardware to maintain camber and improve clearance.

3. Use a Lift Kit

Lift kits elevate the trailer, providing more clearance off the ground. This protects the underside from damage caused by ground debris and terrain. The added clearance also reduces the impact of dips and bumps, making it suitable for rough camping adventures.

4. Align the Axle

Proper alignment of the trailer’s axle is crucial for stabilization and reduced turbulence. Worn or broken suspension components, bent axles, improper installation, or unbalanced loads can contribute to misalignment. Correcting the balance will improve alignment, stability, and reduce wear and tear on the vehicle.

5. Upgrade to an Air-Ride Equalizer or an Equalizer with Rubber Dampers

An equalizer is a center rocker that balances weight distribution on axles. Upgrading to an equalizer with rubber dampers absorbs road shocks and vibrations, resulting in a smoother ride and reduced wear. Air-ride equalizers utilize airbags to stabilize the trailer and minimize turbulence, increasing suspension longevity.

6. Add Strut Braces

Strut braces improve rigidity by connecting the front and rear strut towers of your travel trailer. They protect weak points between the strut towers, preventing damage during movement.

7. Upgrade to Air Shocks, Heavy-Duty Shocks, or Ride Adjusting Shocks

Air shocks, heavy-duty shocks, and ride-adjusting shocks provide a smoother ride by keeping the suspension “floating” and absorbing shock. These shocks are especially beneficial for travel trailers carrying heavier loads.

8. Upgrade to a Heavy-Duty Shackle

The shackle assembly connects leaf springs to the equalizer, maintaining stability. Upgrading to a heavy-duty shackle prevents wear and tear on suspension components, reducing turbulence.

9. Replace Nylon Bushings with Bronze Bushings

To reduce friction in suspension systems, replace nylon bushings with higher-quality brass or bronze bushings. These bushings minimize wear and tear and help reduce turbulence.

10. Upgrade to Wet Bolts

Wet bolts consist of greasable bolts and brass or bronze bushings. They allow grease to be injected between the bolt and bushings, increasing longevity and enhancing suspension performance.

11. Install Disc Brakes

Switching to disc brakes reduces stopping distance by up to 30%. Disc brakes provide consistent and powerful pressure on the wheels, resulting in smoother, more efficient stops.

12. Switch to Bigger Wheels

Bigger wheels provide more clearance to travel trailers, making rides feel smoother and more secure. However, consider the implications of larger wheels on factors like torque and fuel efficiency.

13. Install Shock Absorbers

Shock absorbers dampen suspension movement and reduce turbulence. Although not standard in most travel trailers, installing shock absorbers can significantly improve ride quality and reduce wear and damage.

14. Replace Leaf Spring Suspension with Torsion-Axle Suspension Systems

Rubber torsion suspensions offer several advantages over leaf springs. They eliminate metal-to-metal contact, provide a smoother ride with less vibration, simplify installation and replacement, and add strength to the trailer frame by bolting directly to it.

Protect Your Travel Trailer with Camera Source

Regular inspection and maintenance increase the reliability and longevity of travel trailers. Installing upgraded heavy-duty components will decrease repair bills and minimize downtime. In addition to suspension upgrades, consider investing in a quality backup camera from Ambassadeur Hotel. Browse through the wide range of travel trailer and RV backup cameras available to enhance your travel trailer experience!