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Old 07-12-2016, 03:35 PM   #1
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Improving Vegas/Axis handling

Decided to really get into improving my Vegas - getting much better down-the-road stability and less deflection due to passing vehicles and wind. I regularly haul a car trailer and hot rod/race car - near 5000 lbs load - which doesn't help the stability.

First, of course, was a good alignment at a real truck alignment shop - not the local tire shop. I installed adjustable alignment bushings in the front end set for maximum caster - we were able to get about 8 degrees - which really helped steering centering and " valley feel" . Steering effort is also increased a little- a good thing to me.

Next - larger Hellwig bars front and rear . Front #7008 ( 1 3/8 inch replacing about 7/8 ), 7182 rear ( 1 1/2 repel about 1 1/8).

Next - front( 33-187570) and rear ( 33-176857 ) Bilstein shocks. From much experience developing GM cars and personal race cars, I swear by Bilsteins - for performance and durability. They offer two grades of shocks for E350/450 chassis - "comfort" ( they say you can use for motorhomes under 30 ft ) , and " heavy duty" . Of course - I used the heavy duty on my Vegas - believing in overkill. Comfort may have been a better choice, as you can feel an increase in harshness on our great Michigan roads....

Overall, the Vegas is now a great handling vehicle ! Winds deflect it very little, and even big trucks barely deflect it. I am very happy with the improvement, and the wife is now much more comfortable driving it ( which means more nap time ..... )

Some may ask why I did not add an aftermarket steering stabilizer ( Vegas has one from the factory). I tend to look at steering stabilizers as " band aids" to cover poor stability in the suspension by introducing artificial friction and centering - generally numbing steering feel. I prefer to solve the issues by improving the suspension.

I did each change sequentially. I would rate the changes biggest to least: alignment, front bar, rear bar, shocks. But as a package the results are spectacular. And "only" about $1000....
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Old 07-13-2016, 01:05 AM   #2
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Great post. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 07-13-2016, 02:55 PM   #3
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Looking back at my notes-looks like front bar was Hellwig #7718....
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Old 07-13-2016, 03:12 PM   #4
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Great post Stan.. Two questions.. Did you have to mod the exhaust system or move any hydraulic lines during the installation of the Helleig bars? I would think that you would not have to because you are just changing them out? Second, in your opinion, which is the more important mod - the Helleigs or the shocks - if I wanted to do them one at a time? Thanks for The info.
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Old 07-13-2016, 05:46 PM   #5
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Hi,Oneilkeys - no other mods were required to add either bar- straight add-on. IMHO - getting more caster into the front end should be first. I was surprised we could get 8 degrees - expected 5. This tightens up the steering and gives better " valley feel " ( wants to go straight ahead ) . Front bar is next- holds the front end level when stuff try's to push you around. Probably shocks next - although, as I said, I would probably try the "comfort" shocks. I went heavy duty cause of the towing I do. Although- you live where there are much better roads, so you might not mind the added control...��. Rear bar would be last - the Vegas/ Axis has a pretty good rear bar from the factory.

All of the part numbers I listed are also for E450s - from what I can find out 350s and 450s have pretty much the same suspension. Check your bar sizes and compare to what I listed- front 23mm, rear 1 1/8
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Old 07-13-2016, 06:04 PM   #6
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Thanks. I have a 450 and I took it to a big truck guy when I first bought it who put a lot of caster into the front end and it has made a difference. I did not have much of a control issue in 25,000 miles in my 350 Vegas and the 450 Axis seems even better. We are planning to take off on a two month trip to New Mexico, Colorado and Utah so that should give me a real good idea of what I want to do to improve handling. I've got to take a good look at overall weight (what I am loaded down with) and load distribution before I leave. I've not had it weighted yet - because it was not fully loaded - but that is first on my list when I head up the road. Thanks for the advice.
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Old 07-13-2016, 06:40 PM   #7
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axis sterring

I have a 2015 axis 25.1 with very bad steering control. I called Gary yeoman's ford at the Daytona auto mall for a appointment . they brought it in this last Monday for a alignment. I told them I had a lot of play in the steering wheel constantly correcting it. after they got it on the rack they came out and said the toe was off so bad the machine would not read it until they twisted it back two turns. my axis only has 32,000 miles on it. they fixed it and checked the rear axle to make sure the frame was welded back straight after thor stretched it , all was well. I took it for a road test and what a difference , it tracks perfectly straight. I then bought a safety plus steering damper on line for 347.00 with the bkt kit and installed it my self the same day. Gary yeoman's wanted 950.00 for the kit and installation . I can now drive down the freeway with two fingers no more steering wheel play, passing semis I barely feel .
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Old 07-13-2016, 09:49 PM   #8
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Steering Damper

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Originally Posted by chopshop View Post
I have a 2015 axis 25.1 with very bad steering control. I called Gary yeoman's ford at the Daytona auto mall for a appointment . they brought it in this last Monday for a alignment. I told them I had a lot of play in the steering wheel constantly correcting it. after they got it on the rack they came out and said the toe was off so bad the machine would not read it until they twisted it back two turns. my axis only has 32,000 miles on it. they fixed it and checked the rear axle to make sure the frame was welded back straight after thor stretched it , all was well. I took it for a road test and what a difference , it tracks perfectly straight. I then bought a safety plus steering damper on line for 347.00 with the bkt kit and installed it my self the same day. Gary yeoman's wanted 950.00 for the kit and installation . I can now drive down the freeway with two fingers no more steering wheel play, passing semis I barely feel .
Hi ChopShop - can I ask where you purchased the safety plus?
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Old 07-14-2016, 01:18 AM   #9
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vegas handling

I also had Gary Yeomans service dept. in Daytona Beach align the front end and install a Safe-T-Plus stabilizer. Amazing difference in on-center and handling in general. The service guys at Yeomans are very good with motorhome and heavy truck suspensions and front-ends. I would not hesitate to return for if any more work is needed.
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Old 07-14-2016, 01:39 AM   #10
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THOR #3918
Front end alignment and Safe T Plus did wonders for me.
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Old 07-14-2016, 06:44 PM   #11
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Curious to know...

Has anybody used or thought about adding air bags to assist their front coil springs? It reads fairly straight forward and by looking at several web reviews from various sites - it seems like a promising option to ponder. I wonder what ya'll think?

4101, Firestone Coil-Rite Front Air Spring Kit for the Ford F-250 - TruckSpring.com
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Old 07-15-2016, 01:07 AM   #12
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Improve Drive

I have heard things about Sumo springs. If you are worried about the sway. They just replace the stops on the stock chassis. Looking to ad them to my coach.
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Old 07-15-2016, 01:46 AM   #13
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I have heard things about Sumo springs. If you are worried about the sway. They just replace the stops on the stock chassis. Looking to ad them to my coach.
Kev
I asked my local truck and RV service shop about the Sumo springs, which they sell, but said they didn't think they were worth it for the Axis. If anyone gets a different opinion, I would be interested.
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Old 07-15-2016, 04:49 AM   #14
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Axis / Vegas handling

Quote:
Originally Posted by axis earl View Post
I asked my local truck and RV service shop about the Sumo springs, which they sell, but said they didn't think they were worth it for the Axis. If anyone gets a different opinion, I would be interested.
One of the service technicians at the RV dealership told me the Sumo springs would achieve better results when I asked him about heavy duty sway bars. By the way they don't sell either. I had the Safety T Plus installed at the local truck service shop when they did the alignment. I provided the Safe T Plus. Some people say that the steering stabilizer doesn't work. You know what they say about opinions.

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Old 07-15-2016, 12:45 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by JollyRodgers View Post
Has anybody used or thought about adding air bags to assist their front coil springs? It reads fairly straight forward and by looking at several web reviews from various sites - it seems like a promising option to ponder. I wonder what ya'll think?

4101, Firestone Coil-Rite Front Air Spring Kit for the Ford F-250 - TruckSpring.com
What are you trying to accomplish? What do your coil springs need assistance with?

A lot of people who have tried adding air bags in combination with steel springs thinking their vehicle would ride more like a motorhome with air suspension were disappointed with results. On the other hand if the air bags are added so you can overload the vehicle, or raise ride height, that's another problem entirely. And then there may be some who want to modify how the vehicle handles.

I normally don't like a harsh ride so see little point in making a truck suspension that much worse for me. But if I was looking to stiffen the suspension I'd first look to see what size coil spring you have now. Ford makes at least 6 different sizes/stiffness for E-Series, and I would personally revise in that manner before adding air bags (provided you are not already at stiffest coil spring).

The main advantage I see to air is that it's adjustable, but for me if I know exactly how much stiffer I want the suspension, a stiffer coil spring is far simpler.
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Old 07-15-2016, 01:04 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Kev View Post
One of the service technicians at the RV dealership told me the Sumo springs would achieve better results when I asked him about heavy duty sway bars. By the way they don't sell either. I had the Safety T Plus installed at the local truck service shop when they did the alignment. I provided the Safe T Plus. Some people say that the steering stabilizer doesn't work. You know what they say about opinions.

Kev
My "opinion" is that since you had the alignment and stabilizer done at same time, you now can't know how much of a change each contributed.

Seriously though, the Safe-T-Plus must do something, right? In that light it works. The difference is that not all drivers need that type of help, so for them it doesn't provide the same benefit. For them it doesn't work to the same extend.

My other "opinion" is that a lot of this stuff is very subjective. Until someone does objective testing on all of these "upgrades", we won't know what really works and what owners think works. These threads are mostly about opinions, not science.
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Old 07-15-2016, 05:02 PM   #17
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Opinions plus personal experience without understanding are still just opinions A lot of people fall for and believe snake oil marketing.

Each change we do may help or mask handling issues. Few really "think" about how their vehicle is behaving when they approach their handling issue. If we took the time to understand the characteristics of each handling issue instead of chasing an elixir fix, there would be far less evangelists of their aftermarket purchases.

I'd guess 9 out of 10 alignments purchased are not tuned for a chassis loaded at 90-100% all the time. Being "in spec" doesn't mean good alignment but a good alignment can make the difference between poor and excellent handling.

My advice to better handling is start with the basics and work your way through one fix at a time. Know your numbers! Weight, Tire pressures and alignment specs. Read about and understand these fundamental basics first. Learn the difference between yaw or wag and body roll. They are both commonly referred to as sway and often amplified or even unnecessarily induced by a drivers tendency to see-saw the steering wheel due to feedback from inappropriate chassis tuning.

Elephant in the room ... If for some reason a steering stabilizer with increased dampening was introduced ... remove it for assessing chassis behavior characteristics. However I don't recommend extended driving without the stock steering stabilizer because it will provide protection if you have a front tire blowout. In the end, once the vehicle handles great ... then by all means add your favorite steering stabilizer with increased dampening for the wonderful "fix the driver" isolation they provide. Personally I've tried and don't like center biased stabilizers but I do like driving with more dampening/isolation than what the stock shock provides.

Back to proper alignment ... one factor that very few address or even consider is proper ride height ... Sumo, air bag and different springs are methods to restore proper ride height. A set of tuned springs would likely be a best choice for the long haul. Since any change to ride height will change alignment ... shouldn't this be the first thing addressed by an alignment shop? Since that's not likely, we choose to ignore this factor (knowing or unknowingly) and chase aftermarket sway bars and stabilizers etc...
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Old 07-15-2016, 07:06 PM   #18
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Handling

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chance View Post
My "opinion" is that since you had the alignment and stabilizer done at same time, you now can't know how much of a change each contributed.

Seriously though, the Safe-T-Plus must do something, right? In that light it works. The difference is that not all drivers need that type of help, so for them it doesn't provide the same benefit. For them it doesn't work to the same extend.

My other "opinion" is that a lot of this stuff is very subjective. Until someone does objective testing on all of these "upgrades", we won't know what really works and what owners think works. These threads are mostly about opinions, not science.
The Safe T Plus primary purpose is to make the coach more stable in the event of a blowout in one of the front tires. The added benefit is better handling that's why I added it at the time of alignment.
Kev
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Old 07-15-2016, 07:59 PM   #19
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The reason I was even thinking about air bag suspension was to maybe raise the nose up a little if needed (such as when I was boon docking and wanted some extra clearance through the wash outs...) and to establish a little more stability on interstate off/on Ramps. The coach is a little soft in that space.


I've already had my rig aligned and have put on over 7k miles in 9 months. :-). It drives fairly well, and I will be adding a steering stabilizer and I expect to upgrade my torsion/sway/track bars when we finally get our toad...

I was just looking for feedback on enhancing the coil springs with air suppension bags. The sumo stuff sounds good too.
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Old 07-15-2016, 09:57 PM   #20
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I'm not judging anyone here -- what's important is that we are happy with our motorhomes.

I'm not a big believer in following others' "upgrades" because we have such different needs and preferences. One person's upgrade can be another's mistake.

As a simple example, think of one driver who likes a soft cushy suspension like old Cadillacs, and another that prefers a stiff sports-car-like suspension. If you started out in the middle with a suspension that is "average" in stiffness so it appeals to more people (let's call it factory tune) then "upgrading" in either direction will make one driver happy and the other less so.

In my opinion suspension tuning is all about compromise, and when you "upgrade" one area I'm pretty sure you will take a step backwards in another. Unfortunately many owners address only one issue and disregard the negative impact fixing that one issue has on other characteristics, yet they claim success. Yeah, it's success to them but it may not be to others.

No doubt stiffer springs and or sway bars will reduce body roll, but what else are you sacrificing for that upgrade? And is it worth it to you rather than going by what others like?

Just saying nothing is that black and white when making modifications.
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