Trucks that haul truck campers are put to the test due to the extra weight they carry. So suspension modifications are part of normal driving preparation.
The suspension of all vehicles is crucial to providing a smooth and safe ride. But the needs of fully loaded trucks mean the engineering behind normal systems of shock absorbers and leaf or coil springs may not provide enough support.
The extra weight of a truck camper combined with the regular off-road driving of many owners makes for a rougher vehicle ride.
First due to the weight and then because of the road condition. So then, all parts of the suspension contribute to how well a truck drives and stops, thus providing an overall smoother driving experience.
Let’s explore some of the top suspension upgrades available for trucks hauling slide-in truck campers.
Our Current Truck and Camper setup
When we started looking for a truck and truck camper, we knew that the truck needed to have a high gross vehicle weight rating or payload capacity.
It also needed to have a suspension system capable of handling close to 5000 pounds (2268 kilograms), fully loaded.
We own a Dodge Ram 3500 4×4 5.9L 1-ton truck. And we’re using the Timbren Suspension Enhancement System.
Recently, one of them failed, so we did a lot of homework to determine what to do next.
We selected a 2020 Arctic Fox 990 truck camper as the home for our adventures. And we call her Cupcake! This single slide camper weighs 3,605 (1635 kilograms) pounds dry.
Add another 500-800 pounds (227-363 kilograms) for our water, clothing, food, kitchen supplies, bedding, BOOKS and miscellaneous items.
Now you can get a better understanding of the need for strong suspension modifications.
4 Best Aftermarket Suspension Mods And Upgrades For Truck Campers
1. Timbren Suspension Enhancement System
Let’s start with the Timbren SES Kit, which is what we have on our truck. When we first decided to buy a truck camper to live in it full time while traveling across the United States, we were fairly clueless.
Maybe in some ways we still are! But we’ve learned so much over the past couple years and want to share some of our knowledge with you.
In July, 2020 we purchased our used truck and brand new Arctic Fox camper. The RV dealership suggested Timbren for our truck and we went with their recommendation.
Timbrens are Aeon progressive hollow springs made from 100-percent natural rubber.
Their specific design aims to keep your truck level, while reducing roll and sway. With new Timbrens, we indeed experienced a smooth and level ride.
Timbren has been producing quality products in Ontario, Canada since 1965 and they sure know what they’re doing!
Their engineers have studied how to manipulate the hardness of the rubber (durometer), the shape and the core to provide different characteristics and spring rates.
This allows them to create just the right product for trucks hauling trailers to those carrying slide-in campers.
The SES kit’s shape and durometer support the weight and high center of gravity of a loaded truck.
“Aeon® hollow rubber springs have some unique characteristics. One of them is a progressive spring rate. As the load increases, the rubber springs will push back even harder. The other is self-damping. They respond to the load just like a shock absorber. Both characteristics are useful in various industrial applications”
I mentioned that one of our Timbrens failed, but that is a little misleading. The bolt attaching the rubber spring to its stainless steel bracket on the right side of our truck actually sheared away.
When that happened the Timbren literally flew off of our truck, likely while driving on a bumpy, gravel road.
Upon inspection, the bolt on the left side of the truck was also showing signs of wear.
Our dealer suspects our system is overloaded by living in the camper full time and rarely removing it from the truck.
We replaced both Timbrens and again are experiencing a smooth and even ride. For us, we’ve added checking the bolts to our regular maintenance schedule.
2. SuperSprings Suspension Modifications
SuperSprings are steel helper springs that bolt on easily to eliminate rear-end sag, while stabilizing sway & body roll.
Customers like that this product is made in the USA from high-grade, shot peened steel.
The easy installation makes SuperSprings a popular option for suspension modifications. Further customization of the product comes from the patented roller bolt design.
The varying bolt holes of the adjustable shackles allow the installer to start higher on the spring rate curve. Basically, the higher hole, the more preload tension exists.
A truck camper friend of ours swears by SuperSprings and believes this option offers a final solution to his suspension needs.
However, other users combine the SuperSprings with SumoSprings for the smoothest ride possible.
SumoSprings are made of microcellular polyurethane and come in three sizes:
The higher rated Rebel carries a heavier load like a truck camper. It performs similarly to a bump stop, but also has functionality closer to an air bag.
One good thing is that without the presence of air, the Rebel has a lower likelihood of failure.
Another positive is that these progressive springs are designed to take vibration out of the chassis and reduce body roll by coming into contact much sooner than factory bump stops.
That means they work great whether or not you have loaded your truck camper.
Which of SuperSprings Suspension Modifications is best for hauling a Truck Camper?
The SuperSprings company has a heavy customer base in the work truck industry, so their products reflect the need to provide for suspension modifications under heavy payloads. SuperSprings designs account for constant load applications.
So a negative impact of adding these appears when the truck camper is unloaded, when you may experience a harsher ride.
Full-time RV’ers like us will be glad for the extra support. On the other hand, the SumoSprings design accommodates more for variable loads.
Perhaps for towing an RV Trailer or only using your truck camper a few times a year. Both well made products offer significant improvement to your suspension and ride.
3. Hellwig Suspension Products
Hellwig has been manufacturing high quality, innovative load control and sway control solutions since 1946.
These US made products offer a limited lifetime warranty. Hellwig’s sway bars and helper springs strive to improve the quality of your drive, while protecting your suspension system from heavy loads.
Both of these options greatly improve driving comfort, safety and suspension protection.
Hellwig Rear Sway Bar
An anti-roll bar or “sway bar” design enables it to resist your truck’s natural tendency to pitch from side to side during cornering.
With our truck camper loaded, we feel the “sway” when turning a tight corner, when going over speed bumps or down rough gravel backroads.
The truck lurches a little from side to side before stabilizing itself.
A sway bar is a wide, U-shaped bar that always wants to remain parallel. It works because it is a torsional spring that keeps its shape by springing back into place whenever it gets twisted.
So if one end pulls up, the secured opposite end pulls the body’s frame back down.
Then as you drive, the bar is constantly adjusting by pulling the higher side back down to level the ride.
Thus the driver experiences increased cornering ability and an overall smoother ride.
Hellwig Steel Helper Springs
Similar to SuperSprings, Hellwig Steel Helper Springs sit on top of your truck’s leaf springs.
They work to increase the level load rating of your truck up to your vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating.
This doesn’t mean you can haul a heavier truck camper than your stated payload capacity.
It simply means the helper springs help your stock spring back to reach its full potential.
Hellwig’s different sizes of helper springs means they can be added to most any sized truck, depending on the different load capacities.
This makes for a somewhat customizable helper spring for each truck camper rig.
The helper springs can be installed at a progressive rate, which is best for truck owners who remove their camper when not in use.
Alternatively, installing the helper springs at a constant rate works best for those users, like us, who leave our campers on most of the time.
4. Torklift Suspensions
Torklift StableLoads prove themselves time and time again as one of the top four suspension modifications for trucks hauling slide-in truck campers.
They work with your truck’s existing suspension to use all four points of it.
What this means is that the StableLoads pre-engage your factory installed overload leaf springs so your truck is ready for the effects of extra weight.
They start working before your leaf springs even engage. The truck’s ride improves with reduced side to side sway, since the StableLoads engage the suspension earlier.
This solution is perfect when you have the weight of your truck camper loaded. But it also works well without the load, since you can turn the Stable Loads off.
A hinge mechanism lets you quickly disengage your StableLoads in order to comfortably use your truck without a load.
Each easy to install, no drill kit contains four StableLoads. The universal fit makes it compatible with any vehicle that has factory installed upper or lower overloads.
This US made product also carries a lifetime warranty that also includes the vehicle factory leaf springs.
Does My Truck Need Air Bag Suspension?
You may notice that I have not listed airbags in my discussion of the top four suspension modifications for trucks carrying the load of a truck camper.
It is an intentional omission, as all the research we’ve done shows that over time air bags do fail.
We attended several suspension modifications workshops at the most recent Truck Camper Adventure Rally in Quartzsite, Arizona.
Unfortunately, not one workshop suggested using airbags as the first course in addressing suspension mods.
In fact, we didn’t meet but a handful of truck camper owners running with airbags out of the 300+ attendees.
It’s also interesting to note that we did receive a huge input of opinions and shared knowledge when a lot of veteran truck campers noticed that our truck was listing to the right.
Many different men crawled around under our truck to check it out in order to give their input into the best possible “fix” for us.
While we felt overwhelmed by this attention, we also felt honored to learn so much from other truck camper owners.
What Truck Suspension Modification is Right for You?
While I’ve listed the top four suspension modification options and manufacturers, it doesn’t mean one of these is necessarily best for your situation.
Do you leave your truck camper on your truck constantly? Or do you only use it for a week-long vacation and maybe some long weekends this year? The type of truck you own, as well as the size and weight of your truck camper determine the best solution for you.
For us, Timbrens are our current solution. And we’re happy with them. But who knows what the future brings? We’re always looking for the smoothest, safest ride.
Hopefully, this article gave you some ideas to check out when determining your own next steps!