STRAIGHT ‘N’ LEVEL
So, you just dropped $70,000 on a new ’17 F350 Power Stroke and it doesn’t handle quite like that Corvette or Porsche you’d also been eyeing for the same money? Well, at least you can use it to tow your 42-foot toy hauler on the weekends. Let’s see a Porsche do that. You know you helped legitimize that truck purchase over the sports car because it offered versatility, room for the whole family, leather wrapped heated steering wheel, and air-conditioned front seats—just about every bell and whistle imaginable in these newest trucks. Of course, the ability to tug 20,000 pounds is always a bonus. While the ’17 Super Duty is an all-new truck from bumper to bumper, Ford still left some room for improvement when it comes to handling and towing performance. That’s where Hellwig Products comes into picture. As leaders in the sway bar and load-leveling industry, Hellwig has been offering full systems for the automotive industry for over 65 years. That dates back to pre-muscle car when horsepower and vehicle dynamics were really beginning to prosper. With industry leading engineers and manufacturing equipment, Hellwig has been offering steering and handling improvement products just about as long as any aftermarket company around. While sports cars may have been their bread and butter through those decades, the light duty diesel market has not been ignored and Hellwig offers factory replacement and vehicle specific sway bar systems for GM, Dodge, and Ford light-duty diesel trucks.
This test vehicle, Hellwig’s very own ’17 Ford F350 headed for SEMA came equipped with the stout 6.7L Power Stroke. The truck did come with a factory front sway bar, but did not have a rear sway bar of any kind. Since this one-ton truck was purchased with hopes of being able to handle the heaviest of loads (including a large side-by-side in the bed), the lack of a rear sway bar really affected its load control and overall stability while towing, so it made for the perfect candidate for some replacement sway bar equipment.
First off, what does a sway bar actually do? Basically, the idea behind the bar is to reduce body roll by applying a torsional effect from the thick sway bar to transfer the pressure being exerted on the inboard wheels. They just help to more evenly distribute the weight to all four tires when cornering. This load disbursement helps keep the vehicle level with the road, thus improving the vehicle’s stability and feedback to the driver while running hard through tight corners or trying to control the weight of a big heavy trailer. Hellwig uses a strong 4140 chrome moly bar and polyurethane bushings in their kits to provide the best control and durability of any on the market.
While this truck already had the stock front sway bar, the Hellwig aftermarket unit uses a heat-treated heavier diameter bar that would still offer some improvement in vehicle handling. They come as a complete easy bolt-in system, just remove the stock bar and bushing kit and bolt the Hellwig unit in its place. This one swapped out in less than fifteen minutes using just hand tools and the help of a friend.
For the rear, since it didn’t come from the plant with a rear bar, the addition of any sway bar would offer an improvement in body roll, especially while towing a heavy gooseneck trailer. Hellwig decided to go with their ‘Big Wig’ bar, which is a little larger diameter then their standard rear sway bar kit. The Big Wig is constructed of a very heavy 1-5/16-inch chrome moly which will offer the best antiroll and sway control in a heavy towing application or a truck used for hauling a lot of weight in the bed, like a camper or ATV deck. The Big Wig kit for this Ford Super Duty installs directly over the rear differential, in front of the axle. Hellwig supplies the needed end links that attached to the frame in factory holes, so there was no drilling required. The crew at LGE-CTS Motorsports handled the wrenching duties, they fi rst slipped the bar up over the differential and driveline and attached the end links, next they attach the bar to the rear axle using the supplied brackets, bushings, and U-bolts. Like the front bar already installed, we were able to bolt it all in with just basic hand tools and about 30 minutes time. It took more time to fi ne tune and adjust the bar, than it did to actually install it. Hellwigs Big Wig offers some adjustability, with three holes to choose from on the bar ends.
After getting the sway bars installed and getting the rear bar adjusted properly, the time it took to install was well worth it. Hellwig was right on their word when they stated we’d have a much fl atter feel and positive feedback in the driver seat. The truck doesn’t show near the roll in the corners as it did before and it gives the driver the added confi dence while trying to herd all 8000 pounds through a sweeping corner at 75mph. Hooking onto a large trailer just further proved previous thoughts, as the sway control was even more prominent with the weight of the gooseneck helping to push into the corners. It’s quite clear that anyone that says a diesel pick-up can’t handle like a V-8 coupe has never experienced the feeling of one equipped with Hellwig.DW
GIVE ‘EM HELLWIG!
For added load control and a level ride height while towing, we might also suggest looking into a set of Hellwigs Air Systems. You’ve seen rear airbag systems installed in Diesel World before, and Hellwig has an array of products available to further enhance your vehicles ride and abilities while towing. The rear airbag system with on-board auto-leveling air control can offer better handling and stance while towing. The addition of air can also help reduce the chance of bottoming while offering a leveling system to maintain proper ride height while loaded down with that large in-bed camper or fi fth wheel toy hauler. The systems can also help reduce bucking under certain road conditions and take some of the harsh ride effects from towing heavy. The Hellwig Air system required no drilling and comes with a super heavy duty pair of double convoluted air springs.
Since this particular truck was getting ready for its SEMA debut, we didn’t get to test its new setup, but this is not the fi rst set of Hellwig bars and bags we’ve played with. Far from it. Using DW Editor Adam Blattenberg’s personal truck several years, we tested the bars using a cab-over camper and a 90-degree turn out in the middle of Mexico. The turn was rated at 30mph, so we started with the stock bars at 25mph and ramped up the speed from there. The max speed we achieved before the pucker factor got too large was 40mph. We also measured the amount of roll at that speed, the top of the camper moved well over 12 inches from centerline. After swapping the factory bars out for the Hellwig ones we were able to hit 65mph (no joke) and the camper only strayed 4 inches from center line. Very impressive indeed.