Making Your Ride Less Rocky
Truck folks don’t often think about handling, until they need it that is. In normal day-to-day driving, everyone gets used to the road and the way one’s personal rig handles on that road. Anyone can be lulled into a sense of security and secure handling on the daily commute. The issue of poor handling and sometimes scary handling often occurs when we encounter something out of the norm. A sharp turn to avoid a stray pet or another driver wandering into your lane can and often will whiten your knuckles due to the sit-uation. In stock trim, these sharp maneuvers can also startle you due to your truck’s lack of handling in extreme situations.
While these emergency situations are usually seldom encountered, the same handling issues can be seen when carryingand/or towing a heavy load. For instance, carrying a camper and towing your project vehicle to the shop or track will mean more weight on the suspension and more leverage working on it too. In these situations handling is usually not as bad as during an emergency avoidance maneuver. However, it does last longer… your entire trip. Fighting the sway and roll constantly will cause fatigue and make your trip less pleasant.
The solution to controlling roll and other handling issues requires a multi-point approach. First, be sure that your truck is in top shape, with proper maintenance to the springs, shocks and bushings. Worn shocks can be worse than stock sway bars that are on the smallish side.
The second solution is to upgrade your shocks and factory sway bars to higher quality aftermarket items that are built for truck owners who use their rigs for work and play, and need the best suspension for all road conditions.
Our test rig was a well-used 2003 4WD Ford Excursion diesel. This daily driver was mostly stock other than a healthy amount of engine mods for reliability and power, and it looked like the stock shocks were still on it. By the time our owner took possession of the truck, the Ford has some small issues that were not noticeable, until we simulated an emergency avoidance turn. Then the body roll and worn shocks were obvious and a little scary. After this upgrade he tells us that this massive Ford now handles like a car, compared to the tuna boat handling it had before. His wife, the daily driver of this tyke transporter, just smiles and enjoys the drive.
The suspension upgrade was accomplished with some simple, off the shelf parts. We installed a set of Bilstein 4600 series shocks, Hellwig sway bars, and Energy Suspension end link bushings and bump stops. The total upgrade time was about a halfday and the end results will last virtually the lifetime of the truck. Follow along and see how easy it is to upgrade your rig today, as these companies make similar parts for just about any truck or car on the road in the USA. You can install them at home or use your favorite local shop. For our install we had the experts at SoCal SuperTruck handle this installation.[divider][/divider]
Bushings & Bump Stops
While installing our new Hellwig bars and Bilstein shocks we discovered that our well-used Ford Excursion was missing both front bump stops, half of one rear bump stop and that the factory sway bar end links were not only losing their rubber, but that they were aftermarket items and would not work with the end link bushings provided by Hellwig. They would have fit the stock parts, but we were not so lucky with these worn replacement parts. The solution was found at Energy Suspension; they make and stock replacement urethane bump stops and bushings for a wide variety of trucks and cars, even our road boat of an Excursion.[divider][/divider]
Sway Bars Vs. Anti-Sway Bars
Known generally as sway bars, the roll control bars on any truck, car or other vehicle are actually anti-sway bars. Their function is to restrict body roll and reduce the sway of the vehicle. So if you hear either term, they represent the same thing, and a premium set will help you enjoy the drive more.
HELLWIG PRODUCTS INC.