Trucks of different shapes and sizes roll up the road every day and some of them are towing some sort of payload. With that being said there are many occasions where we’ve seen trucks that are overloaded and the rear of the trucks are squatting down because of a lack of support. My first thought is “You need some bags, man.” Well, since then, I’ve seen some buzz about Roadmaster Active Suspension. Here is where things get interesting.
Roadmaster Active Suspension offers a rear suspension kit for half-ton, 3/4-ton, and 1-ton trucks, but here is the catch: there are no air bags. No air bags? This spring-assisted rear support, while compared to air bags or traditional helper springs, offers the same benefits as bags, helper springs, sway bars, and traction bars, all in one.
What Is The Difference?
Just looking at this kit on display, I’m intrigued. It seems like a lot is there but are these worth it over a bag? Here are some things we’re noticing at first. Each of the kits is going to be model-specific and tuned for your truck. The variable rated tension coil spring engages the leaf spring proportionate force that is applied, which means unlike bags, these are constantly making adjustments.
I spoke with Nolan Mast, Director of Marketing with Roadmaster Active Suspension and he had a few points to make about the RAS system over air bags. “Our RAS kit isn’t for your extreme towing applications, but if you’re within reason, these are a very reliable option over the traditional bags,” Mast said. “Most of the time, an air bag install is quoted for 3-4 hours of labor plus the $300-$500 in parts. You’re already outside the budget for time and money on a RAS kit.”
As for the RAS, things are much more user-friendly and easier on your wallet. “Our most popular HD kits can be purchased for only $549 and the installation is simple. Requiring just basic tools, you can plan on 60-75 minutes for a complete install on most trucks. Roadmaster Active Suspension authorized dealers typically charge only 1-2 hours of labor time,” Mast explained.
When towing comes to mind, the first thing we think of is squatting. There is a lot going on with the truck when you tow, though. When you’ve got weight on the tongue of the trailer, it can result in sway. There are remedies out there for this but here again, this is just another add-on. Lastly, you could be encountering axle wrap and or wheel hop. When we think about axle wrap or wheel hop, we’re thinking okay, traction bars.
While there are remedies out there for each of these issues, it looks as if the Roadmaster Active Suspension kit can help in all of these areas. Let’s look at each suspension option and compare apples to apples.
|Product||Reduce Rear Squat||Reduce Sway / Body Roll||Eliminate Axle Wrap / Wheel Hop||Cost Including Labor|
|Air Bag Suspension||YES||NO||NO||$700|
|Roadmaster Active Suspension||YES||YES||YES||$549|
NOTE: If you’re using an on-board air compressor, you’re looking at an additional cost which puts you near $1,350 including labor.
Are there other things drivers think about when it comes to rear suspension? Actually, yes. The bounce. If you have air bags, you know exactly what I mean. When you’ve got your air springs blown up with air to help with the squat of the truck, it does work. It does help with the weird angle the truck has when its loaded it loaded down. But, that doesn’t mean it offers a quality ride.
In fact, when these bags are aired up as I mentioned earlier, it is a rough ride. We talked with Mast about this and he had quite a bit to say. “One other thing I wanted to add in about the bouncing of trucks while towing is that other systems aren’t always the best ride. The traditional helper spring-type upgrades don’t really help to smooth out that bounce, sometimes can actually make it harsher, especially when unloaded. This is one thing about the RAS System that our customers really value,” Mast explained.
Thoughts From Diesel Army
We’ve been in trucks that are standard air bags and onboard compressor air bags and a few things come to mind. The bags work great when you’re towing. They keep the truck level and prevent your suspension from being bottomed out when loaded down. Other than that, that’s really it. Unless you have an onboard compressor system, you can’t make adjustments on the fly. Really, no adjustment is on the fly.
If I’m headed down the interstate and see that I’m about to encounter some rough surfaces, you’re kind of just in it to win it. Even if you were to make bag adjustments with the compressor, I doubt the adjustments would be made in time. I understand the ease of the bags but finding that perfect spot for pressure is tough if you’re going from loaded to unloaded and smooth to rough a lot.
For example, I run a set of air bags on my truck. When I’m towing, it works great. I don’t have a compressor on board so when I want to make an adjustment after I’ve towed, I have to go back there and bleed the air out. Do I always do that? No. I just let the bags stay aired up and it rides like a log wagon. With a compressor, I could just tell it what it needs to be and it would do it for me.
Now I see Roadmaster’s Active setup. These are set up for your truck and constantly making an adjustment regardless of the load. If you’re empty, it is still working to keep your axle from wrapping, keeping the truck level, and it requires no adjustment. Once you’ve got this setup, you’re done. I unload the trailer after a long weekend of towing, it automatically goes back to the unloaded driving spring tension and you go about your business.
- “I’ve had it on my 2013 GMC 2500 for 3 years, works great when towing heavy trailers.” Ryan Q
- “When we bought our horse trailer I immediately knew I needed something to help with the suspension on my truck. I did my research and came across the Roadmaster Active Suspension and decided to try it out.. to say I’m impressed is an understatement.. rides great loaded or empty, stops my truck from bottoming out when loaded heavy, and just makes towing a much safer and more all-around enjoyable experience.” Justin Meyerhoff
- “I installed a set 3 weeks ago. Towed my 5400LB camper and could tell a big difference in handling.” Raymond M.
- “I’ve had Roadmaster on my 2010 F250 for 4 years. Love it! We are a full-time RV and I love the stability control that Roadmaster offers. Huge difference pulling a 14,850-pound 5th wheel!” M.P Buck
- “I have been running Supersprings for the last 3 years on my 2012 F-150. They worked great when pulling my boat, camper, or hauling my ATV but when it wasn’t loaded it was not a very pleasant ride and had a lot of noise going over any rough terrain. I just installed a RAS system on my truck and I am very impressed. It rides much better than the Supersprings with and without a load and no noise. I have only been able to pull my boat so far. I can’t wait to pull the camper or haul the ATV. It seems like the RAS system would be a great addition to any rig.” Brad Korth
- Riding The Earth on YouTube had plenty to say after their installation too. “When we’ve got a truck loaded down with gear and a heavy trailer behind us, it would cause significant sway and snag while driving. I did a bunch of research about air bags, weight distribution, and hitches and versus RAS and RAS won out for multiple reasons. It is convenient and doesn’t affect the ride in any negative way and requires no adjustment. This was a HUGE factor as to why I ended up going with a RAS system.”
Then, we saw the AMERICANDURAMAX YouTube video of an actual install and it showcased how easy these kits are to install. Not only was it easy to install, but the differences were also instantaneous. In a matter of 20 minutes, this truck was ready to have a camper back on top of it with less squat and when it was unloaded, it made the adjustment.