SpeedVideo F-350 Upgrades With Firestone, Bilstein, And Toyo Tires

Toy haulers are what we call trucks that tow the “toys”: jetskis, motorcycles, UTVs, anything that can hold 1-2 people and go hard for an afternoon adventure. They’re not to be confused with tow pigs, which have a job to do that revolves entirely around towing. Tow pigs are the modern-day ox – all they do is work, work, work, with little downtime to recuperate.

Our 2016 Ford F-350 Super Duty is one such tow pig. Having been in service practically since it was driven off of the lot, our last time kitting out the truck was back in October 2016, when it was equipped with a B&W Companion fifth-wheel hitch and sent on its way. Since that time, it’s been back and forth across America, helping set up cameras and internet servers at countless drag racing events in the name of SpeedVideo.

We finally had the truck back earlier this year to undergo a much-needed maintenance and inspection session. What we learned was that it was in dire need of a few things; namely, tires, shocks, and an air ride suspension system. Hence, we reached out to our friends in the industry to get our pig back out on the road and riding confidently. The companies that came to our aid included Firestone Ride-Rite, Bilstein, and Toyo Tires.

Checking Out The Truck

Our SpeedVideo truck is a 4×4 version and has driven some hard miles over the past three years. We spoke with one of the drivers, Tom Bobolts, to learn more about the truck and what it’s endured. “After three years of towing, the truck started showing signs of poor performance,” he said.

“We noticed that the trailer pushed the rear of the truck down about 8-10 inches,” he continued. “As a result, the front tires were worn from the truck riding nose-high. It was also less stable, since the front end was lighter than the rear, and this affected steering input. The truck would excessively bounce and buck when under load. On top of this, we saw signs that all four of the shock absorbers were leaking, no doubt due to the heavy load and lack of helper springs.”

Taken as a whole, it was clear that upgrades were in order. To fix the ride issue, the Firestone Ride-Rite kit (PN 2802) and Bilstein 5100 shocks (PN 24-186018 front; PN 24-186025 rear) would come into play.

Ride-Rite springs can handle load leveling capacity from 3,200-5,000 pounds.

On the Ride-Rite side of things, having springs that rely on air pressure means that their load leveling can be adjustable. For example, if towing a lighter load, the driver could decrease the air pressure, making the back end of the truck more smooth in dealing with jolts and bumps. When towing a heavier load, the air pressure should be increased, making momentum from a trailer or loose cargo less impactful on the truck’s ride.

As for the Bilstein shocks, many already know how rugged and long-living their shocks can be. Our choice in the 5100 series was based on our needs of a shock that could handle heavy-duty demands, which is what the series is intended for.

Alongside the air springs, we secured a set of Bilstein 5100 shocks and Toyo }Open Country H/T IIs to restore the truck's on-road performance.

Installation

We started by putting the SpeedVideo truck up on jack stands and removing the wheels and tires. We then took the wheels and demounted them from the old tires, and sent them out to a shop to get mounted and balanced. While that was going on, we had more pressing matters to take care of – the Firestone Ride-Rite system.

Things started off simply enough, with the removal of the bump stops. However, we had to make a small adjustment with the next step, which called for us to mount the upper bracket using an existing bolt in the frame rail. The only problem was that the “existing bolt” was gone; in its place was the larger bolt we used when installing the B&W hitch. This wasn’t a big problem, though. All we had to do was bore out the upper bracket hole to the right size, and we were good to go.

We bored out the hole for the upper bracket to accommodate the larger bolt from the B&W hitch.

With that done, we began assembling the air spring to the lower bracket. We screwed in a bolt to the bottom of the spring through the bracket’s upper half and brought that assembly under the truck, where the saddle bracket was already waiting in place on top of the axle tube. Once there, we bolted the saddle and lower brackets together, and secured it to the axle tube using the axle strap bracket and bail clamp; combined, these pieces of hardware would prevent the spring’s mount from sliding around on the axle tube. This took care of the driver’s side air spring. On the opposite side, we followed the same steps, with the only difference being a heat shield going in on the top of the spring. It would help deflect heat away from the nearby exhaust tube during long stretches of driving.

Now that we had the springs where we needed them, it was time to get the air pump and air lines installed. We’d already put in the air fitting during the assembly phase, so now it was a simple matter of determining where to put the air pump. We went with a crossmember in between the exhaust and fuel tank, and installed a “T” fitting so that the springs would be inflated simultaneously.

Assembling and installing the Ride-Rite air spring took some doing, but the end result was well worth it.

We ran the air lines from the compressor to each of the springs and secured the lines to the fittings. Next, we inflated the system to 70 psi and squirted soapy water on the ends of the lines, where leaks were more likely. Thankfully, we found none, so we zip-tied the lines to the frame rails.

That just left the tires and shocks, which were an easy swap. The tires were done at a third-party shop and were ready for us to reinstall, which we did with an impact gun and torque wrench. The shocks were also a simple affair with the truck off of the ground. We simply compressed the shocks to let them find their home as they slowly extended back out, and then put washers, bolts, and nuts on to wrap them up.

The shocks and tires were the easiest to take care of, but were also the most impactful pieces on the finished appearance of the SpeedVideo truck.

Final Thoughts

The SpeedVideo truck is done and now we get to check out how it does on the road. With its new suspension and tire setup, it’s equipped to take the SpeedVideo trailer back out for another extended tour of America. We checked in with the driving team to see what their thoughts are on the truck.

“The Toyo tires performed as expected,” said Tom. “I would say the good thing I liked about them is their low road noise. When you’re towing professionally, you spend a lot of time behind the wheel, sometimes for 8-10 hours a day, for three days in a row. Road noise is a major comfort factor.”
“As for the shocks, our old shocks were blown, so these are better than before,” he continued. “Finally, our Firestone air springs made a huge difference. In the past, as the truck would go over bumps down the road, it was common for the load to oscillate up and down. It felt like you were riding a bull as you were tossed up and down in the seat. With the airbags, the load is more stable. Bumps and such were less of an issue than before.”

With new tires, shocks, and air springs to help get the job done, our Speedvideo F-350 was ready to roll out for another several thousand miles.

“Furthermore, the wireless controller and onboard compressors make this tool so simple to use,” concluded Tom. “When you are towing professionally, time is money, and it’s nice to not have to take the time to find an air source and fill the bags constantly. Having the ability to adjust the pressure from the cab while you are driving gives the driver total control to adjust the load on the fly.”

So there you have it. Diesel trucks like this F-350 were built to drive hundreds of thousands of miles, and thanks to our stitch-in-time fixes, our SpeedVideo will follow suit. Be sure to visit Firestone Ride-Rite, Bilstein, and Toyo Tires to find out more about their excellent products.

Article Sources

About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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