I am certain you use your pickup to haul more than just family members. Let’s face it, we tow heavy trailers and throw things in the bed of the truck. Both of these instances will cause the rear of your rig to squat. So, I decided to put together a small list of towing suspension upgrades to help you stand tall when things get heavy.
It goes without saying, that even when incorporating towing suspension upgrades, you should never exceed your pickup’s GCWR (gross combined weight rating), it’s not uncommon for the rear of a truck to drop as you near its max-load rating. Most stock trucks are even built with a slight nose-down rake to offset this hauling characteristic. Add a leveling kit or a suspension lift, and the squatting can become more pronounced.
When the back end of your truck drops with the introduction of a load, the front looks skyward. When the nose goes up, this will alter the handling dynamic of the vehicle. For that reason, I thought it a good idea to put together a towing suspension upgrades guide that covers a few of the more popular offerings. We all know about RoadActive Suspensions (RAS), Leveling Solutions, and Timbren Springs. All three of these are designed to combat rear-end squat, but which is best for your truck?
That’s where this guide comes in. I am not going to tell you that one is better than the other. What I will do is outline the good points and if there are any, the bad points about each that you need to consider. All three of these suspension aids have their place and are designed to solve your squatting woes and create a safer tow rig.
Towing Suspension Upgrades: RoadActive Suspensions
If you have a leaf-sprung truck, the first option in our towing suspension upgrades list is a simple bolt-on device that requires no drilling or cutting. The RoadActive Suspension can be installed in under one hour and does an excellent job of supporting the rear of your truck when a load is applied. The RoadActive system is comprised of variable-rate coil springs that are engineered to add stability and support to your truck’s factory leaf springs. This bolt-on suspension upgrade reduces axle wrap and body roll, and will actively adjust to increasing load forces. In fact, I installed a set of these on an F-250, and the owner can’t say enough good things about them.
- Easy to install
- Does not affect ride quality when the truck is empty
- Helps with more than load support as they help control body lean and axle wrap
- Inexpensive. A typical RoadActive upgrade costs less than $600.00
- Only works with leaf spring-equipped trucks
- Will raise the rear of your truck just a little.
Towing Suspension Upgrades: Air Bags
Adding air bags to the rear of a truck is nothing new. Adding a set of air bags can make a night and day difference in how your truck tows. As the bags are inflated, they add support to the rear suspension which helps carry the load. The air bag kits from Leveling Solutions are also a bolt-in upgrade. If you decide to not utilize an on-board air deployment system and just run two air lines to the rear of your truck, the install can be done in less than two hours.
However, if you add an on-board air system to control inflating and deflating the bags, you can add some complexity to the install as well as roughly three to four hours to plumb air lines into the cab of your truck and the wiring to make it all work. I don’t tell you this to scare you from getting the onboard air system. On the contrary, I installed an air bag upgrade from Leveling Solutions (with the Air Deployment System) in Project WorkHorse and I was able to complete the install in my driveway with just a few hand tools.
- Excellent way to help support loads when hauling and towing
- With an onboard air system, adjustments to the bags can be made from the driver’s seat of your truck
- Easy to install with no drilling or cutting (Unless you also install the Leveling Solutions Air Deployment System)
- Fully adjustable by simply inflating or deflating
- Inexpensive. Without the Air Deployment System, you can get air bags under your truck for less than $500. If you add the Air Deployment, that’s another $190.00, but well worth it
- Even though the air bags are very durable, in an extreme situation they could possibly get punctured and leak
- Without the Air Deployment system, you have to manually inflate and deflate the bags
- If you keep pressure in the bags when not towing or hauling, you can expect a very firm ride quality
- If pressure is allowed to get below the minimum allowable pressure (5 psi), damage to bags can occur.
Towing Suspension Upgrades: Timbren
If you’ve never heard of a Timbren Suspension upgrade, you have not done much research about suspension upgrades for towing. The Timbren Suspension Enhancement System (SES) utilizes a progressive rate Aeon Rubber “spring”. While the Timbren upgrade doesn’t look like a traditional spring, they will assist with heavy loads to keep your vehicle level and your ride smooth.
When you are hauling a load or towing, the hollow rubber springs expand and contract between the frame and axle. This provides load support. Timbren also makes an SES Severe Service kit for hauling extra heavy loads like truck campers. While the SES kit has a gap between the spring and rear axle when not hauling anything, the Severe Service kit will be in contact with your axle in an unloaded state in order to provide maximum load support for your truck when needed. The Timbren’s Severe Service kit can support up to a whopping 8,000 pounds, a full 3,000 pounds more than the typical air-spring system.
According to Timbren, these springs can be installed in 30 to 40 minutes, require no drilling or cutting, and even utilize the OE fasteners.
The Timbren SES can be used with medium or heavy-duty loads (there is a severe service kit for those hauling heavier loads). The Timbren SES replaces the truck’s factory bump stop. After installation, there should be a 1/2- to 1-1/2-inch gap between the rubber spring and the vehicle’s frame. This will allow an OE-quality ride.
- Does not affect OE ride quality when no load is present.
- Comes with a limited lifetime warranty on materials
- Easy installation
- Can support up to 8,000 pounds
- Even with the gap between the spring and the truck’s axle when the truck is empty, they could bottom out if you hit a large pothole or bump
- Severe duty springs are in constant contact with the axle and could affect ride quality when not hauling or towing
Now that you have the information about the three most popular towing suspension upgrades all you need to do is decide which one is best suited to do everything you need it to. Regardless of which upgrade you choose, you can be sure that whatever you haul or tow will be properly supported.