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Improving Motorhome Ride and Handling

an RVer asks....
(Benefits to Replacing Shocks and Adding a Stabilizer Bar)

Would replacing the shocks (air, Bilstein, etc?) help the ride and handling on my 1999 Holiday Rambler Vacationer? Also, I'm wondering about a stabilizer bar. Would that help?

My wife is a bit intimidated driving the motorhome due to the sway and rough ride. It feels out of control to her. We are thinking of going to a Class C to enable her to feel more secure driving, but don't want to if we can improve the Class A.

Bob the RVing editor's husband replies:

Some RV's are helped enormously by replacing the shocks with high quality shocks and an aftermarket stabilizer bar, other are not. On some identical rigs, these upgrades seem to have different or negligible effects. This is usually due to different loading, driving habits, and different road conditions. Several thousand dollars of upgrades may, or may not help, and there are no sure guarantees. If there are guarantees, get them in writing, with the condition that you are the judge of the improvement.

My experience with class Cs has been that they can give you that "lack of control feeling" and handle just as poorly as a class A. With either class of RV, people have to remember you just can't drive them like your little red car. They are also affected greatly by the wind, due to their large sail area, and lack of aerodynamics.

In my own experience, many years ago, i made some improvements to a 1988 Ford E-350. I put in Bilstein shocks, 1000-pound heavier front springs, added two extra leaves in each rear stack, and replaced some of the front-end parts with Moog parts. This helped a lot, but the rig drove like a truck.

Oh, I guess it really was a truck. It was just hauling a RV body on it. No matter how shiny the body of the rig, it is still a truck.

At the time, I wasn't dealing with an RV dealership, I rounded up the parts and put them in myself. I ordered the Bilstein shocks from a
dealer that advertised in the Escapee's Magazine. The 1000-pound heavier springs, came from Coil Spring Specialties, in St. Mary, Kansas. The Coil Spring people were very nice and extremely helpful in getting me the right springs for my application. Their prices were very reasonable too. The leaf springs came from a salvage yard north of Sturgis, South Dakota. I don't remember what all Moog front-end parts I replaced, but they came from the local NAPA store. I supplied the labor.

If I recall correctly, we spent about $400 total, the four Bilstien shocks being about half of that. Don't expect to get anywhere close to that price today.

Part of feeling in control of your rig is knowing before hand when a weave, dip, or swerve is going to happen. If you are watching the road for ruts, swells, and heaves, you know when you'll feel them and they won't be as unnerving. If you are aware of buffeting winds from a passing truck, or the wind blast off the end of a protective tree row, before they hit, you'll feel more in control.

Decelerating will exasperate the feeling of just about any of the lack of control situations. When you feel an unexpected movement, it is natural to take your foot off the gas making things worse. If you see things ahead of time and slow before hand, you'll be less affected.

If you slow down before a curve, then slowly accelerate into the curve you will stabilize the vehicle and actually gain more control.

Your wife may feel she has to drive as fast as you do, or you may just make her nervous. My wife is a very good driver, just not when I'm in the passenger seat.

Better shocks, a sway bar, and even a steering stabilizer will help to a certain extent. How much it will help your RV, I cannot tell you.

Good luck. Making your RV handle better is safer for you and safer for all the rest of us out on the road with you.

Comments for Improving Motorhome Ride and Handling

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Making a Holiday Rambler Handle Better
by: Mike Rehmus

My 1988 Holiday Rambler Alumalite XL handled like a pig when I bought it. It would follow the ruts in the roads and most other things except my steering wheel input.

27,000 miles I replaced the following:
- Steering idlers (had never been lubricated)
- Ball joints
- Front springs with load-rated Roadmasters (no more air bags)
- Heavier anti-sway bar
- New shocks - First I had Monroes put in and they lasted not quite long enough to handle a trip from California to Pennsylvania and back. Replaced those with the very expensive Koni shocks, which ignore small bumps like expansion joints and really control the big excursions like frost heaves.

Of all the changes, once I got the front end to a proper state of repair, the combination of springs, anti-sway bar, and Koni shocks made a massive difference in the handling of the coach.
Now I don't pucker up when I see a bump in the road!

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