Truck Camper Magazine installs and reviews Hellwig front and rear sway bars on a 2013 Chevy Silverado 3500 and gets a firm grip on the sway bar difference.
Back in 2010, Angela and I embarked on a cross-country tour of every truck camper manufacturer and gear company. At the time, there was a sense that the recession may be coming to a close and I wanted to see how the companies had fared since our first tour in 2007. Looking back, our economic optimism was a bit premature.
A few weeks into that trip we received a phone call from Melanie White, Marketing Director of Hellwig Products. She was following our tour in the magazine and invited us to visit Hellwig Products. We were in Denver at the time, but tentatively scheduled a date to visit Hellwig’s Visalia, California facility a few weeks later.
Hellwig Products was by far our favorite factory on that tour. Their fire breathing furnaces and steaming 225 degree mineral oil baths commanded our full attention. The resulting article remains a popular read to this day. The pictures alone are worth a second look.
While we were at Hellwig Products, Melanie suggested we get a set of front and rear sway bars installed on our 1998 Dodge Ram 3500. The Dodge was a Cummins diesel, dual rear wheel brute outfitted with 19.5 Rickson wheels and tires. That said, the factory payload was pathetic for such a massive truck; just north of 3,000 pounds. With our then borrowed 2010 Adventurer 90FWS non-slide, we were over payload, and the rig had a considerable amount of sway.
The day after our arrival, Hellwig team members Dave Wheeler and Justin Strasser put our truck and camper on a lift and installed Hellwig front and rear sway bars. The difference with the sway bars installed was nothing less than amazing. Immediately we noticed the rig had a much firmer ride. When we took a highway off ramp, the truck stayed straight and firm with little to no noticeable sway. When a big truck passed us at speed, we no longer felt the rig sway from side to side. Yes, we were still overloaded, but the truck handled much better.
With dual rear wheels, 19.5 Ricksons, and the Hellwig Products front and rear sway bars, the Dodge was about as robust as we could make it, but we were never comfortable being overloaded. As the Publishers of Truck Camper Magazine, and the self-appointed Chiefs of the Weight Police, we were setting a bad example. As soon as possible, we needed to go legit. Ladies and gentlemen, start your savings.
Two years ago, we sold the Dodge and bought a 2013 Chevy Silverado 3500 short bed. The new short bed single rear wheel truck had over 1,000 pounds more payload than our 1998 Dodge Ram 3500 dually. With the dramatic increase in payload, we were able to properly match the 2013 Chevy Silverado 3500 to a 2013 Lance 855-S (by a whisker) and later, a 2014 Northstar 8.5 Arrow U.
Unfortunately, too many truck camper owners have never experienced a properly matched truck and camper. As folks who have driven many dozens of truck camper rigs, we can tell you the difference isn’t subtle. Properly matched rigs have virtually no sway or body roll, and offer a much more confident driving experience.
Our 2013 Chevy Silverado 3500 carried both the Lance and the Northstar like it was built for the purpose. Compared to driving the often overloaded Dodge, the Chevy/Lance and Chevy/Northstar rig was night and day; much better.
Hellwig Sway Bar, Round Two
Which brings us back to Hellwig Product’s sway bars. What would happen if we added Hellwig front and rear sway bars to our properly matched truck and camper rig? Without a lick of suspension enhancement equipment, the truck already had virtually no sway. This truck was 100% stock, and handled beautifully. Would a sway bar somehow make things even better?
There was only one way to find out. We called Melanie and asked her to send us another Hellwig Products Sway Bar. We told her our rig was properly matched this time, and she agreed that it would be interesting to see how that changed our experience.
To help us install the sway bar, we went to CNM Auto Repair in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and met Ryan Scheck from CNM and Will Rowe from Hellwig Products. Will and Ryan would assist in the installation, and answer our never ending questions. There’s nothing like doing an installation with a photographer and journalist standing right there, taking pictures, and asking what you’re doing, over and over.
TCM’s Suspension Enhancement Position
Before proceeding, we want to reiterate Truck Camper Magazine’s position on aftermarket suspension enhancement equipment for truck camper rigs. First and foremost, always properly match your truck and camper. To read about Truck Camper Magazine’s truck and camper matching system, read, “Matching a Truck and Camper”.
Second, while suspension enhancement products can make dramatic differences to the handling and performance of your truck and camper combination, they also cost money, add weight to your rig, and subtract payload capacity.
Our advice is to match your rig properly first, then add the suspension enhancement products you need to solve the ride and handling problems you experience. For example, if your rig has too much sway, get a sway bar, but not until you experience too much sway. Don’t spend money, add weight, and subtract payload unless you need to.