Paul Gibson of SuperSprings explains the benefits of SumoSprings and compares their performance with SuperSprings and traditional air springs.
After carefully matching your truck and camper, there are many things you can do to improve how your truck handles your camper. As discussed in Air Springs 101, truck camper dealers have traditionally recommended air springs. With the recent introduction of airless air springs from SuperSprings, dealers are starting to offer both types of spring products to the truck camping consumer.
If all of this is starting to sound like a confusing tongue twister of springs, springs, and more springs, this article and Air Springs 101 are for you. With his four plus decades of air spring industry experience, Paul Gibson of SuperSprings continues our education from Air Springs 101 and explains the applications and benefits of SumoSprings. Paul also compares SumoSprings to traditional air springs and SuperSprings.
TCM: What was it about the SumoSpring that attracted you to SuperSprings?
Paul: I have been watching the closed cell urethane spring technology evolve over the years. They were originally developed and manufactured in Europe. The technology has really progressed over the last few years.
A SumoSpring is like 100,000 little air springs. As the closed cells within the SumoSprings are compressed, they get firmer and firmer just like an air spring. The neat thing about SumoSprings is that they are closed cell and they don’t lose air pressure like an air spring. Air springs have to be replenished with air because of the permeation of air through the rubber. Eventually, all air springs lose air pressure.
If you don’t have an on board air compressor, you need to periodically fill your air springs with a hand held air pump or at a gas station. In contrast, the SumoSpring is maintenance free. You never need to change air pressure or worry about air leaks.
TCM: Are SumoSprings, like air bags, designed to maximize a truck’s carrying capacity, or are they designed with different goals in mind?
Paul: They’re designed to maximize the GVWR of the vehicle. Like air springs, they don’t increase the GVWR or the carrying capacity of your truck. SumoSprings do help to maintain your truck’s level attitude, and enhance the ride and handling.
TCM: Can SumoSprings be used to trim the side-to-side and front-to-rear level of a rig?
Paul: We designed SumoSprings to be progressive. If you have a heavier load on one side of your camper, as you compress the SumoSpring on that side, the SumoSpring is going to react and support a greater load.
In the early days, slide in campers were made of heavy materials. They were often really heavy on one side and had a high center of gravity. I can remember the time when you’d have maximum pressure in your air springs on one side of your pickup camper rig and very little on the other trying to balance the rig out.
It’s very different today than it was twenty years ago. Now camper manufacturers use lighter materials and carefully balance out their floor plans. While air springs are a good tool to balance a truck camper load, they are not nearly as necessary as they once were. We no longer have the great imbalances side to side and front to back.
If you happen to have a heavier load on one side of your camper, we did design the SumoSpring brackets to be adjustable. If there is an imbalance, we make an adjustment in the mounting bracket to adjust it. That would be taken care of at the time of installation.
TCM: What applications are SumoSprings more appropriate than a traditional air spring?
Paul: SumoSprings have cured a lot of the problems that have haunted air springs from the beginning. If you have a failure of an air spring and lose air pressure, you effectively have nothing to balance your load. For example, if your airline is severed or broken, you will lose the balanced load benefits of the air springs quickly.
It’s very important with traditional air springs that people maintain minimum air pressure. A great analogy is tire pressure. Not keeping the proper recommended pressure in your vehicle’s tires could result in issues including premature wear and tear and lowered fuel economy. With airbags, through time, you will lose air pressure if not maintained, just like your car or truck tires.
The benefit of a SumoSpring is that you don’t depend on outside air at all. There is captive air inside the product, so there is no maintenance and no maintaining minimum or maximum pressure. The SumoSpring makes its own adjustments automatically.
Furthermore vehicle comfort is largely dependant on maximizing wheel or axle travel. In other words the more vertical articulation your wheels have the more comfort the vehicle occupants will experience. The SumoSprings will compress up to 80% (air bags 50%) and will stretch 50% (air bags 15%) which is considerably more than a traditional air bag system and gives SumoSprings a distinct advantage.
The SumoSpring also does not experience lateral expansion on compression, as is the case with air-bags, so it can be placed in more confined spaces allowing for greater optimization of spring positioning and less prone to mechanical damage.
TCM: Are there any applications where traditional air springs would be more appropriate than a SumoSpring?
Paul: The only case that I can think of is where somebody has a load that is extremely lopsided. If your rig is leaning dramatically and needs to be corrected, traditional air springs might be more appropriate. That is the only case that I can think that air springs would be a better application.
TCM: Can air springs and SumoSprings be used in tandem?
Paul: It would be pretty tough to use a SumoSpring and an air spring in the same application because we utilize the same mounting area.
We do have people using SuperSprings and air springs in tandem. We see that combination quite often. SuperSprings are used to support a good share of the load and air springs trim the load side to side and front to rear. With the SuperSprings installed, the air springs are not stressed nearly as much.
TCM: How does someone know if they need SuperSprings or SumoSprings?
Paul: SumoSprings excel in the truck camper market where drivers regularly switch between heavy loading and no loading (or very little loading). The reason they excel is because the SumoSpring has a progressive spring rate where the more you load them the more they resist. An example of this would be if you’re going around a freeway entrance curve and your truck camper rig is leaning. The SumoSprings will get progressively firmer the more the truck leans.
Another benefit of SumoSprings is that they isolate the rig from the road. There’s very little transmission of road vibration through the foamed urethane. In many ways, the SumoSprings act like a shock absorber. For this reason the United States Border Patrol favors SumoSprings because of the vastly improved effect it has on ride comfort in harsh driving conditions.
Where vehicles are loaded all the time we favor using the SuperSpring option. SuperSprings are a mechanical solution that compliments the existing suspension system by directing the heavy loads through the factory spring pack into the points on the frame designed to receive heavy loads. The Supersprings also allow for greater wheel travel on the rear suspension. We have truck camper customers who are loaded the majority of the time who favor the SuperSprings for that reason.
The bottom line is that the customer can make a calculated choice. If there is any doubt about which product would be a better fit, truck camper customers can call our offices at 800-898-0705 and discuss their specifics with our team.
TCM: If SumoSprings have similar benefits to a shock absorber, do they also replace a set of Rancho or similar truck shocks?
Paul: Not really. It’s not redundant to have Ranchos and SumoSprings. SumoSprings help Ranchos or other quality shock absorbers last longer and perform at their peak for a longer period of time because of the design and inherent energy absorbency that’s designed into the SumoSpring product. You really need a quality shock absorber for a more comfortable ride.
TCM: Is there anything else you would like people to know about SumoSprings?
Paul: One of things we haven’t talked about is that we’ve developed SumoSprings for both the front and rear pickup truck applications. If you have a cab-over slide in camper, you are obviously going to increase the load on your front suspension. The front SumoSprings are an easy bolt on application. They are designed to assist and support that front load and maintain the designed height of the front end.
TCM: Thank you Paul. With your years of experience at Air Lift, Firestone, and now SuperSprings, you are now our go to expert on anything about air springs or SumoSprings.
Paul: You’re welcome. Let me know if I be of any further help or if I can answer any more questions.