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Question Of The Week

Truck Camper Rigs Get Shock Treatment

This week’s Question of the Week was, “Have you upgraded your truck’s shocks?”  We also asked about the resulting ride, and recommendations.

“We upgraded to Rancho 9000 shocks.  We bought them when we bought the camper in 2008 at about 15,000 miles.  Honestly, I don’t feel much difference between the Ranchos and the stock shocks.  I’m on my third set (and am ready for the fourth set) of front shocks.  I’m still on the first set of rear shocks after about 80,000 miles.  The good news is that they carry a lifetime replacement warranty.” – Jim Goodrich, 2006 Chevy Silverado 3500 Crewcab Dually, 2008 Lance 1191

“I have Rancho 9000 shocks and set them to the max.  They helped a lot.  It makes the truck ride a lot smoother.  I put 50,000 to 60,000 miles on my truck a year.  I had Ranchos on my last truck and it was the first thing I put on this truck.” – Frank Mertes, 2006 Dodge 3500, 2007 Sunlite 955SD

“I just had to replace the shocks after a trip to Michigan, where the roads were terrible. The shop used OEM Ford heavy-duty shocks, plus an alignment – total cost $600.  He said the OEMs were better than after market shocks.  The new shocks definitely made a difference, so it was money well spent.” – Jerry Klinken, 2004 Ford F350, 2007 Lance 1181

“I have Rancho 9000 XL shocks.  I have put them on my 2009 Ford F350 and 2011 Ford F350.  I just ordered a 2015 F350 and will have the dealer install the Rancho 9000 XLs before I pick it up.  The Rancho 9000 XL is an adjustable shock and it’s a problem solver, especially for the bouncing and rocking that so often occurs.  Our Arctic Fox 1150 loaded unit is well over 5,000 pounds.  Add Torklift upper Stable Loads to the shocks and you have no need for anything else to stabilize your camper.  The 9000 XLs also come with a lifetime guarantee.  Invest in them.” – Pryor Donald, 2011 Ford F350, 2009 Arctic Fox 1150

“The Rancho RS 9000s, nine position shocks are helpful.  I haven’t had the adjustment above the fourth click from the bottom, but they do make a noticeable difference.  I would do it the same if I could do it over.  The Hellwig Big Wig sway bars front and rear also a great help in reducing the top heavy feel.” – Jason Miller, 1999 Ford F250, 2014 Arctic Fox 990

“We upgraded from stock shocks to Bilstein 5100 series.  We realized a firmer ride with less shock fade over the stock shocks on rough pavement or off-road.  We’ve always upgraded the shocks on our trucks and will continue to do so.  With the added weight of a truck camper fully loaded and miles of highway travel and off-pavement driving, it’s an investment well spent.” – Cliff Kellogg, 2006 Chevy 2500HD, 1999 Apache popup

“The old shocks had 180,000 miles on them.  My new Rancho RS9000 shocks improved the handling a bit.  But, nothing improved the handling like the Hellwig Big Wig sway bar I installed.  Now my 9,000 pound truck and camper handle like a Porsche!” – Roy Bertalotto, 2006 Dodge 2500, 1998 Palomino Bronco 1200

“I bought the truck when it was four years old and it looked like they had been replaced.  No, I haven’t replaced them thanks to a honest Big O tire store.  Last winter I was getting a small vibration in the truck, so I had the tires rebalanced.  There was no change, so I removed drive shaft, checked the U-joints and checked the balance.  All was okay.  It gradually got worse with more miles, so I stopped at a Big O and was going to try new shocks.  They said they weren’t leaking and he didn’t think it would help.  Well after 6,000 miles and six months of it getting worse, I found the outside rear tire was getting out of round.

Over all my 74 years, I have only got satisfaction out of one new set of shocks.  I will never again change, unless they are leaking or I need to go to heavier ones due to bigger loads.  Most of the time it’s a big waste of money and time.  It’s a great way for the shops to make a nice profit.  Save your money, if they are not leaking, don’t worry.” – Frank Niehus, 2007 Ford F-350, 2007 Arctic Fox

“We installed Bilstein 4600 rear shocks, but left the front set OEM.  Since the center of gravity moves aft with the camper, the rear shocks provide additional roll stiffness where it is needed.  Weighing showed that the front axle load varies only 40 pounds with the camper on or off.  These shocks made the truck more resistant to side-to-side sway and more stable during turns.  Any heavier duty shock will provide a rougher ride, especially with the truck empty.  The adjustable Rancho shocks can help this, but I didn’t want to climb under the truck and reset shock settings, particularly on a trip where I set the camper off at campsites fairly routinely.  The Bilstein’s offer me an acceptable trade.  The only time I even look at the shocks is when I replace them.

I did a shock test on my light-weight Jeep Wrangler several years ago, buying Monroe standard and heavy duty shocks, driving on each, and keeping the ones I liked.  Heavy duty resistance can be easily detected by hand, with the standard duty compressing much easier.  Ride quality was markedly improved with the standard duty shocks.  The heavy duty transferred road bump energy to the cabin with much more force, making the ride quite uncomfortable.  Heavy duty shocks might as well been replaced with a solid 2×4 as far as ride was concerned. 

So, my lesson learned – soft shocks, soft ride.  Stiff shocks, stiff ride, but improved roll stability.  Vertical impact loads are better dampened with softer shock absorbers, but applied loads (side and centrifugal forces) are better reacted by stiffer shock absorbers.

For me, the Bilstein’s offered the best trade-off of these combined loads on my camper-laden truck.” – Gary Possert, 1998 GMC K3500, 2014 Lance 1050S

“I installed Firestone airbags.  It helps control sway and bounce.  It was definitely worth the money.  I also like the fact that I can deflate the airbags when I take off the camper.  While nothing can completely counteract the road problems, devices like airbags will help.” – Lars Larsson, 2011 Ram 3500, 2007 Arctic Fox 805

“Bilsteins are the best and really smoothed out and firmed up the handling after the stock shocks were removed.  I have Bilsteins on my race car as well.” – Chuck Krause, 2011 Ford F250, Adventurer 89FB

“I recently upgraded the shocks to Bilstein 4600s.  The shocks improved the ride quite noticeably and, with the addition of Timbrens, the truck now rides level as well, with the camper on.  Going over bumps in the pavement and/or potholes when off road, has made a big improvement over the stock shocks.” – Rick Jones, 2005 Chevrolet 2500HD, 2013 Wolf Creek

“I replaced the stock shocks with Rancho 9000s which are fully automatic shocks.  Then I went to Rancho 5000s and like them so far.  The 9000s were junk on my one ton dually.  I replaced them twice under warranty and they still leaked down.  So I went to 5000s and I like them so far.  They are not too harsh, and stiff enough to get the job done.” – Ken Holmes, 2000 Ford F350, 2006 Starcraft Pine Mountain

“I went with the Bilstein heavy duty shocks.  They helped to smooth the ride somewhat.  I also have Torklift Stableloads to engage the overload springs sooner.” – Sam Tardo, 2002 Ford F250, 1997 Shadow Cruiser

“I went with the Rancho 9000 XL adjustable shocks, and I love them!  I noticed a huge difference.  The rear is adjusted to the max setting of 9 with the camper loaded.  When the truck is empty I set the rear to 4.  The front loaded with the camper is adjusted to 7.  The truck empty the front is set to 3.  I have the Firestone air bags set to 35psi empty before the camper is loaded.  I love the Rancho 9000 XLs.” – Rick Christensen, 2002 GMC 3500, 2013 Eagle Cap 1165

“I started out with air bags and stock shocks.  I later installed Bilstein heavy duty shocks, the blue and yellow version.  Yes, they made a major difference in rig bouncing. I recently installed Torklift StableLoads which provided additional improvement, but not as significant as the Bilstein shocks.  It’s probably because the shocks had already eliminated a lot of the problem.” – Ralph Goff, 2006 GMC 2500HD, 2001 Lance 845

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