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Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride

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Ron Dittmer

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Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« on: August 25, 2020, 06:01:55 pm »
Before you start reading through all this, I need to state that this modification applies primarily to models 2100 and 2350 which have exceptionally light front ends.  Get your rig weighed empty and also during a trip to determine if this is modification is right for you.

Our 2007 E350/PC-2350 with no slide out always sat a little front/high, tail/low, most noticeable when on trips but even when empty sitting at home.  Also, the ride up front has always been more harsh than I thought it should be.  I looked into the specs of our 2007 E350 to learn that it is built with the same front coil springs as an E450.  Given our load distribution and axle weight numbers both when loaded and empty, it seemed logical to replace the front coil springs with lower rated ones that are more appropriate for the weight they support.

Here is the weight distribution of our 2007 PC-2350 with no slide out.  It was quite interesting that our front axle weighs 3160 pounds when the rig is empty with nobody sitting in the front seats.  During our heaviest trip, the front axle weighed 3260 (only 100 pounds more) with the two of us sitting in the front seats.  The weight behind the rear axle is reducing the weight on the front axle, acting like a teeter-totter.


Here are the springs I installed, made by Moog, sold by Rock Auto Parts.  I also bought the Moog insulators shown, assuming my original ones were needing replacement.  To my surprise, my original insulators are made of polymer, much more durable than the softer rubber Moog insulators, so I returned the new ones to the store.  I rotated my original insulators 180 degrees so there was a fresh surface for the new springs to rest on.


Here is an original and a new lower-rated spring side by side.  Note how the new springs have the coils closer together in the upper area.  Instructions that came with the new springs stated to place the closer-spaced coils "up".  I measured the material thickness of each, the new ones measure 0.02" less.


It took me about 1.25 hours to replace the first spring and a half hour to replace the second one because I then knew the tools and the tricks to speed up the process.

Once finished and cleaned up, I drove the rig to the auto parts store to return the rubber spring insulators.  I drove over a number of road imperfections, sewer covers, and even some train tracks.  It was a good test.  The best way to describe the change is like this.  Before, when going over imperfections, it was a bang/bang.  After the change in springs, it is a thump/bang.  I was very pleased with the results.  Admittedly there were some serious road imperfections (like the train tracks) when the bang/bang still happened.  But for the majority of road imperfections, the change is significant.

A few days after changing springs, we went on a weekend get-away where I was able to better evaluate the change.  I drove over 200 miles on interstate highways, state roads, farm roads, and city streets.  Our rig was loaded up with full fresh water, gear, food, etc and 3 adults.  I am even more pleased with the results than I was during the test drive.

I do need to get a front wheel alignment after the change in front springs, but 13 years and 38,000 miles later, it's time anyway.  I took pictures of the tires to compare their stance.

Before (You can see the right tire is slightly in toward the bottom, looking pigeon-toed.)


After (As expected, that same tire is now slightly outward toward the bottom.  The same applies to the other front tire but you can't see it because it's in the shadows.)


Here are other "before and after" pictures for comparison.  The front of the rig now sits 1-1/4" lower which I am very pleased.

Before


After


Before


After


Before


After


ADDING THIS SUPPLIMENT THE FOLLOWING SPRING, MAY 2021
Finally, our first serious trip coming soon.  In preparation, I replaced our six 14 year old tires, upgraded 4 of the 6 wheels to Alcoa alloys, and got a front wheel alignment which didn't happen without it's own saga....but turned out fine in the end.

My old shop Champion Frame Align in Elgin, IL permanently closed so I went to the competition that put them out of business, Cassidy Tire in East Dundee, IL.  They primarily service trucks of all kinds with special attention towards tractor trailer trucks with tires and wheel alignments.  They also service motorhomes.  They have 4 full-length bays and one 1/2 bay located behind the office.



For the curious..........
They clamp on wireless alignment contraptions that self-level.  They clamp on similarly to a wheel weight in 4 places around the rim.

Using a special floor devise, they push the rig so that the front tires rest on the round disks that float for resistance-free steering wheel turning.


The first wheel alignment resulted in a strong pull to the left.  Read on why.  They sent me home and called me back after they had their equipment recalibrated which resulted in a pull half as bad, also to the left.  Read on why.  They sent me home again, this time advising me to have a mechanic look at the steering gear box or something else.

This compares the initial visit to the final results.  The upper chart with "red" is what I introduced when changing to softer front coil springs.  The final results are the lower section.  I watched the guy work and there is a lot of inherent slop.  He touches something to tighten it after a tweak and it drifts significantly off the mark.  So he has to "anticipate" where it will rest after tightening.  Also when making one setting better, it makes the other setting worse, so everything is a compromise between caster and camber.

What I learned watching, a wheel alignment cannot be accomplished when the motorhome is new because Ford installs centered bushings.  The last picture in this post is of my shop manual which mentions this at the bottom.  Being centered eliminates the ability to adjust caster and camber.

Offset bushings are a requirement to change settings.  Here is one of mine.  It is mounted on top of the steering knuckle, influencing the position of the upper ball joint.  If you replace an upper ball joint, make sure to mark the position of the bushing or you will surely need a wheel alignment.




Back home, before running to a shop to investigate the "Pull To Left", I decided to place the front lower control arms on jack stands so I could freely turn the steering wheel left and right to investigate the cause for the "Pull To Left".  Watching the steering wheel go back to left of center on its own.....IT HIT ME.....the heavy duty Safe-T-Plus steering stabilizer I had installed was causing the "Pull".  I then adjusted it so it would hold the steering wheel straight rather than to the left, and all is well.  I am Very happy!  I called the shop and told them the cause for the pull.  They "Got It".

Here are two pictures of my aftermarket heavy duty Safe-T-Plus steering stabilizer.  The left end is attached with two "U" bolts to the steering linkage.  Loosen them, center your steering wheel, retighten, and it's done.  Being the fussy guy that I am, I test drove the rig and tweaked it twice for "PERFECTION On Center" when driving.




With the change to softer front springs, alloy wheels, new Michelin Agilis CrossClimate tires, and the front wheel alignment, our Phoenix Cruiser 2350 is riding better than ever before.  I can't wait for our next trip.

For Reference......
Here is the page in my massive 2007 E-Series Ford Shop Manual.  In the upper-left corner is what Ford says the setting should be.  The computer alignment machine matched these "optimal" settings before the alignment officially began.  If the alignment shop were perfectionists, and I had exceptionally deep pockets, they would have changed bushings a couple of times to tighten-up the tolerances.


This is probably way more about wheel alignments than most people care to know.

So in conclusion, here is the stance of our rig after everything was done from changing front coil springs, 6 new tires, new Alcoa wheels, and a front wheel alignment.  Also during the taking of this picture, my 35 gallon fresh water tank (located against the rear wall) is full, and all my heavy towing hardware is in the rear storage compartment to simulate "trip load" conditions.  The slight rear end sag is gone, the rig handles better, and the quality of the ride is improved for us sitting in the front seats.  Our PC appreciates the softer ride as well with reduced thrashing when being driven over road imperfections.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2021, 11:44:17 am by Ron Dittmer »
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JJCruiser

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Re: Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2020, 12:56:33 pm »
Ron,  Thanks for sharing your latest project for optimizing the drivability of your PC2350.  You might recall that years ago I followed your lead in doing the other suspension modifications you made to your rig (trac bar, front/rear sway bar, safe-t-plus), they made a significant improvement.  If I still had my 2007 2350, I would be doing this enhancement as well.  I will be interested in what you find out when you get the alignment complete.

JJ

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Ron Dittmer

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Re: Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2020, 09:53:27 pm »
Hi JJ,

I will post after the wheel alignment (and new tires) is complete, but it could be next year.

I imagine model 2100 (slide-out or not) would benefit the most from such a change in front springs.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2020, 10:33:21 am by Ron Dittmer »
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Re: Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2020, 08:19:58 am »
I had missed this Ron!  Excellent writeup.

Hopefully the drop is slight enough that the camber correction bushing does not need to be returned to stock to get the camber into spec. (Camber = the tire tilt you demonstrate in your picture) 

Mine required the bushings to be replaced, the ones that came with the camper are a special offset. These 'special offset' bushings were required because the front end was so high from the factory. 
""You want to save money on travel, drive a Prius and stay at motel 6""  Forum Member Joseph


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Ron Dittmer

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Re: Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2020, 01:55:18 am »
I had missed this Ron!  Excellent writeup.

Hopefully the drop is slight enough that the camber correction bushing does not need to be returned to stock to get the camber into spec. (Camber = the tire tilt you demonstrate in your picture) 

Mine required the bushings to be replaced, the ones that came with the camper are a special offset. These 'special offset' bushings were required because the front end was so high from the factory.
Our 2007 E350 PC-2350 originally came with the OEM centered "Ford" bushings.  It was after our initial wheel alignment that the offset bushings were introduced later that first year.  As you can see in the "Before" picture taken a few years later, the tires after the alignment never looked quite right because of the angle inward.  I wondered if only so much could be done given the super duty front coil springs with so little weight on them.

Today, the front tires are roughly at the same angle, but in the opposing direction.  I am hoping reintroducing centered bushings (with my now softer front springs) will get the tires straight-up vertical when loaded up during trips.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2020, 01:58:38 am by Ron Dittmer »
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Re: Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2020, 08:37:40 am »
I had missed this Ron!  Excellent writeup.

Hopefully the drop is slight enough that the camber correction bushing does not need to be returned to stock to get the camber into spec. (Camber = the tire tilt you demonstrate in your picture) 

Mine required the bushings to be replaced, the ones that came with the camper are a special offset. These 'special offset' bushings were required because the front end was so high from the factory.
Our 2007 E350 PC-2350 originally came with the OEM centered "Ford" bushings.  It was after our initial wheel alignment that the offset bushings were introduced later that first year.  As you can see in the "Before" picture taken a few years later, the tires after the alignment never looked quite right because of the angle inward.  I wondered if only so much could be done given the super duty front coil springs with so little weight on them.

Today, the front tires are roughly at the same angle, but in the opposing direction.  I am hoping reintroducing centered bushings (with my now softer front springs) will get the tires straight-up vertical when loaded up during trips.

Just so people are clear... 'angle inward' in this case  is referring to positive camber'



In my experience, excess positive camber leads to poor directional control (steering feels 'loose', vehicle sways down the road)  and very unpredictable handling when pushed to limits. Negative gives the opposite.


OK...  so you had the original 'noncorrecting' bushings in the rig. 

During a previous alignment, you got the replacement bushings that were the correcting type.  This is also how my camper came when I got it - with the correcting bushings in. I was giving credit to PC for installing them during the post construction alignment.  Now knowing that you replaced yours, I am thinking this may not be a thing now, as 'The truck comes aligned from the factory' is most likely the case. I bet a PO had mine done also.

I have been saying, and agree with your statement here- you will most likely need the 'centered' bushings to get the alignment spot on, now that you are closer to 'normal' (center of suspension travel)  ride height.  Or a shop that figures 'close enough for a camper' and sets it as close as they can will save you the cost of installing.  :-[

I would get an 'alignment settings print out' to assure you are set correctly.   

Again, a BIG  tymote THANK YOU  tymote   for even bringing up this whole idea. I could not be happier with my handling now, even with  Autozone front shocks, stock steering stabilizer, no rear axle sway/track bars. If the opportunity comes along. i would fit a rear bar on mine. But I dont feel a pressing need anymore.  :-D    I hope you get even greater results with all the other suspension mods you have done.

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Ron Dittmer

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Re: Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2020, 12:38:36 pm »
I am getting an alignment some time next year, waiting until just after I have new tires mounted which will be just prior to our next big trip.  I don't want new tires just getting old for no reason.  I also don't know how long COVID19 will influence travel plans.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2020, 12:43:38 pm by Ron Dittmer »
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Re: Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2020, 02:09:55 pm »
I am getting an alignment some time next year, waiting until just after I have new tires mounted which will be just prior to our next big trip.  I don't want new tires just getting old for no reason.  I also don't know how long COVID19 will influence travel plans.

Ron,

Off topic, but we're on the road now.  Even a small slice of Illinois near Quincy.   Right now, up in Duluth, came north from Quincy via Missouri, Iowa, a bit of Minnesota near Red Wing then up thru Western Wisconsin and then back into Minnesota at Duluth.

My point being, only Covid restrictions we have come across is wearing masks inside stores.   Fast food in Wisconsin is take out only, not sure about restaurants.  Here in Duluth, the restaurants appear to be open for dine in, but masks until your food arrives.

All in all, no real restrictions that have affected us.

We're headed into Michigan next, and when we were there in late May, no real problems, restaurants were open with limited capacity.

Don
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Ron Dittmer

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Re: Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2020, 03:43:01 pm »
The COVID19 issues that we would face are all related to USA national parks, monuments, and related.  Though such places are officially open, many trails and sections of the parks remain closed due to lack of personnel required for full park coverage.  The parks cannot house enough employees and volunteers like they normally would to accommodate for COVID19 isolation safe distancing.
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Re: Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2020, 09:32:36 pm »
Ron, I have a 2005 model 2100. The front seat ride is harsh. I am so happy that you have come up with the great solution of using softer front springs. I have also added the heavy duty front and rear torsion bars along with the steering stableizer to improve handling, but the front end suspension is still harsh. I am strongly thinking of following your lead to install the Moog springs that you chose. I would appreciate it if you would share your tips for installing the springs. Thankyou, Damon

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Ron Dittmer

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Re: Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2020, 12:00:30 am »
Hi Damon,

Changing the front springs is much easier than I expected.  There may be a youtube video out there to help.  Here is the step-by-step process as best as I can recall.

- Park your rig on a hard flat surface, safe for tackling such a project.
- First take suspension measurements like I did in my pictures so you know the "Before".
- Do one spring at a time, jacking up one corner at a time (I used a conventional rolling floor jack).
- Remove the tire.
- Support the frame with a jack stand so the suspension hangs freely.
    (I found a good place rear of the front suspension.)
- Place jack under suspension (I lifted under the disk brake) and adjust the height to minimize pressure on the stabilizer bar.
    (I have a Roadmaster stabilizer bar with end links.)
- Disconnect the end of the stabilizer bar from the suspension.
    (Your stock bar will have to be completely removed if you have a 2007 or older chassis with the end-of-bar in a rubber donut.)
- Remove the lower nut for the shock absorber.
- Adjust the jack again so the shock absorber can slide off the lower mounting stem with ease.
- Adjust the jack yet again, this time so the spring just starts to compress.
- Remove the top clip that fastens the top of the spring.
- Lower the jack completely to drop the suspension, then easily remove the spring.
- Turn the lower round polymer base 180 degrees so the new spring rests on a fresh surface.
- Install and assemble in reverse order.
- Once done, tools put away, and all cleaned up, take the rig out for a test drive.
- Back home, park in the same place and take your measurements again for the "After".
« Last Edit: January 25, 2021, 10:13:12 pm by Ron Dittmer »
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Re: Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2020, 09:59:13 am »
Hi Ron,

Thank you for providing the simple to follow steps for changing the front springs. The cold weather is upon us, so I have put the 2100 to bed for the winter. I'll order the springs so when the warmer weather arrives, I'll be ready to install the softer springs. I'm looking forward to the improved ride that the softer springs will provide. Thank you for doing all the research, calculations and testing to give me confidence in this solution.

Damon

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Ron Dittmer

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Re: Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2020, 11:12:58 am »
You are very welcome Damon.

I imagine the change in front springs will be just as beneficial for you with a 2100 (slide-out or not) as it has been for us with our 2350 (without a slide-out).

A worst case scenario would be to revert back to your original springs.  But I would be very surprised if you felt the need to do so.  If anything, you might say it's not yet soft enough and want an even softer spring.

Take "height" measurements as I did, both before and after the change in your front springs.  Be sure to drive the rig a little prior to that second measurement, to let the springs "seat" properly.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2020, 01:53:25 am by Ron Dittmer »
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Ron Dittmer

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Re: Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2021, 04:24:28 pm »
I finally got new tires, Alcoa wheels, and a wheel alignment.  The details are added at the end of the opening post.
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Re: Installed Softer Front Springs For A More Comfortable Ride
« Reply #14 on: May 31, 2021, 08:05:27 pm »
Sweet!
Goin' where the wind goes...