Late-model pickups can seemingly do it all: haul a heavy load, pull a large fifth wheel or trailer and chauffer the entire family in comfort – all while abiding by federal fuel economy regulations. They are functional, versatile and attractive – but not above improvement.
Tow without the appropriate aftermarket suspension system, and “prepare to have the trailer drive you,” says Jack Kay, owner and president of Torklift International in Sumner, Wash.
Among other things, stopping distance is increased and there is a risk of extreme swaying, fishtailing and sagging.
Fortunately, several aftermarket suppliers – including Dynamic Suspensions, Roadmaster Active Suspension, SuperSprings and Torklift – offer tried-and-true aftermarket products specifically designed to work in tandem with a vehicle’s rear leaf springs to enhance payload and towing capacities, decrease or eliminate sway, improve ride quality, limit wear and tear on the vehicle, as well as reduce the overall cost of ownership.
What’s more, representatives for those companies say offering such a solution to customers can create crossover marketing opportunities and healthy profit margins for dealers and service shops that sell and install those products.
“Instead of creating an uncomfortable and even dangerous ride with a trailer, an aftermarket suspension upgrade can help or eliminate the issues associated with towing and/or hauling,” says Kay, who grew up in the RV business working at his family’s Torklift Central dealership location in Kent, Wash.
Offering a product that can make the ride safer and more comfortable when towing a heavy load was exactly what Torklift had in mind when it debuted its StableLoad product for pickups in 2011, according to Kay.
Different than any other enhanced suspension system, the American-made Torklift StableLoad is specifically designed to work collaboratively with – and subsequently enhance – the OEM leaf spring system, Kay says.
“Truck manufacturers have invested millions of dollars in their factory suspension. We wanted to engineer an aftermarket product to specifically enhance the OEM suspension – not modify or permanently change the way it works,” he says.
As a result, “StableLoad is simply the only product on the market to accomplish this collaboration by unleashing the latent stabilizing energy already present in the truck’s multi-million-dollar, factory-engineered rear leaf spring suspension system,” he adds. “All other aftermarket suspension systems put an ‘add-on’ into the highly technical and finely tuned factory design, which inevitably leads to unbalanced negative side effects that often require additional suspension add-ons to counter such side effects.”
Essentially, a single application alleviates the use of multiple suspension products. Also, universal fitments can be transferred between various vehicles and the StableLoad suspension upgrade can be turned on and off in seconds, so customers can enjoy their factory suspension while using the vehicle for everyday driving.
“The simple design is meant to pre-engage the vehicle’s factory leaf spring suspension system. It works on all four original points of contact for maximum stability, rather than just two. Once the vehicle is loaded down and the StableLoad is engaged, body roll, side-to-side sway and sag are dramatically reduced. Handling and stopping distance improve as well,” Kay says.
Like all Torklift products, the StableLoad line is rigorously tested with computer simulations, followed by stringent prototype stress analysis at the company’s product development center and later field tested in several different scenarios because “we must be able to live up to our lifetime warranty,” says Kay, who notes that Torklift typically releases five to 10 new products annually, “all of which are patented, so that we stay ahead in innovation.”
Ultimately, Torklift believes the best way to market its products is to allow dealers, sales representatives and retail customers to try it themselves. Installation is achieved in less than an hour, with live tech support standing by if there are ever any questions.
“For the no-drill fitments of the StableLoad, you just have to bolt the product onto the leaf springs using factory holes. If there aren’t pre-drilled leaf springs on a customer’s vehicle, then we have a special tool that we offer to make the drilling process that much easier. Once the holes are drilled in the leaf springs, the installation is the same as the no-drill version,” Kay says.
The company is so confident about its StableLoad line, it offers a 30-day money back guarantee on top of the lifetime warranty for consumers. As for upkeep, Kay says, “The only maintenance we suggest is for customers to hose the product off if exposed to excessive road salts or salty water, just like they would the underbody of a truck and trailer. We also offer a stainless-steel version of StableLoad, which successfully combats corrosion in extreme conditions.”
Dynamic Suspensions’ Stability Plus Stabilizer
Australian-based supplier Dynamic Suspensions is looking to make inroads in the North American market for its Stability Plus Stabilizer.
To do that, the company has turned to industry veteran Steve Plemmons, formerly the longtime owner of the Bill Plemmons RV World in Rural Hall, N.C., a 67-year-old dealership currently in its third generation of family ownership.
Plemmons grew up in the industry, with 20-plus years as a service department technician with mechanical skills in fabrication, welding, rebuilding and wood working, as well as management training and corporate expansion.
In his relatively new role as the North American agent for Dynamic Suspensions, Plemmons is leveraging his industry experience to educate dealers, installers and consumers about the Stability Plus Stabilizer and the business behind it, whose owner has more than 60 years of suspension manufacturing experience.
Plemmons says the company’s Stability Plus Stabilizer originated 10-plus years ago in the harsh Bush territory of Australia. It was invented to help carry a heavy load in more off-road situations, with many benefits to remote farmers and journeymen who are known to overload the factory leaf springs.
“The engineer said, if you control the rear end of a vehicle, you control the trailer. A truck is going to squat in the back unless the springs are stiff enough to handle it and, typically, that means the ride will be hard,” Plemmons says.
Unique to the Stability Plus Stabilizer is its half-spring design, “and that’s important to note,” he says, “because when a spring goes all the way across and weight is applied, the front shackle bolts can be lifted and that compromises the traction of the front tires. With our design, the front stays steady and only the rear moves up and down. This product is the first in history to actually eliminate sway altogether, thereby removing the need for those bars and sway control. It’s also the world’s first variable rate spring, rated from 1 to 10,000 pounds,” he adds.
In addition to the half-spring construction, Plemmons credits the parabolic, variable-rate design and greaseable 10.8-grade steel bolts as features that set it apart from anything else on the market. Greaseable swing shackles allow the product to move and twist with the leaf spring, thereby reducing body roll, while providing maximum stability and load handling with a ride comfort that Plemmons equates to a Cadillac.
“I have towed nearly a million miles, and I’ve never seen a product like this. It works as a spring, but does so in conjunction with shock absorbers. It’s like taking meds with side effects — the Stabilizer was created for one thing, yet has solved so many other issues, like taking out 75 percent of the chucking towing a fifth wheel” he says. “It’s always working, empty, hauling weight, or towing, it improves your vehicle.”
Given that the product is constructed of high-quality steel, “It doesn’t break. The only maintenance you need is to retighten the U-bolt nuts after the first week, which is outlined in the installation instructions, and grease the shackle bolts (at the built in Zerk fittings) once each year,” Plemmons says.
Retailers and installers can visit www. dynamicsuspensions.us/ for two short, yet detailed videos of a demonstration and an installation.
As a lifetime RVer himself, Plemmons is delighted that Dynamic Suspensions provides users, including the elderly and disabled, with a versatile product that allows them to simply hook up and go – no weight distribution bars and no modifications or further adjustments are necessary post-installation. The product comes with a three-year, unconditional and unlimited mile warranty.
SuperSprings boasts that it is “redefining suspension standards” in a different way. Its SumoSprings product – a patented design that enhances load-carrying ability, stabilizes sway and improves ride quality – is manufactured from a proprietary closed micro-cellular urethane that creates a smooth and progressive spring rate.
Now located in Carpinteria, Calif., “Our founders came to America from South Africa, so the original SuperSprings was built on the light-duty workhorse pickups in the outback,” says TJ Miller, a chief marketing officer at SuperSprings.
The evolution of the SuperSprings product, affectionately named after the company, led to an opportunity in the work truck industry.
“We took our SuperSprings and started utilizing bigger components that could serve the larger vehicles in the (North American) work truck industry. Unlike an air bag, SuperSprings don’t leak or pop. There’s no maintenance, and since they’re made of the highest-grade American steel we can get our hands on, they don’t break. They just do what the work truck industry needs them to do,” Miller says.
However, SuperSprings’ founders understood there were instances when people still preferred air bags.
“Our owner set out to develop a helper spring with the dual benefits of SuperSprings and an air bag in one,” Miller says. “SumoSprings maintain factory-like ride quality when unloaded, as if the helper spring is not even there, and gives load support when needed.”
The product features a progressive-spring setup for maximum load support, stability and sway reduction, but the magic is in the unique urethane material.
“The best way I can describe it is like Styrofoam, where it’s porous and there’s little air pockets that, on a micro-cellular level, are covered in a urethane skin, if you will. That way, nothing leaks or pops, like a traditional air bag. You can drill a hole right through it, and SumoSprings would still work. That combination of air and urethane dampens, so those properties absorb and dissipate the road vibrations and create a very smooth ride,” he explains.
Better yet, dealer installation is a breeze, given that SumoSprings does not require any air line or compressor hookups, and it is maintenance-free for consumers, according to Miller.
“As we started to promote the SumoSprings, we hit a crossover with vans in the commercial segment, light-duty trucks in the traditional automotive aftermarket and Class A, B, C motorhomes in the recreational industry,” he says. “Because of this, we now have a clear split between commercial, aftermarket and recreational applications to make sure we are properly identifying who the customer is that way we can provide them with the right information.”
As such, company marketing and merchandising materials have matured to include a full online resource center and helpful point-of-purchase items for dealers.
Roadmaster Active Suspension
Will Agnew, national sales manager for Roadmaster Active Suspension, says his company’s system is exclusive in its own right and a valuable addition for daily drivers, trucks that tow fifth wheels or travel trailers, as well as commercial vehicles with a hard day’s work ahead.
“Anything with a leaf spring, I can help,” Agnew says.
In business for nearly 25 years, Roadmaster Active Suspension, located in Charlotte, N.C., has made a name for itself by manufacturing one American-made product across a variety of vehicle applications, according to Agnew.
“RAS is the only aftermarket suspension upgrade that converts passive leaf springs into mechanical active suspension,” he says. “While leaf springs resist load, RAS-transformed leaf springs absorb and dissipate load force energy to constantly correct back to the optimum bowed position.”
Essentially, it can do the job of three different aftermarket products: a sway bar, traction bar and an air bag, according to Agnew.
“It keeps those wheels firmly planted on the ground and acts like a muscle to maintain a nice arch for the leaf springs,” he says.
The patented design improves load-carrying ability, as well as enhances vehicle performance by controlling sway, sag, body roll, axle wrap, wheel hop and bottoming out. As a result, drivers experience significant improvements in vehicle stability, balance, traction and control – with or without a load. Improved fuel efficiency, ride quality and vehicle safety, as well as reduced driver fatigue and lower vehicle operating costs, are other added benefits.
A three-in-one product made in the U.S.A., at a competitive price point, with ease of installation and a two-year manufacturer warranty is the winning formula for Roadmaster Active Suspension, according to Agnew
“While I will never tell people to go without additional safety products if they so choose, RAS is versatile in the sense that it can work in conjunction with other products, but it eliminates the need for those other products altogether,” he says.
Detailed, step-by-step installation instructions are included with purchase, but few products are easier to install, according to Agnew.
“RAS mounts on top of the leaf springs in 15 to 20 minutes with a shop lift and approximately 45 minutes to an hour with a jack,” says Agnew. “Truck up, axle hang, one hook for eye of leaf spring, a bolt for the other side, set the tension and you’re done – turn the wrench a couple times and add the lock nuts. No cutting, no drilling, no welding and once installed, no adjustments or maintenance is ever required – it is that simple.
“Line up five trucks with a handful of enhanced suspension products, and I bet mine is the first one installed,” Agnew says.