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Old 12-05-2013, 03:07 PM   #1
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Default Need advice about rear shocks

Okay... here's the deal. My 1978 Dodge B300 chassis Class B probably has the original shocks on the rear. They have a helper spring attached to them. I bought a pair of Monroe Magnum-RV shocks to have installed figuring maybe the old ones with helpers weren't made as well. After all, technology has progressed just a bit since 1978. Maybe shocks are made better now and don't need a helper spring for heavy duty applications.

So... I took the van and shocks to a mechanic who stated that they were not heavy duty enough to support the rear end of my motorhome. His reasons were that they would immediately sag and would quickly wear out or blow out under that much weight. He did all but refuse to install them but he really acted like he really didn't want to do it.

I opted to return the shocks and paid no labor. I didn't want to risk him somehow being RIGHT (I paid $182 for the pair of shocks!) since it costs me nothing to wait a little longer. (In fact it might save me money since I can order the parts online for a lot less money). Also, when a shop makes strange claims like that, it makes me nervous about their mechanical ability. Maybe he's 100% right, so I decided to put it off until I get a second opinion.

There is only one kind of shock that includes helper springs on them, and that's Gabriel Load-Carrier. They look pretty wimpy though. Plus it seems they come in pairs so you can't just buy one and replace it if one goes bad.

It turns out you can buy add-on springs for shocks that even specifically say "for older model vehicles". I dug them up on O'Reilly's website, but Amazon also sells them for about $12 less. They clamp on to your choice of shocks for added weight capacity to the shock, Here is what the kit looks like:



The only thing heavier duty out there are Bilstein 4600 series which ALSO lacks helper springs.. but at least they ARE heavy duty rated like the Monroe Magnum-RVs are. The Gabriel Load-Carriers say nothing about being heavy duty.

Those of you with Dodge 1 ton Class B's, especially older ones... what shocks have you installed and had good luck with? Have you had any problems with the Monroe Magnum-RV shocks? Or even Bilsteins? Did you need to add helper springs to the shocks?

I will also be checking in at a spring shop when I get to Tucson early next week. They work on everything from pick-ups to semis and everything in between, including RVs. Maybe they can offer some advice in addition to what you guys have to say.

They also have a weigh scale so I can get it weighed as well while I'm there so I'll know just how heavy this thing is fully loaded like I use it. I full time in it so it's pretty well loaded up. I drive with the fresh/grey water capacity of 22 gallons total due to being off the grid a lot. Plus my water heater and recirculating toilet which is about another 8-10 gallons.
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:36 PM   #2
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

I think you are wise to be going to a real truck shop to get opinions. They deal with this heavy stuff every day.

With the shocks that include helper springs, you are really dealing with two separate issues. One is the typical shock issue, which is to dampen the movement of the suspension. Shocks don't support any weight, in theory, only dampen motion. The exception being the small amount of weight they hold if they are high pressure gas charged, which isn't much. The second issue is the helper springs on the shocks, which will support weight, but don't dampen. If you take off the shocks with the helpers, you will have less spring/load capacity, which you probably need when loaded. You will need to address both issues, most likely.

The shock part is usually pretty easy. There are lots of good shocks available in the aftermarket. Bilsteins are great for a good ride on small bumps and good control on big ones. Other brands tend to be harsher on the small bumps, but control well on big ones. I like KYB in that catagory. None come with the helper springs, and I think this is OK. I don't particularly like putting the extra load on the shock mounts of the van, which weren't designed for it, and there are other options that I think are better.

The two major options are adding air bags to the rear to hold the weight, or replacing or modifying the springs to a higher spring rate. Personally, I like the air bags because they let you adjust the amount of extra capacity you have, so you can change it with how much load you have. Doing the springs works fine also, but is a fixed amount of increase, and the results would be similar to what you had with the helper springs. Both options have been around for years and are very reliable and work well.
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:51 PM   #3
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

Take a look at what I have now in the two photos below. There is hefty leaf spring packs, coil helper springs for the leaf springs, plus coils over the shocks. I suspect it's all original from the Xplorer motorhome conversion.

The leaf spring helper coils need the lower mounts fixed/fabricated/replaced, the spring shop should be able to do that. The upper mounts are in tact which is what's keeping the spring in place in the first photo below. It looks like it's just sitting there wedged in waiting to pop out, but it's not. It's bolted in on top.


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Old 12-05-2013, 04:17 PM   #4
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

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Originally Posted by Cubey
Take a look at what I have now in the two photos below. There is hefty leaf spring packs, coil helper springs for the leaf springs, plus coils over the shocks. I suspect it's all original from the Xplorer motorhome conversion.

The leaf spring helper coils need the lower mounts fixed/fabricated/replaced, the spring shop should be able to do that. The upper mounts are in tact which is what's keeping the spring in place in the first photo below. It looks like it's just sitting there wedged in waiting to pop out, but it's not. It's bolted in on top.


You do have a lot of leaf spring there, but they are pretty thin leafs, so the rate might be pretty low. The coil is pushing in the middle of the leaf spring which is not a good thing. 8 bolt rear end (missing stud?) so it is a heavy duty rear. It looks like band aid after band aid was put in to compensate for lack of spring capacity and wear. I have never seen one with that much added.

My guess is that they will be able to fix you up with new springs and shocks. Maybe also the option of air bags to be able to make the springs a little softer and give some adjustability. You just don't need that much stuff on there, it can easily be done without it.
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Old 12-05-2013, 04:42 PM   #5
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

No, it's not missing a stud. The axle end (like shown below) is sticking out and is hiding the other lugnut. In fact it has all new studs on the rear.


When I took the first pic above, I was doing rear brake work after paying a shop to do it who ended up ripping me off by leaving off a vital part inside one of the drums then claiming I never complained when I picked it up... I did. It was 8 months later before I finally dug into the drum and found the problem. They also stole one of the new brake drums they were supposed to install. I bought, picked up and inspected the new drums, and i saw what the old looked like on the inner lip and what I have on my van is NOT a matched set like I bought. one is old and at it's limit of being turned and the other is new... well, WAS new.. when they messed up the brake job, it made a new brake shoe dig into the drum tearing up the shoe and the drum some.

I can only hope they did the differential rebuild properly after a previous shop I took in for the same brake work, the mechanic tore apart the differential and had no idea how to put it together and had no tools to do so. After 2-3 months and me buying the tools, printing off the manuals on how to do it and giving them to him, I had it to towed to the other shop. He never even finished the brake work.

That's why I don't hardly trust mechanics anymore. That whole affair cost me about $1500-2000 since I ended up replacing the differential gears since it was all ripped apart anyway and the first mechanic who didn't know his butt from the hole in the ground (which I found out too late) told me it needed a new ring gear and bearings.

But I digress...

The helper springs for the leaf spings are not a "band aid" as such. I highly suspect it's original to the motorhome conversion. You can still buy such helper coil spring kits for leaf springs. O'Reilly sells them.

I guess no one can really give me direct recommendation on what (non-air) shocks might be good. I have asked on three forums now and all I got on the other forums was weird critique mostly.

You have been the most helpful in explaining and going beyond just saying "put air shocks". I guess I've done all I can for asking online. I need to just take it to the spring shop and see what they have to say.
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Old 12-05-2013, 04:59 PM   #6
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

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Originally Posted by Cubey
No, it's not missing a stud. The axle end (like shown below) is sticking out and is hiding the other lugnut. In fact it has all new studs on the rear.


When I took the first pic above, I was doing rear brake work after paying a shop to do it who ended up ripping me off by leaving off a vital part inside one of the drums then claiming I never complained when I picked it up... I did. It was 8 months later before I finally dug into the drum and found the problem. They also stole one of the new brake drums they were supposed to install. I bought, picked up and inspected the new drums, and i saw what the old looked like on the inner lip and what I have on my van is NOT a matched set like I bought. one is old and at it's limit of being turned and the other is new... well, WAS new.. when they messed up the brake job, it made a new brake shoe dig into the drum tearing up the shoe and the drum some.

I can only hope they did the differential rebuild properly after a previous shop I took in for the same brake work, the mechanic tore apart the differential and had no idea how to put it together and had no tools to do so. After 2-3 months and me buying the tools, printing off the manuals on how to do it and giving them to him, I had it to towed to the other shop. He never even finished the brake work.

That's why I don't hardly trust mechanics anymore. That whole affair cost me about $1500-2000 since I ended up replacing the differential gears since it was all ripped apart anyway and the first mechanic who didn't know his butt from the hole in the ground (which I found out too late) told me it needed a new ring gear and bearings.

But I digress...

The helper springs for the leaf spings are not a "band aid" as such. I highly suspect it's original to the motorhome conversion. You can still buy such helper coil spring kits for leaf springs. O'Reilly sells them.

I guess no one can really give me direct recommendation on what (non-air) shocks might be good. I have asked on three forums now and all I get is weird critique or people going beyond what I asked and saying "remove this, add that!".

But I'd like to point out, you have been the most helpful.. heh.
Sorry is you don't like the recommendations, but that's why the call them opinions, I guess.

A couple of points:

Just because they sell the helpers at O'reilly doesn't mean they are not a band aid, same is true of the coilover shocks. Even if the OEM RV manufacturer used them doesn't change that. Loading a leaf spring in the middle like that is not anything that should be done.

I'm afraid you are getting recommendations you don't like because you may have already made up your mind about what you want to do, and are looking for reinforcement, but it is going to be hard to find, I think, based on what you have there.

Sorry I couldn't be of more help.
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Old 12-05-2013, 06:06 PM   #7
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

Hardly. I was asking what kind of shocks other people have used and liked. Why is that so freaken hard for people to understand? I ask very simple, direct questions. It's not that hard to figure out. Instead of a simple "I used Brand X" reply, I get lectured about adding this, removing that.
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Old 12-06-2013, 02:21 PM   #8
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

Cubey - I can tell you're getting really frustrated with all this. A Google search shows that you've been looking for a solution to this for a while now. The opinions you've been getting are similar. Taking it to a spring shop like you said you're going to sounds like the best idea to me.

I interpret Occam's razor as meaning the simplest solution is often the correct solution. It would seem to apply here. Get the leaf springs sorted out (I saw your photos) and new shocks and you'll probably be a happy camper. If you're not satisfied with the results then start thinking about add-ons.

You can put your blog http://cubey7800.blogspot.ca/ in your signature or in your profile on this forum. Lots of us are snow bound over the winter a look for blogs like yours to read.
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Old 12-06-2013, 05:17 PM   #9
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

Don't know if you have been here or not, you have to be a member to see or search so I couldn't find out.

http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/xplorerowner/info

Maybe you can find a kindred spirit there. I did find one reference elsewhere that referred to a person installing coil over rear shocks on a 1978 Dodge Xplorer to compensate for sagging springs, so they may not have been there from the factory.
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Old 12-06-2013, 06:40 PM   #10
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

Well done Marko and Booster! Thank-you for setting my attitude down the right path.
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Old 12-07-2013, 12:16 AM   #11
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

I stopped by another garage here locally (my bike's rear tire was flat, I needed air.. heh) and I spoke to the mechanic about the shocks. This is roughly what he had to say about it:

"Shocks aren't meant to support weight, they only dampen bumps. You can get under a truck, remove the shocks and it won't drop any. Those add-on helper springs for shocks are mainly for 1/2 ton trucks where you want to load it down with bags of cement or something".

I pointed out it might drop a bit if there's helper springs on the shocks and he said "not much, they don't do much really".

I think I will end up doing the shocks myself. It's not hard and I have the tools to do it (dang! except my torque wrench I think.. I'll have to check. if not, I can order one from Harbor Freight for under $20 shipped). The RV park I'm in doesn't mind if you do repair stuff. Keep in mind, I did a complete front end rebuild on this motorhome, brake jobs and other repairs on this and other vehicles for myself and my mom. So it's not outside of my mechanical ability to do it. If I find that it needs the helper springs, I can always go back and add them later if I find it's sagging without them.

What's nice is I can fit under the van without jacking it up any. I have changed the starter and done oil changes with all 4 wheels on the ground. I double check it's in park and set the parking brake and chock the wheels if I have something to do that with.

I asked on the Xplorer group (which I was a member of, just the one place I didn't ask) and I got a reply from someone saying they used Bilsteins and also added a rear sway bar. I'm waiting to hear back about what sway bar they used.

I found Bilsteins for $84 each online (15% off on sale ending Monday, normally $93) with free shipping... plus the site let me pay via PayPal, so I was able to put it on Bill Me Later with 6 months no interest if paid off in that time (which it will). What's funny is I just *got* through this month paying off some stuff from a couple months ago I had on Bill Me Later. Oh well, at least I'm not piling stuff on and not paying it off. Bill Me Later has really been a big help to me since all my other lines of credit got terminated during my bankruptcy this year despite $0 balances on them.

I am still going to stay here where I am for another month anyway since I already told the manager I was, and I want to anyway really. My original plan before this shocks mess was to leave this Sunday. The rent here is cheap ($220+metered electric) and is pretty peaceful and not far to bike for groceries.

I will still see about getting those leaf spring helpers fixed by the spring shop in Tucson and perhaps leaf spring bushings if the labor isn't too insane to pay next month. Yes, if they need doing, they need doing.. but sadly I don't have a mattress full of money to dig into... and leaf springs ARE beyond what I can do right now. I will definitely leave that to the pros.
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Old 12-31-2013, 06:08 PM   #12
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

I saw an add-on spring like the one on Cubey's leaf spring in a store recently. The difference was that these add-ons mounted on the axle like (some) air spring helpers. I think it was spec'd for a 1/2 ton truck.

There are all sorts of "helpers" out there. The springs I saw were like $20 (open box clearance). I wonder if they'd function like air bags (without the adjustabilty)? I don't know how they'd fasten to the frame or body of the van or even if they do. If the connection to the van body was strong then springs like that might act like a weak sway bar pushing one side up while pulling the other side down. They'd have to be more substantial than the ones I saw.
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Old 12-31-2013, 08:32 PM   #13
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

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I saw an add-on spring like the one on Cubey's leaf spring in a store recently. The difference was that these add-ons mounted on the axle like (some) air spring helpers. I think it was spec'd for a 1/2 ton truck.

There are all sorts of "helpers" out there. The springs I saw were like $20 (open box clearance). I wonder if they'd function like air bags (without the adjustabilty)? I don't know how they'd fasten to the frame or body of the van or even if they do. If the connection to the van body was strong then springs like that might act like a weak sway bar pushing one side up while pulling the other side down. They'd have to be more substantial than the ones I saw.
You used to see quite a few of that style of helper spring, but as you said about the ones you saw, they all were for on top of the axle like an airbag. I think folks liked them because they could put them in without dropping the rear end to put extra leafs onto the springs, and/changing U-bolts and such. There were also a lot more of the add-a-leaf type back then that acted much like the overload spring in current Chevy rear. I had a set of add on leaf boosters on a Barracuda when I was in college, and it actually had an adjusting bolt on it so you could tune how much load it was putting on. Of course, it put all the extra load midleaf of the one above it, so it was hard on springs.

I think the ones Cubey has are the same as you saw, but someone put them in differently than I have ever seen or heard of.

Edit--have you heard how it actually turned out for him. It would be very interesting to hear what the suspension shop recommended.
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Old 12-31-2013, 09:46 PM   #14
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

No, I haven't heard anything - hopefully he'll stop by and let us know.

I did come across a set of air bag spring helpers that are not over center when I was looking for info on the coil helpers - http://www.sdtrucksprings.com/firest...hevy-silverado

Maybe it's vehicle model fitment requirement.
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Old 12-31-2013, 10:19 PM   #15
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

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No, I haven't heard anything - hopefully he'll stop by and let us know.

I did come across a set of air bag spring helpers that are not over center when I was looking for info on the coil helpers - http://www.sdtrucksprings.com/firest...hevy-silverado

Maybe it's vehicle model fitment requirement.
Could be. When we had the Firstone bags, they didn't sit on the axle like the Airlift ones do, but they didn't have them onto the spring like that. There was a plate that mounted to underside of the u-bolts that hold the axle and the bag sat on that and came up in front of the axle. It didn't make a lot of sense to me, since there was room above the axle, and it put some rotation on the axle with load, but their airbag was quite long, with spacers inside it to limit travel it appeared, so they couldn't use that bag above the axle. It was also rated at 3500# compared to 5000# for the airlift. The one you show looks to be an identical airbag, or close to it, so they may be using the same one for everything and mounting wherever they can. I think the mounting plate style would be better than going onto the spring, but at least they got it very close to axle, so it is less likely to try to buckle the spring much.
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Old 01-01-2014, 02:36 AM   #16
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Default Re: Need advice about rear shocks

I haven't had anything done yet. I decided to stay over another month here (rent is up on Jan 9). I ordered the shocks and got them, but I haven't had them put on yet. But I've been parked at this RV park still, no driving at all. I'll see about getting them installed next week when I have the money, before I leave.

I doubt a suspension shop would have recommended addon springs for the shocks themselves. I got the best shocks available (Bilstein) so I'll be having them installed by a general mechanic's shop (I spotted them working on an ambulance recently, shows they are trusted!). Not the same one I went to before, a different one. $10 higher labor for the job but that's not bad.
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Old 01-12-2014, 06:41 AM   #17
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Okay! I had the Bilstein shocks installed Thursday morning without any addon springs... BIG difference! I drove about 100 miles on Friday... a LOT more control, much less wandering. I drove another 100 or so today at speeds up to 75mph on the interstate (75 limit) and it never felt as wobbly as it did before.

The mechanic said the old shocks were "shot".

I think most, if not all "wandering" it has now is more on me. The steering is very sensitive being all new parts. There is no slack at all so every bit of movement in the steering wheel actually affects the steering. As such, if you fidget with the steering wheel like I do, you end up wandering side to side a little bit. But you have to with the way some roads are paved.. plus wind sometimes. Or just how you feel your position in the lane even. You cant just hold the wheel straight and not move it any. You'd end up going off the road or into the next lane.
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