Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 10-17-2013, 05:52 AM   #1
Platinum Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Alaska
Posts: 287
Default Dodge chassis upgrades

Well tomorrow I start on the suspension upgrades on the world famous Dodge handling problems. Most everybody has heard of the problems so I wont go into it now. I have researched quite a lot regarding this problem and I feel I must tackle this issue before our trek from here in Alaska to Virginia next spring. My trip tomorrow is to a qualified front end shop to have it checked out, my tape measure and pry bar tell me that nothing is seriously broke. Through my readings it seems that caster increase may help on some Dodges, even more than what Dodge says on specs, but we will see. If EVERYTHING checks out on the front end I will move onto other things. An option on the Coach House was a heavy duty steering stabilizer, which I don't have, which I'm not fond of and they will have to convince me it wont put added stress on all of the other front end hardware. Next step is to put on the 2" wheel spacers on the rear to align rear wheels with the front. Dodge has a 4" narrower width on the rear and then Coach House added about 5" to each side of the coach making these unstable. After this upgrade it will equal the Chevy rear end width, go figure! The "Queen B" has Firestone air bags but no sway bar, the air bags are good, but I think I will look into the Roadmaster sway bar and see what kind of fitment problem I might have. The sway bar was not an option from Coach House and I wonder why. I did install new tires and Bilstein shocks a month ago so I know I'm good there. I love this little rig but it is an effort to drive anywhere and anytime, maybe this will be a good start to the problems. If anyone has additional info please feel free to jump in anytime!
__________________

AK49er is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-17-2013, 11:39 AM   #2
Platinum Member
 
markopolo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
Posts: 8,217
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

I owned a '98 Dodge 3500 ext cargo van but never noticed any really bad handling. It wasn't loaded like a campervan and didn't have a high roof though.
From all the stuff I've read on the web your approach to this is a good way to go.

You already have new tires and shocks. So the front end check and alignment you plan next is a good plan. The rear stabilizer seems like a good idea to me if it fits. I'm like 99% sure I'll be ordering one for my van.

I remember taking a '96 or '97 Dodge campervan for a test drive about 8 years ago. The steering was so bad that I still remember the experience. I was just constantly steering on the test drive. So I'd make sure to have them really look at the steering when you get the front end looked at.

Here's some info on spacers: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...9&t=1669#p7355

I think you'll solve the problem. There are lots of reports of significant improvement out there.
__________________

__________________
Two bikes on sliding cargo box: https://www.classbforum.com/forums/m...icture206.html & 1997 GMC Savana 6.5L Turbo Diesel Custom Camper Van Specifications: https://www.classbforum.com/forums/f...vana-5864.html
markopolo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-17-2013, 10:21 PM   #3
Platinum Member
 
AmCruiser's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Maine
Posts: 102
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

Interesting. I've seen a number of similar reports on various sites about Dodge van handling issues but it hasn't been my experience. My 99 American Cruiser is on a 98 B3500 chassis, but I have absolutely no handling complaints. It has a very solid feel, stays upright when cornering, steering's tight and takes bumps fairly well. In side winds it tugs a little but nothing alarming. Its a heavy rig too with quite a bit of wood cabinetry mounted high. Perhaps American Cruiser or a prior owner did some mods to the stock suspension but if they did, it isn't obvious. As you noted, The distance between the rear wheels is visibly narrower than the front. It handles much better than my 74 Chevy Beauville 1/2 ton van did or my 98 Ford E150 Sherrod hi-top conversion van (which was a real pig in crosswinds and on crowned roads. I have notice over the past year that the brakes don't take like they used to so it probably time to have a brake job.
AmCruiser is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-17-2013, 10:38 PM   #4
New Member
 
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Alberta
Posts: 8
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

ďit is an effort to drive anywhere and anytimeĒ Thatís exactly the way I felt and I suspect the previous owner as well. Now however, I have things well under control and in the last 12 months alone our 2000 RoadTrek 190 P has safely taken us from Ixtapa, Mexico to Yellow Knife NWT and itís a joy to drive. So hereís my storey.
Like you I started with the Tires (Michelin M/S2) & heavy duty Bilistein shocks all way around, a good start maybe but it just wasnít enough, no not at all. I messed with tire pressures ending up using 70 PSI front and 80 rear, this did help.
I had the Van for several alignment checks, again no real progress but I felt better knowing it was to spec. Next I bought and installed the 2Ē spacers that LesM referred to and they truly made a positive difference, especially when diving on heavily rutted roads.
I donít remember what led me to this next step but took the RT to a Spring Shop to have an additional rear leaf installed. The driverís side spring ďbundleĒ fell apart on the work bench revealing one broken leaf. They replaced that leaf and added two additional leaves to each side. I then received a lesson on the pros and cons of air bags as opposed to proper springs rating for the load. They noted that RVís are notoriously under sprung from the factory. They feel that air bags are designed for temporary situations such as towing and are evil and can be attributed more than a few broken pickup frames. I how keep mine at 20psi basically just enough to keep them in place. The van handled great and the ride is not at all hard.... I was very happy. The rear Bilistein shocks failed after one year (one was broken off at the top and just dangling when the Van was on the hoist) and were replaced with Monroe RV shocks. I know now this might sound but we are never overweight, 8450lbs last time out and donít drive terribly fast, 103 km/h. The Mexican topes do however take their toll. To summarize; tire pressure, wheel spacers, heavier rear springs made the difference. Good luck Alaska.
.boB is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-18-2013, 06:21 AM   #5
Platinum Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Alaska
Posts: 287
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

Having spent a couple of hours in the shop today I can report that the Queen B is sound and ready for next phase of improvements! Suspension and steering checks went well with no signs of problems. Still somewhat concerned about caster increase ideas, but was in upper specs and was told this is on the "better" side. Steering box was replaced prior to us owning it ( didn't know until today), so, good there. Installed spacers in the rear and left for the 80 mile trip home. The spacers were the second best thing we have done yet to the motorhome! The trip home was improved by about 50%, a huge amount in our case. I have a question for AmCruiser... do you have a front steering stabilizer on yours? How about spacers or aftermarket shocks? And a question to .boB I also am not fond of the airbags, too much air and the whole chassis weight sits on a 4" piece of plate instead of spread out on the frame. Do you remember what weight your new springs are rated at? I may have to re-think the sway bar Band-Aid and look into the spring method a little more. Well at least it's a start for now, and it was a positive one!
AK49er is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-18-2013, 02:16 PM   #6
Platinum Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 8,425
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

Quote:
Originally Posted by AK49er
Having spent a couple of hours in the shop today I can report that the Queen B is sound and ready for next phase of improvements! Suspension and steering checks went well with no signs of problems. Still somewhat concerned about caster increase ideas, but was in upper specs and was told this is on the "better" side. Steering box was replaced prior to us owning it ( didn't know until today), so, good there. Installed spacers in the rear and left for the 80 mile trip home. The spacers were the second best thing we have done yet to the motorhome! The trip home was improved by about 50%, a huge amount in our case. I have a question for AmCruiser... do you have a front steering stabilizer on yours? How about spacers or aftermarket shocks? And a question to .boB I also am not fond of the airbags, too much air and the whole chassis weight sits on a 4" piece of plate instead of spread out on the frame. Do you remember what weight your new springs are rated at? I may have to re-think the sway bar Band-Aid and look into the spring method a little more. Well at least it's a start for now, and it was a positive one!
Sounds like you are off to a good start.

From all the years of posts I have read, getting Bisltein shocks and Michelin XPS Rib tires makes a huge difference, especially the very stiff wall Michelins. You have the Bisteins, so that is good. Most also say that having 65/80 psi pressure in the tires is the sweet spot.

IIRC, the Chrysler TSB on the van's handling addressed front end alignment specs and rear suspension primarily. Most say the alignment specs helped, so you may want to compare to what you have your van at. I do think they put in the staggered caster in the spec. They also wanted heavier rear springs, I think, which will help hold the front end more stable. You have the air bags, which I think is just fine instead of the heavier springs, because they are adjustable and do basically the same thing. I wouldn't be concerned about the airbag frame loading issue, as there are thousands of the installs out there, with loading way beyond what Roadtrek does, that don't have issues. I have never seen any frame damage from bags, or heard of any.

IMO, adding a rear swaybar would probably do a lot to help the handling, especially in the wind. A big bar in the back should improve steering response and give the front tires more grip, reducing steering correction amounts needed to keep a straight line. I certainly wouldn't call the swaybar a bandaid. It would not be something that is compensating for other things that are bad. The only reason that the van doesn't have one from the factory is because they have to make the vans safe when empty. A big rear swaybar will make them oversteer badly when empty and swap ends easily. Fully loaded up like a class b is removes that oversteer and replaces it with severe understeer (especially in Dodges with the big rear overhang) from all the rear weight. Adding the big bar in the back just brings you back to where you belong.

If it were me, I think I would spend the first bucks on the rear bar instead of springs, and experiment with the airbag pressures ot see how they affect things.
booster is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 10-18-2013, 07:56 PM   #7
New Member
 
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Alberta
Posts: 8
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

Whatís your mileage? My Van has over 150k miles on it and the rear end drooped a little when the airbags were empty. 150K is a lot of miles, all of which were near or over the GVWR ... its little wonder that springs become fatigued and break.
I do not remember and may have never have known the weight ratings for the new springs. The shop where I had the work done specialized big truck suspensions etc . .... They custom ďbuiltĒ springs at the shop for all manner of machines and have a wealth of knowledge and experience. The average work experience at the shop is well over 50 years and the world will miss them dearly when they leave us. I described the problems and left the fix up to them. About 10 years previous I had taken a high mileage Plymouth Voyager to the same shop and was very impressed with the miraculous improvements to the vanís ride.
I couldn't find my invoice for the springs but did find the invoice for the Firestone air bags from 2009, they cost the previous owner $731 installed. I can tell you that the springs were about Ĺ that. Donít overlook that myself and others have been encountering these handling issues even with airbags installed.
I also looked into a sway bar and recall having difficulty finding one, subsequently the handling improved so much after the springs that I put it on the back burner and havenít thought about it since.
.boB is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-19-2013, 06:37 AM   #8
Platinum Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Alaska
Posts: 287
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

Thanks for all the feedback guys, it all helps out. I guess if I had enough money I would put heavier springs on and add the sway bar all at one time and this would cure everything. Since I can't do that I will have to decide my next course of action. I will call our local spring shop tomorrow and run all this by them. I have adjusted the air bags at different times from 10psi all the way to 90psi with no help in handling, just a different bounce. We have 49K on the rig so the spring pack " should " be o.k. ??? Our weights are around 8450lbs headed out, heavy yes but not overloaded. A question for booster... what does IIRC mean? is it a technical abbreviation? I will keep posting stuff about our van as I learn more. In the meantime, I read every post here whether it pertains to me or not and have learned so much in the last couple months of ownership, thank-you to all.
AK49er is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-19-2013, 12:01 PM   #9
Platinum Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 8,425
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

IIRC = If I Remember Correctly

sorry for the confusion
booster is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 10-22-2013, 06:48 PM   #10
Platinum Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Alaska
Posts: 287
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

Just a couple of updates on the van. Called our local spring shop last Saturday and they returned my call yesterday with suggestions on the handling problems. Wouldn't you know it, they recommend both a spring upgrade and sway-bar upgrade. I would have to take the van to Anchorage for them to even start looking at weight capacity, the problem with that is, it's about 225 miles away and it's getting late in the year. They don't carry sway-bars, so I am on my own on that, so I did research on sway-bars and decided on Hellwig model 7513, I really liked the Roadmaster large diameter sway-bar but they don't carry one for our van. I will be ordering the Hellwig as soon as I can find a good price, the shipping to Alaska is a killer! I like Boosters homemade bar but afraid that's not an option for me so will go with store bought. Have a nice day.
AK49er is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-02-2013, 11:26 PM   #11
Platinum Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Alaska
Posts: 287
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

I received the sway bar last night. About 8 days and $50.00 freight later it's sitting here at the house. I will probably start on this in the next day or so and then out for a test drive. Snow is coming soon and I want to have a better idea of what I need to do next. Hopefully this thread will have some ideas, both good and bad for future Dodge owners. I'll keep updating info.
AK49er is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-02-2013, 11:55 PM   #12
Platinum Member
 
markopolo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
Posts: 8,217
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

I'll be interested to find out how the installation goes and hearing about the test drive. I bought a Hellwig 7635 sway bar but it is back-ordered an not expected until Nov 18.
__________________
Two bikes on sliding cargo box: https://www.classbforum.com/forums/m...icture206.html & 1997 GMC Savana 6.5L Turbo Diesel Custom Camper Van Specifications: https://www.classbforum.com/forums/f...vana-5864.html
markopolo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-02-2013, 05:14 AM   #13
New Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 5
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

When I got our van [ 1997 Dodge 2500] I had steering problems. I replaced the steering box and that took care of steering problems. I & my Wife a 3,000 mile trip right after the repair and our handled great!!
The shop that I had the repair done, where old Dodge fans. They stated that a lot of steering problems can be fixed a steering box replacement, plus alinement after part replacement.
armyvet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-12-2014, 03:39 AM   #14
Platinum Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Alaska
Posts: 287
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

The latest... Started the sway bar up grade and found out I had too many of the wrong parts and none of the right parts in the box. Found all this out when it came time to install the "none" parts, I guess I should have checked the parts list huh? Anyway the "none" parts will be here next week and I can get this small, easy project finished. I believe I received the sway bar last December, oh well.
AK49er is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-22-2014, 05:03 PM   #15
Platinum Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Alaska
Posts: 287
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

The new latest... I received more wrong parts! Hellwig had to make longer U bolts for me and forgot to put a bend in them. The U bolts connect the sway bar to the shock bracket and the original ones were too short. They should be here next week, the saga continues.
AK49er is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-22-2014, 07:34 PM   #16
New Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: North Florida
Posts: 16
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

You got..... STRAIGHT.... U-bolts!? That's a first.
__________________
Don't commit Grammarcide. If your screw is LOOSE, you will LOSE it. Use the proper word for the context.
NLRevell is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-23-2014, 02:31 PM   #17
Platinum Member
 
markopolo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
Posts: 8,217
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

Are they like U-plates? That's what my Hellwig had. The plates lined up ok but I bought slightly longer bolts. The metal in the older vans like mine must be thicker!

Hope you get the new parts soon. Hellwig service was good to me. Are you working with Kevin?
__________________
Two bikes on sliding cargo box: https://www.classbforum.com/forums/m...icture206.html & 1997 GMC Savana 6.5L Turbo Diesel Custom Camper Van Specifications: https://www.classbforum.com/forums/f...vana-5864.html
markopolo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-25-2014, 04:07 AM   #18
Platinum Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Alaska
Posts: 287
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

My U bolts surround the bottom shock hangar and are bent at the top to allow clearance between hangar and axle tube. The original ones were to short and the new ones were not bent. The new longer bent ones should be here next week. Hellwig has been very helpful and yes, Kevin is my guy at Hellwig. After this last trip today I'm looking forward to trying the ANTI sway bar.
AK49er is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-29-2014, 02:13 AM   #19
Platinum Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 178
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

Quote:
Originally Posted by .boB
ďit is an effort to drive anywhere and anytimeĒ Thatís exactly the way I felt and I suspect the previous owner as well. Now however, I have things well under control and in the last 12 months alone our 2000 RoadTrek 190 P has safely taken us from Ixtapa, Mexico to Yellow Knife NWT and itís a joy to drive. So hereís my storey.
Like you I started with the Tires (Michelin M/S2) & heavy duty Bilistein shocks all way around, a good start maybe but it just wasnít enough, no not at all. I messed with tire pressures ending up using 70 PSI front and 80 rear, this did help.
I had the Van for several alignment checks, again no real progress but I felt better knowing it was to spec. Next I bought and installed the 2Ē spacers that LesM referred to and they truly made a positive difference, especially when diving on heavily rutted roads.
I donít remember what led me to this next step but took the RT to a Spring Shop to have an additional rear leaf installed. The driverís side spring ďbundleĒ fell apart on the work bench revealing one broken leaf. They replaced that leaf and added two additional leaves to each side. I then received a lesson on the pros and cons of air bags as opposed to proper springs rating for the load. They noted that RVís are notoriously under sprung from the factory. They feel that air bags are designed for temporary situations such as towing and are evil and can be attributed more than a few broken pickup frames. I how keep mine at 20psi basically just enough to keep them in place. The van handled great and the ride is not at all hard.... I was very happy. The rear Bilistein shocks failed after one year (one was broken off at the top and just dangling when the Van was on the hoist) and were replaced with Monroe RV shocks. I know now this might sound but we are never overweight, 8450lbs last time out and donít drive terribly fast, 103 km/h. The Mexican topes do however take their toll. To summarize; tire pressure, wheel spacers, heavier rear springs made the difference. Good luck Alaska.
You mentioned 70 psi FRONT and 80 Rear. That would give my PW OVERSTEER on front end. Did you try 55 front 80 rear. Air bags should be at least 25 or 30 psi. If too close to deflation they can be damaged. I run my PW at 55 front 80 rear which gives a little desirable understeer when hitting cross winds and I put in 40 to 60 psi in airbags depending if i have my cargo carrier on. I admit your rig is a different vehicle, but just wanted to add my experience. My former C class rigs both had FORD chassis and wandered all over the place. Rear spacers and a rear control bar/arm helps with some B vans, but I wont generalize as specs differ. The MB Sprinter chassis are quite stable on the road.
Al
Fastpaddler1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-29-2014, 06:44 AM   #20
Platinum Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 8,425
Default Re: Dodge chassis upgrades

I am missing a bit here. Oversteer is a situation where the rear wheels have less traction than the front (loose in Nascar terms). Understeer is when the front has less traction than the rear (tight in Nascar terms). Oversteer is what makes you swap ends (spin out), oversteer is when you turn the steering and not much happens. Both are bad, but oversteer is more likely to kill you. Understeer will give you big time wander and getting pushed around by trucks going by and wind gusts.

Most B's have major understeer due to the heavy weight in the rear compared to the front. You reduce understeer by upping front tire pressure, or reducing rear pressure (not possible because you need the load capacity). You can also stiffen the rear springs, or soften the front. Or you can add swaybar to the rear, or reduce it in the front. Same is true of springs, increase front to reduce oversteer, increase rear to increase oversteer. If you reduce oversteer, you increase understeer and vice versa.

I don't know what model Fastpaddler is referring to, but I am very surprised that any B would oversteer, as they have way too much weight in the rear to do that.

The Dodge models mentioned are chronic understeering, due to the very short wheelbase, soft rear springs and shocks, and alignment specs. Higher front tire pressure, stiffer rear springs, added rear swaybar, reduced front swaybar, are all things that will help the Dodges. Will they ever be as good as the long wheelbase Chevies or Sprinters? Probably not, but you might get them as good as a tweaked Ford chassis.

The test I always use for handling is how much correction is needed at the steering wheel for various happenings, to keep you straight. Our tweaked Chevy is under 1/4" of steering wheel movement needed to correct for trucks passing, wind gusts, road ruts, etc, which is on a par with most cars. If you need to move the wheel over 1/2", you aren't optimized, in most cases. If you have to move the wheel 1" to get back on line, you are going to wear yourself out trying to stay in your lane. With our Roadtrek 190 we can do two fingers on the wheel in 95% of the road conditions.

All vehicles are a bit different, and folks perception of good and bad handling, and good and bad ride, are very personal interpretations. What is good for one may be bad for another, but the rules of physics should let you chose what you want to be to your preference.
__________________

booster is online now   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


» Featured Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

All times are GMT. The time now is 10:49 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
×