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Old 07-18-2017, 05:02 PM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 8,406
Default Get rid of massive Chevy overload leaf?

I will answer the normal first question first (imagine that). The overload leafs weigh 25# apiece, as they are very thick steel. Taking them out saves 50# (or just under if you use spacers to reclaim the space, see below) of unsprung, rear, and gross weight, which is substantial, especially on some the Bs that are low in cargo capacity like a Roadtrek 210.

Nearly all the 2003+ Chevy class Bs sit right on the rear overload leafs, especially Roadtreks. The overload leaf is about 3/4" thick and very high spring rate, causing harshness and "pitching" on bumps of various sizes.

The most common thing done to address the issue is to add airbags in the rear, often with a spring change in the front to stay close to level (we did this over 5 years ago). A normal airbag install will get you 1/8" or so off the overload, but to get more you have to go pretty high on airbag pressure. Being that close will allow the overload leaf to still contact the springpack on moderate bumps, but will smooth out the small bumps. I had, a while ago, reached the overload to about 3/8" gap, which made it even better, but still contacted on bigger bumps with a "slap". The overload couldn't be moved further away as it was needed to pick up the weight if an airbag failed (the bags have a hard stop in them that is not designed to be driven on).

Airlift now has airbags that have a soft bump stop internally instead of the hardstop, and are now OK to drive on if failed or deflated. This makes the only function of the overload leaf go away, so they aren't needed for anything.

I decided to see how things would work out with the newer style bags and no overload leafs in place. The bag change is pretty easy at about 20 minutes per side. The removal of the overload leafs is more work at about an hour per side. The easiest way to do it is to remove the front eye bolt and rear shackle bolt and wrangle the entire spring to the rear without actually taking it out, as there is lots of stuff in the way, at least on our Roadtrek. You can get the spring just far enough back that the springpack center bolt can be removed. Once the center bolt is out, you can just slide the overload leaf out and remove it.

I had trouble deciding whether or not to cut out the center section of the overload leaf and reinstall it as a spacer, so the u-bolts and center bolt could be just as they were stock, but finally decided to do one side with the spacer and one without. Our Roadtrek has always required more pressure in the driver side airbag, which appears to be pretty common. The difference in height without the extra air pressure is just about the thickness of the overload leaf center area, so I put it in the driver side to lift it by that much, as it works just like a lift block. Passenger side no spacer, so I made some spacers for the u-bolt nut side and for the center bolt.

Driver side:

Passenger side:

Note the pix were taken before the shackle and centerbolt spacers were in place.

Doing the shim on the driver side seems to have been about right, as we sit very close to perfect level with equal pressure in both airbags.

Of concern to me was if the internal bumpstop would give similar issues to the overload leafs on larger bumps, so I wanted to try to determine when they would be contacted. Before I put them in, I collapsed them in the bench vise to try to determine when the bumpstop contacted and how firm it was. The old hard stop was at 2" of bag height, and all air support if above that. With the new bags, full height is about 5.25", the bumpstop feel like it first hits at about 4", and it goes essentially solid at 2". These heights would translate very closely to what would happen with the overload leafs in the stock position at the same van heights, so my concerns remained. The bumpstops did seem relatively easy to compress in the vise however, so they did seem to have a substantially lower spring rate than the overload leafs.

In place, with 60# in the airbags, they measure at right about 3.5", so lightly on the bumpstops. This van height is very similar to where the van sat with the old bags, and not touching the overload leafs, so the bumpstops aren't carrying much weight at that point, it appears.

We went for about a 60 mile ride and the rear did seem to be noticeably quieter and smoother, into big bumps especially. I assume this is because the transition onto the bump stops in the bags is less progressive and lower rate than the overloads were. We will know more when we get longer and more varied trips on them.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Drv side.jpg (497.2 KB, 213 views)
File Type: jpg Drv shim close.jpg (496.5 KB, 212 views)
File Type: jpg Psg side.jpg (473.2 KB, 212 views)
File Type: jpg Psg no shim close.jpg (460.1 KB, 216 views)

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Old 07-18-2017, 07:09 PM   #2
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Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Central Arizona, HiDesert & Mountains
Posts: 295

Great read, as usual. Just wish I had the technical & mechanical skills to perform & perfect some of the incredible mods you tell us about.
Thnx. R.

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Old 07-18-2017, 08:45 PM   #3
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Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Virginia
Posts: 710

Booster, thanks for the info. Like AZ, I only wish! As you know, I have that 210 and would love to see some resolve for raising and load carrying. Somewhere, sometime, and money available, I would love to have "your mods" done. You and all the others with the technical and mechanical knowledge really provides us with invaluable info. I wonder if any of the manufacturing firms read this from time to time, and contact you about using your modifications. Again, thanks for sharing your hard work and well thought out solutions for a nagging problem with the RT's....and maybe others. Ron
Ron J. Moore
'15 RT210P
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Old 09-20-2019, 01:24 PM   #4
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Join Date: Feb 2018
Location: Alaska-Arizona
Posts: 17

Booster: I'm back in AZ and getting ready to address the suspension issue on my 2005 190V. I'm familiar with the other suspension threads and will visit them as well, but this one covers a lot of territory. Do you have anything to add after some two years?

Thanks for your help and contributions to the forum.
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