The suspension system is vital to the ride and safety of your truck. The suspension includes not only your truck’s wheels and tires, but also your truck’s springs, shocks, and steering, basically anything that connects your truck to the road. Of these, the leaf springs—if your truck is equipped with them—are the foundation of your truck’s suspension system. Consisting of one or more bow-shaped plates, the primary job of the leaf spring is to support the weight of the truck and the camper. In addition to supporting weight, the leaf spring is what allows the up and down movement of the axle and wheel. Each leaf spring, collectively called a spring pack, is made up of a main leaf as well as additional leafs depending on the rated load of the truck. In general, the more leafs in a spring pack, the more weight the spring pack can carry.
One of the best ways to increase the load carrying capacity of a truck is by adding additional leaf springs. Indeed in many cases, the only difference between a 3/4-ton and a one-truck truck is an additional leaf spring for added support. Of the several aftermarket options available to truck camper owners, the helper spring is considered the most robust of them all. Several companies make helper springs kits. The top names include Deaver, SuperSprings, and BDS. One of the better rated helper spring kits are those made by Hellwig Suspension Products. Hellwig makes two helper spring kits: the LP-35 for 3/4-ton trucks and one-ton trucks and the LP-25 for half-ton trucks. As the names imply, the LP-35 is rated for 3,500 pounds while the LP-25 is rated for 2,500 pounds.
It’s important to note here that installing a set of Hellwig LP-35 Helper Springs cannot increase the GVWR and payload rating of your truck, at least not officially. Only the manufacturer of your truck and a certified coach builder can do that. Your truck’s payload rating exists for safety because if you exceed it components like your truck’s frame and brakes will eventually wear out or break. A set of Hellwig Helper Springs, however, can improve the safety and ride of truck by reducing or eliminating harmful conditions like rear sag and sway produced by a truck camper.
Why go with a set of Hellwig Helper Springs rather than simply adding another leaf spring to the OEM pack? There are several reasons. First, unlike helper springs there’s no need to take your truck to a shop to have the work done, a big advantage. Second, Hellwig’s helper springs install quickly and easily on top of the OEM springs using only standard hand tools. A torque wrench is the only specialty tool you might have to buy. Third, Hellwig’s LP-25 and LP-35 Helper Springs are adjustable, unlike basic OEM leaf springs, which have a fixed rate.
Manufactured in Visalia, California, the quality of Hellwig’s LP-35 Helper Springs is first rate. Each spring is painted with an attractive hammertone finish. The hardware is heavy-duty, grade 8 hardware, the best we’ve seen for such a kit. Which Hellwig Helper Spring Kit works best? It depends, of course, on your truck and your camper. Most 3/4-ton owners gravitate towards the LP-35 kit, a beefy, four-leaf stack with a 3,500 pound load capacity, while those those with half-ton truck usually go with the LP-25 that consists of three springs and a 2,500-pound rating. You can expect to pay about $297 for the LP-25 kit or $380 for the LP-35 kit. For each installation, you will also need to order Hellwig’s hardware kit for another $190. Hellwig’s Helper Springs are truck specific, meaning Ford kits are not interchangeable with Ram and GM trucks, so make sure you order the correct kit for your truck.
With a lowly payload rating of 800 pounds, our 2003 Ford F250 was the perfect candidate for the Hellwig LP-35 Helper Spring Kit. Having only an 8,800-pound GVWR, low payload ratings were pretty typical for F250s during this era. Part of this low payload, of course, is how the truck was built and optioned-out. A 3/4-ton truck like ours with a 7.3L Power Stroke diesel, a crew cab, and a 4WD drivetrain all but ensures a low rating. By adding our Four Wheel Camper Grandby—which weighs a good 1,400 pounds dry—we were already over our rated payload. Some kind of aftermarket modification, like the LP-35 kit, was needed to keep our lifted, 3/4-ton truck level.
Installation of the Hellwig LP-35 Helper Spring
Installation of the Hellwig LP-35 Helper Springs is fairly easy. The instructions, consisting of only two pages, are clear and well-written with important notes and steps highlighted. LP-35 installation consists of two phases. Assembly of the two LP-35 spring packs followed by the installation of the spring packs on top of the OEM leaf springs. To make things easier, we recommend assembly of the spring packs on a work bench (each spring pack weighs about 30 pounds fully assembled).
Assembly is easy. The springs are stacked one on top of the other with the long springs on top and the short springs on the bottom. The assembled springs are sandwiched in between a hole plate on top and a step bracket on the bottom. Special lock nuts are included, which are used to connect the short U-bolts and the hole plate to the stack (these special lock nuts are identified with a square indentation). In order to keep the springs aligned while torquing the lock nuts, we used heavy duty wood clamps with small pieces of wood. Warning: do not use a washer on these nuts as they are not needed.
As we said earlier, you’ll need to remove the overload springs before mounting the LP-35 helper springs over your existing leaf springs. The assembled springs are placed on top of your truck’s leaf springs with the step bracket straddling the axle U-bolts and attached using two, long U-bolts. When doing this, care must be taken to ensure that the longer side of the springs are facing to the rear. Installation of the assembled spring packs was fairly easy with enough clearance for wrenches and the like, though we do recommend removing the overload spring stops for additional clearance. When mounting, care must be taken not to exceed the recommended maximum adjustment of 2 inches from their free state or the bottom of the leaf cups are 3/8-inches from the OEM springs.
How long did the entire installation process take? Not including removal of the OEM overloads, about four hours from start to finish. It’s possible to install the springs faster, but being the first time installing helper springs, we took our time to make sure nothing was missed.
So how well do Hellwig’s LP-35 Helper Springs work? Exceedingly well. So well, in fact, that we noticed very little difference in the overall height of our truck with the Four Wheel Grandby mounted, perhaps 1/4-inch. The big thing for us, however, is the ride quality—it did NOT change. With leaf springs on both the front and rear axles, it wasn’t that great to start with, but we can say that the ride was in no way altered negatively. Is it possible to get some kind of lift from these springs on the rear axle? Not really, at least not under load. Yes, they are adjustable, but I wouldn’t buy these for that purpose. Best to get a real lift if that’s what you’re aiming for, especially for those looking for a 1.5 to 2 inch lift.
So how well did the Ford F250 handle with the 1,400-pound camper mounted? Honestly, we didn’t even know it was back there, though this shouldn’t be a surprise for an 8,000-pound diesel truck. We’ve only owned hard-side campers before and hauling a lightweight, low-profile pop-up is a completely different experience. Sure, we got “pulled” by a few 18-wheelers on the freeways, but the “pull” was far less that what we’ve experienced before the modification.
So what’s the verdict? What’s our opinion of the Hellwig LP-35 Helper Springs? We really like them. It’s probably the best, most robust way to keep your rig level under load. The Hellwig LP-35 Helper Springs are easy to install, are adjustable, and can be installed with simple hand tools without having to go to a specialty shop. Sure, the modification is a bit spendy, but honestly, the cost is well worth it. There simply isn’t a better, more robust suspension modification out there. Not only that, but the quality and look of the springs is first rate. Our only real complaint lies with the need to buy the installation hardware separately. Why not sell everything together? What would we rate the Hellwig LP-35 Helper Springs Kit? On a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being the lowest and five the highest, we give the suspension modification a resounding 5 stars. It’s a great product.