Top 6 Suspension Mods for Truck Camper Rigs

Effective Cures for Rear Sag and Sway

The suspension system is vital to the ride and safety of your truck camper rig. The suspension includes not only your truck’s wheels and tires, but also your truck’s springs, shocks, and steering. All are critical to how your truck rides and handles, but their importance is amplified even more when you’re hauling a 3,000 pound, top-heavy truck camper. Can anything be done to improve a truck’s ride when carrying such a heavy load? Fortunately, the answer is yes. There are several quality products available in today’s market that address rear sag and sway, the most common handling issue. That’s the good news. The bad news is that none of these modifications actually improve your truck’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) or your truck’s payload capacity. If that’s your aim, then you’ll need to buy a better truck with higher ratings. Sorry, but that’s the truth. The purpose of the article is to identify the top 6 suspension mods for truck camper rigs and how each modification works. Now, let’s take a look at each:

1. Hellwig LP-35 Helper Springs

The best of the best. Need a more robust load leveling solution to correct rear sag? You might want to look into getting a set of Hellwig steel helper springs. Steel helper springs install quickly and easily on top of your existing leaf springs. They can be purchased with either a progressive rate, which automatically adjusts based upon the load, or a constant rate, which provides the same amount of support at all times. Steel helper springs are installed using common hand tools and are hassle free once they’re installed. Just install them and forget them. Hellwig helper spring kits can be purchased with a wide range of capacities ranging 500 to 3,500 pounds. Most hard side truck camper owners gravitate towards the LP-35 kit, a beefy, four-leaf stack with a 3,500 pound load capacity. The LP-35 is made specifically for 3/4-ton and one-ton trucks, while the LP-25 is made for half-ton trucks. When ordering be sure to also purchase the appropriate mounting hardware kit to complete the installation. Note that the Helper Spring shipment comes in two boxes: one with the springs, the other with the mounting hardware.

2. Timbren Suspension Enhancement System

If you’re looking for a great suspension mod that addresses both rear sag and sway, then look no further. The Timbren Suspension Enhancement System (SES) addresses both of these issues in a simple yet effective way. The Timbren SES consists of two Aeon rubber spring assemblies that are mounted in place of the jounce bumpers that came with your truck. The regular SES springs sit about an inch above the rear axle unloaded. When your truck is loaded, the SES springs make contact with your axle. As you drive, the rubber springs expand and contract, providing your rig with the proper amount of load support. Timbren also makes an SES Severe Service kit especially for slide-in truck campers. Unlike the regular SES kit, the Severe Service kit is designed to rest on your axle in an unloaded state in order to provide maximum load support. The great thing about the Timbren SES is that no adjustments or hoses are needed like air bags. A terrific suspension mod, one of the best. Just install it and forget about it. Truck Camper Adventure’s detailed review of the Timbren SES can be found by clicking here.

3.  SuperSprings Rebel SumoSprings

One of our favorite suspension products by our friends at SuperSprings International, the SumoSpring is a hybrid, a revolutionary suspension product that performs several important functions rather than just one. On one hand the SumoSpring works like a standard bump stop, on the other hand like an air spring or air bag. Unlike an air bag, however, the SumoSpring doesn’t require compressed air to work. Instead, the air found in each spring is contained within the rubber compound itself, which consists of a proprietary closed-cell micro-cellular urethane. This durable, “closed cell” construction results in a ride that is less harsh on the road than standard rubber bump stops, yet smooths out the “rough edges” of travel like a good set of air bags. But the SumoSpring does so much more. Like a good shock absorber, it also provides additional damping properties for your rig, meaning you get more support when hauling a truck camper, less support when you’re not. Furthermore, SumoSprings reduce side-to-side body roll, resulting in a more stable, safer driving experience like a sway bar. Moreover, SumoSprings are maintenance-free, will not leak, and do not require airlines or compressors, meaning SumoSprings are much easier to install and maintain than standard air springs. Sells for about $479. Click here to read our recent review.

4. Hellwig Rear Sway Bar

For those experiencing excessive sway or body roll during turns, a Hellwig sway bar is an excellent option. What exactly is a sway bar and how does it work? A sway bar is simply a torsion spring, a metal bar with several bends. When the truck leans to the outside on a turn the sway bar applies a resistant force to the suspension on the opposite side. Most of the three-quarter-ton and one-ton trucks coming off of today’s assembly lines are equipped with a front sway bar only, but a rear sway bar is sometimes needed for added stability when hauling a truck camper. One of the best sway bars you can buy is the Hellwig Big Wig. The bar weighs 45 pounds, has a diameter of 1-5/16 inches, and is made of heat-treated 4140 chromoly steel. Unfortunately, sway bars aren’t particularly suitable for going off-road. If you do take them off-road one end of the bar will need to be disconnected to allow the axle to freely articulate. For an in-depth review of the Hellwig Big Wig Sway Bar, click here.

5. Torklift Stableloads

Easily, one of the top 6 suspension mods for truck camper rigs. The Torklift Stableload is an outstanding suspension modification for pickup trucks requiring load leveling and sway support. Torklift Stableloads work with your truck’s overload springs, ensuring that they’re engaged from the start instead of engaging only when your leaf springs make contact. The benefit of doing this is that you’ll notice a more level ride and less porpoising on bumps as well as less sway and body roll on turns. The hinge mechanism of the Quick Disconnect Stableloads (pictured here) allows you to quickly disengage them to easily return your truck to its original stock ride (this is a great feature for those who use their truck as a daily driver). Note that Torklift produces two types of Stableloads: permanent fixed mounts for upper overload springs, and the quick disconnect version for lower overload springs.

6. Hellwig Big Wig Air Springs

Looking for an adjustable load leveling solution? Air springs (aka air bags) might be your best choice. Air springs install on either inside your coil for coil sprung trucks, or on the leaf or axle for leaf sprung trucks. Most air springs, like the superb Hellwig Big Wig Air Springs, offer up to 5,600 pounds of support. Air springs not only correct rear sag, but they can also be adjusted side-to-side for proper leveling support. Not only that, but each Hellwig Big Wig is 3 inches larger in diameter and up to 3 inches taller than the standard 2,500-pound air spring like those made by Firestone. This results in a higher air volume and a better load bearing performance than the air bags made by the competition. Hellwig’s air springs also require up to 40 percent less air pressure compared to the standard 2,500-pound air spring. This lower pressure means you’ll enjoy not only a softer spring rate and better ride quality, but also less jarring and wear and tear on your truck and camper when bumps are encountered. One of the top 6 suspension mods for truck camper rigs. If you decide to go this route, we recommend getting a remote-controlled wireless control unit to avoid having to drill holes into the interior of your truck.

Before You Buy!

If you can remember just one thing about this article, please remember this. Don’t rush out and spend money on any of these suspension modifications until you first see how your truck camper handles on your truck. Otherwise, you may waste a lot of money on hardware that you really don’t need. I see this happen all the time. Based upon the opinion and advice from friends and what they’ve read on the Internet forums, new truck owners will immediately shell out big bucks on new air bags, a sway bar, and Stableloads before even buying a truck camper or taking a test drive. This is backwards. See how your truck handles with your truck camper first before buying anything. If you’re truck is experiencing porpoising, rear sag, or sway with your camper mounted, then you can address each particular issue with the appropriate modification. Moreover, only one modification should be made at a time to determine its true effectiveness.

About Mello Mike 867 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. A communications expert and licensed ham radio operator (KK7TCA), he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, holds a BS degree, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side. He currently rolls in a 4WD Ram 3500 outfitted with a SherpTek truck bed with a Bundutec Roadrunner mounted on top.

15 Comments

  1. With my 2015 GMC 3500 CCSB I found the best solution for me. I first got the Timbren SES along with the Torklift TLA 7202 bump stops. This allows my overload springs to work with the main springs just as the Timbren SES starts supporting weight. Having it all work as one was my best solution.

  2. 2015 GMC 3500 CCSB
    I have the Timbren SES along with the Torklift overload rubber bump stops that make the overload and main springs work as one unit just as the Timbren starts to make contact. Then I put a hellwig anti-sway bar on it and It rides great.

  3. (Part 1/2) IMHO, The ‘prevailing wisdom’ of many in the truck community seems to (want to) believe that truck suspension is something done best by the factory (and left that way). Its hard to deny that factory configurations are made to ride best with little load because that is how most of them are driven. Lets face it, trucks have become ‘family cars’ (crew cabs) and ‘commuter cars’. The last thing a manufacturer wants is a reputation that their truck has a ‘hard ride’ so they certainly design for the lightest load they can get a way with. This is why ‘overload’ springs are a thing. If you intend to load your truck heavily (as truck campers do), YOU need to pursue your own suspension design intelligently, through aftermarket products.

    The first thing I think people have a hard time accepting is that you will most likely exceed the GVWR sticker in the door frame (the ‘rated’ capacity, based on the factory set of parts). That is likely NECESSARY because after modification, its actual capacity is no longer based on the same parts. The vehicle was designed and built for a purpose different than the one you have. Be OK with that. It is not unsafe to be ‘over-rated’ (carrying more than the factory sticker says) as long as your not actually ‘overloaded’ (carrying more than the suspension capacity, as modified). The legal system and manufacturers are clearly not in sync and never will be so that ‘irreconcilable difference’ now becomes your responsibility to negotiate (and you never will legally).

  4. (Part 2/2) The key to doing suspension mods needs to address the entire set of parts that creates a given capacity; including tires, wheels, brakes, axle, springs, shocks and ending at the frame AS A PACKAGE. In order for steering to operate correctly, the suspension must also, when fully loaded, be at or near the designed ride height. Just ‘buying a kit’ or adding a random part is a poor placebo for not examining the whole equation. Only addressing the weakest link, in succession, will improve capacity.

    My 2004 F350 SRW had a factory GVWR of 9,900lbs and is now carrying 13,500lbs. I don’t consider myself ‘overloaded’ because I am operating within all the known capacities of the parts currently on my vehicle. It drives better now than it ever did stock within the rated load.

    First, I started with knowing that the things which would be hard if not impossible to change could meet my goals; 1) The GAWR of the rear Sterling 10.5 was 9,650 lbs and GAWR of the front Dana 60 was 6,500lbs. 2) The same frame is used on SRW and DRW trucks and the DRW is rated at ~14,000lbs, (obviously due to other suspension parts, don’t quote me, I can’t recall this one exactly) so the frame has enough capacity.

    • I am in a similar situation as you with a 2002 F350 CC LWB 4×4 diesel rated at 9,900 GVW however the camper I am looking at will only be in the 2,500 lb. range when loaded for camping which could put me at 10,700 to 11,300 depending on how many people and how much fuel I have on board. I have already upgraded to 18″ (factory Lariat) wheels and tires which increased my tire rating from 3195 each to 3640 each at 80 PSI. I am curious as to what upgrades you went with.

      • I wrote a long reply then things disappeared…here I go again(more briefly). From the ground up: 1) tires are 295/65R20 LI 129/4080lbs 2) Wheels are Ford OEM made by Superior from a 2018 F350, rated at 3800lbs and have a -44mm offset which I compensate for with 2″ wheel spacers on the front and 1.5″ on the rear. 3) Sterling (rear)10.5 axle is builder rated at 9650lbs (when fully loaded is 8200lbs). Dana 60 front is rated at 6500lbs (when fully loaded is 5300lbs). 4) Brakes are stock as no upgrade is available but with heavy duty components. 5). Each spring pack has a Superspring ‘add-a-leaf’ which raises the back by 2.5″ and the front by 1.6″ (at full load). The truck sits about at a factory lightly loaded ride height with the rear about 1.3″ higher than the front. Overloads are still in place (wish I would have removed them) but not engaged. 6) dual shocks on all corners using the front (shorter) shock (Rough Country shocks). Front brackets are available inexpensively but rear needs to be self made. 7) stock sway bars front and rear. 8) still using the 3.73 gears but would prefer 4.10. 9) looking for a newer rear axle. After 2005 Sterling 10.5s were 3″ longer and after 2011, there was an option for electric lockers. I want both.

        • Thanks Steve. My axle ratings are lighter than yours at 5200 front and 6830 rear. Crazy that your axle ratings are so much higher than mine yet both trucks are labeled as 9,900 GVWR. I have read that the 9,900 number was used on a lot of trucks for registration reasons, in many states a GVWR over 10K requires a commercial registration and identical trucks could be ordered with different GVWR tags for this reason.

          • Do not believe/use the GAWR in your door if you are wanting to know what it could ACTUALLY/REALLY be. When Ford calculates GAWR for a truck, it is based on the ‘weakest link’ strategy of what parts were put in the vehicle. Their number is based on the lesser capacity of the tires, wheels, springs and the axle itself. Most often, the limitations will be tires or wheels then springs. My OEM wheels were 16″ with LI:123 tires. Yours probably were too. You almost certainly will have the Sterling 10.5 which IS rated to carry 9,650lbs just depending on the axle alone.There was a good Motortrend article on the Sterling from way back that I just looked for and didn’t find. Similarly, you also likely have the Dana 60 front (6500lbs) which gets derated less by the same light capacity wheels and tires (and probably mostly by the two leaf front spring).

          • I do have the Sterling 10.5, limited slip, and the Dana 60 up front. I have the “Code X” front springs which, according to where you get your info, can be rated up to 6,000 lbs.

  5. Hello Mike, I just purchased a D650 Six-Pac for my 2008 LWB F-150 (1876 Payload). The 2 hour trip home via highway and interstate has been the only road trial so far. The owner said it weighed about 1200 pounds but I’m not sure I believe that now. There was noticeable rear sag. It definitely felt a little light in the front end but handled ok even at 70 MPH on the interstate.

    I think a great follow up to this article would be a guide (chart) identifying and define each suspension/handling issue and the modification/product to address it.

  6. I totally disagree with replacement shocks being same piston size OEM. Bilstiens and rancho’s will not last 20,000 miles. Get bigger bore 2.5 shocks. King(my choice) or Fox make shocks that’ll control and last many times longer.
    Don’t waste your money on rubber enhancements either. Helper/overload springs are better over the long haul.
    Air Bags will add to top heavy sway and are problematic. I do not like them and removed them from two rigs.
    Added metal springs, heavy shocks and heavy sway bars all the way around.

  7. I put Stable Loads on 2016 Ram 3500 Crew Cab 4WD with Lance 1172. They don’t help with sag much, if at all. Otherwise I think they improved things, but I’m far from blown away. Guess I’ll try the Timbrens or helper springs next. Thanks for the article, Clay.

  8. Great article Mike. One more option for folks to consider beside the Timbrens are Sumo Springs. In the interest of full disclosure, I considered both and ended up with the Sumo’s. Both products do the same thing in the same way, just a bit different materials in the jounce stops. I suspect both work equally well. I have been pleased with the Sumos but freely admit I have nothing to compare them to.

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