A RoadActive Suspension: An Upgrade For Better Towing

© 2024 Power Automedia. All rights reserved.

When you are towing a trailer or hauling anything in the bed of your truck with some heft, how much squat of the rear of the truck do you typically see? Depending on the load, it can vary. As the truck supports the load, the rear suspension starts to compress, and the rear springs push against the load to support the weight. But sometimes, the springs can’t fully support the load on their own and need a little assistance — enter RoadActive Suspension (RAS). Front Leaf Spring

A RoadActive Suspension: An Upgrade For Better Towing

If your truck is equipped with leaf springs and you tow and/or haul things, you have surely investigated what RAS has to offer. Who has not? Unlike a traditional “helper spring” or airbags, the RAS support devices are designed to aid the rear leaf springs when towing or hauling without negatively affecting your truck’s ride quality when unloaded. The RoadActive suspension aid will reduce rear bounce and squat when loaded, all while improving the stability, handling, and performance of your truck at all times.

The RAS upgrade comes completely assembled and ready to bolt on. Our install took roughly 30 minutes to complete, and we were stopping to take pictures.

When you are towing or hauling a heavy load, it is inevitable that you will surely encounter several problems that can make the experience difficult. Not only are most of the roads in this country filled with potholes, but when towing or hauling, you will inevitably endure sway, body roll, or even the bottoming out of your suspension when you find the aforementioned pothole.

When under load, the factory leaf springs can have a challenging time counteracting these problems, even though that is what they are supposed to do. The weight can — and usually does — overwork the leaf springs causing them to twist and/or flatten out. When that happens, they can no longer support, level, or stabilize your truck. The reason for this inability to support or stabilize is that your factory leaf springs are passive springs. This means they will not begin to apply force against sway or squat until those problems have already begun.

The RoadActive suspension upgrade is a simple, bolt-on device that converts your passive leaf-spring suspension into a mechanically active suspension. How it works is, the RAS kit instantly absorbs and dissipates the load forces against it, resulting in significantly improved vehicle stability, balance, traction, and control. What’s more, it does this whether supporting a loaded or empty truck.

It can also help with unloaded support because it adds critical strength to leaf springs while not compromising ride quality. In other words, not only does the RAS strengthen the rear leaf springs for towing or hauling maximum loads, which results in maximum safety, but they will also do so when the truck is empty. While a helper spring or an airbag always applies resistance to suspension movement, the RAS only steps in when needed.

RAS recommends the removal of the rear tires to make installation easier. I like to live on the wild side, so we kept them on the truck. We did raise it high enough so the rear tires were off of the ground, though.

The RAS suspension is a simple retrofit to almost every leaf spring-equipped pickup truck and van with up to a 1-1/2-ton capacity. Once installed, no adjustments or maintenance are ever required. Speaking from personal experience, installation can be completed in roughly 30 minutes. Talk about an easy and beneficial upgrade!

How the kit works is, the RAS kit has variable-rated coil tension springs that adjust to your heavy load. And while the RAS kit eliminates bottoming out like air springs, reduces sway and body roll like sway bars, and keeps your ride level like helper springs, it will also improve traction and braking control like traction bars.

We started by placing the spring-eye hook over the rear of the Super Duty’s leaf spring.

RAS can also make your overall driving and towing experience safer and more comfortable. This greatly lessens driver fatigue. When installed and a load is applied, the tension springs immediately activate to absorb and help support the weight. As weight is applied to the RAS coils this “added support” allows your leaf springs to maintain a bowed position, which helps their ability to carry a heavy load.

While many trucks use U-bolts that go under the axle, Eric’s truck is a 2011 F-250 4×4 with U-bolts that go over the leaf springs. Because of this application, we needed to utilize the RAS 3-inch extension (red arrow), The through bolt is removed and the extension goes under the springs. Without the extension, the RAS bracket cannot be positioned correctly to function as needed.

That said, when driving into a curve while towing or hauling a heavy load, the back end of your truck — or trailer — can start to shift as that weight wants to move outward from the force of the turn. If your factory leaf springs are flattened under a load, they will not be able to prevent that load from shifting.

When this happens, your trailer will want to sway and pull your vehicle. This can make driving challenging and dangerous. The RAS upgrade provides a much safer ride by reinforcing your factory leaf springs and stabilizing your loaded truck. RAS helps prevent virtually all sway from occurring and reduces the chance of body roll while cornering and turning. RAS also reduces the rocking motion that can occur when towing in windy conditions or when a semi passes by on the road.

The RAS coils’ variable rating means that the heavier your load, the more assistance they provide to your leaf springs. And unlike your truck’s factory leaf springs, RAS can stop sway and sag before they even start. When the truck is empty, the tension springs disengage, allowing your leaf springs to perform as intended, delivering an OE ride. Installing the RAS kit will not affect your leaf springs’ normal movement, nor will it cause any friction between any of the brackets.

The RAS kit is also customizable. While installing the kit, the tension springs can be adjusted to different amounts of support for improved road handling and support. While RAS gives you two adjustment discs to initially set the coils, you can turn the spring to add as much or as little support as you need. However, RAS recommends a minimum of 25 percent preload and a 40-percent maximum preload. To make adjustments, simply rotate the spring while keeping the internal threaded rod still. Each spring can also be adjusted independently of each other to compensate for off-center loads such as a wheel chair lift.

The axle-end of the RAS kit slides into place and the through-bolt that keeps the kit under the leaf spring is tightened into place.

For our test, we installed the RoadActive suspension kit on a 2011 Ford F-250 Super Duty that tows various trailers. The truck is known for its decent ride qualities — for a 3/4-ton truck — while empty and its ability to carry whatever load is thrown at it. However, when the truck is empty and experiences road variances like railroad tracks or rumble strips, Eric, the truck owner says that the truck does tend to bounce from side to side. It should also be noted that when the truck owner’s largest trailer — his toy hauler — is connected to the Super Duty, it does seriously lower the rear of the truck and a certain amount of sway is realized. This truck is a perfect candidate to use as a test mule.

When we first opened the box to begin the install, we found this custom-fit kit comes fully assembled. What we did not expect was how easy it is to install. The RAS kit simply bolts to your factory leaf spring with the included hardware, no drilling, welding, or cutting is required. In fact, we never removed a tire. We simply jacked up the truck as instructed and put the RAS in place. That said, trucks that come equipped with a factory helper spring must remove the helper spring before the RAS can be installed.

Adjusting the RAS kit only requires turning the coil spring to add or reduce tension. The RAS kit comes with two polycarbonate discs to attain the needed settings. The white disc we utilized gives you 25 percent additional load assist. A black disc gives an adjustment where 40 percent load assist is delivered.

The first step is to position the RoadActive suspension eye-hook bracket so that it wraps around the rear factory leaf spring eye. Then, the axle bracket secures under the leaf spring and around the factory U-bolts on the other side of the leaf spring pack. After you adjust the coil spring to your desired tension, you are finished with the upgrade. That is it. The installation is complete. Once the RAS kit is installed, you do not need to monitor or adjust them for various loads as you would with air springs. Set it and forget it.

Before and after images show the 3-inch improvement in towing height (support) the RAS kit delivered.

But does the RoadActive suspension work? With the installation completed, Eric connected to his largest trailer, the toy hauler, for a recent trip. I hoped the RAS kit helped and I waited to hear his thoughts on the results.

He commented that the truck did not exhibit nearly as much “squat” when hooked up to the trailer as it did before the installation. But when he said he could feel an improvement in how the trailer towed, I was happy to hear the RAS kit does what it is supposed to do. He also noted that driving the truck while it was empty is much smoother. He purposely drove across rough railroad crossings just to see if the bounce and sway were gone, and it was. If you ask me, the installation on Eric’s truck is a success, and the results are definitely worth the small investment of time and cash.

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A RoadActive Suspension: An Upgrade For Better Towing

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