We drove 500 miles to Grants Pass, OR to Visit Henderson’s Lineup, which has a stellar reputation for improving the handling of motorhomes. They specialize in motorhome suspension, and involve the customer during the entire process.
Motorhome Suspension Issues
Motorhomes, especially those on a Ford F53 chassis, are notorious for suspension issues. Here’s a few things that can happen with a Ford F53 chassis:
- Road wander – When it is hard to keep the motorhome tracking straight. Can be caused by bad alignment, too much play in the steering wheel, or by disproportionate weight on the rear vs. front axle. Fixing the alignment and steering, and/or shifting weight to the front can help.
- Rut tracking – When the motorhome wants to follow a rut or or break in pavement, and you have to fight to keep it following the road. Can also be caused by disproportionate weight on rear axle, the tire used, and excess tire pressure.
- Tail wagging the dog – When windy conditions or from a passing truck push against the rear overhang, causing an opposite movement in the frontend of the motorhome. Track Bars can help.
- Sway – When the motorhome feels like it is rolling on the high seas during high wind or when turning out of a driveway. Anti-sway bars and/or Sumo Springs can help. Some try the Cheap Handling Fix before these more expensive options. Search CHF on any RV board, such as winnieowners.com or irv2.com, and you will find lots of information.
- Porpoising – When going over a large bump the motorhome bounces up and down several times. This can be helped by better shock absorbers.
In our case, we had a lot of sway when exiting driveways, and we also experienced porpoising, especially when driving on overpasses when the surface of the road and the overpass were out of alignment.
We had installed Sumo Springs a year earlier and it corrected most of the sway issues, but we still experienced porpoising on really bad roads. After hearing from many others online about Henderson’s, we decided to visit there and see what they could do to improve our ride.
Road Performance Assessment
At Henderson’s Lineup, it all starts with the Road Performance Assessment (RPA).
First, they drive your motorhome over a pit so you can get underneath with the RPA Tech for a good look. They inspect and evaluate your suspension in great detail. Having an expert explain how the suspension works as he inspects your motorhome was a great experience. Before the road assessment, they weigh your motorhome at each wheel.
Next, your RPA technician drives with you over a route designed to to give them a good understanding of your handling issues. You drive the route together as you discuss the issues and potential improvements. At the end of the drive, the PRA Tech gives you a written assessment as well as a list of improvements they can make to your motorhome.
They can usually get your equipment installed by the next day. In our case it took a bit longer, but I’ll get into that later.
After the install, you take another drive with the RPA to evaluate the changes and make any adjustments. During this part of the test drive, you also get behind the wheel so you can judge for yourself.
Changes We Made
Here’s what we changed:
- We added a track bar and an extra sway bar to the rear axle. Our F53 came from the factory with a track bar and sway bar on the front axle, but only a sway bar on the rear axle. While we didn’t have much a problem with tail wagging or sway, this made it even better and improved towing in bad conditions.
- We added Koni FSD shocks all around. In fact, we added 2 to each wheel for a total of eight! This eliminated the porpoising for good.
- We reduced the pressure in each our 6 tires. Based on the weight of each corner of the motorhome, and manufacturer specs for tire pressure, Henderson’s recommended new tire pressures. I added an extra an extra 5 pounds per square inch to their recommendations for added safety, but I could definitely feel the change.
- Finally, we added the Safe-T-Plus steering stabilizer. It’s something I’ve wanted to add for safety more than for handling. It brings the steering back to center, which can improve driving fatigue and also improve control if you happen to have a blow out.
Our Experience at Henderson’s Lineup
Henderson’s Lineup invited us to park our motorhome in front of their garage on Sunday night, since our appointment was for 9am on Monday morning. They even had several 30A electrical plugs so we could use one off ur air conditioners and other appliances in the motorhome. They are close to downtown Grants Pass, so we enjoyed staying there on Sunday.
Work was off to a good start, but things slowed down a bit as temperatures rose unseasonably to almost 100 degrees. Towards the end of the day we were told it would take another day. No problem, as they have a good dog-friendly waiting room, including coffee and popcorn, so we could get out of the heat. It was also fun talking to the other customers. One elderly couple was making improvements to their 20 plus year old rig so they could extend their driving years in comfort. Others were just there to improve handling in their almost new rig. The mix was about half gas rigs and half diesel pushers.
The next day got off to a slow start as they had a few employees call in sick due to the heat. At least one was up all night with nausea. Worked slowed down further as a result. Instead of double teaming our motorhome as they had planned, they had only one tech assigned to it. They also ran into some technical issues with our mounting brackets that took and extra day and additional dollars.
Unfortunately, they did not tell us until closing time that it would take an extra day to complete. This created a problem as we had reservations for the jet boats in the morning and we couldn’t leave our dog in the motorhome while they were working on it. A really nice couple we met in the waiting room offered to watch Lucy for us the next morning, but we didn’t want to impose on them. Fortunately, HellGate Jet Boat Excursions were able to change our reservations to the next morning, so all was well.
Everyone at Henderson’s was really good to work with, consistent with their great reputation. The employees we talked to had great morale and work ethic. I think if the weather cooperated, our schedule would have been met, too. Communication during the day could have been improved, but overall, we are very satisfied with what they did.
While our Big Silver Box does not drive like a car yet, the changes definitely moved the needle! The handling is much improved even if the ride is still pretty rough. I’d love improvements for handling that also made the ride smoother.
[Update: about six months later I test drove a motorhome with a new suspension called Liquid Spring. The handling and ride were both greatly improved! However, the cost is also too high after all the work we finished at Henderson’s. I’ll keep it in mind for our next motorhome, though!]
[Update to update: 4 years later we have a new 2023 Newmar Bay Star with Liquid Springs. See our December 2022 post about it!]
The Rest of the RV Trip
After leaving Henderson’s, we stayed at the Grants Pass KOA for a few nights. We really enjoyed the rural feeling of the place and enjoyed our stay.
They have two goats that serve as their mascots, and it was entertaining to seem them “dressed” differently each day. 🙂
It’s also the first KOA we have stayed at with a swimming hole down by the creek. Jump Off Joe Creek meets the Rogue River a few miles downstream.
Our Henderson’s Lineup tech recommended Cartwright’s Valley Meat Co. for lunch, a great market/deli and paradise for meat lovers. 🙂
While in the area, we went on a Hellgate Jet Boat Exursion again,
On our trip home, we stayed at Willitts for a few days to visit the redwoods and the coast, but I’ll save that for ur next post.
Al & Deb