Handling Mods

Caution, there’s some sarcasm in this writeup, and also some opinions that may hurt some of y’alls feelings. Nothing personal.

Handling mods? That’s easy…. none. That said, the subject comes up a lot and there are a lot of people selling them hard, and a lot of people buying them. So I’ll give my $0.03

The complaints are that the coach rolls too much, that passing trucks and gusty crosswinds require immediate and large steering inputs and then of course the ultimate disaster: The steer (front) tire blowout with immediate total loss of control and a large pile of twisted, burning metal on the side of the road.

Enter the commercial saviors offering immediate, easy bolt on solutions. There’s shocks: Koni’s, Bilsteins to replace the OEM Sachs. There’s dampeners on the steering (SafeTy Plus, Truesteer, Roadmaster, others) some with (re)centering for those elusive steady crosswinds. There’s flow restrictors for in the air lines going to the suspension air bags. There’s Sway bars, thick and thin…. front and back.

There’s endless arguments whether all this crap works. Those that spend the money and get them swear by them. Of course, I would too. I mean, if it’s that expensive it HAS to work right? Do they CHANGE handling? Of course. Everything you do affects it. Does it IMPROVE handling? Enough?

And then there’s the other argument whether these mods harshen/stiffen the ride. Again, most that buy them claim they don’t. (Once in a while there’s a voice that second guesses their purchases, but they quickly get silenced.)

And almost everyone agrees that these motorhomes should not leave the factory like this. Some even claim they are unsafe. Droves of people talk each other into buying these things. Heck, I saw 20 people have them installed in a campground in ONE DAY. Talk about mass hysteria.

But, if everyone thinks this is a problem I have to consider that I am wrong, so I got close to joining the herd. But then I really paid attention while I was out for a drive in it and decided: No. It’s a BUS. On air bags. It wallows and dives. It’s a BUS. It’s a nice smooth ride with gentle rocking motions. You have to anticipate these and drive accordingly to “catch” them and gently process them. Sometimes that means you have to go nice an REALLY slow. (truck stops with “artistic pothole” surfacing). And yes, when the cross wind pipes up you have to work it. In MY opinion Freightliner knows what they’re doing…..They build a LOT of commercial vehicles. (as in hundreds of thousands).

At the risk of alienating some people I think that part of the problem is that a lot of people go from a Chevy Impala to driving one of these. I drove my first truck in 1978. It had a wooden bench and no heat. (Half of that is true.) It also had no power steering. (True). It took everything I had to keep it on the road. (True). But over the years the handling (and comfort) of large vehicles has gotten 1000 times better. And I don’t even think about all that when I’m driving. My arms just do it. Once in a while when the wind get’s REALLY bad I notice that I’m having a workout. I may say: “Quite sporting today!” Still pales in comparison to landing a 767 in heavy winds, trust me.

So to put it bluntly, I think there’s a certain element of “Just drive the thing already.”  It’s an experience thing. They can not make these things drive so that the inexperienced can drive it like a Honda Civic without the ride suffering. So just like in the discussions about how to back these things up my suggestion is: Practice. Get in the groove. It rolls just fine and, despite the doomsday preachings of Mr Bilstein and Mr Truesteer (you think there’s an ulterior motive there?), there is no need to spend a lot of money on handling. Get experience, drive.

Now, I will say this. IFS (Independent Front Suspension, as opposed to a hard axle) is another technological leap forward and worth the money. If it is REALLY important that you can drive it as easily as a Honda Civic, step up to the level of IFS. Even if handling is not your priority, the shock absorption of IFS is superior to a fixed axle.  Good news is that like so many other luxury appointments IFS is trickling it’s way down to the lower tiers and increasingly available on the more economically priced buses.

My opinion….. is worth what you paid for it. Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 6.13.37 PM.png