10 Things to Look for in a Helper Spring – Part 1

Remember the days when a truck was a truck?

It worked like a truck. It rode like a truck. Were yesterday’s vehicles – dare I say – better made? You could throw a load of firewood on the back of a pickup knowing that the vehicle would stay level and remain stable.

Not so today.

Even though they’re advertised as “tough” and “durable,” today’s late model pickups are not capable of handling yesterday’s loads.

Why is that? Well, it’s mostly because of the suspension…

Pickup trucks are gaining more popularity every day. They’re more stylish and sexy – more desirable.  As interest increases in the marketplace, the demand for better ride quality also increases. Owners want them to ride like a Cadillac.

And there’s the rub.

Increased ride quality diminishes spring capacity. Longer leaf and coil springs are used to maintain a smooth car-like ride. Even the coil-over-strut suspension – exactly what’s used on a car – is now being installed on the front end of several pickup trucks. And the result is a weaker suspension.

2 common spring helpers and 1 not-so-common

The most popular spring helpers on the market for the rear suspension of any light duty vehicle are the metal Add-a-leaf system and Firestone air ride. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The alternative to these 2 popular systems is Timbren SES.

Add-a-leaf is exactly that – an additional leaf spring installed on the existing suspension. It’s no secret that metal add-a-leaf is effective as far as strengthening the existing suspension, adding an additional 500 – 800 lbs. of weight capacity. 

Air ride systems makes use of a rubber bag (bladder). You fill it with air in order to level the load, and dump the air when there’s no load. The ability to adjust to different load requirements is a great feature. An air ride system can increase the vehicle’s spring rate by up to 5,000 lbs.

Timbren SES uses Aeon® hollow rubber springs. They can add up to 12,000 lbs. of additional weight capacity. They keep the truck level and reduce roll and sway.

We’re going to spend the next few weeks comparing these products and suggesting what sorts of things you should look for in a helper spring.

Next week:  What to look for in a helper spring – Part 2