Helper Springs: A Guide to Improve Your Truck's Suspension
Not every truck that rolls off the assembly line has a suspension that can meet the demands of its owner. Sometimes it needs extra help. That’s what helper springs are for. Whether you’ve got a front suspension that squats beneath the weight of a snowplow or a sagging rear suspension laboring under the additional stress of a slide-in camper, helper springs can have a positive impact on the truck’s overall performance. This article will answer the following questions.
- What Are Helper Springs?
- What Do Helper Springs Do?
- How Do Helper Springs Work?
- How to Choose Helper Springs
- How to Install Helper Springs
- How to Adjust Helper Springs
What Are Helper Springs?
Helper springs are designed to assist your suspension springs. They do not replace them. There are several different types of spring helpers to choose from in today’s automotive aftermarket:
- Steel helpers
Hellwig helper springs are supposed to sit on top of the leaf springs at the rear of your truck, working together with the existing suspension to keep the vehicle level under load. Hellwig helper springs are adjustable, easy to install and come complete with all the necessary hardware.
Super Springs is another option. Although similar to Hellwig, they take a little less time to install, offer a little more spring capacity and provide better unloaded ride quality.
- Coil assist
Coil Design Helper Springs are designed to work together with a leaf spring setup. They mount to the U-bolts in the center of the leaf spring and attached to the frame above.
Coil Spring Spacers are made of rubber or aluminum. The concept is simple: 2 spacers inserted in between the coils of the spring limits the amount of compression of the coil spring.
- Airbag assist
Airbags were originally designed as an alternative suspension to leaf springs. Products like Air Lift and Ride Rite have been around for several decades. Designed to sit between the frame and the leaf spring, they act as suspension helper springs.
- Rubber helper springs
Timbren SES – Suspension Enhancement System – Aeon hollow rubber springs are made from natural rubber. They are designed to replace the bump stop on trucks, vans and SUVs.
Sumo Springs, although not made of rubber, are helper springs that are quite similar in design and function to Timbren’s SES system.
What Do Helper Springs Do?
How do you know if you need spring helpers? Here’s how:
- The tow vehicle is not level with the trailer
- You’re getting a lot of body roll and sway
- Your truck suspension is frequently bottoming out
- The headlights are pointing up into oncoming traffic
- You feel extra sway when changing lanes or turning corners.
- Your steering feels "loose"
That said, here’s what helper springs can do for your suspension:
Load leveling: If your suspension is sagging or squatting under a load, helper springs are designed to keep the truck level under load.
Stability: If your truck leans too far on corners causing you to slow down, helper springs reduce roll and sway.
Ride quality: If your truck porpoises while loaded on rough roads, helper springs can smooth out the ride by absorbing road shock.
Protection:Helper springs will protect your suspension avoiding any serious damage to the vehicle.
Safety:Helper springs will give you more control over your loaded vehicle, increasing safety and driver confidence.
What helper springs cannot do:
- Lift the vehicle: Helper springs are not designed to be used as a vehicle lift. In fact, they do not affect the unloaded ride height.
- Increase the GVWR: Even with helper springs, you should not exceed the GVWR set by the manufacturer.
How Do Helper Springs Work?
Hellwig: The Load Pro 25 with a 2,500 lbs. capacity rating and the heavy-duty Load Pro 35 with a 3,500 lbs. capacity have been around for decades. Most of the overload springs in this series use a progressive spring. Your truck must be loaded to activate the spring and put it into action. As your load increases, so does the work of the helper spring. Additionally, they will not impact your ride quality when unloaded. Made to install on full-size pick-up trucks and vans, these kits simply bolt onto your existing leaf spring pack. Installation can typically be completed in about an hour.
Super Springs are leaf spring helpers with a patented roller system. They automatically activate when a load is added to your truck’s suspension. The roller system ensures that your ride is not impacted when you have no load. They are made in the U.S.A. from high-grade, shot-peened steel.
Coil Design Helper Springs are actual coil springs that start to work as soon as a load is added to the vehicle.
Coil Spring Spacers prevent the coil from completely bottoming out.
Airbags: Even though compressed air keeps the vehicle from squatting under load, there are a lot of factors that come into play. Things like compressors, air tanks, hoses and valves and electric switches that automatically adjust the air pressure.
Sumo Springs are made from micro-cellular polyurethane. They come in different heights which allows the installer to fasten the springs to both the frame above and the leaf spring below.
Timbren SES: Aeon® hollow rubber springs are the heart of Timbren SES products. There are certain characteristics of natural rubber that allow Aeon® springs to absorb road shock and level the load.
How to Choose Helper Springs
When trying to make an informed choice as to which helper springs are best for you, there are a number of factors that you should consider.
Design: Is the product simple or complex? Is it easy to install? Does it require a lot of maintenance?
Cost: Some products cost more than others. Which one will give you the biggest bang for your buck?
Ride quality: What is the ride like with and without a load? Does the product enhance the ride or compromise ride quality? Some helper springs don’t absorb road shock.
Stability: Just because the product levels the load doesn’t mean that the vehicle will remain stable. Some products don’t really address the problem of body roll and sway.
Longevity: How long has the product been on the market? Does the product have a good warranty? Does the company offer a customer satisfaction guarantee? Is a good warranty important to you?
Not every product – however popular it might be – is designed to meet your needs. Hopefully, this comparison has helped you decide which helper spring is right for you.
How to Install Helper Springs
Each helper spring product has its own unique design qualities. Knowing ahead of time what’s involved is important if you plan to install it yourself.
Leaf spring helpers: Hellwig Leaf Spring Helpers and SuperSpring are similar in design and function. Hellwig helpers and Super Springs mount to the top of the leaf spring stack. Shackles hold the ends of the helpers in place. Installation is quick and easy.
Coil design helper springs bolt onto the leaf springs and engage with the frame under load. Installation is quick and easy.
Coil spring spacers can be inserted into the coil spring without removing it. Installation is quick and easy.
Airbag helper springs:Airbag suspensions are more involved, particularly if it involves onboard air.
Sumo Springs bolt to the axle and the frame. You will have to drill into the frame to complete the installation.
Timbren SES: The Suspension Enhancement System simply replaces the bump stops. If you can remove a bump stop, you can install a Timbren SES product. Many bolt right to the frame using the same holes. Some are a ‘press fit’ which means the Aeon® springs are pressed into the same cup that held the bump stop.
How to Adjust Helper Springs
We’ve talked about various types of helper springs. Some are adjustable, some are not. Or I should say, some are self-adjusting. Most of the products we considered can be adjusted during installation. But only a few of them need constant maintenance. Here is a list of the non-adjustable helper springs followed by the ones that are.
Leaf spring helpers like Hellwig and SuperSpring are what you would call self-adjusting.
Anything to do with coil springs is pretty linear i.e., not self-adjusting.
Sumo Springs and Timbren SES are self-adjusting springs. Rubber springs have a progressive spring rate which means the springs automatically adjust to the load.
The only products that are adjustable are air bag helper springs. If you are willing to spend the money, air ride systems can adjust air pressure to meet added weight and irregular road conditions. Adjusting the air pressure can also be done manually with the flip of a switch.
Hopefully, you are now armed with some useful knowledge about aftermarket helper springs that you can use when deciding how best to improve your truck’s suspension.