By Bruce W. Smith
Drop a ton in the bed of any pickup and the rear is going to sag like the jowls of a bulldog while the ride turns into that of a boat succumbing to the roll of the sea.
The amount of droop and body roll, of course, will depend on the pickup and rear suspension design. Heavy-duty pickups fare better under load than half-tons. But all feel the effect to one extent or another.
The best cure for tail sag and body roll under heavy bed load conditions is upgrading the stock suspension with air-actuated helper-springs.
One version we’ve found to provide excellent weight support under all types of loads, yet not interfere with the factory ride when the truck is running empty, are the Ride-Rite air helper springs from Firestone (www.ride-rite.com; 800.888.0650.)
The basic kit, which retails for around $400 and sells for less than $300 on the street, is relatively inexpensive when compared to other suspension upgrades and easy to install.
Truck Supply & Outfitters (http://www.trucksupplyandoutfitters.com/; 205.553.4203), located near our Tuscaloosa, Alabama offices, put a Firestone Ride-Rite kit on our Big Boss 2010 Ram 2500 4×4. The suspension upgrade took less than two hours.
Now all we have to do is add a few pounds of air to the Firestones to keep the rear of our big Ram level as the load in the bed – or the tongue weight from a pull-behind trailer – tries to put the drop on us.
And when there’s no load in the bed, we can air-down the Ride-Rite
air-bags so they don’t affect the factory ride. Simple. Efficient.
A pair of the double-convoluted 6401 Firestone air-helper springs, like those found in this kit, can support up to 5,000 pounds. But that doesn’t mean they increase your pickup’s ability to safely haul that much more weight.
Remember, helper-springs of any brand or style, only change the attitude of the truck, taking away the tail-down attitude and reducing the body lean in turns. They don’t increase a vehicle’s factory load carrying or towing capacity.
If you’re like us, you’ll want your pickup to ride right, loaded or empty. This is a good way to achieve that goal. – Pro
(Editor’s Note: We will be upgrading this basic Firestone air-spring helper kit with their full Digital Air-Command control system with air-adjustable front shocks, an on-board air compressor, and digital-readout control module. Check back for full details.)