What Shocks to Use?

bobinyelm

New member
I apologize and admit that I have not done a Search, but I would like the latest recommendations tailored to my parameters.

My '05 Long/Tall 2500 I bought brand new has only 60k miles and rides EXACTLY like it did when new, and 90% of the miles have been over billiard table smooth roads, so the shocks have had the Life of Riley, and never broke in (or broke down). They were super harsh from day-one, with even a minor road seam shaking the vehicle (unless I run the tires soft).

My former van was a Ford E-350 Powerstoke diesel that could carry and tow far more, yet rode beautifully even empty, but was well controlled when fully loaded (and I towed trailers up to 12,000#s at times as well).

I just drove Seattle-Phoenix on I-5 and I feel like I'be through a war even though I drive slowly (cruise at 60 mph indicated/57mpg actual for quieter operation plus I get 30mpg at that speed), and I just can't stand it anymore.

I am not unfamiliar with heavily sprung vehicles-my truck is a Ram 1 ton Cummins dually with Stable-Loads and Auxiliary Air Springs and Ranch 9000X shocks (I haul up to 1.5tons internally, or tow up to 14,000 pounds and need the extra load handling), and it rides MUCH more acceptably than the Sprinter.

So, my question is has anyone found shocks that control the motion of the van (damping) without transmitting every little bump or road imperfection into the van like it ran over an IED, making the tire skitter. The fronts are the worst, but the rears could be lots better as well.

Up until now I've been to cheap to buy better shocks thinking Sachs or whoever made them make good dampers and maybe it's just the springs on the Sprinter, which is why I am soliciting comments (like do they ALL ride like buck-boards that crack fillings on California Interstates that are like ribbons of broken concrete).

The frustrating part is that on smooth bumps (dips or humps), the current shocks damp the motion fine with zero wallowing, damping the motion quickly- it's just thing like broken pavement, or edges of road slabs, or really poor paving that totally upset the vehicle. One side road off California 99 looked like the asphalt was applied in gobs that never melted together and the resulting lumps had to be taken at 10mph to avoid abusing the vehicle.

I know I can't be the only one who has suffered this characteristic, and faced with the prospect of running close to recommended tire pressures over such lousy roads in the future (my previous locations were blessed with great roads I guess), I need to find a solution, or I will be suffering PTSD or finding broken spot welds in my vehicle soon, and I don't want to lay out big bucks only to find pick the wrong solution.

Thanks,
Bob
 

calbiker

Active member
I doubt the shocks are the problem. Before purchasing new shocks, do this simple test. Disconnect the shocks by removing the lower bolt. Take it for a test ride on your "favorite" road.
 

bobinyelm

New member
1st, the bad ride is empty (or as empty as it gets with full foam insulation, 3/16" wood side, passenger van roof panels, and a 200 pound removable cabinet with fridge/microwave/storage)- I am guessing maybe 400 pounds of presently carried load. I made the van convertible from full utility van to camper to maximize its utility to me.

FULLY loaded (I've had 1500+ pounds of window glass in the back) the ride and control are fine. Sorry-I should have specified that.

I know that more weight tends to "soften" damper (shock) response, so with an empty Sprinter I am asking dampers meant to damp heavy loads to act "soft" which is a tall order (which is why I used Rancho9000x ADJUSTABLE shocks on my dually Cummins so I could pick the best ride (damps bumps to eliminate pitching or wallowing without acting like the suspension is welded solid).

I am now running 55psi front and 60psi empty (they are Load E rated Michelin tires). To soften road hazards empty I have run as little as 35psi F and 45psi R. I know that hurts fuel economy (I lose up to 10% on softer tires, and the harshness is still there-just not as pronounced).

You say you doubt shocks are the problem. Are you saying that the Sprinter springs are so hard that no shocks can affect the torturous harsh ride and that all 2500s ride like this?Possible I suppose, but unnecessary based on my experiences w/ other vehicles.

And how would removing a lower bolt would make a difference (since multiple bolts attach the front strut to the spindle, and if I removed all of them, the vehicle would crash to the ground)? Not being smart-assed, just trying to figure out what you are asking.

Did you maybe mean the front sway bar link bolt instead (since a stiff sway bar can give a very harsh ride if only one wheel strikes the road irregularity)? There is only one of those bolts per side.

If the shocks COULD be removed (the rears could be, but not the fronts), I would expect the ties/wheels would strike their bump-stops on every sharp bump since there would be no damping at all to restrict their movement, and the ride would be like riding a pogo stick (bouncy-bouncy), since the spring undulations would be undamped.

I suspect the suspension COULD be capable of a controlled ride without the absolutely jarring shock every road irregularity imparts to the chassis. My "guess" is that the OEM shocks are of a modest design meant to work best at full gross weight for the van, rather than a variable valve design that adjusts the damping to the velocity of the first part of the stroke to provide a comfortable ride and adequate damping regardless of load. I am trying to find if anyone looked for, or found such a shock (by "shock" I am meaning front struts as much as rear shocks since the harshness is most noticeable when the front wheel hit the road irregularities.

Sachs replacements note "Twin tube design" front struts, while others don't. Konis are traditionally adjustable (though expensive), my experience with KYBs is that they tend to be harsh and stiff. Blisteins are kind o in-between based on automobile applications.

Also, catalogs show different fitment for 2500s with High Roof design vs. low roof. Is that because high roof vans may be a bit heavier due to the extra sheet metal that raises the roof?

And regarding high tire pressures, my E-350 had Load Range E tires (80psi rated) and even at 60psi the van rode beautifully when empty. The Cummins dually (also Load E tires) rides well at 55-60psi also empty), all of which makes me ask.

You describe the "brutal" ride at high tire pressures in the Sprinter, so I guess it is not unusual- do you still have the original OEM shocks on yours?

I'd be interested in knowing what people who have switched shocks have put on (Bilstein/Koni/etc have noted for ride quality change), since now I plan to use the van more (at age 15 with only 61k miles it has not been used often, so I was willing to put up with the ride, especially since I was n better roads).

Thanks
 
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calbiker

Active member
Yes, you're being smart-assed. I didn't tell you to remove the struts. I told you to remove the lower shock bolt.

The shocks and struts have such wimpy damping that it doesn't make much difference if they could be removed. And yes, I had removed my shocks to test damping. I have accelerometer test results with and without shocks. Not much difference.


You say you doubt shocks are the problem. Are you saying that the Sprinter springs are so hard that now shocks can affect the torturous harsh ride and that all 2500s ride like this?

And how would removing a lower bolt would make a difference (since multiple bolts attach the front strut to the spindle, and if I removed all of them, the vehicle would crash to the ground)? Not being smart-assed, just trying to figure out what you are asking.
 

billintomahawk

'02 2.7 T!N Freightliner
Running 42-44 psi all around with B rated 2.35 tires at 60 mph on the Interstate my van with my light camper build rides really nice.
Maybe like it's on Quaaludes.
Down right pleasant.
And very relaxing, rolling along.

I think the Feds banned Quaaludes 30 years ago because they were so much fun.
https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33428487

Better buy yourself some Konis so you feel better and before they are banned too.

bill in tomahawk
 
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bobinyelm

New member
Yes, you're being smart-assed. I didn't tell you to remove the struts. I told you to remove the lower shock bolt.

The shocks and struts have such wimpy damping that it doesn't make much difference if they could be removed. And yes, I had removed my shocks to test damping. I have accelerometer test results with and without shocks. Not much difference.
Dear cal

I am truly sorry you feel that way.

I honestly believed my front shocks ARE strut assemblies, and cannot simply be detached or disabled without removing the entire strut.

I do not see where one bolt can be removed to remove or disable the front shocks.

Are the shocks inside the struts so can be disassembled? The photos I brought up to show the front shocks look like a unit assembly.

In the photo the strut is RED.
https://www.sprinterstore.com/wp-co...uspension-Enhancement-sumo-springs-System.png

This is a link to the strut/shock alone:
https://www.carparts.com/details/Do...up&gclid=CNnJ8_vxruUCFVZpgQodDZwG-Q&gclsrc=ds


I am more than open to instruction (I did not seek help here to flame or incite), but please try to keep your attitude in check if you plan to attack me again, because I am only trying to learn.

I sincerely apologize if my question offended you (or anyone else) in ANY way, even if from my ignorance of the front suspension and my question which bolt to remove.

Bob
 
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bobinyelm

New member
Dear bill in tomahawk,

I would guess part at least of your better ride could be due to the more compliant car-rated tires, and not just the lower pressure? I know higher load rated tires have less compliant carcasses.

Even at 35-45 psi my Sprinter crashes over road imperfections (a concrete slab separation sounds and feels loud, but a piece of broken concrete and depression (as California Interstates and 99 seem to be composed of) cause the tie to skip over the surface, transmitting a sharp to the chassis that makes the entire chassis and everything inside shudder.

As I said, I'm not sure if it could be the tire construction or the shocks, or the spring rates themselves "at fault" as I understand the cargo and passenger vans have different springs and spring rates?

I would like to retain the ability of carrying a heavy load (my camper stuff is completely removable to allow full use of the floor for cargo), and putting car tires on would defeat that I suspect. I don't do it often now, but when I replace the tires (my original Michelins have half tread at 61,000mi, though I know I should replace them based on age alone, though the van lived indoors since new except when "working." so not much UV exposure, and the rubber still feels "soft" to the fingernail.

The problem feels to be in the FRONT much more than the rear (maybe because the driver sits almost over the front).

Bob
 

Zundfolge

1-2-4-5-3
Is it passenger or cargo? Cargo with the one stiff rear leaf ought to ride a bit harsher than the pass version with dual springs. I've been trying to get my van to ride acceptably for my whole ownership of it (mine's a cargo) and the best thing so far has been Agile Offroad Fox rear shocks (similar to vancompass aforementioned). I also installed rear sumo stops which I honestly didn't notice much of a difference from (though many say they help greatly, I'm thinking that's the case for motohomes or heavy builds). I just replaced my front leaf, and have Koni struts.

Even with all of that, and about 45 psi F and maybe 55 R, this thing rides like crap. I live on a dirt road with bumps and potholes and coming home is annoying. I've pretty much given up now. I think it rides as good as it will ever ride. If I can ever stomach ~ $600 for new dual leafs I might do it, but for now I'll just kinda suffer - in a privileged white person kind of way that is...
 

bobinyelm

New member
Is it passenger or cargo? Cargo with the one stiff rear leaf ought to ride a bit harsher than the pass version with dual springs. I've been trying to get my van to ride acceptably for my whole ownership of it (mine's a cargo) and the best thing so far has been Agile Offroad Fox rear shocks (similar to vancompass aforementioned). I also installed rear sumo stops which I honestly didn't notice much of a difference from (though many say they help greatly, I'm thinking that's the case for motohomes or heavy builds). I just replaced my front leaf, and have Koni struts.

Even with all of that, and about 45 psi F and maybe 55 R, this thing rides like crap. I live on a dirt road with bumps and potholes and coming home is annoying. I've pretty much given up now. I think it rides as good as it will ever ride. If I can ever stomach ~ $600 for new dual leafs I might do it, but for now I'll just kinda suffer - in a privileged white person kind of way that is...
It's a cargo van, so has the single leaf springs, so perhaps I am doomed o a really awful ride. On smooth asphalt roads, it's fine, of course, but it deteriorates to awful on almost everything else (I think I am singing to the choir when telling you that from your comment).

I as hoping the harshness was due to the dampers. The truly awful response "seems" to be from the front because maybe I am sitting right over them But the whole van shudders and crashes on front wheel contact, and frankly I don't notice what happens when the back tires roll over the imperfection (maybe I am too traumatized by the front to notice the rear so soon after).

I started reading reviews and saw for Bilsteins from Amazon
https://www.amazon.com/Bilstein-22-...show_all_btm?ie=UTF8&reviewerType=all_reviews

People made mention of the better ride and handling, but maybe their shocks were shot (whereas mine still feel like when the van was new).

$101 each seems reasonable, but I hesitate to try a pair in case they are no better, unless someone with cargo springs have tried them.

The rear Bilsteins are only $50 ea or so, but again, it's mostly the front that I notice so much.

My own Koni experience is with a British TVR that had TWO Konis on each corner and the car weighed 2000 pounds, so it was STILL. I also put a set on a Mercedes Benze 380SL but even on the softest setting they were quite stiff (but not abusive).

I've had Bilsteins on various BMWs over the decades, and they were pleasantly stiffish (but a very pleasant ride).

But if the front cargo spring is brutal (pounds to produce an inch of deflection) not sure if different shocks will help much, though a well-matched shock will damp the spring so it doesn't allow the tire to lose contact with the road (as mine does causing the tire to skip and shudder at moderate tire [pressure 3/4ths of rated pressure] ).

I've ridden in passenger T1N Sprinters, and they had a good ride, but had 6-8 people and their baggage on board every time to flex the springs a bit, so that leads nowhere productive. More weight improves my Sprinter ride as well, of course.

As for Timbrens, I would think they would help carry more load w/o bottoming so hard, but I wouldn't think they'd do much for empty ride unless weak shocks were allowing the axle to bounce up against the hard bump stop since there is inadequate damping.

Maybe more folks will chime in...

BTW, you said you replaced your front spring leaf. Why did you do it? Was it sagged, or were you just hoping it would improve the ride?- Thanks!

Bob
 

Midwestdrifter

Engineer In Residence
Its always hard when you have no weight in the back.

I would give vancompass an email, and ask what they suggest. Custom tuned fox 2.0 for the rear will likely help quite a bit. The front is harder, some brads of strut are better than others.

How much space is there between your front end bumpstop and the lower control arm? Can you fit a finger in there at least? Some folks report sumosprings bumpstop replacements for the front can help.
 

Aqua Puttana

Poly - Thread Finder
... I've pretty much given up now. I think it rides as good as it will ever ride. If I can ever stomach ~ $600 for new dual leafs I might do it, but for now I'll just kinda suffer - in a privileged white person kind of way that is...
My attitude is that my Sprinters are designed as commercial trucks, not sports cars. They also weren't necessarily designed to be a platform for RV conversion.

Not that you asked...
My opinion is that when a Sprinter truck is fairly heavily loaded (eg. - a full conversion) the dual leaf will provide less improvement. As opposed to some reports here, I really don't notice much difference between my cargo model and passenger when lightly loaded. Most times both are driven in a light load state. Both are 2500HC 140 WB with stock shocks.

:2cents: vic
 

bobinyelm

New member
My attitude is that my Sprinters are designed as commercial trucks, not sports cars. They also weren't necessarily designed to be a platform for RV conversion.

Not that you asked...
My opinion is that when a Sprinter truck is fairly heavily loaded (eg. - a full conversion) the dual leaf will provide less improvement. As opposed to some reports here, I really don't notice much difference between my cargo model and passenger when lightly loaded. Most times both are driven in a light load state. Both are 2500HC 140 WB with stock shocks.

:2cents: vic
Hi Vic and Midwest,

Believe me, I am not looking for a sports car. I bought my Sprinter brand new in 2004 (a 2005 model) to replace my 1-Ton Ford E-350 van that rode like a car, and worked like a truck (the lack of standing room was a drag, plus it did only 20mpg with the big 7.3 liter diesel), and my hope was that the Sprinter would be a reasonably comfortable vehicle even empty. 99% of the time it has maybe 400# inside (the 30# of paneling, and the 150# cabinet and me), so it hardly stresses the springs. On smooth roads, it's fine, but the trouble is that with roadways not being fixed or kept in decent repair these days of economic strife for governments with tax shortfalls, what was an acceptable ride is now brutal (my recent end-to-end California drive put me over the edge). I guess the state is going broke and can't afford to maintain their highways, even with $4.29 diesel, but I digress. I figure I have a better chance trying to improve the van rather than waiting for government to fix the roads.

I have no heartache with the back suspension really. It's the front suspension when it hits damaged or poorly surfaced pavement, which I hit a LOT of in the last few days, prompting my attempt to improve things. As for the rear, I am OK leaving it as-is, or maybe trying Bilsteins which I hear are a tad more pleasant back there, and only $120/pair. The front is SO bad, I frankly don't even notice the back, though!

I was not thinking of a major suspension redesign (like going to $600 dual front spring leaves), but rather just hoping someone had found a brand or model front damper that was less harsh and would be a worth while improvement. Front Bilsteins are about $240 w/ tax/pair, of course. The anti-sway bar is pretty stout, so maybe contributes to the harshness when only one front wheel hits something (when both hit it, the bar just swivels of course), but overall, on undulations on smooth pavement, the spring rate feels acceptable-it's just sudden transitions (like strips or damaged pavement) the reaction is IMO unacceptable so I thought maybe others had faced it and come up with at least a way to improve it over whatever MB put on the vehicle originally (Sachs I suspect, but have not looked hard).

The vehicles are old enough now that I'd hoped some folks may have gone through a few sets of shocks and found one or another that was an improvement, and a "favorite."

On the space between the lower control arm and the bump stop, I just went outside and looked, and I was amazed to see I have only 5/8"-3/4" so the bump stop obviously gets used a LOT. A 1/2" suspension lift would go a long way to giving the spring "breathing room" for the damper to get is act together before crudely being met by the bump stop. A half inch lift wouldn't affect the suspension geometry, either. Makes me wonder why MB gave the control arm/suspension so little room to "work." Also makes me wonder if it's possible to get a different transverse spring, or have the stock one re-arched to give slightly higher ride height? I have a 8000# 2-post lift in my shop at home (I am 1500mi from there now), so working on the suspension should not be a big deal if there is something that will improve things. I just never felt the incentive to do so, but now that the van has 61k miles on it, maybe it's "time.". My hydronic heater gave up the ghost after being used maybe 10 times about 3 years ago (I never even tried it until moving from Texas to WA 3 years ago because it was never cold enough), and I DO want to look into removing the heater and figuring out why it won't start now, so maybe when I get back, I will put the vehicle on the lift and have at it (though I can't lift it but a foot before the high top will strike the cross beam of the lift which I didn't purchase the 2ft extension and cables for so am limited in that regard, but at least I can get it off the ground.

There IS an orange sticker on the tire side of the strut so I imagine that's the brand label. I admit to not having removed a front wheel in at least 10 years (30,000 miles maybe) since I replaced the front rotors and pads (that were like new at 30k miles on them- only 0.0015" runout on the worse one and not enough wear lip at the outside to even catch a finger nail), but would chatter when going down long steep hells towing a 3500# Casita travel trailer). I went to drilled and slotted rotors with super HD "fleet" compound brake pads, but there was absolutely no change in hot chatter. I never figured that out, either, so just lived with it until I sold the trailer after 3000mi of towing it (frankly I feared the transmission was not up to towing, anyway, despite the 5000# US towing limit (7500# overseas on the same model I understand).

Bob
 
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billintomahawk

'02 2.7 T!N Freightliner
Sweet Jesus,
Drop the pressures to 30 psi all around and drive, add it back 5 psi at a time using you carcass as a monitor.

When it gets rough remove 5 psi. Or maybe 3.

When you get loaded add air.

You get to make these kinda calls in this life. I don't care what the side of the frikkin tire says.
We learned a long time ago racing motorcycles on and off road that you can screw up the best suspension in the world with the wrong tires and too much air.
Seen it over and over again.

I'm probably all wrong but try it anyway just to make an old man happy.
Stiff little truck tires suck.

bill
 
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bobinyelm

New member
Sweet Jesus,
Drop the pressures to 30 psi all around and drive, add it back 5 psi at a time using you carcass as a monitor.

When it gets rough remove 5 psi. Or maybe 3.

When you get loaded add air.

You get to make these kinda calls in this life. I don't care what the side of the frikkin tire says.
We learned a long time ago racing motorcycles on and off road that you can screw up the best suspension in the world with the wrong tires and too much air.
Seen it over and over again.

I'm probably all wrong but try it anyway just to make an old man happy.
Stiff little truck tires suck.

bill
I have been running less around town with decent results, but at highway speeds tires tend to build heat when "underinflated" (the Explorers tires had that problem), so I thought cutting the max load PSI by 1/3rd was a reasonable amout, but frankly I have hated the ride comfort of the Sprinter from Day ONE of ownership, and thought this may be the time to finally spring for shocks (no pun intended).

I don't think MB put the wrong tires on the Sprinter (figuring it was made to be loaded), but even at 6800 pounds (the approximate empty weight with 400# inside plus full fuel) maybe I don't need 50psi in the tires. I just went to a Goodyear tire inflation chart and it said that 40psi for a 235/75-16 truck tire should be adequate (that would give each tire a 250 pound margin above an unsafe pressure for each tire, which unless I lose 4psi per tire should be safe.

Maybe 30psi as you suggest is safe, but given the age of the tires, and the weight/pressure charts, I'd rather try 40 and suffer a worse ride I suppose.

Maybe nothing can make the Sprinter ride decently, so maybe it's time to just live with it, or take my 1 ton Cummins dually since it rides fine empty with 60psi. I get 25mpg plus on the highway (6spd manual) but I took the Spinter cuz it has a bed and I saved on motels.
 

bobinyelm

New member
In THEORY Koni FSD front struts are designed to do exactly what the OP is looking for. I have no data, just marketing materials. Don't think lots of Sprinters are running the FSD, also known as Special Active https://www.sprinterstore.com/produ...des-sprinter-conversion-camper-van-2500-3500/

No affiliation to the store in the link, just the first one that came up in google
I saw those, but without direct experience I would be hesitant to drop $500, hough I've heard good things about Bilsteins, though they are not the same technology.

I wrote Mark at sprinterupgrades.com yesterday and he as well suggested Konis, along with Sumo bumpstops (that are presently unavailable) and new rubber blocks for the stock spring as with 61k miles and 15 years on it mine are likely shot, and the spring possibly sagged. I don't know it it's advisable to have my existing spring re-arched to gain a modest 1/2" bit of ride height.

I think the 5/8" space between the bump stops and the control arm is too little, so he also suggested my spring may be sagged out with 61,000mi and 15 years, but the van "looks" the same, though I might not have perfect memory.

Here is (hopefully) a link to a photo of he gap on my Sprinter:
https://www.screencast.com/t/dshZ9NHyy or:
http://www.imgurupload.com/images/2019/10/24/Sprinter-Font-End.jpg

What is YOUR gap under the bump stop for reference, BTW?

Bob
 
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