In January of this year, I decided to buy a 2011 Fleetwood Storm 32BH. The floor plan fit my needs and the coach was very affordable so I took the plunge. I have driven lots of cars, trucks, vans and other motorized vehicles in my life so I felt that my expectations were reasonable. Unfortunately, I wasn't satisfied with the ride quality of this coach so I set out to improve it. I wanted to share with all of you the steps I took to improve the ride quality and the results of those improvements.
Expectations: I used to work for a moving company when I was in college and drove lots of trucks. Therefore, my expectations were that the new MH would drive in a similar fashion. For example, I knew that this vehicle would take longer to accelerate, be harder to stop and would not handle corners as well as a smaller vehicle would. However, I still expected that it would track in a straight line on the highway and would handle rough roads in a reasonable fashion.
The Reality: On my very first camping trip out on the highway, I was scared to death. The MH would drift from side to side without any input or wind, it would be dramatically pushed off the side of the road whenever any large vehicle passed and the rough roads, bumps and railroad tracks were so violent, that I often thought the cabinets would break apart during the trip. There was no way this performance would be acceptable to me. Even if I could learn to drive this coach, I feared that if my wife or any of my friends needed to drive, it would be extremely dangerous.
My first step was to get the tires aligned and set my tire pressures to the proper PSI. I had read a lot about poor rides here on the forums and the first step everyone says to do is to align the wheels and set the proper inflation. Therefore, I found a tire store that specialized in truck tires and visited them. They inspected the wheels and determined that they were not properly aligned. The left wheel pointed right and the right wheel pointed left. That's the reason why the MH would drift from left to right on its own. Once they adjusted the alignment, I no longer had much of an issue keeping the coach driving straight outside of wind conditions or passing trucks.
My next step was to set the proper inflation. I knew from reading this forum that I would need to know the weight of my rig in order to set the pressures correctly. So on my next trip out, I stopped at a weigh station and kindly asked them to weigh my MH with the front and back tires weighed separately. I would have preferred to get each corner weighed, but I don't know of any location in South Florida that does this so I simply went with front and back weights. Armed with this information, I looked up my specific tires on the manufacturer's website and found the corresponding pressures for my given weight (assuming an equal distribution of weight between the left and right). Since I didn't have each corner weight, I decided to add 5 PSI to the stated pressures just to be safe. Thus, I ended up with 85 PSI up front and 80 PSI in the back. This helped the harsh ride quite a bit, but failed to match my expectations.
Next up, I decided to install a Steer Safe steering system. This system has springs that keep the front tires pointed straight. I figured that since I wanted to go straight most of the time and didn't like getting pushed around by other trucks passing me, this would work out great. Unfortunately, after installing the Steer Safe system, I noticed absolutely no positive effect. None, whatsoever. But since the Steer Safe is marketed to help with blowouts, and not tracking, I decide to leave them on.
Next, I decided to tackle the rough ride. Again, I did a lot of research on the web on this forum and others and I talked to my mechanic. We decided that an air ride system would really help. After a while, I settled on the Kelderman system. The kit for my F53 Chasis consists of new softer springs, replacement shock absorbers, replacement front track bar, and air bags for the front. The rear is air bags only. Since I wanted to do this once, I purchased the front and rear set.
I had the order delivered directly to my mechanic and he struggled with the installation of the front. It took him so much time to install it that he was only able to complete the front before my next trip. So now I only had the front system installed and not the rear. My immediate impression was that this was a huge improvement over the past. I drove around looking for every pothole I could find. Whenever I would hit them, the front would sail over them with ease and the rear would crash over them. Unfortunately, at speed, it was sometimes impossible to feel the improvements because the front and rear would hit so close to each other that I couldn't feel the difference, but it was obvious to me that the airbags made a huge improvement. I couldn't wait to get the rears done.
When I returned from my trip, I dropped off the coach at the mechanic's shop and asked him to install the rear air bags and also to add a rear track bar. I had read that the rear track bars make a lot of difference and seeing how I had spent thousands on the air bags, I figured that I might as well go all the way and see how good I could make this. So my mechanic installed the rear air bags and also a TigerTrak track bar.
So yesterday was my first trip out with the full set of airbags and the track bar. Holy cow, what a difference these improvements have made. The ride quality is superior to what I started with and I no longer fear someone else having to drive for me if needed. I can easily drive over bridges with rough transitions without worrying about the coach shaking itself apart. But the biggest difference is that I hardly feel other trucks passing by. On occasion, I can feel them slightly, but it is very easy to adjust and I don't get blown over the dividing lines like before.
Conclusions: The alignment, proper PSI, and rear track bars would be no-brainer improvements if I had to do it again. These made huge improvements in tracking. I would also recommend the air bags if they were within the budget. In my case, I chose the very expensive Kelderman system, but I understand that it might not make economic sense particularly compared to the price of a coach or trade-in.
Finally, I would skip the Steer Safe if it is installed with the expectations of a better ride.
I hope this post can be of help to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to mine.
My post was a bit ambiguous on this point. The softer springs that come with the Kelderman system are, in fact, replacements for the existing springs. Therefore, the front system has new soft leaf springs assisted by the air bags.
Good writeup. I have a 2009 fleetwood Fiesta 34 ft with a tough ride. (Too tough) Not much drifting problem but rough on the bumps. I have researched and asked a lot of questions and just received new Koni FSD shocks and air lift bags. Will be putting them on next week. Already reduced the tires to 85 psi front and rear. I will also take the rig to a truck tire shop and have the front tires balanced for high speeds. Hard to drive over 63 mpg. Hope this works. Thanks for your input. Grampy