IF you are an overlander with lots of extra gear, you might experience additional weight load to your leaf springs. This may cause undesirable driving characteristics and handling issues. Thankfully, Roadmaster Active Suspension will solve that.
Ever notice that stock vehicles that are used for overlanding with a lot of gear will have more squat than stock? This issue is common anytime a high-load is added to the rear of your leaf sprung vehicle from heavy payloads to towing loaded, heavy trailers. While the custom solution is either bolting on a set of heavier springs (that changes the unloaded ride to drastically stiff), going to an air ride suspension (which is expensive due to requiring a conversion to a linked suspension and frame modifications), or buying a bigger vehicle (have you seen the price of a new F150, Silverado, or Ram 1500); a cheaper and friendlier ride-quality solution is the Roadmaster Active Suspension.
Originally designed in South Africa, Clive Schewitz modified and introduced the design to the US in the late 90’s. Since than, the idea of the Roadmaster Active Suspension (RAS) has remained the same: improve ride quality while adding a heavy payload support solution for the suspension. We spoke to Nolan Mast, Director of Marketing and E-Commerce at RAS on why you should consider using their system on your ride. Especially if you don’t want to use heavier leaf springs or want to go through the fabrication and installation of a custom air bag suspension.
Squat and Bounce
“The original design concept – which still carries over to today – was a variable rate tension coil spring to engage and work in synergy with the existing reactive leaf springs in proportion to the weight or force applied,” Mast said as we began our conversation. “Once installed, drivers felt reduced excessive bounce, improved stability and all-around better handling.” It also helps reduce the squatted stance that highly-loaded trucks display but, “there is still a misconception that being overloaded and experiencing squat only means being at or over the vehicle’s factory load ratings,” he added.
It’s still possible to experience the ride-quality issues, like bounce and squat, while still well under the GVWR or tow rating. “Just because the vehicle is rated for a certain weight,” says Mast, “doesn’t mean you won’t start to see or feel some of those ‘overloaded’ side effects.” That also means you probably can’t justify getting a more expensive and bigger vehicle as your loads aren’t truly high enough. RAS fills in the weight ratings gap of small and medium sized vehicles while not ruining the comfortable, unloaded ride you like.
Roadmaster Active Suspension Limitations
There is still a limit, though, and while it will help with load handling, RAS isn’t a magical solution to running well over the GVWR or tow rating. “We really try to set expectations of our customers properly and are careful of who we target,” said Mast, “we’re not for the dually running a 40-foot car hauler or the person running so far over GVWR that they might actually need an air bag suspension that uses 110-PSI bag pressure. The owner that is at or within factory ratings that still experiences squat, bounce and instability but does not want the hassle or harsh ride won’t find a better option than Roadmaster Active Suspension.”
There is also suspension travel to take into consideration. If you do any rock crawling or need the maximum articulation the suspension can provide, then an RAS system might not work for you as it does ride on top of the leaf spring and the rear eyelet of the leaf pack. Even with that limitation, typical trail driving and most off-road situations are still doable with an RAS system installed. As Mast explains, “For reasons going back to its original purpose and design concept of improving ride quality over rough roads, light off-roading and overlanding are a natural fit. Couple an RAS system with a beefed-up spring pack and our product is a great solution for the overlanding and light off-roading enthusiast.”
Sprung Under or Over?
Again, RAS is designed for leaf spring suspensions and one of the issues you may run into is the difference of a “sprung over” or “sprung under” setup. If you’re unfamiliar with those two terms, it is how the axle mounts to the leaf spring pack. A “sprung over” has the axle mounted under the leaf pack while the “sprung under” is the opposite. In many trucks, the same model could be one or the other depending on drive type, weight, or other considerations.
Fortunately, this and other fitment issues are taken into consideration by RAS. “While looking relatively simple,” says Mast, “there can be as any as forty individual components in a kit. That’s because our system is highly thought out and specified to fit many vehicles. We take things like spring length, leaf pack thickness, rear eye diameter and type, U-bolt thickness and other obstructions around the leaf springs into consideration in our design.” To fit some “sprung under” suspensions, additional hardware might be needed but those parts are available from RAS.
Roadmaster Active Suspension For Jeeps and Coil Overs?
Being only made for leaf springs also means that most, if not all, Jeeps are not included in their fitment. Unfortunately, that Jeep exclusion even includes leaf spring Jeeps like CJs, XJ Cherokees, MJ Comanches, and YJ Wranglers. That being said, there is room for expansion of the RAS system. “Our focus is 100-percent on leaf springs at the moment,” said Mast, “but as we continue to increase in popularity and presence, we can never rule out a coil spring product at some point.” We’re sure with a bit of inquiries, more models can be included like Ram coil-spring trucks and the ever-popular JT Gladiator.
If you have been searching for a solution for your squatting overlander or want to improve the ride of your light off-roader, you’ll want to give Roadmaster Active Suspension a consideration. It will be cheaper than going to a bigger vehicle or fabricating an air ride suspension system while drastically improving load carrying and ride quality while riding on or off the pavement.