Guide to RV Suspension Systems

A brief guide on RV suspension systems for beginners

RVing on the highway
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Most RVers would agree that having a comfortable ride is pretty important to them. Even more so if you tend to get off road or off the beaten path. Whether or not you have a bumpy ride or smooth sailing is largely dependent on what type of suspension you have. For rookie RVers, the suspension may be an afterthought and you might find your ride is not up to whatever task you intended it to be. This is why it is important to know about different types of RV suspension. 

A suspension system is a system of tires, air pressure, springs or another type of shock absorbers that connect a vehicle to the wheels and allows cooperation and movement between the two. There are many different types of suspension in RVs so let’s review the most popular. 

Coil Springs

This is one of the most basic types of suspension systems and is found in many types of vehicle including RVs. The system simply uses heavy duty metal coiled springs to help cushion the impact of the road. 

  • Pros: Cheap, widely available and versatile. 
  • Cons: Not the smoothest of the suspension types, you will feel a lot of movement on the road if you are using a spring suspension system. Not a good idea to take this type of suspension off-roading if it is not made for it. 

Leaf Springs

Another of the most popular types of suspension in all vehicle including RVs. Leaf springs are single or a series of slim arc-shaped pieces of metal that bend along with the road to make for a smoother ride. There are several subtypes of leaf springs such as elliptic, semi-elliptic, transverse and more. 

  • Pros: Cheap, widely available, versatile and reliable. 
  • Cons: Like coil springs, leaf springs are not the smoothest types of suspension. There are several forms of leaf springs and each will have its own characteristics such as leaf springs meant for highway use or leaf springs meant to handle off-road travels. If you are hitting a rough road with basic leaf springs, you may be in for a bumpy ride. 

Torsion Bars 

Torsion bars are fairly popular in the RV world and may be used in an independent system or in combination with other types of suspension systems. A torsion bar is round bars usually made of steel that connect a vehicle’s frame to a control arm. The torsion bar twists and bends with the road to provide a smoother ride. 

  • Pros: Good for RVs with a low center of gravity. Helpful in preventing rollover should you find yourself in a dangerous situation. Can be upgraded or modified to meet your RV’s needs. 
  • Cons: Can have a short lifespan and will often break down before other parts of your vehicle. Expensive to replace and to modify and customize. Torsion bars can help provide a relative amount of comfort but are not the “cushiest” or suspension types. 

Air Bags/Springs 

Use a system of air and bags or springs to help cushion any impact while on the road. Systems often use four or eight bags in combination with other suspension types to provide the best ride possible. You usually only see air springs or bags in larger vehicles like buses of RVs. 

  • Pros: Dynamic, the bags will deflate and inflate depending on that type of pressure the suspension system is handling. Air suspensions are available aftermarket as well so you can make a quick upgrade to your current suspension system. Often the smoothest of all suspension types. 
  • Cons: One of the most expensive types of RV suspensions. May break down from time to time and need to be replaced. 

These are some great basics for understanding RV suspension types. The type of suspension you need will largely depend on what type of RVer you are. Talk to the dealer while shopping for an RV or upgrading your RV to get an idea of what will suit you. In the end, choosing the right type of RV suspension will make for the most comfortable ride possible.