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Old 08-16-2013, 12:35 PM   #1
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2wd Gravel Road Suspension upgrade

I've been reading about the suspension upgrades for 4x4 vans, and thinking SilVan needs some help too. I just can't see going with 4x4, since we mainly drive on paved and gravel roads. It would be nice for winter roads and skiing, but snow tires and chains do the job fine.

What we would like is less jouncing on washboards and potholes, and less wander on the highway.

Does anybody make a suspension upgrade for the 2wd that would help for these conditions? I've seen 2wd lifts, but don't know if that would increase the wandering on paved roads. I can add anti-roll bars, but don't know if that would increase the jouncing on rough roads.

Basically I want a rally suspension on the van! Or a Baja prerunner. Any ideas?
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Old 08-16-2013, 01:48 PM   #2
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Re: 2wd Gravel Road Suspension upgrade

We have been "lifting" Ford Vans for years with a simple coil spring change and realignment and then a good shock package. Depending on the amount of the lift, various methods are used to realign - from as little as an eccentric adjustment to bending the I-Beams to correct camber and modifying (or building custom) radius arms to correct caster. The Ford I-Beam suspension is the easiest and most often modified suspension in the desert.

Our goal is always improving suspension travel and handling and is not about "lifting". The truth is, the lower you can keep the center of gravity, the better it will handle. There are trade-offs, depending on desired tire size and travel numbers so these are customized to the customers desires.

Typical 2" to 3" front suspension modification with springs, shocks and alignment is under $1200.
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Old 08-16-2013, 01:54 PM   #3
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Re: 2wd Gravel Road Suspension upgrade

Quote:
Originally Posted by BajaSportsmobile
Typical 2" to 3" front suspension modification with springs, shocks and alignment is under $1200.
I am saving that quote. How about for an already converted 4x4?
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Old 08-16-2013, 02:12 PM   #4
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Re: 2wd Gravel Road Suspension upgrade

Quote:
Originally Posted by E350
Quote:
Originally Posted by BajaSportsmobile
Typical 2" to 3" front suspension modification with springs, shocks and alignment is under $1200.
I am saving that quote. How about for an already converted 4x4?
If you are asking about installing a Dana 50 Twin-Traction Beam system like the one on my SMB, it is about $5,800.00 to install on a stock van, so it could be more depending on how much removal of old 4X4 suspension brackets takes.

That includes a completely rebuilt and Powder Coated Dana 50 TTB with open differential, Warn Hubs, Modified Drive Shaft, Brakes, ABS, Fox Shox, Springs, Limit Straps... installed.

Things like lockers would be extra as would fixing things like worn steering parts, transfer cases...
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Old 08-16-2013, 02:18 PM   #5
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Re: 2wd Gravel Road Suspension upgrade

I put 4600# springs in my van exactly for that reason. It helped big time by adding almost 2" of compression travel, and combined with the stiffer rate keeps it off the bump stops for the most part. I added Sulastic shackles on the rear which really helps on washboards. And of course I swapped in Monotube shocks (KYB - E450 valving on the rear).
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Old 08-26-2013, 12:21 PM   #6
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Re: 2wd Gravel Road Suspension upgrade

Boy oh boy that's a tough question.

You've obtained some good advice; a shock upgrade and different springs might help a lot (not sure what your van currently has though). Each has an effect on the other: your springs might have the right amount of spring for your weight, but maybe your shocks don't dampen the up/down and hence you "jounce." But a really hard bang might be you hitting the limits of your travel, which could indicate springs that aren't up to the job.

And we don't know other stuff, much of which can affect the ride. Here's some others to consider:

How is the weight distributed? If you're rear-heavy the front can feel vague and wander. Like a tow vehicle with too much tongue weight.

What tires/wheels? E rated tires are gonna give a rougher ride than Cs, for example. There are tradeoffs, of course. And the height of the sidewall matters.

I would definitely add anti-sway bars if you don't have them. Definitely. I'm amazed you don't. They won't necessarily help on dirt/gravel (just how fast ARE you taking corners? ) but they help enormously on the road in cornering and in side winds. In fact offroad they can be a nuisance and contribute to the body swaying (sort of the opposite effect of what they do on smooth roads), but you don't seem to be doing stuff that would require disconnects. I went from none or weasely ones on my 2WD to beefier ones fore and aft and the difference in safety was huge.

Tire pressures. A lot of non 4x4ers think that airing down only helps in extreme stuff or in four wheel drive, but it can help on long gravel roads as wheel, as long as your speed is appropriate. Don't wanna get into the roaring debate we have over tire pressures here, but check our other threads about that.

Finally, realistic expectations. There's a reason why those guys in rallies and Baja racing keep the weight down (and BTW, although you can watch those suspensions eat up bumps like crazy, it's still enough jouncing to turn mere mortals to jelly. Dunno how guys like Iron Man Stewart did it for so long...although his moniker gives you an idea).

Start by trying what you can adjust now with what you've got, and that may give you a clearer idea of what's needed.
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Old 08-26-2013, 03:13 PM   #7
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Re: 2wd Gravel Road Suspension upgrade

Thanks for the replies so far! Keep'em coming. To explain more, I don't expect to make SilVan into a Subaru WRX. I'm just wondering if I could improve pavement handling and rough road ride at the same time. Or if I improve pavement handling will I be deteriorating rough road ride.

2009 E250 with OEM suspension and Firestone HT E-rated tires in stock size. The van scales 3850 rear / 3550 front for a total of 7400 fullly loaded. I was running 80/60 psi but recently am trying 75/60. I'm not too interested in airing up and down depending on road surface.

Front axle rating is 3700 and rear axle rating is 5250. Based on this, the rear springs are, if anything, too stiff or at least too progressive. I haven't checked where I am WRT to bump stops.

The OEM setup only has a front anti-roll bar and it's not very big. I have found aftermarket front and rear bars that are quite stout, but haven't seen a rear bar that is designed to work with the OEM front. What I don't know is if more anti-roll bars will make the ride Worse on washboards and potholes.

I'm not too worried about shocks - I'm sure I will upgrade at some point and it will improve for all roads. What I don't want to do is buy a set of Bilstiens, and then decide to lift it later which would require new shocks.

The idea of more wheel travel make senses to me. I had a 400 lb dirt bike - KTM 640A - and after having the springs and valving tuned, I could go over washboards and not even notice. Small water bars just made me grin. I don't think big hits or jumps would have worked but never tried that. The KTM had at least 11 inches of travel front and rear, and after tuning I used most of it on every ride. It also handled on the street better, with no brake dive and very collected over rough ground.
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Old 08-26-2013, 04:07 PM   #8
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Re: 2wd Gravel Road Suspension upgrade

For the weight of you van you are running too much air pressure.

Try F - 55 R - 60

See if the ride improves

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Old 08-26-2013, 04:23 PM   #9
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Re: 2wd Gravel Road Suspension upgrade

I think 50/55 psi would be ok even. Maybe lower. I run 55 all the way around on my van (granted, front tires are wider, and I have an extra set of tire our back).

I drove back from the dunes once at 15 psi front, 8 psi rear. It rode REAL nice that trip!!!
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Old 08-26-2013, 04:47 PM   #10
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Re: 2wd Gravel Road Suspension upgrade

You said:

If you are asking about installing a Dana 50 Twin-Traction Beam system like the one on my SMB, it is about $5,800.00 to install on a stock van, so it could be more depending on how much removal of old 4X4 suspension brackets takes.

That includes a completely rebuilt and Powder Coated Dana 50 TTB with open differential, Warn Hubs, Modified Drive Shaft, Brakes, ABS, Fox Shox, Springs, Limit Straps... installed.

Things like lockers would be extra as would fixing things like worn steering parts, transfer cases...


To clarify .. if I wanted to convert my 2WD 2006 E350 RB into a 4WD Dana 50 TTB setup it would cost about $5,800.00 ??? If yes then this is definitely something I want to consider. I already have a V10 Quigley and don't need another solid axle van .. I would prefer just 4WD .. a Dana 50 TTB would be a good fit for me.

Thanks,
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