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Old 03-21-2019, 05:17 AM   #1
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Helper Springs?

So I thought this might be the best sub-forum here for a short tutorial on helper springs, if they're advised for my intended refit of an existing cargo-only 2000 E250 RB.

This van will have a rather large and heavy sliding extendable cargo rack mounted inside---it pulls out a good 36" past the rear bumper when deployed. I will have the exact weight measured sometime soon but when first set into place temporarily there was about a full inch or slightly more drop of the rear. I would guess this thing approaches 350-400 pounds although that's a complete guess.

The plan is to remove it completely to weigh the van with and without it inside. I'm thinking the Hellwig helper springs would not only augment the current leaf springs but accommodate an additional 1400# on occasion (transporting up to 27 windshields weighing about 54 pounds each.) Am running Michelin LTX 245/75-R16's @ 70PSI (E Rated) and Bilstein HD shocks. Naturally the cargo rack would be reinstalled and permanently mounted after the helper springs were installed and adjusted.

Question is are helper springs considered a permanent solution to increasing the cargo loading? I do have a fantastic and trusted specialized spring shop who would rebuild my current spring packs but for some reason the Hellwig helper springs seem an easier option. After all they'd be removable if this van is ever sold or retired.

All ideas or actual uses are greatly appreciated and thanks in advance.
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Old 03-21-2019, 10:04 AM   #2
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Mornin this is my experience to date with some hellwig progressive helper springs installed 1 year ago on my on my f150 offroad truck,they don’t lift the back but they can hold an additional 2500 lbs.they are smoooth and quite/do the job great but when I was under truck with my welder buddy who built me some rock sliders one week ago I realized that the hellwig brackets/ubolts were rubbing on my fox 2.0 shocks and damaged the shock bodies(no leaks yet and I will post some pics soon).i assume its from crawling over small boulders/rocks through sand washes when the rear springs are trying to droop/articulate.another problem I noticed while articulating/drooping the long ubolts that came with kit were gouging my exhaust pipe (I know I could grind them off but originally I left them because like you I figured I would craigslist them later and hardware would need to be re-used),needless to say I’m over it and actually stopping by deaver springs this morning to discuss a new “complete” leaf pack which also removes oem block and possible shackles since they are next to my buddies powdercoat shop.your buddy sounds like a good option or sd truck springs sells several different leaf packs (new not re-worked) depending on weight multi leaf for about $6-$700 shipped.im not affiliated with Sd and as a matter of fact give them 1 star for bad customer service (on phone/email) for an order I had placed.one last note on hellwig helpers if you look them up they are inexpensive but then you have to buy the hardware kit seperately and ends up being around $400 if you offroad your van i would steer clear but if it’s basic highway/fireroad only I would recommend,hope that helps
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Old 03-21-2019, 10:12 AM   #3
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One more thought if your buddy rebuilds/re-arcs and adds a leaf or two you probably still want to put new bushings/ubolts so ordering a new set already has bushings/hardware and you don’t need to loose a day dropping off at shop if your installing yourself and you can make a little beer money selling your complete old ones on craigslist
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Old 03-21-2019, 11:56 AM   #4
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Have you considered air bags for the rear? they have come in very handy on my 2006...dual controls from the cab & immediately adjust for whatever you need - Versatility vs "fixed".
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Old 03-21-2019, 03:27 PM   #5
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Great advice so far guys---exactly what I was hoping to read!

As a bit of a back story the Hellwig spring van will become a daily driver of sorts but also doing duty transporting windshields I buy for my inventory. They're made in the USA here in Ohio, I travel about 140 miles round trip for that task. The large sliding windshield carrier will be left in place full time---its too large and too heavy to move on and off.

FWIW I do have the LP35 series springs and install kit on order from Jeg's---they have a retail store local to me that I've been dealing with since the later 60's. Total cost will be $389.65 with free shipping but I'll visit them anyway. The experience is probably much like a high end shoe store for women.

With the helper springs I seek to "restore" the original ride height when the rack is in place, the helping portion of added springs coming into play only when loaded beyond its new normal weight. Within a year or so I'll add Hellwig front & rear sway bars (from another soon to be retired work van I have) along with Bilstein E350 short wheelbase motor home shocks.

I have air bags on another van that has had an extra leaf added to the original E250 springs but not really impressed with them in operation. It's not a huge ordeal to check and refill the bags when needed but if I can add something that doesn't require any maintenance or checking at all that would better suit me. Thanks for the great suggestion but its just not a direction I'll take.

I've considered adding a leaf or two to the existing package but that doesn't appeal to me for some reason either. The spring shop I'd use is very trustworthy as I've used them for other projects before. Fair priced, knowledgeable beyond belief and a long standing business all make for a good shop to know and use.

The suggestion to at least have my existing rear springs checked for bushing/hanger wear, refresh as necessary. With just over 285K miles on those that 's probably something quite long over due. Pretty much regardless what's needed when I take it in they have ready to install, no return visits or waiting for parts to arrive. There's really not a project they're unwilling to take on from the largest commercial trucks, buses and RV's down to vintage street cars.

I have considered new spring packs but that too doesn't set well with me----after installation I'd be into a set for $1K even with an all inclusive parts kit. I wouldn't look forward to doing that job DIY since there's so much heavy lifting and large tools needed for an "easy" job. That's just one reason I'd use my local shop. Luckily I can afford hiring this out and I love watching others do all that hard work.

I have seen a few YouTube videos where the bolts interfere with other chassis components and it did occur to me trimming them after installation would be wise. I use anti-seize on nearly every threaded fastener exposed to weather I'm not concerned about them becoming so rusted they can't be removed damage free should that be necessary in time.

So if anyone else has any input or other great ideas please share them---this is off to a great start---very much as I expected it would be.
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Old 03-21-2019, 07:23 PM   #6
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Helper Springs?

Go to a junkyard and grab a set of E350 springs and retrofit. They aren’t really all that hard to do, not that heavy. I pulled a set a year or so ago off a junkyard van by myself with just hand tools, despite having never done it before. A good cordless impact wrench would have made it easy. I think I paid $50 for the set.

In the end I ended up going a different route and got a full new leaf pack from ATS Springs, which is local to me. I think I paid around $550 for those, including all new hardware. I was going to Install myself but ran out of time before a trip, so paid my mechanic around $150 to install. I’m confident I could have done it myself, though.
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Old 03-21-2019, 07:45 PM   #7
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I have a fair amount of experience with helper springs, air bags, custom spring packs on various vehicles. Highjacker airshocks too, if you want to go back that far, LOL!


The Helwig helper springs that the camper store insisted I use on my brand new 1990 Nissan hardbody was a case of a band-aide for too much camper for too small a truck. A 1000lb cabover on a soft sprung from the factory half ton minitruck. The way the helper springs clamp, they wound up putting a permanent reverse arch in my main factory Nissan leafs, that necessitated some other changes. There’s a whole campfire story on it’s maiden voyage, but suffice it to say, I didn’t have a great experience.


Having said that, your goals are a lot more modest. 3/4 ton van with ~400lbs more tare weight (your rack), then another ~1500lbs load once in a while for 150 miles. Doesn’t sound unsafe or like you are over doing it to me. I would try it, bolt in the rack, re-adjust the headlights, then try it to figure out if the extra 1500lbs of the windshields warrants the more spring. I’ve simulated loads with bags of sand.
I too would advise you give the airbag solution another look, because that’s what I would suggest.


The good ones, double bellows, 100psi type (not the cheesy low pressure red plastic airbags, which have their place, just not on a serious rig like an Econoline or a truck). I adapted a set of the double bellows type to fit my lift blocked Econoline, taken from my old F350. I think UJOR sells a bolt on kit. I use split lines, one short line per side, fill it with an air compressor, let air out when I’m not towing my big ‘ole trailer. Works great, sloooooowly loosing air pressure 10psi every 3 weeks.


My educated guess is heavy sidewall LT tires and a heavy duty set of airbags will get you where you want to be. Maybe new shocks all the way around, if yours are the least bit worn. Maybe just airbags. Having done so and seen very little benefit, I wouldn’t spend the money on a rear sway bar.


Be careful with the marketing hype that Helwig uses, they play pretty ‘fast and loose’ with their suspension dynamics jargon, it’s my experience that Helwig and their competitors over promise and waaay under deliver. “Controls sway, self-adjusts…” If it were only that easy, ahem.


The other problem with Helwig clamp on style overload springs is once you install them, you wind up leaving them alone. The nuts rust in place, and frankly, it’s not fun to crawl under and fiddle with them. When you do, the ‘adjustment range’ is very small. What you find yourself doing is just living with the harsher ride when empty, wishing you were carrying a load to soften it up. You’d be better off with a Ford factory style 2-stage overload system, seen on 1970’s F350’s and medium sized 2-1/2 ton delivery vans and the like, but that would be a custom deal. Maybe an add-a-leaf would be a good compromise, not very expensive. Buy new U bolts and nuts at the same time.


Custom spring packs you pick a load, and have the guy build for that weight. Kind of expensive, too. Empty and the ride is a little harsh, loaded it feels right. Before I spent the money on custom springs on a half ton van, I might salvage a used set of springs and hangers from a 1 ton E350, and throw those on the back.


I hope that's helpful
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Old 03-22-2019, 12:29 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JWA View Post
I have air bags on another van that has had an extra leaf added to the original E250 springs but not really impressed with them in operation. It's not a huge ordeal to check and refill the bags when needed but if I can add something that doesn't require any maintenance or checking at all that would better suit me.
Obviously a lot of Air Bag variation available, but mine require no real "maintenance". Have a pressure gauge inside that identifies current pressure of each bag, and this is accompanied by two toggle switches which control the two rear bags - all tied into my Extreme Outback compressor & air tank. From the cab I just increase or decrease either bag as needed.
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Old 03-23-2019, 09:01 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twoxentrix View Post
Obviously a lot of Air Bag variation available, but mine require no real "maintenance". Have a pressure gauge inside that identifies current pressure of each bag, and this is accompanied by two toggle switches which control the two rear bags - all tied into my Extreme Outback compressor & air tank. From the cab I just increase or decrease either bag as needed.
I do understand your approach TwoXentrix and it sounds great for your application. In fact I say kudos for having a system so well monitored and controllable from inside the cab---impressive.

I have a set of Air Lift 5000 bags already installed on another van, the one I mentioned was a bit more "high maintenance" than I prefer. Its installed without an on-board compressor which only highlights my occasional laziness as it does leak down after a while. Plumbed independently they do hold pressure for quite a while so if I go this route again I'll simply check pressures before each trip for a load.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TomsBeast View Post
. Highjacker airshocks too, if you want to go back that far, LOL!

My educated guess is heavy sidewall LT tires and a heavy duty set of airbags will get you where you want to be. Maybe new shocks all the way around, if yours are the least bit worn. Maybe just airbags. Having done so and seen very little benefit, I wouldn’t spend the money on a rear sway bar.


Be careful with the marketing hype that Helwig uses, they play pretty ‘fast and loose’ with their suspension dynamics jargon, it’s my experience that Helwig and their competitors over promise and waaay under deliver. “Controls sway, self-adjusts…” If it were only that easy, ahem.

The other problem with Helwig clamp on style overload springs is once you install them, you wind up leaving them alone.

I hope that's helpful
VERY helpful!

I am aware most component manufacturers over-state their claims so I'm not easily impressed by those alone. I do like Hellwig products and their approach to helper springs seems sound but I'm just not that experienced with them in general. You guys have been great so far making me a bit smarter---thanks!

Anything threaded under my van(s) that I install are (when appropriate) coated with anti-seize making their removal far less of an issue than without.

Also shocks will be under careful consideration as they're Bilstein's but have been in place a good 7-8 years by now. Not sure how many miles are on them but it looks like less than 20K so theoretically they should be fine.

I do have Hellwig front and rear sway bars on the soon-to-be-retired '03 E250 which I'll use on this van. I like how they improve handling when the van would be unloaded---I drive smart enough when loaded to NOT need their assistance-----or so I think.

Yesterday while hauling about 510# of similar loads this will eventually see more regularly I weighed the van, got these readings: Frt: 3260# Rr: 3680# for a total of 6940#; Ride heights: 35 3/8 (Frt) & 34 3/8 (Rr). In the very near future I'll completely unload the van including the rack weighing it once again and re-taking the ride height measurements. My door tag says I can load up to 5120# so I'm below that now. I do anticipate carrying as much as 1,050# in the rear on occasion so with those numbers in mind I can make a decision.

I also stopped by my one and only spring shop--those guys are amazing. Took them about 15 seconds to visually inspect my current set up and deem it fine as is, no need to refresh the bushings or hangers. Quoting me max of $450 they could add an extra leaf increasing the unloaded ride height 2" and adding 1,200# bed load--that's just not enough safety margin for me. Adding a second leaf adds about $120 to the price but that might be a bit too much ride height increase for occasional use.

The Air Lift bags might be my solution for this as it would make for maximum flexibility. Having already done this install its relatively easy, only had to modify one left side lower bracket to clear the rear axle vent fitting.

I'd be into the Air Lift 5000's from Amazon for $267 landed, almost $100+ less than other frequently used sellers.

Once I've reweighed the van empty I'll be better able to determine if the Air Lift system will be best. So far it's looking like the deal to do.

You guys have been tremendous helps here so kudos and huge thanks for sharing your info and experiences. Its been very helpful and educational, perhaps others will learn from this thread too.

Take care all!
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Old 03-23-2019, 10:28 AM   #10
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I don't feel that airbags are a good solution for full-time load-leveling. They're great for part-time load leveling though.

More leafs are better for full time duty. They often need to be accompanied with better damping... You already have the Bilsteins so you're good there.

One more option... Sumo Springs. They are a urethane foam spring. Basically a giant jounce stop but with better elasticity. Those work great too. They don't transmit road shock like add-a-leafs can, and have self-damping properties so they don't pogo the rig like Timbrens do.

I ended up adding them to my van, using the jounce stop replacements, to keep me off the steel lower overload springs. I don't like the resulting ride when those are engaged, and even at 100 PSI in the airbags, super heavy loads would put them to work. Got to do a good test last week, moving a 12x60 office trailer with 5,500 pounds of tongue weight. Keep the hitch off the ground, but still had good suspension compliance, which was very much needed for the terrain I was on.
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