How to Stop Your Truck From Squatting When Hauling or Towing
Pickup trucks are built to handle it all, but years of wear and tear or consistently towing over-capacity loads can put a strain on your vehicle's backend and lead to squatting. Over time, squatting can create quite an unpleasant ride and cause trailer sway and difficulty steering and breaking. Rejuvenate your truck and give it a towing boost with new leaf springs from General Spring KC.
What Is Truck Squatting?
As your pickup truck begins picking up bigger payloads, it may start squatting. Truck squatting — or trailer sag — refers to when the backend of your vehicle starts falling lower due to excessive strain on its rear axle. The front end of your truck may begin to point upward while the backend continues to fall, which may make your trailer unable to properly tow your cargo. Most dangerously, squatting can cause drivers to make forceful steering maneuvers to keep their trucks in control.
While truck sagging is always normal to a certain extent, overwhelming sagging can become dangerous and cause your trailer to become wobbly and unstable. Truck squatting creates aerodynamic drag by exposing your vehicle's underbody to the elements, which decreases your engine efficiency as you reach higher speeds. Replacing your leaf springs is a cost-effective and foolproof way to reduce truck sagging and increase your vehicle's stability.
How Much Should a Truck Squat While Towing?
Despite pickup trucks having a reputation for squatting, squatting is not normal and should be prevented before it starts. Visibly squatting while towing is a sign that your leaf springs have already been damaged from carrying over-capacity loads. Squatting is a sign of instability, tire misalignment, component wear and potential damage to steering and braking. Thankfully, you can prevent truck squatting by carrying less than a maximum load and never pushing your truck past its maximum capacity.
Potential Damage From Truck Squatting
While you may not see any immediate damage to your truck the first time you carry a load over capacity, heavy loads can quickly damage your vehicle's integrity. Severe sagging can cause the following problems with your vehicle:
- Rough ride: Driving or being a passenger in a sagging vehicle can be a nauseating experience due to the rough and bumpy ride. Your truck may begin to bottom out frequently, and you'll experience delayed steering. Over time, squatting can create dangerous riding conditions for you and your passengers.
- Poor headlight aim: As squatting causes the front of your car to aim upward, your headlights will become ineffective and not give you a clear view of what's in the road. While you may be able to see oncoming traffic, you'll experience difficulty seeing potholes, obstructions and wildlife that can be dangerous to your vehicle.
- Poor steering and braking: Since the front tires give your vehicle most of its power, concentrating too much weight on its backend can create ineffective steering. As sagging causes your car's front to become higher and the backend lower, you may begin to lose power over or control of your car's steering and braking.
- Tire misalignment and wear: Sagging puts undue stress on your tires and causes premature tire wear alongside an uneven tire footprint. Together, these facts decrease your fuel mileage.
- Trailer sway: With intense trailer sag, even a breeze can sway the trailer and lead to a chain reaction that causes you to lose control. This sway may be accompanied by body roll that causes your truck to lose control while rounding curves and corners.
How to Keep Your Truck From Squatting
Like many things in life, the best offense to truck sagging is a good defense. Even though pickup trucks can handle tough jobs, repeatedly towing them at maximum capacity or at over capacity wears down the truck's leaf springs and can quickly cause the backend to sag severely. To preserve the life of your truck and keep it from sagging, make sure to never exceed your vehicle's towing capacity and always keep your load balanced.
There are three main reasons why your truck may sag. The most likely reason is due to consistently towing over-capacity loads for an extended period. Sagging may also result from towing an uneven load. Or, your suspension and shock springs may be past their prime and can't hold up anymore.
Thankfully, there are multiple methods for preventing your truck from sagging, including:
Air Suspension Systems
While springs are essential for towing, air suspension can help stop your truck from sagging if you must frequently tow a large amount of weight. Air suspension systems work by replacing the traditional components of your rear suspension with a system of advanced airbags that are manually or automatically controlled. Each airbag connects to a system that generates air pressure and can be inflated at will. The larger the load you're towing, the more you should inflate the bag to level the vehicle.
Air suspension systems keep your truck's front and rear tires consistently touching the ground for maximum traction and grip. If you're consistently pushing the capacity of your truck's weight limit, consider installing an air suspension system to raise its capacity.
Weight Distribution Systems
Weight distribution systems help your truck keep its load evenly distributed by using spring bars that create opposition to the load and spread it uniformly between all your vehicle's axles. This means the weight that was once distributed in the hitch is now spread equally across your springs. A weight distribution system may be the right option for you if:
- Your truck's Gross Towed Weight Rating (GTWR) is 50% more than its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
- Your truck frequently sways back and forth
- Your vehicle has begun squatting or sagging
Towing Leaf Springs
If your truck squats when towing a trailer, leaf springs are the most cost-effective method of reducing your truck's squatting and boosting its carrying capacity. Vehicles have been using leaf springs to increase shock absorption for almost a century. Today, leaf springs come in various configurations and can increase your hauling capacity without needing to increase your trailer size.
How Leaf Springs Can Stop Your Truck From Squatting
Since their first use in covered wagons, leaf springs have remained a staple of cargo-carrying vehicles. Leaf springs are an integral part of your truck's design that allows your wheels to smoothly maneuver over potholes and bumps. They work as a shock absorption system that protects both you and your vehicle. Without your truck's leaf springs, your ride would be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.
While your truck's leaf springs may come with a limited capacity, you can upgrade them to tow heavier loads without risking potential damage to your vehicle.
One of the easiest ways to protect your vehicle from squatting is to never exceed your leaf spring's weight limit. By protecting your leaf springs, you can prevent early fracturing, wear and stress cracking.
What Is a Leaf Spring?
Leaf springs consist of one main leaf that bolts to your truck and several other leaves that assist with weight capacity by carrying the rig. The longer the leaf spring, the less it will have to deflect. Overall, a leaf spring made of many thin leaves will give a smoother ride than one made of thick leaves.
While thin leaves give a superior ride, they can also increase friction between each of the leaves. You can reduce the amount of friction between thin leaves by tapering the edges or using Teflon pads to decrease friction. For added protection of your leaf springs, consider shopping for models with military-wrapped eyes or bolt clamps.
How Do Leaf Springs Work?
There are two types of leaf springs — longitudinal and transverse leaf springs. Commercial vehicles and trailers tend to use longitudinal leaf springs due to their rigid axles. Longitudinal springs have an arched configuration before installation and relax into a straight configuration once installed. As the leaf springs come into contact with the road, they absorb the shock by alternating between their arched and straight configuration.
The leaf spring works with your truck's axle component and is joined using a clamping device. To increase your leaf spring's weight capacity, you can pair it with axle auxiliary frames and ladder frames.
Leaf springs are most often made of fiber composites with multiple layers. As they encounter stress, they begin to shear and consequently weaken and soften. Every time you exceed the critical stress state of your leaf springs, you cause irreversible damage to the spring that shortens its material life cycle.
To give your truck the greatest amount of power, consider boosting your springs up to a top-quality Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) or heavy-duty spring set. In addition to leaf springs, you can increase your truck's load by investing in an add-a-leaf. An add-a-leaf works with your truck's spring pack to boost your vehicle's overall support and lift, reduce body roll and smooth your passenger ride.
Do You Need Heavy-Duty Leaf Springs?
Even though your truck can lift heavy loads, it's not meant to be pushed to its full capacity regularly. If you're consistently hauling heavy loads, heavy-duty leaf springs are a worthwhile investment that can save you a significant amount of money in the long run. Heavy-duty leaf springs are tougher to break and give you better defense against cracking and breaking than standard leaf springs.
When to Replace Your Leaf Springs
Over time, you may find your truck needs to haul greater weights than you initially intended. Instead of replacing your load springs with the same model, consider upgrading your springs to boost your capacity. Compared to investing in a larger truck bed or air suspension system, upgrading your leaf springs is a cost-effective and easy-to-install method of increasing your vehicle's load capacity. You may benefit from replacing or upgrading your vehicle's leaf springs if:
- You can see visible cracks on the leaf springs
- Your leaf springs squeak while your truck is moving
- Your suspension bottoms out when you drive over bumps
- You're consistently hauling loads that are on the upper end of your vehicle's maximum capacity
- Your leaf springs frequently crack before their time due to significant wear on your vehicle
Even an amateur mechanic can test a vehicle's leaf springs. To tell whether your truck's problems are caused by the leaf springs or something else, park your truck on a flat surface and examine the front and back of the vehicle from all angles. Since driveways are slightly sloped, you cannot accurately check your leaf springs while parked in the driveway. If the truck is slouched, the bolts are loose or the leaves shake while in motion, you should replace your leaf springs as soon as possible.
Replacing Your Leaf Springs
Thankfully, leaf springs are one of the easiest components to upgrade in your truck. Before starting the leaf spring replacement process, wear protective eye gear with suitable work gloves and boots. Then perform the following steps:
- Park the vehicle: Park on flat ground — never a driveway.
- Lift your truck: Securely elevate the rear of your truck a few inches off the concrete using two jacks and jack stands.
- Loosen the lug nuts: Activate the emergency break and loosen the rear-wheel lug nuts.
- Remove the leaf springs: Remove the base plate of the leaf springs by prying it from the center pin. Carefully remove the old leaf springs from the shackle pins before removing the shackles.
- Install the new ones: Install the replacement leaf springs on a new shackle. Remember to make the center-to-end measurement slightly longer on one end of the spring than the other. Then slowly slide the rear leaf spring onto the shackle without tightening the locks.
- Tighten the bolts: Repeat the process with the remaining shackles before lowering your vehicle and torquing the bolts.
Always put your new leaf springs for a test drive while monitoring the suspension and gravity absorption before using them for work again. Make sure your vehicle lies horizontally from multiple angles and your tires' toe-in is within the range specified by the manufacturer. Visit our Leaf Springs page for more information on leaf spring installations.
Stop Your Truck From Squatting With General Spring KC
Whether your truck is squatting or your springs are starting to show signs of wear and tear, you need the power of high-capacity leaf springs from General Spring KC. At General Spring KC, we build leaf springs that take the load off your truck and help you boost your maximum carrying capacity.
With more than half a century in the industry, we are ready to answer any questions about your vehicle's leaf springs and their installation process. General Spring KC can connect you with an experienced representative who knows about what product is right for your vehicle and how exactly to install it.
Each of our replacement leaf springs comes with a one-year warranty. We stock thousands of leaf springs in our warehouses for the following truck models:
- Hummer H3
- Suzuki Samurai
To learn more about what leaf springs are right for your vehicle, contact us online or view our selection today.