Trucks are equipped with suspension systems to provide comfort for the driver and passenger. By the same token, the suspension keeps a truck in good shape throughout the bumpy rides and uneven terrain of a typical route. When you think about it, trucks — and all other types of vehicles, for that matter — endure a rapid stream of vibrations and shakes throughout the course of a ride.
A gravelly road, for example, will cause endless amounts of jitters that must be absorbed by the underside components of your truck. Even if a road is paved, the ride can be beset with curves, dips and slopes along the way. The situation is even more hectic when you have to drive up inclines and make sharp turns.
So how can you make a truck ride smoother? The following steps can make a huge difference:
- Reduce the unsprung mass
- Soften the suspension system
- Change the wheels and tires
- Modify the chassis
- Eliminate the vibrations
- Get new leaf springs
When you make these kinds of adjustments, you also help the truck. Imagine if those bumps on the road were to send vibrations rattling across the axles, into the engine and under your seat. Without a suspension system, your truck would be uncomfortable to drive. Moreover, the truck would incur damage rather quickly along the underside.
The improved comfort you gain as a driver is just one of the benefits you get by adjusting the suspension system, which can also be good for the vehicle itself and its longevity.
Reduce the Unsprung Mass
A truck needs its suspension system in order to function like a strong, secure passenger vehicle. Granted, not all trucks roll off the line with optimized suspension systems. Chances are good the suspension under your truck could use a boost. The two basic keys to smoother suspension involve the reduction of unsprung weight and a softening of the suspension.
In order to lessen the unsprung weight of your truck, you will need to reduce the combined mass of the vehicle's underside components. When there is less weight to the tires, wheels, hubcaps and suspension parts, the suspension can more readily handle the impacts of uneven terrain. Basically, the suspension and wheels need to be relatively light in proportion to the overall weight of the vehicle.
In order for comfort to truly be achieved, the suspension needs to be softer. With soft suspension, the shakes and bumps of a given terrain can be absorbed with ease. This will protect the chassis of your truck from the impacts of the road's imperfections, whether you are on a gravelly back road or an older boulevard.
With reduced unsprung weight and softer suspension, you will improve truck ride quality and likely be able to prolong the service life of the underside components. That said, the chassis will still absorb some of the shock that accompanies imperfect terrain, but there are other steps you can take to make riding even smoother.
Soften the Suspension System
The first thing most truck owners do to make riding smoother is opt for a softened suspension. The reasons for this are obvious, as softened suspension will generally yield the most immediate changes to the driving experience. If you have ever wondered how to improve ride quality in a car or truck, the answer is simple: soft suspension.
Suspension softening typically consists of two steps. To begin, you replace the pre-existing shock absorbers with a lighter set. These soft absorbers are primarily designed for comfort. Second, the springs of the vehicle should be replaced with a softer pair — in other words, lower-rated leaf springs.
Shocks that have been designed for comfort instead of performance are common and are therefore an easy solution for anyone looking to smoothen their ride. However, if you want to make your truck ride smoother all around, the best option is to get adjustable shocks. Moreover, these shocks should have full air suspension.
The best options in the latter category would be dual-rated shocks that let you separately adjust the firmness and ride height of the truck. This way, you can adjust the settings to your own comfort level as a driver and not have to cope with excess height just to achieve the proper firmness, or vice versa.
Depending on the specs of your truck, you might have difficulty locating a softer set of direct-replacement springs — especially if you are looking to keep the assembly within the bounds of a regular setup. In this case, your best route might be to simply contact a spring supplier and explain to the representative exactly what you are hoping to achieve with your truck.
Change the Wheels and Tires
For big wheels, the use of low-profile tires can be a double-edged sword. Even though the tires are generally considered aesthetically pleasing, they have their limitations on trucks. Namely, low-profile tires can seriously undermine the comfort of your rides. This is due to the lower aspect ratio of such tires, which are stiffer and have less room for air.
Unlike the thicker tires of older trucks, low-profile tires are harder due to their stiffer sidewalls and thinner proportions. Consequently, low-profile tires have less ability to absorb the turbulence of the terrain and are therefore less capable of delivering smooth rides.
The big rims that accompany such tires can also be problematic for large vehicles. For starters, big rims can saddle a truck with excess weight and thus render the lower portion of the vehicle a lot heavier than desired. Wheels in this high-weight category are less capable of riding smoothly over turbulent terrain because of their inflated unsprung mass, which renders them less responsive as a truck rides over gravel and bumps along the pavement.
In order to make riding more comfortable, your best bet is to choose wheels that are lightweight and narrow. Ideally, tire measurements should not exceed 18" in diameter and 7" in width.
In order to get the best riding experience possible with skinny modern wheels, select tires that are thin and tall, preferably with a 60+ aspect ratio. When you fill the tires, go three to five psi below the recommended inflation pressure. This will make the tires softer and more cushiony.
If anything, steer clear of newer run-flat tires. The stiffness doesn't allow for smooth truck rides. Remember: the right tires and air pressure can help provide you with some of the best suspension for a smooth ride.
Modify the Chassis
In a large and heavy truck, the components that connect your tires can affect your steering ability and driving smoothness, which in turn will impact your overall comfort. If the parts are incredibly stiff, there won't be as much flexibility under the vehicle for the suspension to soften out the abrupt lopsidedness inflicted by potholes and other abnormalities along the course of your route.
There are modifications that can be done to the chassis that will help to make a lifted truck ride smoother. Lightweight suspension components should be used in lieu of heavier ones. When available, choose brake parts that are lighter-weight than those which originally came with the vehicle.
Components made of carbon fiber, ceramic and aluminum can help you shave significant amounts of weight from the underside of your truck, and this will in turn lead to smoother rides. Other parts that will lower the weight include axle shafts made of carbon fiber, as these will help you reduce the unsprung mass of the truck.
In general, trucks ride more easily with independent suspension. By contrast, trucks with solid axles will tend to give you a stiffer ride due to the extra weight. Granted, it is not always possible to convert from heavy axles to a lighter alternative. Therefore, this might not be the most suitable or even realistic option for your particular truck, especially if you are concerned about voiding your warranty on a newer vehicle.
If your truck encounters potholes under one side but not the other, a thinner bar will create a more even driving experience and spare you from some of the shocks. However, this can also make the vehicle more difficult to handle, especially if the thin bar is paired with lighter springs and softer shocks.
Eliminate the Vibrations
Inspect the underside of your truck to see if the anti-vibration parts need to be replaced. To protect the chassis from the impact of vibrations along a turbulent road, consider the use of new body bushings.
Another way to smooth out vibrating effects is to double-stack the rubber rings on the coil springs. To prevent the rubber from making noise, be sure to coat the rings with grease before setting them into place. If you only wish to use a single layer of rings, make sure the pre-installed rings are in good shape. If not, trade them out for new ones.
Of course, a certain amount of vibration is likely to bypass these buffers. For this problem, consider the option of rubber pucks in the driveshaft. This way, the tremors generated from gravelly and uneven terrain will be better isolated and less bothersome. Rubber isolators can be installed in the driveshaft as well as the steering column.
Additional options that can help make riding smoother include the use of rubber strips along the floor and seats. If you have these strips installed between the floorboard and the mounts of your seat, riding could seem more cushiony and a lot less shaky even when you drive on unpaved back roads.
Granted, if you wish to have these types of adjustments made to your truck, it might be best to have the work performed by a professional. The fittings can sometimes be tricky, and the purpose is to make the truck more comfortable to drive but without any compromise to the safety and stability of the vehicle. After all, the purpose of a truck is to handle hard terrain and to take a certain amount of abuse without any loss in performance.
Will Airbags Make My Truck Ride Smoother?
This is one of the most popular questions among truck owners. While airbags can help, the better option for improved suspension is to get new and improved leaf springs. Depending on the size of your truck, you might need to add leafs to your springs to get the needed lift and smoothness from your vehicle. If the springs that came with your truck have worn out over time, a new set of springs could easily boost the vehicle's performance.
Another common question about suspension adjustments is whether they might render a vehicle less stable. This is an understandable concern, given the stiffness of today's trucks. After all, trucks are built to carry heavy loads. In order for a vehicle to be strong, it needs to be stiff. But in order for the vehicle to be comfortable, there needs to be some softness to balance out the experience. Admittedly, this is a tough balance to achieve.
Imagine if trucks were equipped with knobs that allowed you to adjust the suspension according to your liking. At one end of the rotation was the full comfort setting, while at the other end was the maximum performance setting. In this imaginary scenario, the latter setting would optimize your truck for the demands of grueling terrain, while the former would be most appropriate for driving along slow, even roads in the suburbs.
The smartest thing to do with such a knob would be to turn it to the center position. That is the same kind of balance you should keep in mind as you make adjustments to your truck's suspension system.
How Can I Make My F150 Ride Smoother?
If you are wondering how to make your truck ride smooth, the most probable answer is a new or improved set of leaf springs. Drivers of Ford models and other trucks turn to General Spring for leaf springs and coil springs, which improve ride quality and give vehicles the best suspension for smooth rides on all different types of terrain.
At General Spring, we carry components that are designed to boost the suspension systems in trucks. Our specialty is leaf springs and coil springs, which can be purchased in a range of measurements. Whether you wish to add leafs to your existing springs or change out the old springs for a new pair, you can find a great match for your truck in our catalog.
The products we sell here at General Spring are all carefully inspected to ensure top quality. Regardless of the make or model of your truck, we can help you find a set of leaf springs that will fit into place and boost the vehicle's suspension system. Even if the parts for your truck are no longer made by the original equipment manufacturer, we can customize springs for your vehicle.
At General Spring, all of our springs are backed by a one-year warranty. Whether you wish to boost your truck's suspension system or simply change out an old or worn set of leaf springs, your truck is sure to feel like new once it has been fitted with our new or customized springs. Buy from General Spring to smoothen out your truck's ride today.