Ultimate Diesel Builder's Guide - - Contents -

Mak­ing Your Ride Less Rocky


Truck folks don’t of­ten think about han­dling, un­til they need it that is. In nor­mal day-to-day driv­ing, ev­ery­one gets used to the road and the way one’s per­sonal rig han­dles on that road. Any­one can be lulled into a sense of se­cu­rity and se­cure han­dling on the daily com­mute.

The is­sue of poor han­dling and some­times scary han­dling of­ten oc­curs when we en­counter some­thing out of the norm. A sharp turn to avoid a stray pet or an­other driver wan­der­ing into your lane can and of­ten will whiten your knuck­les due to the sit­u­a­tion. In stock trim, these sharp ma­neu­vers can also star­tle you due to your truck’s lack of han­dling in ex­treme sit­u­a­tions.

While these emer­gency sit­u­a­tions are usu­ally sel­dom en­coun­tered, the same han­dling is­sues can be seen when car­ry­ing and/or tow­ing a heavy load. For in­stance, car­ry­ing a camper and tow­ing your pro­ject ve­hi­cle to the shop or track will mean more weight on the sus­pen­sion and more lever­age work­ing on it too. In these sit­u­a­tions han­dling is usu­ally not as bad as dur­ing an emer­gency avoid­ance ma­neu­ver. How­ever, it does last longer… your en­tire trip. Fight­ing the sway and roll con­stantly will cause fa­tigue and make your trip less pleas­ant.

The so­lu­tion to con­trol­ling roll and other han­dling is­sues re­quires a multi-point ap­proach. First, be sure that your truck is in top shape, with proper main­te­nance to the springs, shocks and bush­ings. Worn shocks can be worse than stock sway bars that are on the small­ish side.

The sec­ond so­lu­tion is to up­grade your shocks and fac­tory sway bars to higher qual­ity after­mar­ket items that are built for truck own­ers who use their rigs for work and play, and need the best sus­pen­sion for all road con­di­tions.

Our test rig was a well-used 2003 4WD Ford Ex­cur­sion diesel. This daily driver was mostly stock, and it looked like the stock shocks were still on it. By the time our owner took pos­ses­sion of the truck, the Ford had some small is­sues that were not no­tice­able, un­til we sim­u­lated an emer­gency avoid­ance turn. Then the body roll and worn shocks were ob­vi­ous and a lit­tle scary. Af­ter this up­grade he tells us that this mas­sive Ford now han­dles like a car, com­pared to the tuna boat han­dling it had be­fore. His wife, the daily driver of this tyke trans­porter, just smiles and en­joys the drive.

The sus­pen­sion up­grade was ac­com­plished with some sim­ple, off the shelf parts. We in­stalled a set of Bilstein 4600 se­ries shocks, Hellwig sway bars, and En­ergy Sus­pen­sion end link bush­ings and bump stops. The to­tal up­grade time was about a half-day and the end re­sults will last vir­tu­ally the life­time of the truck. Fol­low along and see how easy it is to up­grade your rig to­day, as these companies make sim­i­lar parts for just about any truck or car on the road in the USA. You can in­stall them at home or use your fa­vorite lo­cal shop. For our in­stall we had the ex­perts at Socal Su­pertruck han­dle this in­stal­la­tion. UDBG


Known gen­er­ally as sway bars, the roll con­trol bars on any truck, car or other ve­hi­cle are ac­tu­ally anti-sway bars. Their func­tion is to re­strict body roll and re­duce the sway of the ve­hi­cle. So if you hear ei­ther term, they rep­re­sent the same thing, and a pre­mium set will help you en­joy the drive more.


While in­stalling our new Hellwig bars and Bilstein shocks we dis­cov­ered that our wellused Ford Ex­cur­sion was miss­ing both front bump stops, half of one rear bump stop and that the fac­tory sway bar end links were not only los­ing their rub­ber, but that they were after­mar­ket items and would not work with the end link bush­ings pro­vided by Hellwig. They would have fit the stock parts, but we were not so lucky with these worn re­place­ment parts. The so­lu­tion was found at En­ergy Sus­pen­sion, which makes and stocks re­place­ment urethane bump stops and bush­ings for a wide va­ri­ety of trucks and cars, even our road boat of an Ex­cur­sion.

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