Bill Goldman was looking for a way to improve the ride comfort and overall handling of his 2017 Tiffin Allegro Open Road 32SA motorhome. After putting 10,000 miles of travel on the coach, Goldman noticed a few things. He had already added a few suspension enhancements and those, along with good road conditions, made single destination trips a satisfying driving experience. However, when it came to longer distances and poorly maintained roads, the ride was much rougher. Goldman decided to research and then install a LiquidSpring™ CLASS® suspension system to help provide a smoother, more comfortable ride.
Before the LiquidSpring’s installation, Goldman had put 10,000 miles on his 2017 Tiffin Allegro Open Road 32SA gas-powered motorhome. The first 5,000 miles of travel was done within his home state of North Carolina in half-day, single destination trips. With good road conditions and added front and rear springs to cut down on side-to-side sway, a steering stabilizer, wheel alignment and proper tire adjustment, these trips went well. The second 5,000 miles were less comfortable, driving at highway speeds on poorly maintained roads. Problems were most noticeable on concrete roads, bridges with expansion joints and older asphalt roads in need of resurfacing. These conditions made for a lot of vibration, jarring, bouncing and swaying, which is hard on both the driver and the motorhome. “By the time we had traveled from North Carolina to Missouri, the freeway ride had been so rough that the front grill had broken free from three of its four mounting points and was dangling inches away from the radiator,” said Goldman. “And before we reached Colorado, the vibrations and bouncing had sheared the four screws that keep the dashboard cover mounted to the coach frame.”
Goldman shares his experiences of being an RV owner and traveling through his blog Open Roadscapes, openroadscapes.com, and searched for a solution from among RV enthusiasts. He was advised by other RV owners to switch to a Class A diesel-powered motorhome, which are typically equipped with airbag suspensions and have a smoother ride. But a diesel motorhome, with features comparable to Goldman’s current coach, also comes with a much higher price tag. Then Goldman read about LiquidSpring’s Compressible Liquid Adaptive Suspension System (CLASS®), an active suspension system which monitors and adapts the entire motorhome’s response to road variations and the driver. “This sets it apart from other RV suspension systems – even airbags – which are passive and therefore can only be expected to respond optimally within a narrow range of road conditions,” Goldman said.
Goldman was still a bit hesitant about the LiquidSpring suspension system. It was a replacement for the rear suspension only and though much of the action felt in the front of the coach is due to motion from the instability around the rear axle, which carries most of the motorhome’s weight, Goldman wondered if it would solve all the handling and ride issues. He also considered the price of parts and installation which is around $12,000. “I can self-rationalize the need for this, since I’m convinced that we got a good deal on our motorhome purchase and we want to enjoy it for years, “Goldman explained. “So, I bit the bullet and arranged with Wayne Wells at LiquidSpring to have CLASS® installed at their factory in Lafayette, IN.”
The CLASS® suspension systems from LiquidSpring provide a smoother and more comfortable ride than conventional suspensions, leading to less fatigue for the driver and less wear and tear on the vehicle. Utilizing a strut with a compressible fluid as the spring/damping medium and its sophisticated on-board microprocessor, CLASS® automatically and instantaneously changes the spring stiffness and damping at each wheel while the vehicle is being driven. This makes the ride smooth and soft even on rough roads. When making sharp turns, corners or emergency maneuvers, the suspension also stiffens for superior stability and eliminates roll. Rocking, bouncing and noise levels are also reduced.
Goldman appreciated the visit and tour of the recently re-remodeled and expanded LiquidSpring facility before the installation began. “Their new manufacturing facility immediately struck me as efficient, organized, clean, busy – and already getting a little crowded,” he said. LiquidSpring continues to grow and has planned accordingly with its new facility, making it easier to expand its building as more room is needed.
The LiquidSpring CLASS® system was installed to the axle and frame of the chassis of Goldman’s Tiffin motorhome, adding about 200 pounds to the overall weight of the coach, mostly to the rear axle. When retrofitting systems on motorhomes, all existing rear suspension components need to be removed from the chassis except the factory sway bar. Though not part of its current product line, LiquidSpring is working on plans for a system that would replace the suspension in the front and back.
After the installation, Goldman began his drive back to North Carolina. After his first 500 miles, over interstate highways, narrow mountain roads and other road types, Goldman took notice of several differences. “The first hint, just shortly after starting my trip, was a seat-of-the-pants sensation that there was less vibration, even on smooth roads. Then, as I drove at higher speeds, this became obvious to my ears – I wasn’t hearing the usual rattles and creaking from the back of the coach,” he said. “As the day wore on, my hands registered the most surprising difference of all: they remained relaxed.”
Goldman also drove a section of an Indiana interstate which he had travelled before the LiquidSpring installation. The road was straight and level in good condition, with occasional bridges that had concrete surfaces in poor condition. During his drive to LiquidSpring Goldman had used his phone’s built-in 3-axis accelerometer to record motion/vibration data as he drove. And he did the same after the CLASS® suspension installation, on the same stretch of road and in similar conditions (identical load, tire pressure, speed, road lane, etc…).
Goldman’s data comparing the coach’s ride before and after the installation showed that in the case of driving over bridges with expansion joints the CLASS® suspension reduces front end motion after the initial hit. “This matches the impression I had while driving,” Goldman explained. “I could still feel the initial jolt of the expansion joint, but the ‘aftershocks’ were subdued.” The ride over the bridges’ rougher pavement was also smoother. Steering was also easier over harsh bumps and rough pavement.
Rougher roads were not the only sections that showed an improvement. The smooth sections Goldman drove immediately after leaving the bridge showed an overall decrease in side-to-side movement. Goldman’s data shows that the front of the coach normally experiences a significant amount of instability. “The LiquidSpring conversion changes that to a much more stable suspension system in the rear and that stabilization around the rear axle (which carries most of the motorhome weight) is apparently having a noticeable effect on the lateral stability in the front,” said Goldman.
Two other benefits Goldman mentions are related to the control panel interface which is mounted below the dashboard display. The first is the system’s three ride modes: normal, comfort and sport. The comfort mode is geared towards a better, smoother ride and the sport mode is focused on handling. Goldman used the comfort mode for most of his highway driving for the smoothest ride. But during the last part of his trip he was driving on winding, two-lane mountain roads and switched to the sport mode. Leaning around the sharp curves was limited and the typical side-to-side sway was greatly reduced. “Frankly, I never suspected that my coach could ever handle like this on winding, twisty roads,” Goldman said. “And I should point out that even without switching from one mode to another, CLASS® constantly modifying its response based on sensors that are evaluating the road surface and how you’re steering.”
The second benefit from the control panel is the ability to adjust the rear coach height by 6 to 7 inches. This adjustment can be helpful if leaving a steep driveway to avoid scraping the bottom of the coach or if camping on a non-level site. Adjustments are made with a press of a button, raising the coach over the rear axle in seconds and then resetting to normal as soon as the coach reaches 10mph.
Goldman is pleased with the LiquidSpring CLASS® suspension installation on his 2017 Tiffin motorhome. It’s given him a better overall driving experience with a smoother, more comfortable ride and better handling. “My limited road test had already convinced me that this is a fundamental improvement in ride and handling, with the net result being a more relaxed and comfortable driving experience,” Goldman explained. “Yes, it’s priced accordingly, but right now I think it is the best single suspension improvement you can make for a gas chassis motorhome.”
LiquidSpring™ LLC offers its CLASS® suspension products for several light and medium duty truck applications such as ambulances, shuttle buses, and motorhomes. The products have demonstrated significant ride and handling performance improvements over conventional steel and air spring suspension systems. Other products are available for Class 3-7 trucks. LiquidSpring provides sales, application guidance, manufacturing, distribution and service of CLASS® suspensions.
Click here to learn more about CLASS®.