Factory sway bars installed
Recreational vehicles don’t exactly handle like sports cars. They roll excessively in turns and bounce and bottom out over bumps. The twisty, beat-up back roads leading to many popular destinations don’t help either. If you’ve ever hauled a large cab-over camper or driven an older class-A through mountain passes with traffic impatiently knocking at your back door, you know what we mean.
The factory sway bars wear out or they just plain aren’t strong enough to do the job in the first place. Larger and stronger sway bars will help reduce the roll with the best possible ride. Sway bars work to distribute the load more equally during cornering. The bar is connected to each side of the vehicles suspension. As the vehicle rolls during cornering the outside wheel will be forced up into its wheel well. The sway bar counter acts this motion by putting extra downward force on said wheel as it tries to match the opposite wheels position. The end result is a vehicle that corners with less body roll keeping the center of gravity low, where it belongs.
For our Project Ultimate Tow Rig, which sees thousands of miles a year hauling every type of towable RV or cab-over camper, the decision was a no-brainer. We turned to Hellwig Products out of Visalia, California, for help.
01. Hellwig’s rear sway bar kit will fit both vehicles equipped with a dinky factory bar
Family owned and operated, the Hellwig crew has been building heavy-duty sway bars and load control products since 1946. Those 66 years of operation has left them with an immense list of quality, time-tested products and applications for just about every vehicle on the road (including most motorhomes). The folks at Hellwig recommended we try a set of their new BigWig load specific sway bars combo’d with their air bags and a compressor kit (Look for part two of this story, in the next issue of RV. Or go to www.rvmagonline.com for a sneak peak at the Hellwig Air install).
The BigWig kit claims to reduce body roll up to 20 percent while the air bags level out just about any weight load. But we weren’t going to take their word for it. We’ve had experience with Hellwig’s products in the past so we knew they’d make a difference. We wanted to know just how much. So we took it to the next level and did a little high speed testing with a load (on a closed road, of course).
02. Our F250’s factory bar came off easily, with a few twists of the wrench. Placed side by side with the Hellwig bar, the difference is definitely noticeable. The factory bar is only 3/4-inch wide whereas the Hellwig bar measures out to 1.5-inches wide and is hot formed, using heat-treated chrome-moly steel. It is much more robust than the factory bar, which was designed for comfort and not as much for control.
03. The rear Hellwig bar installed in the factory position on the axle, using two U-bolt
04. Anywhere steel meets steel Hellwig utilizes polyurethane bushings to eliminate unwant
05.0 We kept all mounting hardware somewhat loose until everything was bolted up. This pr
05.5 By not torqueing everything down right off the bat we were able to easily move the H
06. Happy with the new Hellwig sway bar’s mounting we torqued everything to manufacturer
07. The front sway bar took us 20 minutes to swap out. Remove the factory bar and simply
08. Factory sway bars installed. Looking at the rear bumper the difference is obvious. Using the stock set-up and measuring from the frame to the asphalt, the truck rolled 4.66 inches to the outside at 40 mph. What’s really scary is that if we move up to the top of the camper it strayed well over a foot from center.
09. Hellwig sway bars installed. With the Hellwig sway bars the truck rolled just 1.13 inches at a much higher speed, 65 mph. Pretty huge difference. But the real difference was how the truck handled with the Hellwig bars installed. Climbing hills we didn’t have to slow as much going into turns as we did with the factory set-up. Equaling less time spent getting back up to speed. In the end the Hellwig sway bars made for a much easier and less stressful drive through the windy stuff.