A motorhome is a box that you live in, stuffed full of appliances and bolted onto a truck chassis. In Betty’s case, the chassis is a Ford F-53 truck frame with a ten-cylinder 6.8L gas engine up front. This combo has been around awhile – since 1999. Betty was constructed on a 2002 model. Ford has continually improved the chassis components to accommodate increasingly heavier motorhomes. Betty’s chassis is rated at 22,000 lbs GVWR. It is still on my to-do list to put Betty on a scale and see where she weighs with all of our gear onboard, Hopefully it is below that number.
We moved Betty 2,600+ miles from Pennsylvania to Arizona in November, 2018. The roads were largely interstates, and we did not have any problems with the grades coming through the Smokey Mountains. But the driving workload was high due to the work required to keep Betty in her lane.
Rolling down a generally level, generic interstate, Betty will do 60 mph without the transmission kicking into a lower gear and doubling the noise in the cockpit. We are not in a rush, nor a teenager, so 60 in the right lane is just fine. The speed limit, however, is usually higher, sometimes a lot higher out west. As a result, the interstate truck fleet whooshes by with Amazon and Wayfair shipments. The problem is, every passage is accompanied by truck-attraction/repulsion whereby Betty is pulled toward the lane of the approaching big rig. Just as I am correcting for Betty’s suicidal decision to challenge the passing rig, the attraction flips to repulsion as Betty decides that if she cannot smash into an 18-wheeler on her left, she might as well exit onto the shoulder to her right. Sheri acts as a poor-mans lane detector and sings louder and with increased nervousness as the tires clip the white lane lines left and then right. And so it goes, truck after truck, mile after mile.
After much internet forum research, the problem is caused by the F53 chassis and not by me. The solution is to add a bunch of suspension pieces, which either did not come with the original chassis, or, are much bigger and beefier than the ones that came with the original chassis. After a conversation with Dennis at Carl’s RV, the choice was easy. I could pick anything I wanted and have it shipped to Carl’s. If it was a part made by Hellwig, Dennis would install it. Simple enough. I selected the front sway bar, which is really an anti-sway bar, from Hellwig for the F-53 chassis. Hellwig, which is a California company, made the massive steel components. I purchased them on Amazon from New Jersey’s Unlimited Motorsports, because they had the lowest price and free shipping and answered my email on which sway bar to buy for the F-53. The beefy steel was delivered to Dennis in Tucson, Arizona for free, likely passing dozens of motorhomes in the back of an Amazon delivery truck along the way.
I figured if the front sway bar helped, I would add the rear sway bar at the end of the trip on our way out of Tucson. And the verdict after driving from Tucson to Pichaco Peak State park is “Wow! What a difference!” Trucks go by while I gently hold the steering wheel with one hand and text with the other (JK). Sheri barely looks up from her rolling desk and never breaks into nervous song. When Dennis adds the rear sway bar, Betty will probably drive herself.
Exiting the Sonora-Arizona Desert Museum are a series of speed bumps angled at 30 degrees to the road. They are made that way to cause a motorhome to rock and roll as first one side of the truck hits the bump, and then the other. The motion grabs the terrified drivers attention, and causes him to slam on the brakes. They work great. As the front axle hit the bump, Betty leaned left and then right with little drama. Then the unmodified rear axle crossed the bump and Betty did her best impression of a see-saw ridden by two hyperactive toddlers. Hellwig proof-test complete. I know a lot of quality manufacturers, such as Roadmaster, make suspension components. If you don’t think that Hellwig is the best, take it up with Dennis.