Off Road Camper Trailer Suspension Confusion

Submitted: Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 11:08
ThreadID: 106592 Views:9175 Replies:8 FollowUps:9
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We are in the process of looking for our first camper trailer. We have experienced a friends basic on road soft floor camper for a week in the Flinders Rangers and found it to much of a hassle to set up so we have decided that a new or second hand hard floor camper for off road purposes in the $6k-$8k is the way for us to go.
I understand the requirements for a well built trailer but have hit the wall as far as
suspension goes for off roading, its very confusing to say the least. I'm "was" under the impression that independent was the way to go for many km's of corrugated dirt roads, some heavily rutted tracks and sand tracks/beach. I've encountered many styles of "independent" set ups leading to confusion.
Small coil springs and no name shocks only
Swing arms with no name shocks
Leaf springs, coil springs and no name shocks fixed at angled positions.
and so on.
My concerns are failures with all these moving parts when in remote areas.

Is a 7 leaf spring eye to eye the best way to go in regards to the type of travelling we do. Would the trailer survive? Would our gear inside the trailer survive? Would the handling properties be enough for the terrain we go?

I'll be pulling the trailer behind a 2" raised 80 series.

Any information would be appreciated.

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Reply By: Member - Rosco from way back - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 11:33

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 11:33
For many years we had a Camel offroad job with basic 7 leaf eye to eye springs (no shocks). It was bullet proof, adequately up to the task and towed very well over corrugations.
Independent coils and shocks are all well and good, such as we have on our current Campomatic. However I would steer clear of no name independent setups as they may well not be up to the task. Given your suggested price range I am inclined to be of the opinion you would be safer sticking with a leaf setup. They are tried and proven and much easier to fix in the bush if something breaks. Avoid slipper leaf springs as they are too light for your application. Similarly shocks are a plus, but by no means essential. They may even give you grief if they are unsuitable and/or poorly mounted.
AnswerID: 527819

Follow Up By: Member - Rosco from way back - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 11:34

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 11:34
Sorry about the composition. Bloody computer went beserk, inserted a squillion lines and posted by itself ????????????
FollowupID: 810274

Follow Up By: ModSquad - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 16:01

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 16:01
Fixed :)


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FollowupID: 810289

Reply By: Notso - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 11:50

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 11:50
There's no doubt that a well designed independent suspension with shocks will ride better than a leaf spring set up. But I've always believed in the KISS principle. Keep It Simple and use you imagination for the last word.

Leaf springs can be used without shocks as the friction between the spring leaf provide a damping effect.

I had two different trailers and they both had eye to eye 7 leaf springs, no shocks. Never had a failure.

Good quality is the key.
AnswerID: 527823

Follow Up By: Ozrover - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 12:36

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 12:36
What he said, but I'll just add, make sure that the leaf spring setup is an ALCO type anti-rebound leaf spring.

They have bow shaped metal braces on top of the front & rear of the main leaf, they are 60mm wide X 870mm long, with greaseable shackles.

The axle must be on top of the leaf pack, NOT under slung & please stay away from anything Chinese made they use plastercene for steel.

FollowupID: 810277

Follow Up By: Off-track - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 23:44

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 23:44
Interested to understand your thoughts on underslung axles?
FollowupID: 810334

Follow Up By: Ozrover - Saturday, Mar 08, 2014 at 08:58

Saturday, Mar 08, 2014 at 08:58
Most people who run the axle under the leaf pack (underslung)
put the fish plate on top of the main leaf, this places load on the wrong spot on the leaf & under compression & rebound the main leaf is likely to snap.

FollowupID: 810339

Reply By: Krooznalong - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 12:50

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 12:50
If you go with leaves you need to be careful that they are not too stiff. Our first CT had 'offroad' suspension consisting of leaves and cheap shocks. 'Offroad' often means lots of leaves (which ours had) which makes them too bloody stiff (which ours was). I removed a couple of leaves and those dumb W 'spring' things and then it rode heaps better. Wheels actually moved up and down instead of it boucing over rocks etc. Shook the $hit out of everything inside before I modified it.

Now we have a cheap hard floor one one with independent suspension and shockies. Rides better than the previous one but robustness may be an issue for really tough corrugated conditions.

BTW - agree hard floor much easier to set up and pack away.
AnswerID: 527827

Follow Up By: Ozrover - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 13:56

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 13:56
So you turned on "Off Road" leaf set into an on road set, nice...

The leaf packs need to be CORRECTLY rated for the load they are meant to carry.

Those "Dumb W spring things" are there to reduce the rebound, most people tend to think heavier is stronger, not always true.

Maybe your speed & tyre pressures had something to do with "shaking the bleep out of everything"?

FollowupID: 810283

Reply By: Ross M - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 15:36

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 15:36
If you want a smooth riding with leaf springs, make sure what you get or have added are long leaf springs which have "compliance " in their operation. They have to have sufficient leaves for the load carried and are then able to absorb bumps and corrugations much better. Has to include shackles and not slippers as they are harsher.
Shock absorbers will also help rebound vibrations.

All too often trailer leaf springs are many leaves and relatively short length between the eyes, and therefore do not have much compliance at all.

Some earlier Jayco off road camper popup extender thingys, had short, highly curved, 9 leaf springs, on a independent arm setup and many broke axles off the swing arm.
Little wonder with no compliance. They showed an appalling lack of understanding of the requirements but were named OFF ROAD.
AnswerID: 527842

Follow Up By: disco driver - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 20:14

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 20:14
Long Springs (eye to eye) are illegal in WA at least.
Caravans and trailers are limited to 900mm or less between the eyes.
Most trailers are around 750mm with a slipper pad on one end.

FollowupID: 810312

Follow Up By: Ross M - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 20:30

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 20:30
Does that mean you can have Landcruiser springs on a Landcruiser ie, original, but can't use them on a trailer?

I changed my 6x4 trailer from short, harsh, hard riding, non compliant springs to 60 series LC front springs with car shock absorbers.

Now it is safe to use when empty, as it doesn't jump sideways and try to sideswipe traffic, and doesn't jump off the ground when hitting a bump.

Carries more load than original and has a very good ride. Made like this it has traveled many outback miles, fully loaded on rough roads on which a normal 6x4 just disintegrate. Passed a few broken ones.
FollowupID: 810314

Follow Up By: disco driver - Saturday, Mar 08, 2014 at 02:02

Saturday, Mar 08, 2014 at 02:02
Yes, you can't use L/cruiser springs on your trailer in WA

Legally your trailer as modified by you could not be licenced in WA.

If it carries more load than original (750kg gross) then you would have to fit brakes and a new compliance plate/engineers cert.

Regardless of any modifications to a trailer, if it does not fit the WA regulations it cannot be licenced in WA.

Can't comment on other state requirements.
FollowupID: 810336

Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 16:46

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 16:46
If $6-8k is your budget, stick to leaf springs, eye to eye.
Quality independent suspension is slightly better than quality leaf springs, but more expensive. IF you are spending $6-8k, I would be far more worried about the quality of the overall trailer, rather than whether it is leaf of independent.
We have owned a 7 leaf spring trailer from new which performed well, we currently own a 2nd hand "quality" independent suspension trailer which cost 2nd hand three times as much as our new leaf spring trailer did.
I have no doubt you will find a 2nd hand leaf spring trailer for $6-8k which will do what you want, I doubt you will find a independently suspended one which will last on corrugated road for those same $s.

Good luck Cruiser
AnswerID: 527847

Reply By: travelguy62 - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 20:09

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 20:09
Like Notso said keep it simple. Long leaf springs work very well as long as you use decent shocks to control what the spring does on corrugations. I have been using early Toyota hilux springs with good quality shocks for twenty-five years and had no issues.My first trip to the Cape ended with a broken multi leaf trailer spring(no shocks),I was able to weld the spring and limp home.If you have ever followed some trailers you will see that a lot of them rely a lot on the sidewall of the tyres to be the work and not the suspension,Getting it right will give you years of trouble free off road travels.Another trick is to only pack what you need for your trips and don't over load the trailer with stuff you will never use.
AnswerID: 527864

Reply By: 671 - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 23:14

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 23:14
This can be a very complicated process if you want top get it right. There has been a lot said on the caranvaners forum by Collyn Rivers but I would be here all night trying to remember everything let alone write it.

Basically car springs have been designed to work with the human body and are therefore a compromise when it comes to vehicle handling. What is ideal for handling is too harsh for most people. Trailers and caravans don't carry people and they also can pivot on a tow ball so the springs can be harder. This is most likely why good quality trailer springs are relatively short and stiff. On the other hand though they must be properly matched to the weight they are carrying.

The best for trailers are MC2 independents but a properly designed leaf spring with good quality shock absorbers is all you need. He said the same applies to caravans. Apparently the geometry of caravan independents causes the van to lean too much which increases the chance of jack knifing.

To further complicate things he recently mentioned the 4WD OKA that he owned when he used to live at Broom. He said the stock leaf springs were excellent but he had fitted revalved Gabriel shocks. No doubt he worked out the right type of valves with his own electronic testing equipment but I can't remember anyone talking about Gabriel shocks on the net. There must be something good about them.

These are two more articles that he wrote that are always worth reading.
AnswerID: 527883

Reply By: Tony F8 - Saturday, Mar 08, 2014 at 08:30

Saturday, Mar 08, 2014 at 08:30
Have you also had a look at independent leaf spring, has the benefits of independent and the rugged durability of leaf.
And not a ridiculous price tag attached to it, plus all oz made.
Drive safe.
Tony F8.
AnswerID: 527888

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