Off road caravan suspension

Submitted: Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 09:49
ThreadID: 76012 Views:12793 Replies:11 FollowUps:21
This Thread has been Archived
Goodday
I am looking at upgrading our caravan to a full offroader and are looking at either a new Trakmaster Tanami, Phoenix Federation or Kedron Top Ender with an internal length of around 19.6. Tare weight range from 2600 to 2850.
All offer various suspensions. I am considering Trakair Air Bag in the Trakmaster, the Kedron Cruisemaster Independent and the Phoenix Alko Torsion Independent. From research air bag suspension appears to be the ultimate but as I am not technically minded I would appreciate any thoughts that may assist my decision. My tow vehicle is a 2006 Cruiser TD.
Any information, particularly from Kedron, Phoenix or Trakmaster caravan owners would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks
Richard
Back Expand Un-Read 0 Moderator

Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 10:52

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 10:52
We've had our Trakmaster Nullabor since May 09 and although it's been on some gravel roads we haven't covered any of the rougher surfaces yet (next trip). Trailing arm coil and shocker independent suspensions are very popular on a variety of trailer types - for good reason it would seem. The Trakair seems quite sophisticated and uses 1 large Firestone airbag and 2 Pedders HP foam shockers per wheel. Being able to lower the van when parked is handy - when raised to the 120mm height, the bags hold about 100psi. Once I'd placed my initial order (delivery was 14 months away), I joined the TM owners club - there are articles from owners plus forum posts on technical issues - we were then better informed on the options for final specifics of the van. We started from the van point of view and would have been happy to take any of the popular 'off-road' suspensions ... it just happened that TM only offer the Trakair or the Sugar Glider. It does seem that any of the air bag systems offer a superior ride for the van (Cruisemaster do one too)..... as to whether they are worth the $ outlay is another issue !! Happy to help with any TM experience to date, if required - MM any time.
AnswerID: 404141

Follow Up By: Member - Toyocrusa (NSW) - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 12:41

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 12:41
Hi. Further to adjusting van height. It is a huge advantage with air suspension to be able to lower/raise each side independantly so as to level the van if you are on a side sloping site. Something to ensure though if you go to the air system and want to have annexe walls fitted make sure the van is at your preferred height before they measure the wall lengths. If not you can end up with annexe walls too short or too long. Regards, Bob.

0
FollowupID: 673837

Follow Up By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 14:12

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 14:12
Indeed, re independent height adjustment of sides - would be a bonus - as I recall, Cruisemaster's version of air suspension has that facility as standard - re TM - I know one owner went to the actual suspension maker at some stage after van pickup and had them alter the air supply system to enable independent height adjustment of the sides.
0
FollowupID: 673853

Reply By: ozjohn0 - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 11:18

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 11:18
All the brand you've mentioned along with Bushtracker represent the best 'Off Roaders' on offer.
However the Phoenix is probably the Creme De La Creme in this section of the market. The awards won and the overall finish of the Phoenix is unsurpassed by any other manufacturer. The AL-KO Independent Trailing Arm Suspension is also one of the smoothest and toughest on offer.
ozjohn
Note: I have no association with this company, but love their products.
AnswerID: 404143

Follow Up By: Shaker - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 15:10

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 15:10
That's a huge staement, if you are referring to the Al-Ko rubber torsion suspension.
Obviously you have never seen Track MC2 suspension, or looked under a Vista RV.

0
FollowupID: 673876

Reply By: Yadaki - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 11:40

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 11:40
Creme De La Creme is a bit rich! Excuse the pun.
I went to every off road factory, Bushtracker, Free Sprit, Kedron, Phoenix [all in Qld] and Trackmaster [in Vic] and watced them being built at varying stages, after that I was down to Trackmaster and Bushtracker and Kedron as third, long story short , I almost put a deposit down on a Trackmaster Tanami, But when you Really see how all these vans are built the choice [for me] was Bushtracker or Trackmaster, Bushtracker won.
AnswerID: 404149

Follow Up By: Yadaki - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 11:41

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 11:41
Typo: WATCHED [can't spell].
0
FollowupID: 673826

Reply By: snailbait (Blue mntns) - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 13:16

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 13:16
RICHARD P (ACT)
Hi
Take a big breath and say to your self do i want to tow 3 ton to 3.5 ton on dusty roads. ALL CARAVANS can travel on dirt all beit slowly some of my caravan friends have Bush trackers etc...... and have complained about the weight. They that the manufactures weigh the tare weight before they put the white goods in which is like weighing a empty caravan shell. They have found that they they had to buy a F 250 to be legal and with a 75 mm ball.
snailbait
Life MEMBER snailbait Oberon HF RADIO CLUB VKE237 mobile 7661

Lifetime Member
My Profile  Send Message
Classifieds: End of an ERA AVAN Owen ltd with adventure pack 2014

AnswerID: 404154

Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 15:17

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 15:17
That's not true Richard.

My Bushtracker was weighed dry to get its TARE, but all appliances were definitely installed.

You can't build a true off roader without strength in the chassis and suspension.

And strength equals weight.

I'm glad I ain't too scared to be lazy
- Augustus McCrae (Lonesome Dove)

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  Send Message

0
FollowupID: 673877

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 19:11

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 19:11
ALL of the big four are heavy. Without weight, you don't have the same strength. However Bushtracker has now put onto the market a "hybrid lite" which was trialled for a couple of years in the field before reaching the market. I have compared weights with people with Kedron, Phoenix and Trakmaster of a similar size to our Bushtracker, and they were the same or heavier.

Motherhen
Motherhen

Red desert dreaming

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  Send Message

0
FollowupID: 673903

Reply By: Member - Carl- Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 13:57

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 13:57
Hi Richard,
Picking a van is never a easy task and at the end of the day it is what YOU want that counts.

I would RESPECTFULLY disagree with some of the above comments. The top three Off Road outback caravans are Bushtracker, Kedron and Spinifx. ( I see not of the above comments have mentioned this one). Below that come Phoenix and Trakmaster.

Kedron and Spinifx have greater freedom is what you can change about your plan. Bushtracker are more rigid. All three are excellent. You might need to wait over a year to get one made however.

Not all caravans can be towed on gravel roads. Not wanting to Jayco owners but SOME models do not handle corrugated roads well. European vans are even worse. (Just look on You Tube at how Swift caravans are made)

Towing between 2800kg and 3000 kg is not that hard. I tow 3500kg Kedron and on the double land freeway, sit easy on 100, 90 other main roads. You need to concentrate on your driving and set things up well. If in the outback and not traffic, I just roll along at 80.

The comment about being able to lower one side of the van is excellent.

Some off road vans have disc brakes and not drums, this is worth looking into.

I would be asking why the three main off road manufacturers, are staying away from fiberglass bodies. My suspicions would relate to cost of repairs if you hit a tree in the bush.

AnswerID: 404160

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 19:14

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 19:14
Hi Carl

I have never seen or heard of Spinifx. Do you have a link? Are they a very small operation or are they a model made by one of the big manufacturers?

Motherhen

Motherhen

Red desert dreaming

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  Send Message

0
FollowupID: 673904

Follow Up By: Member - Carl- Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 09:50

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 09:50
Hi Motherhen

Spinifx is 3 guys that used to work for Kedron that have gone on their own. I have only see 2 on the road but had a great look at one. The owner was very proud to point out all the faults of my Kedron. Don't you just love people that do that?

They are very well built and are different from Kedron in some ways. The biggest is perhaps they have disc brakes instead of drums.

They are similar in colour to the" battle ship grey" Kedron but have the word Spinifx accross the front. The one I go to look at, was 22 ft but another in a caravan park was about 17.

My only worry would be, that because they are new and small, they might go under before your van was completed or after you took delivery.

Give then a google.
0
FollowupID: 673961

Follow Up By: Member - Carl- Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 10:23

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 10:23
Hi Motherhen,

Actually I have spelt it wrong Spinifex and I checked their web site agagin. Not been there foe a while.

You can see the vans they have made there. The one I looked at was spin 004. As you can see they have not made many vans but certainly appear to know what they are doing.
0
FollowupID: 673966

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 13:17

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 13:17
Hi Carl

"Not been there FOE a while" - LOL, I hope not TEHEHEE. Sorry, but it did make me laugh.

It is also interesting to know that the Davidsons who started off road caravans with the Phoenix are moving into manufacturing again.

Another one that would be interesting to have a good look at for those who want to consider something outside of the 'big four' is the Sunland range. I have seen a couple on the road but not had a close look, but have not heard of anything amiss with them. The Principal on the Caravaners Forum once responded to someone asking about taking theirs on the Tanami (it was not even the top of the range off roader model) said he would honour the warranty if something went wrong. They went, and nothing went wrong.

I still consider anyone wanting a caravan should buy second hand (pre-loved as i say). There are many reason for this, and you have just added another - the risk of a manufacturer going under as we have seen happen a few times.

Cheers

Mh
Motherhen

Red desert dreaming

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  Send Message

0
FollowupID: 673985

Reply By: Member - Jan B (VIC) - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 15:07

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 15:07
Hi Richard,
Looking at all the replies, I believe that if you check all of the manufactures empty weight then see what you want to fill it with to get your required weight, we are on our second Trakmaster last year we spent 12,000 ks on the dirt and had one shocker blow, also we found more trakmasters on the road than any of the other rangers.
Also find out when you do travel if anything goes wrong how do you get to have it fixed, do the suppliers have a network that does not put you out in the cold once you buy one.

Regards Peter and Jan
AnswerID: 404172

Reply By: Gone Bush (WA) - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 15:27

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 15:27
Richard,

I have owned a Trakmaster. New on 2007. Some friends and I bought one each. The construction errors in our friends were diabolical. I fixed mine and did a lot of preventative maintenance and sold it as soon as I could.

I have seen construction photos of a Kedron and it seemed as bad as the Trakmaster.

Phoenix vans built by the original owner of the business have a good reputation but apparently standards have dropped in recent years.

I now have a Bushtracker. I visited the factory twice (not a cheap exercise from WA) and the van is the best built thing I have ever owned.

cheers

I'm glad I ain't too scared to be lazy
- Augustus McCrae (Lonesome Dove)

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  Send Message

AnswerID: 404177

Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 16:33

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 16:33
Now I am not a caravanner, and it is unlikely that I ever will be, but if I was, I would never purchase ANY of those mentioned here and the reasons are simply WEIGHT.

Richard said...." a full offroader ......around 19.6....... Tare weight range from 2600 to 2850......... "

These pieces of information are mutually exclusive.
Too big. Too heavy. This van is limited to roads (not even tracks).

A 2 person van complete with full inside shower and toilet can be done in under 16ft and single axle. Only then will it have any chance of going places.

Then it needs strength without weight and no commercial builder will do that, but it can be done but with FRP sandwich panel, not with steel or wood.
2,000kg gross should be achievable, not 3.5Tonns.

Build your own Richard and get a light, tough product that WILL go places.

Cheers,
Peter
OKA196 Motorhome (DIY)
AnswerID: 404183

Follow Up By: Dusty & Bumpy - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 09:26

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 09:26
Good thinking Peter_n_Margaret. Exactly what I have done. Researched for five years and nothing to suit - not even close. 60 to 80 grand for a similar size to ours.

12 ft with shower and toilet, made up bed, air suspension, single axle, foam sandwich all round, pull out kitchen and most of the good bits bigger vans have and finished tare will be very close to 1300kg. Most of the weight is in the chassis.

So far so good. Launch date is about April - we will see how clever I am then!

I prefer to call it a rough road van rather than an off road van - i would not relish the thought of towing a 3t dual axle van anywhere off road or on many of the roads we travel.

Pardon my bias!

David
0
FollowupID: 673956

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 14:07

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 14:07
Good luck with your project David and it does sound like you have something unique in keeping down the size and weight but including a strong chassis and your needs. However the average person does not have the skills that people like you and Peter have, and would not know where to start. I like your term "rough road" and it is one i use to describe a caravan rather than the term off road which can be used by some manufacturers with no real relationship to what a caravan can do. Actually although no manufacturer expects their caravan to be use majority off road (meaning not on any gazetted road which includes tracks), however the relentless corrugations of our inland dirt roads would kill a caravan before true off road work.

Motherhen
Motherhen

Red desert dreaming

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  Send Message

0
FollowupID: 673991

Reply By: Racey - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 16:59

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 16:59
Hi,

The term "off road" van means different things to different people. Most people only require a van that will safely and reliably travel on gravel roads. As mentioned previously most vans can be used on gravel roads when driven according to the conditions. We have an Evenew with simplicity suspension and have driven many gravel roads with out an issue. Speak to any Evernew owner and you will receive similar comments. I suggest you at least talk to the Evernew people before you make a final decission.

Cheers

Racey
AnswerID: 404191

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 19:22

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 19:22
Hi Racey

The term Off Road also means different things to different manufactures too, and varies from a strong heavy duty caravan that can do long distances on our corrugated inland dirt roads, to ones which are considered OK to take off the bitumen onto a short dirt road to a camp or tourist feature and no more. Using off road or the name of an iconic outback track on a caravan does not necessarily mean it can be taken literally.

We too have the Simplicity Suspension which gives a good ride and handles washouts, dips and crests with ease. The only drawback is that is does have a single central axle and just two large springs. Those with four springs and true dual axles can in an emergency get to help easier in case of a breakage, and spare springs and axles are easier to carry.

Motherhen
Motherhen

Red desert dreaming

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  Send Message

0
FollowupID: 673907

Reply By: Member - Scrubby (VIC) - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 22:13

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 22:13
G`day Richard,

Gee I`m Peed right off. LOL

Not one mention in any above posts of one of the smaller sized vans that in my opinion is as tough as any of the above mentioned. ( Then again I `ve never owned any of the other makes)

I am talking about the Supreme Getaway. ( my 2001 model anyway)
There is a lot of them about, and if you talk to the owners they all say about their van what everyone here is saying about theirs.
But not any one of us are biased. LOL

I wish you well what ever your choice

Regards,

Scrubby.



I don`t know where i`m going but i`m enjoying the journey.

Member
My Profile  My Blog  My Position  Send Message

AnswerID: 404242

Follow Up By: Member - Andrew L (QLD) - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 22:35

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 22:35
Scrubby
"Not one mention in any above posts of one of the smaller sized vans that in my opinion is as tough as any of the above mentioned. ( Then again I `ve never owned any of the other makes) "

Well there ya go...
0
FollowupID: 673928

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 14:10

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 14:10
Why should they Scrubby? The question was about Suspension, not brand.

Mh
Motherhen

Red desert dreaming

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  Send Message

0
FollowupID: 673993

Follow Up By: Member - Scrubby (VIC) - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 22:48

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 22:48
Yer I know that MH but most of the replies are about brands, not suspension.

Anyway I was giving Richard another brand to look at that has the same or similar suspension as some of the top Offroaders.

You know the way it goes, it`s been going on for yonks & yonks........
" My dads caravan is better than your dads caravan nah nah nah"

All said with tongue in left cheek. :>]) LOL

Scrubby.
I don`t know where i`m going but i`m enjoying the journey.

Member
My Profile  My Blog  My Position  Send Message

0
FollowupID: 674061

Reply By: zolle - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 02:12

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 02:12
I have a Kedron XC2 17ft inside and can take it anywhere I want to go without any undue concerns. It has a simple twin axle leave spring suspension that only requires greasing for regular maintenance.
I understand the independent suspensions on vans often require regular re-alignments.
I understand that the extra weight of independent suspensions and their extra chassis stiffening is in the region of 250 - 300kg over a leaf spring suspension.
Seriously consider what and where you want to go and do with your van.
I certainly would not want to tow a 19'6'' van weighing 500kg more than our van in some of the areas I have been to.
Our van has a tare of 2250kg and an ATM of 2750kg which I can very comfortably tow with my Patrol 3lt CRD and get quite good fuel consumption at speeds upto 100km/hr on bitumen and any safe speed I want to do on dirt roads.
We have had no problems at all with breakages of anything in the van such as crockery (we do not use plastic) or even eggs in the fridge.
The big money heavy luxury vans are not necessarily any more capable than our light weight off-roader.
Think carefully what you want to do off-road.

Cheers
AnswerID: 404267

Follow Up By: Member - Don M (NSW) - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 08:16

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 08:16
LIGHT off roader at 2750kg ATM...mate that is very heavy for a 17' van and the same ATM as my 24' Jayco Brako which, of course I don't take too far off the black top.

And, for the record, even the Kedron Topender has leaf springs but it is still an independent suspension system...the heaviest I have seen and my favourite van as well.
0
FollowupID: 673948

Follow Up By: Member - RICHARD P (ACT) - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 08:40

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 08:40
To all

Thanks for your comments, suggestions, ideas. They are all welcome, By the end of March I will have visited the factories of Trakmaster, Phoenix , Kedron and Bushtracker. At this stage I am preferring to go to some type of air suspension.
Any further feedback is always welcome. I do appreciate that you need to have some idea of where you want to take the van and the terrain the you will be travelling Would appreciate if any more owners could give me their thoughts

Thanks

Richard.
0
FollowupID: 673952

Follow Up By: Member - Mark E (VIC) - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 09:39

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 09:39
Richard,

There will be a number of people interested in the reports from your visits to these factories. Would you mind re-visiting this thread in due time when you can compare these all for us?

I am beginning the search for a van for a trip around the block in the next few years and I have done plenty of internet research and have come up with that which I feel is the best, but having never owned a van nor towed one in difficult conditions, I am just a newby....not telling which I like the best..... yet.

My general feeling is that very few people really want to tow the van on really ROUGH 4WD tracks. Perhaps the inland dusty corrugated roads are achievable with the right van, but I fear the wrong van will not last very long under these conditions.

Cheers,

Mark

0
FollowupID: 673960

Follow Up By: zolle - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 13:38

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 13:38
Don
Of course my Kedron !7ft off-road van is heavy for its size it is not a light weight black top only Jayco. Why try to compare the two?
As for springs the differnece between mine and the Top Ender is mine has beam axles instead of the trailing arms, both are rugged and simple compared to others.

Cheers
0
FollowupID: 673988

Follow Up By: Member - Don M (NSW) - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 20:04

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 20:04
Zollie,

I am not trying to compare Kedron with Jayco and, as I implied. if I was going for a van with the ability to get off the beaten track more than I currently do, then I would buy a Kedron Topender, no argument.

I was making the point that you called a van with an ATM of 2750kg as LIGHT...There are many other vans which are quite capable off road, depends on the individual as to what constitiutes OFF ROAD, which are considerably lighter than 2750kg.

And, on the Jayco front, they are not as light weight as a lot of detractors would have it and are a lot stronger than most give them credit for. For a start, I would back the strength of the bonded fibreglass walls over an al framed and sheeted side in an impact. The question is, how well they are put together at the top and at the chassis. I was recently talking to a van repairer on the Gold Coast who bought a insurance write off Sterling that had been tipped over at 95kmh, scatches all down one side a part of the front but the thing was not out of shape structurally at all. He has had it 2 part epoxy painted and as good as new...for probably under $10 grand. And mine is factory underslung with a 6" main frame and drawbar and I have taken it off road, albeit not a seriously rough off road. Its ATM, as I said, is the same as yours and it has all the bells & whistles and is 7' longer than your van. A lot of your weight is the extra batteries and one extra tank and that massive suspension.
0
FollowupID: 674029

Sponsored Links

Popular Products (14)