There’s no way to avoid it. As your build progresses your van gets heavier. As your van gets heavier, the way it handles changes. The suspension is put under more load as you approach the maximum gross vehicle weight. The most common Ford transit models used to convert into campers top out around 9,000lbs GVWR(Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) with around 3,500lbs payload capacity. This may seem like a lot but you’d be surprised how quickly that 3,500lbs gets eaten up. A typical build will add close to 2,000lbs. Add in full water tanks, full gas tank, food, gear and you can easily hit the max.
As the weight piles on, the impact on the way your van rides becomes more noticeable. The van bounces and rolls when going in and out of uneven driveways or parking lots. You start to feel increased body roll and the van seems to lean into corners. Low speed bumps become earth shattering. It’s not fun.
The fact is that cargo vans CAN carry their GVWR. That doesn’t mean they are meant to do it day in and day out. The stock suspension simply isn’t designed for permanently converted camper vans with people living in them. The only way to ensure a safe smooth ride is to upgrade the suspension.
Below we’ll go over the options available for Ford Transit suspension upgrades.
Front end suspension
Heavy Duty Coils
Upgrading the coil springs on your Ford Transit are what will really make the difference in how your camper van handles the increased weight. Vancompass makes specific coils for heavily built out camper vans. Their HD Red Coil increases spring rate by 10% over stock to better handle the additional weight. One thing to note is that installing new coils will lift the van and cause positive camber. Vancompass sells a full lift kit that corrects this camber issue. Plus, if you are going to be messing with the suspension, it’s a good idea to lift your van anyway. We covered the benefits in a previous post about options for lifting your Ford Transit.
Upgrading the front shocks add extra damping to the front of the vehicle. This allows for better control of the extra weight of built out camper vans. The front of the vehicle already has the engine to carry so any extra weight requires upgrades. The Bilstein B6 Front Struts are the gold standard for Transits.
Rear end suspension
Upgraded leaf spring pack
With 99% of van conversions most of the weight is added in the rear. Water, batteries, gear etc can put a ton of strain on the stock Transit leaf springs and put them in a constantly compressed position. This not only impacts the ride and handling but also reduces ground clearance. Ford Transits aren’t exactly known for their off-road capabilities so you need all the clearance you can get.
Upgrading the rear leaf springs reduces side to side rocking, helps smooth out the ride on bumpy terrain and reduces the likelihood of the rear suspension bottoming out by improving travel.
Van Compass sells a mini leaf spring pack that is easy to install to help your Transit shoulder the extra weight with ease.
Rear shocks are critical for damping movement and smoothing out the harshness experienced on washboard roads and sharp, abrupt impacts such as potholes. They also drastically help with the side to side sway when navigating uneven surfaces. The Vancompass Falcon shocks are great at low-speed damping, perfect for smoothing out bumpy roads.
We highly recommend that anyone building out a van upgrade their suspension. The last thing you want is to arrive at your destination stressed out from the ride. Upgraded suspension improves overall vehicle stability and handling ensuring you are safe in turns. It also allows for a smoother comfortable ride when your Ford Transit is loaded down with a full build and gear.
Check out our blog on Options for Lifting Ford Transit Camper Vans to learn about the benefits of lifting your van.