The fact of the matter is—trucks are designed to work hard. Even if you treat that F-150 like a Lincoln Continental, the OEMs engineered it to perform well in situations that call for heavy towing and hauling. So despite your best efforts to prevent that new, pristine truck from receiving its fair share of dings and dents, that’s exactly what it was made to handle. And whether it’s for work or play, when that bed is loaded, there’s a good chance you’ll start experiencing squat. It’s true, automakers have made significant advancements in towing and payload capacities. But the aftermarket has proven solutions for additional load support—namely in form of helper springs.
Hauling professional equipment, recreational trailers, or gear, can place the truck’s suspension under a lot of stress. Investing in the right helper springs enhances or replaces factory components, increases payload and towing capacities, decreases or eliminates sway, improves ride quality, and limits wear and tear on the vehicle.
What are Helper Springs Used for?
Not only is squat unattractive, it can be deadly. As that rear end comes closer to the ground, less weight is pushing the front tires to the pavement. This uneven leverage can reduce breaking and steering capabilities. Without either of these two things working in your favor, you’re headed for a world of hurt.
Helper springs, by design, work to correct such problems by supplying the rear of the truck with additional support. Helper springs also work to prevent the expensive wear and tear that an overtaxed suspension can cause. Remember, worn tires and break pads are not only dangerous but costly to repair.
Main Types of Helper Springs
Helper springs generally fall into two categories: steel springs and pneumatic springs. Steel springs work essentially how you assume they do, by adding a steel reinforcement to existing areas. This can be done simply by adding more leafs to a current system or by bolting an auxiliary spring on top of the system; both are popular styles offered by Hellwig.
Pneumatic springs, on the other hand, use air pressure to expand and contract per the weight of the load. These are more commonly referred to as air springs or air bags. Simple and effective, they work by inflating with air to gradually level the bed of a truck.
Consumers may not realize how much the helper springs market has expanded in recent years. Manufacturers continue to innovate new products, providing truck owners with a variety of purchasing options. Read on for a further breakdown of the different types of helper springs and the pros and cons of each.
Leaf Spring Helpers
As mentioned, Hellwig provides a very popular line of helper springs that provide either constant or progressive support. Simply put, one style constantly offers a specific payload capacity while the other adjusts based on the load in the truck. While the main design stays the same, there are several different setups, making leaf spring helpers versatile and desirable. Plus, they’re very easy to install, with most simply bolting into place.
However while steel support offers maximum strength and durability, it can also compromise ride quality. Aftermarket company, SuperSprings, combats this by using a patented double roller system. This provides additional support only when a load is applied, so it’s there when you need it and unobtrusive when you don’t.
Air Bag Suspension
Air bags are also a popular helper springs style due to their adjustability. By increasing or decreasing air pressure either manually or through a compressor, you can adjust the truck’s suspension appropriately. This is ideal for uneven loads that need special accommodating. Additionally, both Air Lift and Firestone offer on-board air compressors, making it even easier for truck owners to adjust air bags by simply pushing a button.
Pneumatic helper springs have their benefits, but they also have some very real drawbacks. Air bags need maintenance to avoid leaking, cracking, or breaking. And while a compressor makes air regulation easier, they can be costly and complicated to install.
SuperSprings has an innovative solution for these issues as well. Its SumoSprings line uses air to address payload, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of capturing air in a bag, SumpSprings employs different densities of a special urethane material to trap small bubbles. “There is no need for a compressor, no need for maintenance, and they will not leak or rupture,” says the company. Additionally, they work at a progressive rate, “starting off softly, absorbing harsh bumps and movements, then as the spring compresses they fight back with more and more resistance.”
Bump Stop Springs
Another method of addressing payload are bump stops. Made of hollow rubber springs, these kits install in place of a factory bump stop, between the chassis and axle, serving as a simple and cost-effective upgrade to combat squat. Since rubber is a hard substance, this style is sometimes criticized for creating a rough feeling of “bottoming out” when the rubber makes contact with the axle.
Timbren SES Active Off-Road Bump Stops address this with a “progressive spring rate that can absorb the energy created” when this happens. This innovation allows Timbren bump stops to provide a smooth ride with reliable suspension performance.
Coil Spring Helpers
Not all vehicles come equipped with a traditional leaf spring suspension, making several options on the market ineffective. Coil spring helpers are specially designed to assist coil spring suspensions, like those found in the RAM 1500. Without installing a new suspension, coil spring helpers give truck owners the extra support they need in the rear of the vehicle to keep things level.
While some products require the actual removal of the springs, our friends at SuperSprings have once again innovated a solution. The company’s Coil SumoSprings line offers 15-30% more coil capacity through a simple product that slides between the turns of the coil spring. Additionally, because it is “manufactured from micro-cellular urethane, the material’s progressive spring rate with superior damping properties creates a cushion effect, enhancing capacity and ride comfort,” explains SuperSprings.
With such a variety of innovative helper springs on the market, don’t let an inadequate suspension system hold you back. Talk to a trusted retailer for advice on what system is best for your vehicle!