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It seems that when people see the Winnebago EKKO, their thoughts turn to larger tires and lift kits. We had sort of the opposite reaction, and wanted to improve the ride of our EKKO for the 99.99% of the time that it’s on pavement. For that, we turned to VB Air Suspension, and we headed to Utility Bodywerks in Elkhart Indiana to have it installed by their video-stealing, rockstar tech, Scott. You’ll see what I mean in this video!
First off, we can’t say enough good things about the experience we had at Utility Bodywerks and the install that Scott and team put together. Scott is the kind of guy who keeps his wrenches in his tool chest lined up and arranged by size – so he and I got along great right off the bat. Everything you see in the video was shot on the first take. He really is that good at explaining things. Our install came off without a hitch, and was completed in the time we were quoted. Couldn’t be happier there.
The VB Air Suspension
We’ve had VB Air Suspension before, in our campervan, Lance. We loved it there, so we were confident going into this install that it would be just the ticket for our EKKO. The system is every bit as automatic as you hear described in the video – day to day, drive to drive, we don’t mess with it. The end result in performance and smoothness is similar to what we experienced when we installed VB in our ProMaster.
I hadn’t realized it, but our EKKOs suspension was pretty heavily loaded. The leaf springs were sort of curved in the other direction from what you expect, and we were close to riding on the bump stops. Since getting the VB suspension, our ride height is improved and extremely consistent – we haven’t hit the bump stops since. The other main benefit I’ve noticed since installation is the reduction of body roll in crosswinds, when passing semis, and when taking a curb at an angle. The EKKO wasn’t difficult to drive before VB. After the install, it’s a peach.
Even though it’s not sold as a leveling system, we have been able to get over two inches of travel – up or down – out of our VB air suspension when parked at campsites. This has helped us to get level on a number of occasions. We are still going to install a leveling system in the future, and we hope to find one that works with the VB Air suspension.
Where Is Our Spare Tire?
Initial questions seem to be almost entirely about the spare tire, so let me answer that here. We absolutely could have asked Scott to reinstall our spare tire, and he would have done so. Installing the VB suspension does not require getting rid of the spare tire.
But we chose not to have the spare tire and all it’s associated machinery reinstalled. There are a lot better things I can do with that 80+ pounds.
Our spare tire is at home, in the garage, on a rack. We don’t travel with one, and haven’t traveled with or needed a spare tire in over 10 years of RVing. The last time I can actually remember needing a spare tire for anything that a puncture kit wouldn’t fix… I was in college headed to Panama City Beach for spring break.
So we travel with a 4 ounce puncture kit instead of an 80+ pound spare. That’s a risk we’re willing to assume for our style of travel.
We are planning another video where we give our impressions of the suspension upgrade after a 6 month break-in. Look for that to drop sometime in the spring. In the meantime, if you have any questions, sound off in the comments below!
James it’s been over a year, are you still liking the Air Bags? IYO, was it still the way to go over other suspension mods? I was a little concerned when you mentioned the stock suspension almost at the bumpers. New rig being picked up soon (they held it for the screen campaign). Was nice to meet you at the Denver show last weekend.
Yep, I still like the air suspension. Stef doesn’t like it as much as I do, particularly since installing the levelers (we have to wait for it to air up and down now, whenever deploying the leveling jacks).
Most of the other EKKO suspension mods I’ve seen involve adding lift to the EKKO. That’s fine, if that’s what you want – but adding lift works against leveling jacks, so it was never in the cards for us.
Hi James, I have a class B Winnebago ERA 170X. Is has the four tires in the back like yours and has four wheel drive. Like you, I plan on being mostly on the road. I have a desk on a Laguna table mount and I work sitting on one of captain Chairs behind the front seats. I feel the bumps in the road, especially when crossing over freeway expansion joints. Does the suspension system help eliminate some of that rattling?
Some, but you’ll still feel that jarring.
The VB is on the rear axle only, and if you’re right behind the front seats, then you’re a lot closer to the front axle…
Thank you so much for the quick response. Any suggestions to help reduce that jarring in the front area?
Traditional suspension upgrades should help in the front.
Look for more comfortable springs, shocks, etc. A reputable suspension shop should be able to help.
I like the system. How much did it cost to purchase the system and have it installed?
The price varies – depending on labor rates where you get it installed. Where we got it, it was in the $7,000 range.
Thank you, James, for the best, most detailed review on the internet for VB Air. I’m getting it installed soon in my Sprinter based class C, unfortunately at a massively inflated price for what Scott’s company offers, but the fuel and time to travel 4000 miles roundtrip to his place is unworkable. When you do the long-term review, a few more tech details that would be good to verify or correct from the 1st video: According to the VB Air technical documents, you can only go max of 1 inch above ride height and 2 inches below. Scott had said about 3 inches up or down. Once the ebrake is pulled, you can then let it back down and be creeping at up to 3mph while manually adjusting the ride height before it will auto adjust to ride height. You should be able to long press the up/down buttons if you want a specific height within this limited range. You do not have left/right adjustability or the more advanced motorhome functions that VBAir touts in their videos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-I2oOOP_GCM. Such features are only for the 4-corner VB systems, which are not available for the Sprinter or Transit vans in the US.
How was the ekko rides b4 the air suspension? I having jaco 28′ class c, is super noise and bouncy, we ordered ekko coming very soon but we have drive or ride in one, doesn’t ekko rides better than f450 chassis? Can’t wait to see your review on the air suspension. Thanks
The EKKO actually rode rather well before the suspension upgrade. It’s on another level now.
There’s really no comparison between the EKKO on the new Ford Transit and one of the old-style chassis RVs.
I understand that Advanced RV often installs this type of air suspension on their custom builds plus adds Airtabs to the rear edges of high profile rigs. I’d very much like to see your evaluation of this product for any potential benefits like fuel saving, passing big rig wind stability, maybe even less road dirt pulled up and deposited on the rear of the rig, etc.. I’ve been tempted to add these but know you would do a great job evaluating them to help with my decision!
I’ve thought about them, but haven’t pulled the trigger because I don’t have access to a wind tunnel!
My Aerospace Engineering background won’t let me evaluate them with anything less. 😉
Wind tunnels are very cool for sure! And Ford has several according to this article. Winnebago buys a lot of Transit vans – and with your qualifications I’m thinking they might be able to get you some wind tunnel time for your EKKO… it might be beneficial for everyone! How could you resist?
I would say to avoid rocky terrain, say fist sized or slightly smaller that can wedge into side walls of dual rears. A can of fix a flat won’t help with cut sidewalls. That is when you need the spare. AWD tends to make people go into places like that to get away and find more pristine environments. Getting a tow or service truck to help you out could be hard to come by.
Gravel roads & asphalt are fairly safe by comparison.
We go on forest service roads occasionally, but mainly we stick to pavement.
Why? We’re road cyclists! We need roads.
It’s a rare trip when we don’t bring the bikes.
Hello James & Steph, we’ve found your videos and reviews at FitRV to be very insightful. So much so, that you guys influenced our choice of RVs, and we just signed a purchase agreement ordering our new EKKO. That said, as we consider an aftermarket lift kit/suspension enhancement, would you mind sharing what impact this has on your Winnebago or Ford warranties? Maybe I missed it…
Hi there! Glad you’re finding our site and reviews helpful.
As far as the suspension enhancement and warranties are concerned: Obviously, the components that were removed are no longer under warranty. We couldn’t get a warranty replacement on our leaf springs… they’re gone! But the balance of our warranty is intact. To do otherwise is illegal.
You can read a bit more about the Magnuson Moss Warranty act here: https://apb-law.com/understanding-magnuson-moss-act-relates-aftermarket-car-parts/
Much appreciated! All the Best!
do you know of an intaller in southern california for the suspension
You can find a list of their dealers/installers at: https://www.vbairsuspensionusa.com/us/page/dealers/list.html
There were a couple in CA, but I don’t have any experience with them personally.
Is wind noise when driving an issue on the EKKO, & if so, do you plan a video to address it? It is on my Thor class C & I block it with a Bose QC35 headset.
Like any vehicle, there is wind noise. We don’t find it objectionable any more than other RVs we’ve ridden in.
I may create a fairing for the roof, to keep wind off the solar panels, but that’s about it. No other plans to address noise.
Scott is obviously a working man. He probably rides a Harley, too.
Scott is AWESOME!
Would Sumo Springs Have worked just as well? Love your videos
Sumo Springs are just upgraded bump stops. For them to even engage, the EKKO would have to compress its leaf springs lower than ride height, which it already was.
So with the Sumo Springs, we’d essentially always be riding on the bump stops.
Don’t get me wrong, the Sumo Springs will help, but they’re nothing like this.
I hope Winnebago is keeping a close watch on all the improvements you’ve made to your new coach, I’m thinking the factory could perform the same modifications at a reduced cost for people who want to order a new coach with your type of specifications. The better solar and battery setup, the air ride, the better L lounge instead of two siamesed chairs, etc. Love your videos!
“I hope Winnebago is keeping a close watch on all the improvements you’ve made”
I agree and no doubt so do many others. Changes we’d like to see:
3 battery option
4 battery option
Xantrex 3000W/150A Freedom XC Pro option in lieu of Xantrex 2000W/80A Freedom XC
Induction cooktop option
Microwave/convection oven option
Black water tank in lieu of the cassette toilet
VB rear air suspension option
VB rear/Quigley front suspension option
Cab color options
Additional floor plans including one with a forward dinette area “bed” that sleeps 4 without need for the optional pop-top.
Leveling system option
I agree I should probably wait a year before I pull the trigger because of so many option not available. Yet. I have a REV w/ really good suspension on it I AM afraid to give it up for potential bad suspension in a 160k RV.
Are the VB REAR air and VB rear Front suspension two different options? Or do you need both to get full benefit.
VB offers 2 corner or 4 corner suspension systems for the platforms they work with.
I don’t believe the 4 corner system is available for the Transit cutaway.
You couldn’t order a 2 corner system and then add another system independently – they’d all have to be working together with the same controller, etc.
The fresh water tank in the rear, under the passenger side bunk, holds 50 gallons, amounting to 417 pounds. That tank is largely behind the rear axle. And also reflect that all the sales marketing sideviews are that of an “empty” Ekko,
Then, say we add 4 people and their stuff.
And say we retain the spare tire, a reasonable choice for some, as Scott at Utility Bodywerks said was possible.
The case for the VB air suspension is extremely strong.
I like parabolic taper leaf suspensions which the Transit 3500 has, 2 leaves plus a single helper leaf.
However, in this application, a self-leveling air suspension is “needed”, in my humble opinion.
Also, looking at an Ekko sideview, one can see that, based on the location of the rear (drive) axle, there is a tremendous amount of weight on the steer axle resulting in the front hunkering down. A 2-inch lift on the front (steer) axle would improve the Ekko’s demeanor, and approach angle.
Relocating the exhaust outlet midships vastly improved the departure angle.
I would presume that losing the weight of the spare tire and gaining VB equipment, you have a minimal gain on your gross vehicle weight. Have you weighed yet ? Overall pretty cool.
When all was said and done, our weight increased a small amount.
We weigh before trips, when we’re as loaded down as we will ever be. We’re still not overweight.
Based on what we’ve learned here, thanks to James and Stef, I myself will have Quigley install their 2″ Qlift on the steer axle suspension only, and the VB suspension on the rear, with additional air pressure to level off the Ekko.The front of the Ekkos are low to begin with, and that’s with the rear springs compressed. The combination should level off the chassis while improving approach and departure angles, and ground clearance under the fuel tank and front/left battery compartment.
At the rear, Qlift is just blocks to level off the chassis……the engineered alteration is at the front suspension. I will discuss the “pairing” with both suppliers beforehand.
It sounds like James has gained at least 1 inch (maybe 2″) with the addition of the VB suspension (“we’re no longer riding on compressed leaf springs. The overall ride height is back up where it should be, and we have increased clearance in the wheel wells”). It would be interesting to know the before and after distance between the rear bumper and rear fender (top center), and the ground.
Curious why you picked this suspension improvement system over some of the other options available?
See my reply to Deanna a bit below, that pretty much sums it up.
Plus, we had it before in our ProMaster, and loved it.
Stef has a story about driving two Travatos across California (one with VB, one without) that really drives it home. Basically, she demanded to drive the rig with VB suspension, despite the fact that it was towing a trailer.
If the exhaust is to exit on the side versus the rear, I’d prefer the pipe run (cross) over the top of the propeller shaft and exit ahead of the drive tires on the left (drivers) side, rather than the right side where the camper door is.
Seems a lot of complication for questionable benefit.
You do you though.
We don’t generally run the engine in camp, so it’s not a big deal for us.
But given a choice……………..and you should have been given exhaust reconfiguration options.
I honestly don’t think it would have been practical to route the exhaust over or under the drive shaft.
It’s obvious to me that the Ekko’s suspension is heavily loaded. One can upgrade the suspension. But realize, the uniladder frame is also heavily loaded, and it by design is not as strong as a conventional truck frame. In summary, the chassis is maxed out to the limit.
Winnebago is selling the Ekko as “ready to go”, while Scott at Utility Bodywerks is explaining in realistic terms how flawed the pre-mod Ekko Transit chassis is.
If the Ekko is at the limits of the chassis, then the LTV Wonder must be there or worse. GVWR for both is 11000 lbs.
Can you share more info on the puncture kit you mentioned above?
No problem. It’s just something like this: https://amzn.to/3D7rhrO. (Affiliate link)
You can also pick them up at just about any truck stop.
I’ve got 3 of these puncture kits. They are a little more robust than the cheaper ones.
Don’t forget you’ll also need a 12v air pump. I think I got mine at Walmart.
That’s very similar ton the one we travel with. We also have a Viair pump.
We had this put on our 2020 Unity and it works great! I wish the installer would have let me watch, your video answered some questions. I think I only get 1 inch of height extension over road height when parked. Do you have any info on long term storage? Will the pressure hold or do I have to pump them up periodically?
We had the same system on Lance, and he was more or less stored during our 9 month tour in “Parky”.
No ill effects observed.
Does the VB system come with the capability of hooking up an air hose to inflate your RV or bike tires when needed?
That would be cool, but no, it doesn’t have that.
VB Fullair 2C specs including options
We just visited Lichtsinn last week, looking at the EKKO. (and purchased your “Americanizer” for our current cassette). we’re considering a EKKO for delivery in 2022…ish. What is the budget for this job, Materials and Labor…Thanks
That’s tough to say, because a lot of it depends on your installer. Installs in California, for example, would likely have higher labor rates than in Indiana.
There may also be supply chain issues since we got ours.
Ball park estimate though would be between $5k and $8k, depending on a lot of factors.
This is one of the things that it would be *nice* to see as an option but that’s really not practical. Given the cost of something like this, I don’t really see it as something people are going to be lining up to have done either. But, it’s good to know what’s involved.
I don’t know enough about suspension systems but back when I was looking at truck campers, it was common to put airbags on both front and rear to adjust the ride and adjust for changes in load. Do you know why this system only put bags on the rear?
Good question. I did ask them about four-corner air bags. They don’t have them available for the Transit, but they do on other platforms. They said it was because they didn’t really see much benefit to adding them in the front. The front suspension is capable enough to handle its load, and never gets built-out or loaded up like the rear axle does.
On the ProMaster, they did replace our front springs with some VB-specific springs. I asked about that as well, and they said the ProMaster spring had a different spring rate than stock, but the Ford spring was fine as it was.
I agree……..It is reasonable to expect the VB air suspension to be available as a factory-installed option.
Does moving the tail pipe put too much heat onnthe rear tires? Will it change tire life at all?
Interesting question, and obviously one that we can’t answer completely until 30,000 miles or so.
We’ve got several thousand miles on since installing the VB, and I haven’t noticed the tires melting, or wearing any faster than their counterparts on the driver’s side.
So, my initial observations are that the effects of the heat, if there are any, are minor. And likely nothing that regular tire rotation won’t mitigate.
Winnebago View/Navion has exhaust coming out in front of the rear tires too. No issue.
Ah. Good to know.
I don’t know what the difference in exhaust temperatures (gas vs diesel) might be, but hearing this, I’m confident there’s no issue.
It’s not quite clear where the spare tire ended up. Please elaborate. Thanks.
It ended up in our garage.
I’ll put an update in the post above.
Was a 4 way leveling system not available for Ford from vb.
We’re working on getting that set up as our next chassis mod.
Where did you put the spare tire?
In our garage. We don’t travel with one and haven’t for years.
Thank you for another great EKKO project video!!!
I wish I could keep up with all of your mods!
Please post some pictures of the EKKO at max and min heights.
Sure, if I remember to.
Important to note though – you can’t drive at max or min height. The system will move you back to ride height when you take off.
With all the cool mods you done so far, how much have you changed the occc of the ekko? have you been to a cat scale fully load?
We overloaded the rig as much as we possibly could on our last trip and hit the scale. We even made sure we had all the drink holders full. We still have capacity available.
Looks like a great upgrade. I missed where the spare tire ended up, though. Is it still mounted underneath?
Though we could have kept it, the spare tire ended up in our garage. We don’t travel with one, and haven’t for years.
Thanks for sharing the install. Sooo… you mentioned it will make the 99.99% of your ride better, however, the Ekko is sold as somewhat an adventure Van capable of light off road / dirt road adventures and even a bit of snow… So it would be nice to know of you did or did not loose any clearance. It does look like the pump sits lower than the gas tank. Also, not sure if you covered what’s your plan for the spare now? Looks and sounds like an amazing system, but not happy you had to sacrifice your spare.
The pump may sit a bit lower than the gas tank, but that’s far from the lowest point on the vehicle. I don’t believe the ground clearance was changed in any significant way. The specs for that are on the VB web site I believe.
Overall, the clearance picture is improved, as we’re no longer riding on compressed leaf springs. The overall ride height is back up where it should be, and we have increased clearance in the wheel wells. We’re in fine shape for any light off road or dirt road use, and should perform even better in the snow.
As far as the spare tire: we could have kept it and asked Scott to reinstall it. It would have worked. But given the number of times we’ve needed a spare tire per year while RVing (0 times in over 10 years), I thought it a better use of weight to just carry a puncture kit and inflator and save 80 pounds.
i never leave home without a full-size spare tire. It only takes one bad experience………..
The Ekko’s tires are carrying a heavy burden.
Soon to be the worlds most expensive EKKO
Likely already is. Lol!
Where did the spare tire end up going?
I’ll put an update in the post above.