A Smoother Ride: Installing VB Air Suspension in our RV


First things first:  We just had VB Air Suspension installed in our ProMaster RV at Advanced RV, and we’re flat out loving it.  Check out the video to see the install and our first impressions.

 

But WHY?!?!?!?” you may be asking yourself.  The answer to that takes a little explaining.  You see, some people are surprised to hear that I still have a “real” job.

This is my day job. Try to contain your excitement.

Luckily, I can work remotely much of the time, so the “real” job is pretty flexible.  But sometimes, the “real” job and The Fit RV collide, and I have to work while we’re physically on the road.  This has gotten a lot easier since we’re in our ProMaster-based Winnebago Travato.  The floor plan provides me a place to set up shop, and the front wheel drive ProMaster is something Stef actually likes to drive.  So occasionally, I’m working while Stef drives.

I mean, yeah… She’s usually driving places like this. But hey! It’s still work!

Now, the ProMaster, and our Travato RV had always had a pretty good ride.  But if you’ve ever tried to read a laptop  screen for 8 hours while bouncing down a California interstate… well you’ve either thrown up, or you’ve resolved to do anything you can to smooth out the ride.  (Sorry, California.  Some of your roads just suck.)

So with that backdrop, Stef has for years been reminding me of the dreamy smooth ride she once took in an Advanced RV that was equipped with VB Air Suspension.  VB is a Dutch company, and besides just the Sprinters, they also make an air suspension system for the Fiat Ducato – and by extension, the Ram ProMaster.

After one too many long days working literally “on the road”, I had had enough.  A few phone calls and emails to VB and to Advanced RV, and we had an appointment to be one of the first North American installs of the VB Air Suspension in a Ram ProMaster.

Groundbreaking Orthopedic Van Surgery!

Long story short, our air suspension installed without a hitch, and ahead of schedule.  The team at Advanced RV took great care of us, and did a highly professional job underneath our rig.  And in use, the VB Air Suspension kit has done all that we hoped it would.  It won’t turn a potholed California highway into a cloud, but it does make me feel a lot less nauseous after a day’s work.  You’ll see what I mean when you watch the video.  It’s just “smoother”.  A built-out ProMaster RV is typically riding on its bump stops in the rear, so the improvement is fairly obvious.

Cost:

I’ll be honest – this is not an inexpensive proposition.  But if you want the best ride you can have… it’s worth it.  A number of you have asked in the comments what an install like this would cost.  We did receive a discount, and this was the first install on a ProMaster in North America.  But Advanced RV also installs VB Air Suspension on Mercedes-Benz Sprinters (both rear and 4 wheel drive).

Exact pricing depends on your rig, and any obstacles or obstructions it may present.  In any case, the final out-the-door price is likely to be in the mid to upper 4 figures.  For a more accurate pricing estimate, it’s best to just contact Advanced RV directly (they’re super nice).

It’s Better Than We Let On:

A couple of you have mentioned in the comments that I seemed… reserved… in my initial assessment of the new ride.  If you think that we’re not impressed with the smoothness, you’ve got that dead wrong!  We love it!  And the more we’ve ridden with it, the more we appreciate it.  For example: I don’t know if you picked up the reduced body roll going around turns and into driveways in the video, but that’s something that wasn’t even on my radar in that first ten minutes.  And at one point on our trip, I hooked up a trailer.  As I hooked it up, the compressor kicked on and adjust the ride height.  Genius!  I expect that we’ll find other things to appreciate about the VB Suspension upgrade in the months to come.

So if you think I’m a bit restrained in the video, here’s why:  I’m an engineer at heart.  I’m much more comfortable giving an opinion if I’ve got data to back it up.  This video was shot after – very literally – my first two miles riding with the air suspension.  And I was trying to describe a feeling (which, let’s face it, is not what I’m best at).  Since then, we’ve ridden a couple thousand miles with the VB Air Suspension.  Stef’s driven for full 8 hour days on interstates while I worked (without getting nauseous).  We’ve done more high speed, low speed, panic stops, and stop-and-go.  And we appreciate the smoothness more and more with each situation we encounter.  Plus… I’ve now got data.

More to Come:

That’s right.  I’m working on another video where I plan to show – with data – that the VB Air Suspension has really helped our RV’s ride.  Stay tuned for that.  In the meantime, maybe we’ll see you out on the (now much smoother) road!



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling certified coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he’s not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or – that one time – doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    63 thoughts on “A Smoother Ride: Installing VB Air Suspension in our RV

    1. Dave Lane

      Thank you for the numbers. I would say that your weights are pretty typical for a class B.

      Are you happy with VB’s choice to go with the “light” upgrade coil spring as apposed to the “comfort” coil spring with a higher load rating and more lift?

      Thank you,

      Dave

      Reply
    2. dave lane

      James,

      Can you share with us if you have it what your front and back axle weights were when you installed the VB-Air Suspension.

      Thank you,

      Dave

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Oddly enough, I have them. Though it was on different scales, and the van was not loaded the same in both cases. In the “after” case, we were loaded to the max for a month-long trip, so not nearly all of that weight change is from the VB.
        Before
        Front: 4280 Rear: 4640
        After
        Front: 4335 Rear: 4817

        Yes, we roll pretty heavy.

        Reply
    3. Dave Lane

      Hi James,

      Really enjoy fallowing all your upgrades. Great videos!

      Thank you for the creation of the skid plate, I’ll be buying one soon as I also have the Nations Alternator kit.

      I have a DIY camper van conversion on the Ram Promaster 3500 Ext. We do a fair amount of 2wd off road travel to access climbing areas and the Promaster has really good traction when the ESC is turned off. Unfortunately the stock suspension is not up to the off road travel 🙁 I am hitting the bump stops on off road driving when I hit any rough terrain. I’m hoping the VB suspension will solve my issues. What do you think?

      A few questions about your VB suspension:

      1) did you upgrade your front strut/shock absorbers when you upgraded to the new VB front springs

      2) are you able to increase the ride hight for off road travel front and back

      3) do you think the VB Suspension will be good for 2wd rough road travel

      Thank you,

      Dave

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Hi Dave –
        I do think the VB suspension will help with hitting the bump stops for sure. They remove the back ones during the install! And they installed longer coil springs in the front.
        1.) We still have the same struts/shock absorbers. I’m thinking of some day switching to Koni reds if I can find them.
        2.) You *can* increase the ride height in the back, but on our model you’re not meant to drive that way. They do have other models where you can travel at a low speed with the ride height increased.
        3.) I think VB would certainly make rough road travel smoother. But remember, on a ProMaster, there’s nothing that can be done about the rear axle. So the ground clearance is limited by that.

        Reply
    4. Tracy

      I noticed a difference in the ride stability instantly while watching the “after” video. A smooth quality ride marks a difference.
      By the way, I was able to ask intelligent questions as my husband and I test drove the Travato today. Salesman wasn’t as knowledgeable as you are James! I decided to test him with a few questions and I knew his answers were either wrong or vague. I had to bite my tongue because I know a better suspension can be installed.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Indeed, you can improve the suspension of the Travato! After just rolling through 1500 miles this weekend, I’m thrilled at our upgrade.

        Reply
    5. Billy

      Hey James! I have a question, and it’s really coming from a student so it may be a bit random. My school recently purchased a trailer that has no suspension on a small 25 feet long trailer hitch. Now, we have to transport a piece of “equipment” potentially 2500 miles from the east coast to the west coast. My question is, if it is possible to add suspension to this trailer, do you think it would be worth it?

      This is a trailer that we will be using for 20 plus years into the future that was initially purchased for $8,000 through donations. I want to be able to sell people on this idea if it really does help. Thanks!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Well, I have to say, that’s an interesting one.
        You haven’t given me a lot of details, so I’ll be general.
        Adding suspension could be anything from a couple of leaf springs to full air suspension as I’ve added here. If it’s even possible (and I don’t know if it is), costs would vary widely.
        And if the “equipment” might be anything from a backhoe to a particle accelerator. Those would obviously warrant different levels of protection.
        So without knowing more, I would first see if even adding the suspension is possible, and for how much. Then, once you know the costs, you can decide if it’s worth it for your application.
        Good Luck!

        Reply
    6. Bob B

      So exactly – at max ride height – is the overall height of Lance now? Sounds like you have gained a couple/several inches. How high does an underpass have to be for clearance?

      Reply
        1. James - Post author

          And, I did!
          9 feet 2 inches. Less than what Winnebago publishes for a new Travato.

    7. Dave T

      Hi James, great review and comments that have answered most things I was pondering. One other, does the rear have rebound damping? I’m assuming there must be some or it would be akin to riding 2 spacehoppers.

      Reply
    8. Eric Eltinge

      For my 2015 Winnebago ERA, I have been told the VB is a weight load leveling system designed for Sprinter van limos. That way party goers won’t spill their drinks while pole dancing! Unloaded it will actually make the ride a little stiffer. It is not specifically designed for make the ride softer, like a big Class-A motorhome. Wonder what Russ at factory has to say about this? I did install the 4 big red Koni shocks, which helped with the wallowing and porpoising, but not the ride on CA freeways. Hopefully, the new Michelin tires will help.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I couldn’t say what they would do to the ride *unloaded*. When we’re loaded for a trip, with 4 bikes, full tanks, Stef’s ridiculously overstuffed fridge, and all our gear – we’re somewhere around 9000 pounds.
        I could see the ride being stiffer in an empty tin can, but that’s nowhere near our typical situation.
        I won’t put words in Russ’ mouth – he hasn’t ridden in Lance since the mod. But some other folks have, and they’ll be in an upcoming video.
        (But we do love the Michelin tires…)

        Reply
    9. Andy & Kim

      Great upgrade,! I bet it helps Stef execute more advanced drifting moves!
      What is the warranty on that new system in case of an air bag or computer/sensor failure?

      Andy

      Reply
    10. Dave Drinkhouse

      Hi again,
      Inspiring to see this upfit!

      I’ve reached out to Advanced RV using their website form to inquire about upfitting Tio, our 2016 Era 70a. At the top of our list are more comfortable front seats and bigger, better coach battery power system.

      When I watched the suspension upfit, I was wondering if leveling jacks were doable as an extra to this project. I recall your interest in a level bed at night.

      i can only imagine what Fit RV might dream up for the next upfit. Go James and Stef. Thank you both:)

      Reply
    11. Cameron

      You’re such a nice guy for answering so many questions in comments.

      These guys did a pretty nice data-driven approach by hard-mounting their phones to air and coil spring Teslas and measuring the G-forces coming off the accelerometers with an app. There is definitely a small but measurable win for air springs:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVYt8VOG1ok

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        This is actually very similar to the test I ran with our RV and another stock Travato.
        Look for that video in the coming weeks!

        Reply
    12. Interstate Blog

      A few additional general comments speaking as someone who has researched this issue…

      In my observation, air suspension is mostly done by people who are not concerned with resale value as a primary motivational factor. They, in turn, fall into two groups:

      (1) People who have a lot of money, either by virtue of absolute wealth, or, they are late in the 4th quarter of their lives and they figure what the hell – you can’t take it with you, might as well spend it. Neither of these factors describe my husband and I, who more closely resemble —

      (2) People who have adopted their Class B as their primary life’s hobby and just decided that is where they’ll put their disposable income.

      For people in the second category, it’s a decision that is best amortized over the expected lifespan of the investment (rather than looking at resale value). My husband and I have a 10-year-old Class B built on a very robust platform (T1N Sprinter with only 44,000 miles on it thus far). We are investing and upfitting based on an expectation that we will keep and enjoy this vehicle for another 10 years. Therefore we have to look at each improvement through that lens in order to see if it makes sense to us.

      I won’t lead the witness (James) in commenting on the costs – I’ll wait for his comments first. I will tell you that we were quoted labor costs that were substantial, hence our plan to DIY our system.

      Reply
    13. Interstate Blog

      Congrats on getting this major project accomplished. I’ll be paying attention to your ride quality assessments going forward.

      We are not quite there yet. Our Class B is an upfit 2006 T1N Sprinter, and on a vehicle that old, there is not much demand for an air retrofit. Therefore, we were forced into ordering our system from Glide-Rite in the UK, which, in turn, insists on using one single solitary U.S. distributor who has given us really bad service. They took a four-figure down payment from us and then proceeded to do… basically nothing except give us erroneous updates on a delivery date. We still don’t have our components and it has been months (we are going to DIY our job). And for this privilege, we get to pay the considerable distributor mark-up – how sweet is that? Needless to say, it hasn’t been a fun project thus far, and the snafu has caused us to miss having the system in place for our 2017 travel season. Such is life on the bleeding edge of Class B mods, I guess.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Our assessments have only gotten better. This video was right after leaving the shop. Like – 5 minutes after. Since then, we’ve got a couple thousand miles in, and a lot of highway miles (which is where the bulk of my working happens). Also, I’ve got *data* now, which I’m more comfortable talking to than just describing the seat of my pants feeling. Look for another post soon!

        Reply
    14. Tom Cahill

      Does this system give you any ability to raise the vehicle to give yourself more clearance? For that time you are driving down that rutted back road and you need a little more clearance?

      And, you are almost to Pittsburgh when you are at Advanced RV. Come for a visit. The town is great and you are close to lots of Western PA attractions. The Laurel Highlands has great Biking and Hiking. Ever been to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water or Kentuck Knob? Thanks for the post.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Besides the extra inch and a quarter up front (which I appreciate because I have that low-hanging alternator), the VB system does offer a manual adjustment.
        I haven’t experimented with that yet. But from my quick read of the manual, it seems you would be limited to low speed driving if you had adjusted the air suspension manually.
        More experimentation required, and a cool idea for a video!

        Reply
    15. Rich

      Awesome !!! So the question that we probably all have is, cost. How much was it with installation . I have a Hymer Active and would love to do something like this. Also a cost vs benefit analysis.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Lots of people are asking this. I’m working to get prices from Advanced RV and VB, and I’ll just update the post when I’ve got them.
        As far as cost benefit analysis: Depends on how much the benefit is worth to you. For a solo traveler, who is never in the back of the vehicle when moving – it might be less of a benefit. It would still give you better ride height under load, and better handling – but you would never experience the smoothness. But if you’re like me and have to work back there while someone drives, the benefit is definitely worth it.

        Reply
    16. Ben

      Did you had Sumo Spring before the VB system?

      Did I see an HWH or other brand levelling system while the VB was getting installed, didn’t know there were some made for the ProMaster.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Very observant!
        Yes – I had the Sumo Springs installed before we got the VB. So my before/after is comparing to Sumo Springs, not to just the stock suspension.
        And yes, there is a leveling system that was also installed.
        You’ll see that in an upcoming post! 😉

        Reply
        1. Mike

          I also noticed the E&P Hydraulics leveler system. Assume you had Advanced RV do the install. Looking forward to your future post on the leveling system.

    17. Kate Wollheim

      Hey Stef! Luv, luv, luv your Aventura clothing advice…&the clothes! – IF u have more codes please email me!
      Ty! Katie

      Reply
    18. Karl

      So how much did the system cost installed? Actually how much would it cost the general public? Thanks. PS: Really like your you tube vids!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Everyone is asking this. Rather than respond to the individual comments, I’ll just update the post itself when I have some good numbers.
        (And we’re glad you like our videos!)

        Reply
    19. fer

      Hello Fit RV,
      Why didnt you go for the full airsuspension.
      Then you would also had the possibility to have an automatic levveling system.
      Works great.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        We had considered the full, 4 corner air. But we were trying to keep costs down, and our friends at VB filled us in that most of the benefit would be realized from adding the rear.
        Also – the front of the ProMaster is quite a bit different from the front of a Ducato. Ours has a large gasoline engine, for example. That’s pretty standard in North America, but the techs working on it had never seen such an engine on a Ducato. Some of the clearances were different, and tighter. I was able to photograph the back end and verify with VB that everything would fit before we decided to proceed. The front end would have been another project by itself.

        Reply
    20. David Golembeski

      A smoother ride would be a bonus, but my main concern would be extended ground clearance for boondocking on forest roads. Does this system offer the capability of raising the ride height for extra clearance with the push of a button?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        There is a control in the cab that allows for manual adjustment of vehicle height. You can lower it closer to the ground when parked, for example.
        You *can* raise things to the maximum, but I have not tried to drive like this.
        Ours does not have this feature, but VB offers models with an “off road” setting. In that mode, it’s advised to keep speeds low (less than 18 mph).

        Reply
        1. James - Post author

          With our model yes. But they do have other 4 corner models that work on all 4 wheel positions.

    21. Cameron

      This is cool stuff guys! We have an air spring rear setup in our B+, but its of the manual compressor variety. We’ve found it most useful for improving steering feel and tracking at high speeds – the more rear ride-height you dial in with the springs, the more the weight moves to the nose, the more planted and straight the RV seems to go. This may be less of an issue on the FWD PromMaster.

      My question is, could you use a full 4-air spring setup for leveling? Whats the ride height difference on the air springs at max and min heights?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        We’ve never had any issues with tracking or stability on our ProMaster. We’ve always felt fine with the level of control we have.
        But YES – though we have only 2 corner air suspension, there are *auto leveling* functions available in other VB models.
        Even with only our rear axle air suspension, I have already used this to level the vehicle and it works great. It won’t level side-to-side obviously, but front-to-back leveling is easy within the range of travel.

        Reply
    22. Helen and Don Wolf

      Hi you two look great and happy as always. I watch your video on the suspension and you did not seem to be really impressed a lot.
      After twenty two years of R Ving Helen and decided to sale the R V which was a Unity 2016 with all the safety features. I put it in R V Trader on Tuesday and sold it for cash on Wednesday. I had two cash buyers the very next morning.
      After one and a half year of use I ask only thirteen thousand less than I payed for it. I said firm on the price and they where ok with that. I felt pretty fortunate that it happened so fast. I knew I had a great product and supply and demand talks. That was my third leisure travel RV The first one in 1995 when I retired Thank You All for your Blog. I really enjoyed it and will still follow you.
      Helen and Don

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Helen and Don! We’re so glad you still follow our blog even though you’ve sold your LTV. (Glad you sold it fast though!)
        I wouldn’t say that Stef and I were unimpressed. It’s a difficult thing to describe a “feeling”, and I’m always more comfortable describing experiment results or something where I’ve got data.
        The ride was impressive, no doubt. I was just a bit awkward describing it. I’ll update the post with some more explanation on this.

        Reply
    23. JAY CRANSTON

      IS THIS UNIT WORTH ALL THIS WORK AND MONEY? ARE ALL THE IMPROVEMENTS YOU HAVE MADE MAKE IT COST EFFECTIVE TO THE VALUE YOU WILL BE ABLE TO GET AT A TRADE TIME. HOW DOES THIS UNIT COMPARE TO THE SPRINTER YOU HAD? POWER, FUEL MILEAGE AND LOAD LIMITS. CHANGE QUESTIONS, DO YOU LIKE LIVING IN UTAH ? WE ARE THINKING OF RELOCATING FROM OREGON, AT THIS POINT JUST THINKING. P/S WE HAVE A 2017 DYNAMAX SPRINTER DUEL SLIDES. AFTER HAVING 10 MOTOR HOMES OVER THE YEARS YOU WOULD THINK I WOULD HAVE LEARNED LO.L p/s retired g/m trainer

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Lot of questions there, Jay. I’ll try to answer them all.
        First, since we have a blog and YouTube channel, our considerations for RV projects are different from a lot of people’s. We’re not primarily concerned with resale, as an individual owner might be. Instead, we’re more concerned with pushing the boundaries and seeing what is possible with a class B motorhome. Having said that, we’re pretty confident that Lance will wind up with a good home when it comes time to trade. And anyone who has ridden in a stock ProMaster RV will appreciate the ride improvements from the air suspension.
        We prefer the ProMaster RV to the Sprinter we had before. One thing we miss about the Sprinter was the 600 miles between fill-ups. But the front-wheel-drive, and the ease of maintenance on the gas engine are more than adequate compensation for that.
        And yes, Utah is AWESOME. If you like it dry (we do), and if you like the outdoors (we do) in all seasons (we do), then you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to relocate than Utah! 5 National Parks, baby!!

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Popular question!
        Working on getting some prices we can put on a web page. Once I have them, I’ll just update the post itself.

        Reply
    24. Sam Pellegrino

      Great leap forward! I do have a couple of questions:
      1. Shock Absorbers: Looks like you are still riding on the OE shocks. How many miles on them? Did you consider replacing them as well, so that the entire suspension was “fresh?”

      2. Bump Stops: I saw the rear Sumo Springs in place. Were they eventually removed? Or, are they still in a position to act as a functioning Bump Stop?

      3: “Real Data:” Thank You for saying that you would try to provide some “data,” as both you and Stef struggled (like the rest of us) to describe the “seat-of-the-pants” feel you get from one set-up to another. This can also be where the age of the shock absorbers might be a contributing factor. I would just like to see real, side-by-side numbers showing “by what percent” a modified suspension changes from the OEM set-up.

      THANK YOU!!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Hey Sam – thanks for the comments.
        1. We did not specifically ask for the shock absorbers to be replaced. At about the 3 minute mark in the video, you can see some of the removed parts, and it looks to me like the rear shocks were removed. Though the front ones still seem to be original. I’ll ask VB if they recommend any changes to the shocks to match properly with their setup. Ours have about 38,000 miles on them now. We did replace all four tires before heading into Advanced RV, so both the before and after are on new Michelin Defender LTX M/S tires. And also, we had a full alignment done immediately after leaving.
        2. The Sumo Springs were removed. At about 3:37 in the video, you can see that a much smaller, VB-supplied bump stop is now in place. Sumos would have been too big in this application, and would have prevented the air suspension from reaching its lowest point.
        3. YES! I knew you would pick up on my awkwardness in just describing a feeling! I know it felt smoother, but how do you say that in an objective way? I’m an engineer at heart… I’m always more comfortable talking about these kinds of things if I have actual data to back me up. I have another project in the works where I put Lance up against a stock Travato G… with data. Look for it soon. (But I’ll warn you – I have 6 other videos to produce already! May take a couple weeks.)

        Reply
    25. Gary

      James,

      You seemed a tad disappointed with the test ride with VB, but it sounds like you’re much happier after further real world use. Personally, from what I could see (admittedly massively unscientific), the difference seemed pronounced.

      PS: Did you get to do any test drive/reviews of ARV’s existing stock while you were there that might be forthcoming?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Hi Gary – you’re one of a few people who picked up that we seemed disappointed. Nothing could be further from the truth! But I like to pride myself on being as objective and scientific as I can about these things, and I was just trying to describe a “feeling”. It was a bit awkward for me. Since several people picked up on this, I’ll update the post with a more full explanation.

        And yes – we do have a “what’s new at Advanced RV” video that I’ll be putting out soon. Cool stuff!!

        Reply
    26. Robyn Quaid

      Great idea and I love that Advanced RV group. Thanks for sharing this with us. Look like the new system helps significantly.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The Advanced RV crew is the most attentive and polite bunch you could ever take your RV to.
        And now that we’ve had more time with it, the VB Air suspension helps more than I let on. I’m going to amend the post with some more details.

        Reply
    27. Al

      Hey guys. Hope you are both well. What is a rough, ball-park, general, estimated, won’t hold you to it… cost for this kind of upgrade, for us normal types? 😉

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I’m working on that. Since so many are asking, I’m just going to update the post itself when I have some numbers, rather than ping everyone individually.

        Reply

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