If you’ve seen my other post, then you know about my efforts to improve the ride and handling in our Sprinter based RV. To recap, my main complaints are handling in crosswinds, the roll in and out of parking lots, and being shoved around when 18 wheelers roll by. To improve things, I’ve gone through some detail on setting my tire pressures (video on this process coming soon), and I’ve installed a Timbren SES kit on the front of the Sprinter. The Timbren helped in subtle ways with handling, and was worth doing, but it was not the eureka moment I was looking for.
I had seen some positive reviews and comments on the Spring Assist Kit from Upscale Automotive, in Tualatin, Oregon. They seem to be the aftermarket Sprinter experts; they have a number of modifications available, and they seem to be genuinely passionate about Sprinters. I emailed them and described what I was looking for. They recommended their rear Spring Assist Kit for my 2003 Sprinter. It wasn’t cheap – over $500 including shipping. I ordered it and located a shop to install it.
Full disclosure – there is none! I paid full retail for my Spring Assist Kit, and Upscale Automotive isn’t sponsoring this review in any way. I’m just a customer.
My kit arrived and, much like the Timbren kit, I was a bit amused by how simple things were. There were a couple leaf springs with rubber bumpers on them, and some U-bolts. That’s pretty much it. You can see what came just as I unpacked it below. Oh. And there was a set of complete and detailed instructions. Any competent mechanic should be able to work with this kit.
I had arranged with Warner Truck Center in Salt Lake City to install the kit. On my 2003 sprinter, the install required adjusting the ALB – which is a load braking device. It was a linkage, a spring, and a threaded rod attached to my brake lines, and looked kind of “Rube Goldberg”. (Newer Sprinters don’t have this.) I wasn’t comfortable having just any shop mess with it, so I went to the authorized Sprinter service center. The install was uncomplicated and completed without a hitch and on time (though there was a starting issue that surfaced, but that’s another story).
When I picked up the RV, I had a look underneath. I could see that the new Spring Assist Kit was just beginning to engage with an unloaded RV. I took a picture of that, and here it is.
But how did it drive?
Wow. Holy freaking wow.
The first thing I noticed is that I no longer bottomed out in the rear when backing out of the driveway. Hallelujah! But the real test was going to be our trek across the windswept windy windlands of Nevada on our upcoming trip west.
As soon as we got out on I-80 headed west, I could really notice a difference. There was a huge improvement in handling in crosswinds. There was now very little buffeting and very little rocking in the wind. I could hear the wind, but not really feel it. Passing trucks were a non-event. But it wasn’t until we stopped that I realized how much of an improvement it was.
As we were headed west, we heard a strange buzzing noise from above. It sounded like it was coming from our MaxxAir fan, and we decided to stop and take a look. When we got out of the RV, it was almost difficult to stand it was so windy – we knew it was windy, but we had no idea it was THAT windy. I was able to determine that the buzzing was indeed the MaxxAir fan – the crosswind was so violent, that it was causing the housing to vibrate and buzz in the wind (and the MaxxAir rides low and tight, so that’s saying something). But with the suspension improvements – it was smooth sailing inside.
I can’t say enough about the Spring Assist Kit. This was the improvement I was looking for. Honestly, they didn’t help a whole lot with side-to-side rolling when going into and out of parking lots, but I’m starting to think that won’t ever be all that great. But what I CAN say is that when I get another Sprinter-based RV, this is going to be the FIRST improvement I’m going to make. I wish I had done this a long time ago.
Hats off to the folks at Upscale Automotive for making this kit – and they do make updated models for the newer Sprinters. Worth every penny.