VB Air Suspension Install in our Ford Transit/Winnebago EKKO


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.

Longer-Term Results

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 is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling 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.


    59 thoughts on “VB Air Suspension Install in our Ford Transit/Winnebago EKKO

    1. Chuck G

      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…

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        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/

        Reply
      1. Manny Estrada

        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.

        Reply
        1. James - Post author

          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.

      1. James - Post author

        Nope.
        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.

        Reply
    2. Jim

      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!

      Reply
      1. Kevin Scarbel

        “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

        Reply
    3. Kevin Scarbel

      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.

      Reply
    4. Ed DiPanfilo

      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.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        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.

        Reply
    5. Kevin Scarbel

      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.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        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.

        Reply
    6. Kevin Scarbel

      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.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        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.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Scarbel

          But given a choice……………..and you should have been given exhaust reconfiguration options.

        2. James - Post author

          I honestly don’t think it would have been practical to route the exhaust over or under the drive shaft.

    7. Kevin Scarbel

      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.

      Reply
      1. Shaun Simpkins

        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.

        Reply
    8. Bill Orfitelli

      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?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        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.

        Reply
    9. Paul McPhillips

      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

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        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.

        Reply
    10. Graham Smith

      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?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        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.

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        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.

        Reply
        1. James - Post author

          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.

    11. Craig Horner

      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.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        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.

        Reply
    12. daniel archer

      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?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        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.

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        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.

        Reply
    13. Richard

      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.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        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.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Scarbel

          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.

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