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Worth the Weight

Posted on 11/25/2017

The weight of a motorhome, or perhaps more importantly, how it is distributed, is something a lot of RVers don’t think about. We know that motorhomes are large and heavy, and drive much differently from the passenger cars and trucks we’re more accustomed to.  But there’s more to consider. Virtually no two motorhomes built on the same chassis have the same weight distribution, and may be loaded differently. We see a lot of side to side discrepancies due to slide outs, washer/driers, generator placement, and other factors.

I can recall many times weight ratios have been off. When we first got started at Henderson’s Line-Up, I remember working on a GM P32 chassis that drove great and the customer was happy. The next day, we worked on the same chassis for a well and pump service company, and it didn’t turn out so well. We wondered, why? Two of the exact same chassis, yet each had different results. We hate unmet expectations! And that’s when we really started paying attention to the front to rear axle weight ratios. We found that the magic number was 50% for most Class A motorhomes.

On Class C (van chassis) motorhomes, we found the number was closer to 45%. However, I have gotten many coaches that were Class C to handle and drive very well with a front-to-rear axle weight of 40% or less without having to add weight. I speculate the reason why is because a Class C doesn’t have the large cab on the front, which in addition to lighter weight, makes it less likely to be influenced by high winds that can affect steering.

But even when we started working on Workhorse chassis using the 50% rule of thumb, we were still not happy with the results.  The motorhome still blew around in the wind and steering could be affected by road ruts. What we discovered was that the front axle was so far forward on the Workhorse chassis that we had to use a 55% ratio to help keep the front axle firmly planted. On diesel pushers, especially those with a short wheelbase and that big diesel in the rear, it was like a big kid and a little kid on a teeter-totter. The big kid overpowers the little one.

When we checked it out one of these coaches, we discovered the front axle was 1,000 pounds too light! To offset this imbalance, we added 800 lbs of steel to the front end, which is perfectly fine as long as the front Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) isn’t exceeded. To our surprise, when we weighed the coach again, 200 pounds had been shifted off the rear axle. We added Koni shock absorbers, our Motion Control Units (MCUs) and a Safe-T-Plus steering stabilizer. That was more than 10 years ago and that customer is still driving that short little Beaver Patriot and is very happy with it.

On coaches with a lot of rear overhang, which caused the rear suspension to sag, we figured if we raised it, we would shift more weight to the front. In cases where that actually worked, it was only a slight amount—one or maybe two hundred pounds if that. All it really did was raise the rear back up, which isn’t a bad thing, but it didn’t significantly change the front-to-rear axle weight ratio, unfortunately.

Overhang ratios versus wheel base have a lot in common. I know that the average gas coach is about a 66% overhang ratio. The average diesel pusher is 50% and they usually have a lot more overhang in the front as well.  in other words, the more rear overhang, the lighter the front end.

Another thing we discovered is, on a coach with a low rear corner, adding spacers or springs on the low side will transfer a lot of weight to the opposite front corner. We were once involved in a factory recall of a certain motorhome that was experiencing blowouts on the front tires due to improper ride height valve installation. To solve that problem, we relocated the ride height valves and put higher load range tires on the front.

If a vehicle is too heavy on left front, for example, we’ve seen it has a tendency to drift the opposite way. We saw this on the old Oshkosh chassis that was later bought out by Freightliner Custom Chassis, which is used in many motorhomes today.

In any case, the bottom line is this: If the front/rear weight ratio isn’t correct, it will cause lane wander in high winds or when being passed by trucks, and also when driving over rutted roads. This is one of the many reasons we always recommend performing our Road Performance Assessment, or RPA. This way the technician and coach owner can experience what the coach is doing over a variety of road conditions. It truly is a “real world” way to determine the handling characteristics of the motorhome, and learn what changes would be effective.

There are a variety of other instances where weight can have an adverse affect on handling. At a recent Heartland RV rally, we found that some of their fifth wheels can be as much as 1,000 pounds heavier on one side than the other. While this may not affect handling, specifically, it can cause the brakes on the lighter side to lock up more easily on a wet or loose road surface—and that can definitely cause stability problems in an emergency stop. Weighing fifth wheel trailers properly with individual wheel scales requires us to first make up a “dummy” scale the same thickness as the actual scale, or we’ll get inaccurate numbers—sometimes as much as 2,000 pounds off on the pin weight of a large fifth wheel.

On bigger motorhomes, tag axle weight is also very important. Most tag axle motorhomes have a feature that allows you to adjust the amount of load on the tag. I can remember a time when I was performing an RPA on a 42-foot Freightliner Custom Chassis motorhome. I went around some corners after stop signs and noticed a wisp of smoke and some noise coming from the rear. I can actually say that I’ve smoked the tires on a diesel pusher! As it turns out, the tag axle had too much load on it, so it was unloading the drive axle tires. This can also shift weight forward, putting too much load on the front axle.

There are so many other examples I could give about how weight can affect a motorhome or trailer. But the ones above just underscore how important it is to have your coach/trailer weighed and to perform an RPA to see how weight affects your rig.

Do I need an inspection?

Posted on 09/29/2017

At Henderson’s Line-Up, inspections are a big part of what we do every day. Unlike passenger cars, which are fairly easy to have inspected, (or even to inspect yourself if you’re so inclined) trucks, trailers and motorhomes are large and heavy, and have a number of different suspension/brake and steering systems depending on the make/model. In addition, RVs tend to cover a lot of miles—and owners aren’t often inclined to perform regular inspection/maintenance while they’re enjoying life on the road. Below are some pictures of owner’s trucks and trailers from a recent Heartland RV rally. You’ll likely be surprised as they were at how close some of these rigs came to serious damage, even disaster while on the road. If it’s been a while since your rig has had a once-over, now is the time to book an appointment at Henderson’s Line-Up as the busy travel season comes to a close. Inspection is FREE at RV events and rallies, and at our shop November-February. We only charge $67 to weigh the truck and trailer at each wheel for an accurate evaluation, and you can download a coupon for $100 off our Road Performance Assessment (RPA) here: 

Make sure to get a comprehensive inspection before the next travel season!

This customer had recently converted his trailer to a disc brake system, so it was logical that he thought the oil leaking through belly pan was coming from a broken brake line or loose fitting. Turned out to be a leak from the hydraulic ram that operates the slideout just above. This is why it is so important to check out a rig completely and ask the customer as many questions as possible.

The weight label in the trailer provides some very valuable information about the trailer, including the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR). However, it doesn’t tell you the whole story. For example, the rig’s delivered weight isn’t shown, and this can vary depending on the floorplan and optional equipment. That’s why it’s so important to have your trailer weighed with water, propane and all supplies on board.

This trailer is not equipped with wet (greasable) bolts, which means that the bushings are going to wear out quickly if they haven’t already. 

When we perform an inspection, we inspect both the pickup and the fifth wheel. This truck only had about 38,000 miles on it but already had a blown wheel seal on the driver’s side rear; you can clearly see the presence of oil. Even worse, this customer had recently been to the dealer for service and it was never mentioned to him…he was completely unaware.

Some trailers have shock absorbers, but if they are installed at a dramatic angle, they not only don’t work, but can prematurely wear the bushings and break the shaft, as shown here. We recommended a shock conversion kit that restores the proper angle and prevents these problems.

The Joy Rider system is a good product that allows owners to install shock absorbers on their trailer. However, early Joy Rider kits placed the upper shock bushing at a severe angle. If you have one of these early kits, check the bushings regularly for premature wear.

The Liberty Rider uses a drop-down bracket that puts the shocks at a more effective angle. We installed this system more than a year ago and we wanted to see how it was holding up. So far, so good!

This is an original Dexter rubber equalizer. You can see that it is cracked and split, ready to fail due to age and the weight of the trailer. Would probably recommend a MORryde system for replacement in this application.

If you look closely, you can see the shiny area behind this shackle nut. This indicates that the shackle bracket isn’t rigid enough, and is moving around causing premature wear to the bushings, even if you have installed Never-Fail bushings. In this case, we recommend replacing the shackle brackets with thicker, heavier duty plates that cinch everything down better. These are available through Dexter and MORryde. 

This one was interesting. The factory had installed the heavy duty wet bolt kit, but they had never been greased (yellow circle) More importantly, look what’s happening here—the metal band is supposed to hold the spring pack in place, but isn’t strong enough and allowed the leaf in the spring pack to “walk” or move around. You can see now that one of the leafs continually walked and was eating into the hanger bracket (red circle).

Just because a trailer is new, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have problems. This coach had a brake line that was rubbing on a leaf spring—and as you can see, was close to failure.

The problem with trailers is that there is a lot of weight over a small area, so they are more likely to break a spring. Here you can see one of the spring packs has broken. Not an immediate danger, but definitely putting stress on the rest of the components. Customer wisely decided to stay in Oregon until new springs could be overnighted from Heartland and installed.

This drag link on new Ram one ton truck already had loose jam nuts, creating a “clunking” sound when the rack was turned back and forth. If not discovered, this nut could have come loose completely and caused a loss of steering.




Motorhome or trailer?

Posted on 09/12/2017


It’s a question that faces many RVers at one time or another: Truck and fifth wheel or motorhome and dinghy vehicle? Each has its advantages and liabilities, which we’ll explore in detail here.

The first and most important question is, how do you travel? If you like to keep moving, spending only a night or two at each location, a motorhome/dinghy is probably the best solution.  Generally speaking, motorhomes have a larger, more comfortable cockpit than pick-up trucks, and usually ride more comfortably, too (Class A motorhomes in particular). This is an important consideration if you plan to do more touring than camping/park living. Motorhomes are also better for traveling families, as the kids are not confined to the back seat of the truck and can watch TV, snack and use the bathroom conveniently while on the road.  Once at your chosen destination, you can pull into your site, deploy the leveling jacks/slides (if equipped), hookup and you’re pretty much done—you don’t even have to detach the dinghy vehicle if you don’t plan to use it the next day or so.

On the other hand, if you like to stay for several days (or weeks, or months) at a given location, then a truck and fifth wheel may be the way to go. You’ll probably have to sacrifice some space and comfort while driving, you won’t have immediate access to the bathroom or kitchen, and you’ll have to deal with unhitching/hitching–but there are some very real benefits as well. For one thing, fifth wheels generally “live” better once they are at the destination. You can’t beat two living room slide outs, high ceilings and an island kitchen to make you feel at home–and fifth wheels usually have a big rear window that admits lots of light. Another big benefit is that, once you’ve unhooked you’ve got your pick-up truck to drive around in, and can use it on a daily basis when you’re at home if you (and your significant other) feel comfortable driving/parking a ¾ ton or one ton pick-up.


Whichever you choose, planning your purchase(s) ahead of time will save you the most money and trouble. Consider that most motorhome owners pull a “dinghy” or towed vehicle behind them during travel so they can park the motorhome at their destination and enjoy the convenience of driving around in a car. But this requires some homework first. Not all cars are designed to be towed with all four wheels down behind a motorhome–some vehicle manufacturers will void the vehicle warranty if you attempt to do so. MotorHome magazine ( publishes an annual Dinghy Towing Guide that lists vehicles that can be towed, and even has archives for previous years. By in large it is accurate, but you should always check with the vehicle owner’s manual to make sure the vehicle is approved for towing, and what procedures are required before towing. Some cars require only a few simple steps, while others require removing fuses, disconnecting the battery and other steps that make towing inconvenient.

Then there’s the matter of fitting the vehicle with a base plate (so that it can be towed from the front) a tow bar and an auxiliary braking system. We like Roadmaster ( for base plates and its wide selection of tow bars. For brakes, we use SMI ( because we like the ease installation and operation–but Roadmaster and other companies offer braking solutions as well. You may also need to wire the car so that its brake lights, turn signals, etc. coincide with the motorhome, and there are a variety of kits designed for this purpose. We generally use a Roadmaster universal wiring kit, but there are vehicle-specific kits available as well. Finally, most motorhomes are designed to tow–but the ratings may vary. Make sure that the motorhome you are considering is rated to tow the weight of the dinghy vehicle.

With a truck and fifth wheel, it’s even more important to choose the two together. We’ve come across many people–both customers and friends–who want a trailer that is too heavy for their existing truck, and want to know if there’s a way they can make it work. Sometimes it may be possible with a gear ratio change, different tires/wheels and suspension upgrades, but just remember there’s only so much weight a vehicle can tow safely and reliably. So, if you’ve already got a truck and you want to keep it, it’s best to choose a trailer that is well within its towing capacity. The easiest way to do this is choose a trailer whose gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is lower than the truck’s tow rating. This way, you’ll know that, even when the trailer is loaded to capacity, it’s not too heavy for the truck. The same is true if you already own a trailer and are looking for a new truck; make sure the truck can tow more than (or at least the same) as the GVWR of your trailer. If you’re buying both new, choose the trailer first, then buy a truck that can easily handle its weight–and remember, there’s no such thing as too much tow vehicle.

There’s a variety of aftermarket upgrades you can add to your tow vehicle to optimize the suspension if you find it rides too rough. We will soon be testing an­­­ Auto Flex air suspension on our 2007 Chevy Duramax 2500HD pick-up ( The system has shown great potential for improving ride quality when towing and can help keep the truck at a level ride height (the company also offers a system for trailers called Trailer Flex). We will post the results of that installation here as soon as it is completed.


Before you hit the road, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your chosen setup and get it checked out before your first long road trip. Henderson’s Line-Up offers a Road Performance Assessment (RPA) that uncovers any shortcomings in the motorhome, be it new or used. This includes rough ride, loose steering, insufficient brakes or other handling/safety concerns. At the test’s conclusion, we'll perform a detailed inspection of more than 50 points on your coach. These include your air ride suspension (if equipped), tire wear, steering gear, disc brake rotors and pads, shock absorbers, tie rods, idler arms, kingpins, ball joints, bushings and much more. We then weigh the coach at all four corners with individual wheel scales to determine correct weight distribution. You can download a coupon for $100 off your RPA here:

If you have a truck and trailer, it’s still a good idea to have an RPA performed; even new trailers can have bad alignment that can cause handling issues and blowouts. Most trailers don’t have balanced tires and many don’t have shock absorbers–so just these simple modifications can make a huge difference in reliable travel. Our parts division, SuperSteer parts ( offers a variety of products designed for Safer and Happier driving, including several suspension upgrades to improve the ride and handling of your fifth wheel.

One final thing: Always, ALWAYS be sure to check your tire pressures every day when traveling. There are a variety of tire pressure monitoring systems available on the market, but it’s still a good idea to visually inspect the tires for nails, sidewall damage, etc. Plus, it gets you in the habit of inspecting your tires on a regular basis.

By considering your lifestyle, planning your purchase(s) ahead of time and being prepared for the road ahead, you can enjoy the wonders of our country safely and reliably–whichever set up you choose.



SS701 Rear Trac Bar for 3500 Sprinter

Posted on 05/11/2016


Media Contact:
Mike Demith
Marketing Manager
[email protected]


The Mercedes Benz Sprinter is one of the most popular and versatile commercial vehicles on the market today, and is widely used in the RV industry for everything from Class B van conversions to luxury Class C models and beyond. SuperSteer, a division of Henderson’s Line-Up, recently introduced a new Trac Bar for the Sprinter chassis (part #SS701) that dramatically reduces sway and improves steering control by positively centering the rear axle. The bar bolts on easily in about 90 minutes with no drilling or welding required, and comes with all necessary hardware and instructions. MSRP is $583 plus shipping. For more information on this and other SuperSteer suspension products, contact SuperSteer at 888-898-3281 or visit

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SuperSteer, a division of Henderson’s Line-Up, specializes in suspension, steering and brake components that solve common handling issues in trucks, vans, SUVs and motorhomes. Based in Grant’s Pass, Oregon, SuperSteer products are direct result of the ongoing research and development at Henderson’s Line-Up—the recognized authority in vehicle dynamics since 1961. 

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