Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) we receive from our customers, and our answers. You can also find more detailed information on these subjects in our Education section under helpful articles.
Q: Why is there so much play in my steering wheel? Is there anything I can do to reduce it?
A: We call this “steering freeplay”, and it is probably the number one complaint we hear about from coach owners at our shop. Steering free play is when the steering wheel can be moved back in forth in your hands, but the vehicle is not steering—in other words, there is excessive “play” in the steering wheel. When you stop and consider how many different components are involved in the steering action on today’s motorhomes, it’s easy to understand why steering free play is such an issue. You have the steering wheel, coupler, two-three universal couplings, steering gear, sector shaft splines, the pitman arm, drag link, bell crank, tie rod ends and the tie rod end sleeves. While steering free play can be caused by one of these items, more often it is a cumulative effect, where several components contribute to the problem. In any case, yes, it can be reduced or even eliminated. We perform what we call a “dry park test,” where we put the coach on a rack with an inspection bay underneath. One technician is in the cab of the coach, moving the steering wheel back and forth and looking for play in the steering shaft, steering U-joint or coupler, sometimes even the steering wheel itself. At the same time, another technician is under the coach in the inspection bay. We systematically check each component, and adjust/repair or replace parts as necessary to restore accurate steering.
Q: My coach bounces front and back after I hit a bump on the highway, and continues for a while. What causes this?
A: We call this “porpoising” and we get a lot of calls about this, too. Porpoising is front to rear bounce; the front hits a bump, then the rear hits the bump, and they both bounce independently of each other, creating an oscillating motion. If the problem is severe enough, it can feel like you’re going to pull the wheels off the ground. The problem is more typical in shorter coaches (low 20-foot to low 30 foot) than long ones. You don’t have as much trouble when you head up to 37 foot and beyond, and we definitely have more problems controlling it on a short wheelbase coach. The reason is that there is more time for the bump to settle out between the front and rear wheels on a longer wheelbase coach. Changing out your shocks and sometimes your springs will usually diminish the problem significantly. On some of the IFS coaches with air bags, our Motion Control Unit (MCU) can help cut down on porpoising as well.
Q: My coach seems to follow every crack in the road. What causes this?
A: We call this “rut tracking”, and some coaches are more susceptible to it than others, but usually those that are too light in the front. If your coach suffers from rut tracking, the first thing I would suggest is to have the coach weighed to check its weight distribution. If it is off by a few hundred pounds, you may be able to solve the problem by moving heavy stored items ahead of the rear axle, as close to the front as possible. Also, if you have a motorcycle lift on the back, you may want to consider having it relocated to the front, if possible. When a customer comes into our shop complaining of a rut tracking problem, the first thing we’ll do is conduct a Road Performance Assessment to determine the severity of the problem. We’ll take it in, check all the steering components, and weigh it at all four corners to determine the weight distribution. If it’s way off of our benchmark, we may add weight to the front of the coach to solve the problem.
Q: When I turn the steering wheel, sometimes it doesn’t return to center. What’s wrong?
A: Typically, poor steering returnability is caused by steering gear that is too tight or improperly adjusted. If the steering sector is over-tightened, it causes the sector shaft to put too much pressure against the worm gear. This can occur when a technician at either the factory or a shop attempts to remove excess play from the steering system. Sticking or binding components, such as a king pin, ball joint, bell crank or even the steering column can prevent the steering wheel from returning to center after a turn. Alignment can also be a factor; improper caster, and to some degree, improper toe-in, can be contributing factors. To cure the problem, we’ll start at the steering wheel and work our way down, sometimes disconnecting components along the way to isolate them from the rest of the system. In this way, we can determine which component(s) are binding and take the necessary corrective action.
Q: My coach seems to move every which way when I steer the wheel back and forth. Is there any way to make it more stable?
A: Steering problems can manifest themselves in many different ways—and in some instances, it isn’t the steering system that’s to blame. One of the most common problems we address at Henderson’s Line-Up is an issue we call “Tail Wagging the Dog”. It’s the sensation you get when the coach seems to have a mind of its own; you steer the wheel back and forth, and the rear half steers the coach. The first coach we really experienced this on was a P32 chassis; we checked the steering gear, we tried adding stiffer springs, added a leaf on each side. It wasn’t until my brother, John, discovered that the bolts on the rear leaf spring pack had moved far enough in either direction to make contact with the adjacent spring hanger bracket. That could only mean that the axle was moving from side to side—and that was causing the loose sensation in the steering. Those early coaches only had 2-inch wide leaf springs, and they would flex. Plus, they had rubber bushings that would deflect, adding to the problem. Essentially what we did to solve the issue was create our Trac Bar, which is essentially a large Panhard bar. It is mounted horizontally at one end to the frame of the coach, and the other to the axle, creating a rigid connection that stops axle side-to-side movement. The lack of a Trac Bar, or a worn out/loose factory bar are not the only causes of Tail Wagging the Dog, but they are the most common.
Q: My coach seems to sway a lot. What can I do to reduce or eliminate this?
A: At Henderson’s Line Up, we define sway as a leaning or rocking motion that is caused by pulling into/out of a driveway, a sudden blast of wind, a passing truck, a sharp corner or driving over uneven road surfaces. Sway can also be experienced when parked by the side of the road when it’s windy, or even when someone steps on board. In the chassis, it’s not so much a matter of components being responsible for sway, but rather, the components that can be replaced or updated to help prevent it. Weak springs (leaf or coil) or a lack of anti-sway bars can contribute to excessive sway, and on air bag-equipped chassis, it can be the very act of the air entering/exiting the bags. We use anti sway bars as well as shock absorbers to control sway, although replacing the shock absorbers (if they are in good condition) won’t have as great an effect. An anti-sway bar functions by pushing down on the wheel inside the turn that’s trying to lift, keeping the vehicle flat in a curve. The bigger the anti-sway bar, the more torsional resistance it generates. Increasing the diameter of the bar 1/8-inch, for example, creates 20-30% more torsional resistance. More is not always better, though, because too much resistance can cause a harsh ride on some vehicles, and it can create mounting and/or clearance issues.