This was published previously on the FL Club site.
By Mark Penlerick, Engineering Team Leader, Blue Ox Towing Products
Slightly abridged )
The first thing is to get the easy things set to factory specs. These are tires, alignment, weight and your towing
apparatus. If these are set correctly, the motor home will handle well under ‘good conditions’. The trouble is there
are a lot of “not so good” conditions on the road everyday
Are they properly inflated? Are they rotated per the manufacturer’s specifications?
This involves Caster, Camber and Individual Toe. The experts at an alignment shop will verify all settings are
correct per the manufacturers recommendations. There are other components that fit into this category
such as steering components and shock absorber wear. These will also make a coach handle poorly.
Overloading or improper loading of cargo in a coach is also a common problem. Have your coach weighed by
RVSEF at any FMCA rally. For a nominal fee they weigh each wheel and give you a report showing you where you
are vs. the tire manufacturer’s specs. For more information on these issues, go to the website.
(Sorry the website was not correct. Dave)
Always stay within the weight rating limitation set out by the coach and chassis manufacturer.
Towing a passenger vehicle can also affect the handling of a coach. Depending on the style of towing system and
it’s age, free play in the system can cause the towed vehicle to wander slightly which in turn may cause the driver
of the coach to constantly make slight steering corrections. It has always been our recommendation to frequently
check all aspects of the towing system to insure everything is in top working order. Trailer towing is another story
which we won’t cover here.
The Steering Control Options
There are four basic means that steering control units use to control steering.
The model that utilizes coil springs simply uses the “memory” of the springs to pull the front wheels back to center.
These are constantly loaded with tension and are designed to hold the front tire straight ahead. This model does
not have a way of adjusting the center point, on the fly, down the road.
These models are also not adjustable while traveling. They utilize that same coil spring memory to bring the
wheels back to center. The addition of the hydraulic fluid inside is a dampening feature to keep the spring
from “snapping” back to center too abruptly
This model does have the adjustment feature of being able to change the center position while you are traveling
down the road. Installation is a little more intense than some of the other models, but it does provide some measures
of security. It utilizes hydraulic fluid to bring the front tires back to center.
This is the newest technology on the market. It utilizes gas spring technology and a “trimming” feature to
allow the driver to set the center point as you’re traveling down the road. Gas spring technology allows for
better control of spring forces and provides it’s own dampening without the addition of hydraulics. Installation
is quite a bit less intensive than the air over hydraulic model.
There is a lot more to each of these technologies, but I just wanted to give you a short overview of each. The main
thing to remember is that they are different and each of these products has different features and abilities as well
as installation characteristics and ease of use. Steering controls are great aftermarket safety related products that
do add significant value for the money. Weigh all your options, do the research and find the features that are right
Remember, parts wear out such as bell cranks, shock absorbers, tires and other components. Have them
checked regularly, especially if your coach is ill handling. With all of these items adjusted properly a good
steering control will reduce driver fatigue and increase their ability to control the coach in the event of a
front tire blowout or dropping off the edge of the road and other instances. They are definitely worth the
money; just do the research. A little legwork will pay off in the end.