RV Q&A: Ford Excursion Shocks

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Q:

I have a 2000 Ford Excursion two-wheel-drive, 7.3-liter diesel with 60,000 miles on it. I tow a 26-foot trailer and am looking to replace the shocks. Do you have any recommendations?

Dave Groerich | St. Louis, Missouri

A:

When it comes to shock replacement, it’s hard to beat Bilstein for ride control, handling and so forth. There are other brands of high-quality shocks available, but we feel Bilstein and Koni shocks are the best we can recommend.


 

Trailer Tire Alignment

My wife and I own a 2006 Fleet-wood GearBox 335FS toy hauler.

I replaced the Chinese-made tires with American-made Cooper 10-ply truck tires. After returning from our first trip to California last year, I noticed “feathering” of the outside tread on the right-front tire. The other three tires did not show this peculiar wear. I had the tires rechecked for balance, out-of-round and bent rims, and after the right-side tires were rotated to the left side, I had the techs check for any wheel-bearing play. The tires, rims and wheel bearings did not show signs of flaws.

We recently returned from a trip of about 800 miles, and again there was feathering on the outside tread of the right-front tire and none of that type of wear on the other three tires.

I had the service department at the Bellemont, Arizona, Camping World check the alignment of all four wheels, and they did not find the cause of the feathering. They suggested the possibility of a bent spindle or axle, which the shop was not equipped to measure. They additionally said an uneven load could have caused the problem. I am skeptical of the latter suggestion.

My next task will be to replace the four original shocks. Usually, in my experience, spindles and hubs include the wheel bearings. Since the bearings have been given a thumbs-up by everybody, I’ll wait for a drive-test of a few miles on the new shocks.

Tom Carver | Chino Valley, Arizona

A:

The feathering tread-wear problem may be an alignment issue caused by a bent axle or spindle, Tom, and as you’ve discovered, Camping World is not typically equipped to handle this type of specialty repair. You’ll need to go to a shop that specializes in alignments and possibly drivetrain work.

There could be one or more of several misalignment possibilities.

The axles may not be parallel, which produces tire scrub and faster wear.

The spindle on the tire in question may be bent, or the axle could be bent, as well. A good shop can use wheel-alignment gear to check for these problems, as well as simply measuring the axle-to-axle distance at each end of the axle. Repairing the misalignment calls for some special equipment, which in some cases is used to bend the axle in question back into specs. If the repairs can’t be done, the shop might recommend replacing the bad axle.

In regard to installing new shock absorbers, they have nothing to do, mechanically, with the wheels, spindles or bearings, so you can simply replace them and continue on your merry way. Be sure to have the trailer tires balanced for optimal tire wear and longevity, plus a smoother ride for your trailer.


 

Tow Ratings

Over time I have seen many questions in RV Clinic with regard to tow vehicles and the weight they can safely tow. One consideration that I have not seen is the power to adequately tow the RV of choice. I was reminded of this again today as I was traveling westbound on Interstate 70 out of Denver near my home. I came up behind what looked to be about a 30-foot trailer being pulled by a late-model Ford SUV struggling to run at 45 mph when the speed limit was 65 mph. This is a common sight along that stretch of I-70 — slow RV trailers in the right-hand lane.

Traveling I-70 going west from the Denver West/Colorado Mills intersection to the intersection of highways 40 and 93 is about a 4-mile stretch at a slight grade, probably less than 2 percent, but many of the RVs I see are severely struggling to maintain any speed at all, and they haven’t even come to the steep part of I-70 over the Continental Divide. I am a firm believer that, if your tow vehicle cannot maintain the speed limit on all but the steepest of grades, it is too underpowered.

George Nachtsheim | Littleton, Colorado

A:

There are a lot of reasons why some people have towing setups with a trailer that’s too heavy for their tow vehicle (which we don’t have the space to go over again here), and that’s the main reason some RVers have to struggle to climb the steeper highway grades. It seems like that Ford SUV could have been overloaded, as you observed, but it could have also had mechanical problems that reduced its ability to climb the grade.
At the same time, expecting a tow vehicle and trailer to climb a grade at full highway speed is unrealistic, to put it kindly. If the tow vehicle and trailer are well matched, per the manufacturer tow rating, the tow vehicle has to perform according to industry-accepted SAE standards for a given load. Those standards do not include 65 mph up a 6 percent grade. Keep in mind that 65 is the maximum speed allowed, and that most highways also have a minimum speed (likely 45 mph). Also, remember that the high altitude of the Denver area saps power from a normally aspirated engine, on the order of 3 percent per 1,000 feet of elevation. As long as tow vehicles are driven safely and with respect for other traffic in the area, they are within the law and are doing their part. — J.J.

 

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