Travel trailers and fifth-wheels offer a lot of livability, and over the years they have
been transformed into beautiful homes on wheels. When you look below the frame though,
you’ll likely see the suspension your grandfather’s trailer had. The solid axle and leaf
spring – sans shock absorber – suspension is still the mainstay of the trailer industry,
and it continues to take its toll on trailer components as the body bounces and bangs
freely over the highways.
In an effort to smooth out some of the jarring on a 32-foot fifth-wheel, we installed
MOR/ryde’s RE Suspension system to the existing springs (“A Smoother Ride,” August 2010).
The beefy rubber equalizers did a good job of civilizing the fifth-wheel’s ride quality,
but our next step was to find out what the company’s ultimate upgrade, the MOR/ryde
Independent Suspension System (IS) could do – along with improving braking using the Disc
Brake Upgrade Package.
Created and patented in 1999, the IS system totally redefines smooth towing. It’s
designed to eliminate bouncing, jerking, broken leaf springs and wear and tear on a trailer
or fifth-wheel. MOR/ryde utilizes an independent wheel action that replaces the axles and
leaf springs (which can break or fail due to worn out hangers and shackle plates) with a
rubber shear spring that allows for more than 5 inches of wheel travel (typical axles and
leaf-spring systems have only 11?2-2 inches of wheel travel). Most owners will testify that
having limited wheel travel translates into an incredibly harsh ride, which is evidenced by
disheveled items that were once neatly stored in cabinets, and prematurely worn-out
The system also has a high-quality shock absorber at each wheel, damping the up-and-down
movement and road shock. The independent action allows each wheel to walk over bumps and
curbs. The IS system can also be accurately aligned using built-in adjustments. MOR/ryde
uses Hunter Engineering Alignment Equipment to set toe and camber of each tire off the
kingpin of a fifth-wheel, or coupler if the suspension is installed on a travel trailer.
When the tires are aligned properly, the trailer is easier to tow and the tires are less
susceptible to premature wear and blowouts. Trailer tires that haven’t been balanced can
also aggravate these problems, but that’s another story.
The installation on our 32-foot NuWa HitchHiker was expertly performed at the MOR/ryde
service center in Elkhart, Indiana. Technicians assigned to this task are seasoned
professionals with high-level skill sets. This installation is complex, making it virtually
impossible for the do-it-yourselfer and, for that matter, most RV service facilities to
make the conversion – unless trained by MOR/ryde. MOR/ryde technicians install about 150 IS
suspensions every year, and the system is used by a number of travel-trailer and
fifth-wheel manufacturers who offer this upgrade as an option.
The installation of this system is custom to every trailer. The process begins by taking
measurements to determine how the trailer will react to the suspension and what, if any,
frame reinforcements need to be made. MOR/ryde recommends each wheel be weighed to
determine the appropriate shear spring for the system. The shear spring is the core
component contributing to the ride quality afforded by the IS system, and is adjustable
based on trailer weight.
Installation begins by removing the existing axles, leaf springs and spring hangers.
After the existing suspension has been removed, the chassis is cleaned and prepared for
installation. Once the frame is prepared, the IS components are assembled and positioned
onto the frame. Additional measurements taken prior to removal of the old system allow the
technician to know exactly where to install the new hardware. Because the old suspension
may have been off kilter a bit, the technicians further double-check the dimensions to
ensure alignment accuracy. The IS components are then precision-welded to the frame.
Next comes the installation of the brake system. MOR/ryde offers a high-quality
disc-brake system, or the trailer’s existing brake system can be used. Customers can also
elect to upgrade to heavier-duty electric brakes.
We went with the hydraulic disc brakes, which provide superior stopping distances and
smoother braking. The fiver is used for full-time living, so adding major safety elements
is welcomed and appreciated. After reviewing the options, we chose Kodiak Trailer Disc
Brakes and Carlisle Industrial Brake and Friction for the actuating unit.
Once the entire system, including the brakes, is installed, the alignment is performed
by connecting electronic equipment to the kingpin and then to each axle to give accurate
toe and camber readings. Once the alignment is perfect, the wheels are installed. The
technician performs a road test and a final inspection is done to ensure that all is well
with the new MOR/ryde IS Suspension System.
The entire installation, including the disc-brake actuator and hydraulic lines, took the
better part of two days. Routine maintenance for the IS system is minimal, requiring only
regular greasing of the pivoting arm as well as a visual inspection of the main components.
The installed price for the IS system is $1,040 per 7,000-pound-rated axle. The
7,000-pounders were installed on the test fifth-wheel, and axles are also available in
8,000-, 9,000- and 10,000-pound capacities. The IS system is backed by a five-year limited
warranty. The Kodiak disc brake and Carlisle actuator package is $1,839 for a two-axle kit
and the labor is $740 for a normal installation.
After we left the MOR/ryde center, we aimed for every pothole and railroad track we
could find to test the IS system. As we crossed the first pothole, we could feel the
sharp-edged bump in both front and rear axles of the truck. As the trailer passed over, we
felt nothing. Upon encountering railroad crossings, as expected, the truck ride was rough.
However the impact on the trailer was far superior to that of our original axles and leaf
Now that we have traveled more than 500 miles of various terrain to evaluate the value
of the IS suspension, we are impressed with overall ride and handling characteristics that
MOR/ryde has provided. The disc-brake addition has improved stopping power dramatically,
with the added bonus of smooth and even braking action. There are only a few brake
controllers that will work with this system, and we chose the Hensley TruControl, which is
considered one of the best matches for the Carlisle actuator.
These top-quality upgrades contribute considerably to overall safety and peace of mind
while on the road, and MOR/ryde’s superior customer service will ensure a smooth suspension
transition. Add in the benefit of reduced wear and tear and this IS system is, quite
simply, one of the best improvements an owner can make to a travel trailer or fifth-wheel.
Bill Gehr is the owner of Bill’s RV Service in Ventura, California. You can contact him
Carlisle Industrial Brake and
Friction, (812) 336-3811, www.carlislebrake.com.
Kodiak Trailer Brakes, (800)
MOR/ryde, (574) 293-1581, www.morryde.com.