With the Christmas/New Year season fast approaching, many Australians plan to take to the roads with caravans, trailers and additional loads as they seek out the perfect holiday for themselves or their family.
These vehicles, which include 4wds, utes and SUVs, come in handy on long road trips, because they allow users to bring a trailer, caravan or even a boat, to extend the scope of their holiday.
But users should be careful, warns All-Air Suspension General Manager, James Maslin. "Towing isn’t just a matter of attaching a trailer and away you go. You have to consider the extra strain this is going to put on the vehicle, and make sure you are adequately equipped to handle it, without jeopardising the safety of yourself and your family," he says.
"For all its usefulness, towing will lead to some serious safety concerns if the suspension is not correctly aligned to support the load."
Here are some signs that you're not hauling safely:
Your suspension is sagging. This can happen at both the front and the back of the vehicle. If one half looks visibly lower than the other, this is called suspension sag and means that the vehicles suspension is not able to cope with the load. Driving with suspension leads to extra wear and tear on the vehicle, as well as making it less safe when braking and turning.
Your vehicle is leaning to one side. This can happen when too much of the load is positioned on one side of the vehicle and your suspension isn’t set up to handle the uneven load. This makes it very unsafe to drive around corners or on uneven surfaces.
Excess bounce or sway on bumps. Most vehicles are designed to handle regular bumps and potholes, but under a heavy load it may struggle more. If the vehicle becomes very unstable in these situations, additional support is needed on the suspension. Braking and steering can be compromised otherwise.
Your shock absorbers are wearing out too quickly. Heavier loads will inevitably wear down shock absorbers faster than usual. There are many different types of shocks available, which will all wear at different rates, but the general rule is that they should last approximately 80,000kms (50,000 miles). If you notice they are lasting significantly less than that, it could be due to increased pressure from hauling heavy loads without adequate suspension.
You're over your Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM). This is the maximum operating weight, and is set by the vehicle manufacturer. Exceeding this weight should be avoided at all costs, as it strains the vehicle and is unsafe for the user.
All-Air Suspension provides Firestone airbag kits to support suspensions, particularly under heavy or uneven loads. They can be adjusted for varying loads and road conditions by simply inflating or deflating, just like inflating a tyre. Airbags are used for front-to-rear and side-to-side levelling control of a vehicle. This enables a vehicle to "level up" when towing caravans, boats and trailers or when a vehicle or truck is carrying heavy, uneven loads – providing full adjustability for off-road or passenger loading.
If any of the above scenarios sound familiar, it might be worth contacting All-Air Suspension, a leading Australian provider of air suspension, or airbags and related equipment for 4wds, utes, SUVs, vans & light trucks. All-Air Suspension is the national NSW distributor for Airbag Man’s number one air spring from Firestone Industrial Products Company.
All-Air's experienced team will suggest the optimal solution to any towing or suspension problems.