Camper trailer suspension: Solid axle versus independent
Choosing the right springs for the right reasons.
What’s better for your camper trailer, a solid axle with leaf springs or independent coil spring suspension? Every man and his dog has an opinion on this age-old question. I’m going to start off by saying there is no definitive winner here. Why? Well, there are thousands of different setups out there, and just because one type performs better in one particular scenario doesn’t guarantee it’s superior in all the others.
Cost is also a major factor when deciding between the two, with most independent systems being in a much higher price range. So, is independent suspension worth the extra dollars, or are the old leaf-sprung solid axle setups better bang for your buck?
Let’s looks at the facts along with all the pros and cons before we jump to any conclusions.
A camper’s suspension should be tough enough to handle anything we can throw at it. After all, that is what stands between the harsh Aussie outback and your prized possession.
So let’s break it down. Both systems are used in some of the most capable 4WDs on the planet, and while they are both comprised of parts available all over Australia, you’re much more likely to find leaf spring parts in the middle of nowhere. Plus, when it comes to carrying loads, we see leaf springs being used in the majority of trucks across the country, so there’s no disputing their strength or load carrying capabilities.
In saying that, coil springs and independent trailing arms are more than capable of supporting a camper’s weight and copping the punishment, too. The real benefit that coil springs bring to the table, as you might have guessed, is a smoother ride over corrugations and potholes. The reality is, as long as the components used are of good quality, both of these setups are reliable and tough enough and, in all seriousness, often engineered to get the job done with no problems at all.
It all comes down to price compared to the need. If the price isn’t a problem, the independent system offers an advanced ride; if you’re on a tighter budget, leaf springs will get the job done with a cherry on top too!
Well there you go: the ins and outs of four popular camper trailer styles around, along with a few helpful hints on choosing the right suspension. We all know there’s no such thing as the perfect camper trailer, but there is definitely the best camper trailer for you out there. Everybody wants different things from their camper trailers these days, and it’s impossible for any design to be perfect for everything. The best advice we can give is to research the style of camper you want, and be realistic as to what you’re going to use the camper trailer for.
Leaf sprung campers will rattle to bits on harsh and bumpy tracks.
Contrary to popular belief, leaf springs can provide an extremely good ride for your camper trailer if they are set up properly. To test and see how harsh the ride is in a leaf sprung camper trailer, we left a cartoon of eggs sitting in the sink of both types of campers and hit the tracks for the day. Let me tell you, it wasn’t a walk in the park either – we tackled ruts, water crossings, corrugations and hit more pot holes than we could count. The results were actually quite surprising to say the least. Would you believe that not one egg cracked in either of the campers for the entire day?
While I don’t doubt that coil springs offer a smoother ride, it’s evident that a well setup leaf-sprung system will get the job done just fine.
Coil spring suspension offers more travel, making a camper trailer more capable.
While coil springs are known to offer great flex, the benefits of impressive suspension down travel (flex) simply aren’t utilised in a camper trailer. The main reason for this is because of the camper trailer’s offroad coupling. The offroad coupling basically allows the camper to move independently to the tow vehicle. So, if a camper’s wheel was to fall into a large rut, the whole camper would tilt from the coupling first instead of letting the wheel flex down on its own.
Check out the full feature in issue #92 September 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.