In this post, we discuss several of the most popular camper van suspension upgrades owners can make to improve the quality of their vehicle’s drive handling and ride comfort.
Did you know that Sprinters, Transits, and Promasters alike aren’t manufactured with the intention of being converted into heavy camper vans and taken for heavy-duty off-road adventures? And if you’re like us, you might realize that the original van’s suspension system can’t quite keep up with your adventurous spirit.
Luckily, there are several suspension upgrades you can make to substantially improve your van’s off-road capabilities.
Whether you’re looking for a low-cost solution that you can easily install yourself or if you have the budget to make larger improvements, this post outlines some of the most popular upgrades camper van travelers can make to their vehicle’s suspension system.
So if you’re ready, let’s get to it!
Hands down, SumoSprings provide possibly the best ‘bang for your buck’ if you’re looking to improve the camper’s suspension system. We’ve driven thousands of miles both before and after our SumoSprings installation and can tell you that the difference is dramatic.
SumoSprings replace your vehicle’s factory bump stops and work to reduce the severity of the jolts and sways your camper van experiences when it travels on rough terrain. Not only that, but we experienced a significant improvement in drivability when traversing across speed bumps and uneven paved roads.
And best of all, you can install SumoSprings yourself, which saves you money by not having to visit an auto shop.
Learn more: Check out our full SumoSprings review for more details.
Rear Shocks Upgrade
Replacing the rear shocks is one of the most popular camper van suspension upgrades, especially among the hardcore off-road enthusiasts. The factory shocks that come included with the vehicle just weren’t made to handle the weight and abuse camper vans incur. But upgrading to higher quality rear shocks helps to reduce side-to-side sway and smooth out the harshness when driving on washboard roads.
We upgraded to a pair of Fox 2.0 rear shocks, but we’ve read great reviews about the Falcon 2.1 shocks. Best of all, if you purchase these shocks through Van Compass, these shocks can be specifically tuned to the weight of your van for maximum effectiveness.
Lastly, to install these shocks, you’ll need to visit an auto shop and pay for the installation. Which increases the cost.
Front Strut Replacement
Upgrading the front struts is another popular camper van suspension upgrade. Just like with the rear shocks, upgraded front struts do a better job at handling heaver camper van weights for the front half of the vehicle and will improve your overall ride and handeling.
However, they’re not as critical as the rear shocks since most of a camper van’s weight is being supported by the rear half of the vehicle.
In our case, we are still using the factory front struts and have been getting along fine.
But we did install the front SumoSprings (aka CoilSprings), which support our factory front struts. These front SumoSprings we absolutely do recommend.
Leaf Spring Upgrade
For those looking to really perfect their camper’s suspension system, reinforcing the factory leaf springs is another popular option.
Several camper van outfitters sell additional leaf springs that are installed either above or below the original factory leaf springs and provide additional load support. This means your van will experience reduced body rolls and increased vehicle stability.
If your van lost some height due to its heavy load, adding additional leaf springs can help your van regain some of that lost clearance.
However, we’re not completely sold that this is an important suspension upgrade. It’s nice to have, but these additional leaf springs cost at least $500 and you will need to pay an auto shop to install them for you.
Retrofitting your camper van with a lift kit is ideal for anyone dreaming of the ultimate off-road adventure.
Just as the name implies, a lift kit will lift the entire van body up about ~1-2”, giving you greater clearance driving across rocky and uneven terrain.
However, it’s important to know that a lift kit by itself will not raise your entire vehicle up. The clearance of the rear differential and shock mounts will remain the same.
In our opinion, we’re not super big on lift packages since we don’t plan to take our vehicle that far off-road. Lifting the van also adds bulk, decreases fuel economy, and makes getting into and out of the van more difficult.
Rear Shock Mounts
We mentioned above that even if you install a lift kit on your vehicle, the clearance of the shock mounts will remain the same. And on our Ford Transit, our rear shock mounts are a pitiful 5” from the ground.
If you’re looking to add ground clearance under your shocks, VanCompass offers an affordable solution to raise your shock mounts by 2” to protect them from harm.
The catch is that to utilize these improved shock mounts, you must have the 2” lift kit installed as well. So although these shock mounts are relatively affordable, the you’ll have to also pay for the life kit.
Most people don’t think of the tires as part of the suspension. But replacing your van’s factory tires with quality all-terrain tires helps to support your camper’s heavy load and improve drive performance.
Additionally, purchasing larger tires for your van can be a useful way to add additional ground clearance under the vehicle.
However, you’ll have to do some research to know which size tires your vehicle can support. Tires that are too large may not fit and end up rubbing up against your van’s wheel well.
For our Ford Transit, we upgraded our tires to the BFGoodrich KO2 255/70R16 All-Terrain Tire. These tires have raised our ground clearance ~0.5” and this includes raising the clearance under the rear differential and shock mounts.
Even if you have modest dreams of taking your vehicle off-road, we think making even minor suspension upgrades to your camper van can help you experience a markedly improved driving experience.
Honestly speaking, we’re not sure spending the money on a 2” lift kit is worth the money for us. We enjoy going off-road, but we don’t go that far into nature that a lift kit become critical.
And even though we did install a pair of Fox rear shocks, we’re sort of ho-hum on whether that was worth the cost as well.
But we are huge fans of the SumoSpring upgrade. They are relatively low cost and easy to install yourself. And we saw a noticeable improvement the moment we began driving with the Sumos installed.
Best of all? They have a lifetime warranty and don’t need to be replaced. Just set it and forget it.
Still not convinced? Check out our SumoSprings review for more.