Caravans are large, heavy vehicles that are frequently used by people who don’t have a lot of experience driving anything bigger than a car. They’re often taken off-road, adding to the challenges of keeping them under control. Because of this, caravans need to be well-designed and easy to handle, and that means good responsive caravan suspension.
What Is Suspension?
Suspension systems make travelling in a vehicle more comfortable by keeping the vehicle a safe distance above the road, absorbing shocks, and making the vehicle feel more stable. They usually consist of a spring and a damper. The spring compresses and extends based on the movement of the vehicle, while the dampers absorb excess energy, stopping the vehicle from bouncing around out of control.
What Sort Of Suspension Do Caravans Have?
Because caravans are so large and heavy, and people often drive long distances in them, a caravan suspension system needs to be able to handle large amounts of energy. This means the springs need to be strong enough to withstand repeated compression and extension. In addition, the dampers need to be able to handle repeated use.
Dampers convert the energy from the springs into heat. The longer the drive, the more heat they need to be able to cope with. This is one thing that sets high-quality suspension systems apart from lower quality brands.
The most common suspension systems seen on caravans are:
- Live Axle/Solid Axle suspension
- Independent axle suspension
- Leaf Spring suspension
- Airbag suspension
How Does Caravan Suspension Work?
Live axle suspension systems use a single axle with wheels on each end and are often used together with leaf springs. This type of suspension is popular for on-road caravans which aren’t under a lot of strain. It generally works well and offers a smooth ride, but does tend to sag over time.
Independent suspension systems use two shorter axles that, as the name suggests, operate independently of each other. This allows for more ground clearance, and also works well in unstable conditions, because if one wheel hits a pothole or a bump in the road, the other wheel’s suspension doesn’t move.
Independent suspension has good shock-absorbing properties and can help to promote good toe and camber, stopping the wheels from leaning too much in varying conditions. The challenge with independent suspension is that the springs may become overly compressed, and need to be replaced.
Leaf spring suspension has been used by caravan and other large vehicle manufacturers for around a century. It’s a technology that people stick with because it works. Modern manufacturers have made some tweaks – improving on the materials used to make them lighter and more durable, but the basic design remains the same.
Airbag suspension uses air instead of springs. Rubber bags of pressurised air respond to the changing terrain and allow the caravan to bounce up and down. This kind of suspension is more expensive and needs regular maintenance because there needs to be an air cylinder or compressor to supply air to the suspension. The trade-off is that the suspension gives a very smooth ride even in the most challenging of conditions.
Choosing Suspension For Your Caravan
Many manufacturers choose trailer suspension that mimics that used in cars, even though trailers rarely have passengers in them. It’s important for caravans to offer the level of comfort of cars, for the benefit of the riders in the cab, but for trailers, this is less important.
If you’re considering upgrading the suspension on your caravan, look for something that can handle the weight of the vehicle, the conditions that you’re going to be driving it in, and the strain you will put it under. Thermal dissipation is important for long journeys, and good toe and camber is important for off-road use.
If you are looking for the most reliable caravan suspensions in Australia, look no further than Alpha Suspensions.
Please call us today on 1800 325 742 and get a free quote for any on or off-road caravan suspension requirements you may have or you can leave an inquiry.