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Replacing Fleetwood Ford Chassis Class Shocks


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#1 uclabruins

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 09:21 PM

I'm totally new to RV'ing and recently purchased a 1997 Fleetwood Southwind Storm 34 with a Ford F53 chassis.

I took my first trip last weekend and it was quite a learning experience to say the least!

Anyway, I think the shocks need to be replaced. It bottoms out too often.

Can I search for the shocks based on the 97 Ford F53?

#2 Jim Seward

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 11:05 PM

The Koni FSD shocks seem to work well on the Ford F53 chassis. We have them on ours and are very satisfied with the more comfortable ride they provide.

If interested, here's a link to their site: http://www.konirv.co...3 Super Duty V8

They are a bit expensive, but in my opinion, well worth the cost.

Good luck with your choice of shocks.. :)

Edited by Jim Seward, 05 September 2012 - 11:12 PM.

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#3 Jim Corey

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 11:07 PM

I'm in the same boat (make that situation :) ) with my 91 Southwind on the F53. Did the fronts, now need the rears. If it's a DIY project, crawl under and try to get a part number. Then you can shop for the correct replacement. On the front, I upgraded from OEM. Bilsteins, Koni gas shocks for example. Wasn't a hard job on the front. Just on a truck everything is big and heavy. You can't just use charts or tables. A lot depends on how the rig was constructed.
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#4 Kevin H

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 11:11 PM

Take a look at Koni FSR shocks. I purchased a set from Shox.com. They greatly improved the ride of my '99 Dolphin on an F53 chassis.

Good Luck and Happy Trails!!

-- Kevin

The richest are not those who have the most, but those who need the least.


#5 uclabruins

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 11:21 PM

I have three brother in laws that are willing to help with this DIY project.

Which is easier, the front or the rear? Are there any online guides to replacing the shocks? :)

Should the shock be fully extended when removing it?
Any safety tips ?

I have a jack that can handle 20 tons. I have 4 jack stands. I have a compressor and impact wrench.

So guys...any help is much appreciated! Thank you in advance....

#6 Kirk

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 10:47 AM

You have all of the tools and plenty of help, so you are in business. I really think that you will find that it isn't a very difficult thing to do with the equipment that you have. You probably will not need the jack or jack stands, at least I have not used either when doing that same job on an 87 GM-P30 chassis or my 99 Ford F53 chassis. The Ford had by far the easier access to the shocks and I think that the rear were easier to get to, but since we have different year chassis and different brand of coaches on them, I suggest that you simply crawl under each end and look to see what it takes. I do believe that you will be pleasantly surprised.

The shocks do not have springs in them, so unless you buy some with springs around them they will stay in the amount of extension that you place them in. What I did was to simply remove the old shock, then pull the new one out to where it matched in length and put the new one on. Some chassis use different shocks in front and rear.
The main issue is usually good access to the nuts and bolts that hold them in place.

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#7 bobsallyh

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 05:09 PM

A thing to remember if you are going to install gas shocks. They will come with some sort of wrap around them from top to bottom. Beware if you cut this wrap, the shock is going to expand to it's max. There is quite a bit of pressure. If using jacks try to get the bolts or studs approx. the same distance apart as the ends of the shock. If not possible, your buddies can push on loose shock end so you can attach it to the bolt or stud. Hope I didn't muddy the water here, but just want you to beware of the pressure. Not really a hard job unless bolts or studs are concealed. You could spray on some PB Blaster a day or two before removing the nuts to help loosen them when you put the wrench on them.

#8 uclabruins

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 09:43 PM

So I don't need to jack anything up to remove the shocks other than removing the wheels? Wait a minute! If I remove the wheel, I need a jack stand to hold that side of the RV up.
Unless what you guys are saying is that I should be able to remove one shock at a time with the wheel on?

#9 uclabruins

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 09:51 PM

Reading Kirk's response over and over again to visualize what he was saying, I think all I have to do is get under the RV and do what it takes to remove the bolts holding the shocks then just adjust the new shocks to match the length of the original shocks and just put it in an install the bolts?



You have all of the tools and plenty of help, so you are in business. I really think that you will find that it isn't a very difficult thing to do with the equipment that you have. You probably will not need the jack or jack stands, at least I have not used either when doing that same job on an 87 GM-P30 chassis or my 99 Ford F53 chassis. The Ford had by far the easier access to the shocks and I think that the rear were easier to get to, but since we have different year chassis and different brand of coaches on them, I suggest that you simply crawl under each end and look to see what it takes. I do believe that you will be pleasantly surprised.

The shocks do not have springs in them, so unless you buy some with springs around them they will stay in the amount of extension that you place them in. What I did was to simply remove the old shock, then pull the new one out to where it matched in length and put the new one on. Some chassis use different shocks in front and rear.
The main issue is usually good access to the nuts and bolts that hold them in place.

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#10 Lou Schneider

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 10:43 PM

I think all I have to do is get under the RV and do what it takes to remove the bolts holding the shocks then just adjust the new shocks to match the length of the original shocks and just put it in an install the bolts?



That's pretty much it - the shocks don't support any weight, they just snub out the bouncing motion. The only exception is if you're installing overload shocks with weight bearing springs included in the shock itself.

One tip - when you're working around the front wheels, turning them all the way one way or the other often makes space in the wheelwell where you can sit upright to do work instead of lying flat on your back. Bring a piece of cardboard to cover the greasy parts around the wheel spindle so you don't get it on your clothes and you're set.
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#11 uclabruins

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 12:55 AM

Now, I just noticed that there is Ride-Rite installed and the passenger side is deflated compare to the other side. I'll inflate it to 80PSI and see what happens. The manual indicates not to exceed 100 psi.

Is there a special way to inflate it because the same inflator that I used to inflate all of my tires can't seem to inflate the ride-rite.

The manual said to use the air chuck ? what's an air chuck?

update #3: I used a bicycle pump and was able to get it from 0psi to 50psi.....almost got a heart attack doing it :)

if the rv sways a lot, does it mean that the shock is bad

Edited by uclabruins, 07 September 2012 - 01:56 AM.


#12 Kirk

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 08:22 AM

One air bag up and the other down would really effect the ride and handling! Are they only on the rear, or on both axles? Usually air bags on the rear mean that the springs have begun to sag and the air bags were added to correct that . It is very common for gas chassis coaches to develop that problem over time as they run so close to the max GVWR all of the time. I added them to my 99 F-53 at about 9 years for that reason and later wished that I had done so when new. The alternative is to have the springs reshaped to original and/or add another leaf to them. I prefer the air bags.

An air chuck is the device that you attach to the end of an air hose to put air into tires. They should attach properly to any fitting that your tire pump will attach to. RV air bags use a "Schrader" valve that is exactly the same as is used for the tires of most everything that have air in them. Some air bags have the valve and tube attached to them and locate the valve out where you can easily access it from the side somewhere. Most current installations are now that way but it used to be that some required the owner to crawl under the RV to check them. Air bag pressures should be checked and adjusted just as frequently as the tires as they work exactly the same on the same axle.

I suspect that you probably do need to replace the shocks on the RV, but inflating both air bags to the proper pressure will help a great deal. The pressures in the two air bags may not be the same when properly inflated as unlike tires, you don't need to have them both exactly the same. A difference of 20# or so to get the RV to sit level is not especially unusual. Older coaches usually do have bad shocks as it is something that is usually overlooked and the problem develops so slowly that most owners don't notice. Were it mine, I would still replace them.

Sway may mean bad shocks, but that isn't the only thing that effects it. That air bag is bound to have been part of the problem. Weak springs can also play a part as do worn suspension parts and worn out shocks.

Edited by Kirk, 07 September 2012 - 08:25 AM.

Good travelin !...............Kirk
Author & Escapee's Magazine contributor
Full-time 11+ years...... Now seasonal travelers again.
Kirk & Pam's Great RV Adventure
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#13 uclabruins

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 12:22 PM

Currently, the entire RV is resting on the springs and shocks. Wouldn't the this load makes it hard to remove the rear shock without jacking the the frame up somewhat? I'm really confused. I've been on youtube and all of the videos have the vehicles raised or jacked up with the wheels/suspensions extended.

#14 Dutch_12078

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 03:53 PM

As previously posted, there is no load on the shock itself, assuming it does not have external overload springs installed. The reason most photos/videos show the frame jacked up is simply to provide working space under the vehicle. If you can reach the shock mounting bolts easily without raising the frame, there's no need to do so.

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#15 Kirk

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 06:05 PM

Currently, the entire RV is resting on the springs and shocks. Wouldn't the this load makes it hard to remove the rear shock without jacking the the frame up somewhat?

I do believe that you are confused. As I previously told you, I have changed them on my Ford, F53 chassis and never used a jack for anything. We did lift the coach a little bit with the leveling jacks, just to make it easier to get under the coach but we really didn't need to do that either. In the years that we had our coach I, with the help of a friend, replaced all four shocks twice in 14 years.

There is no need for jacks and such unless you can't get under the coach. Simply remove the old shock, then use it to adjust the new one to the same length and put it where the old one was. You may be able to make it more difficult, but there is no need to do so. May I suggest that before you start you go and get the replacement shocks. Once you have them in hand you can see for yourself how simple it is to adjust them to length. It can be one of the easier maintenance jobs on a motorhome.

By the way, did adjusting the inflation of the air bags improve the handling at all?

Good travelin !...............Kirk
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#16 uclabruins

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Posted 12 September 2012 - 10:40 PM

Thanks for asking but I haven't taken it for a test drive yet because my brother in law was the only driver during our first RV trip. I'm going to need him to drive it to be able to feel the difference.

But I ordered a monroe shock for $35 on amazon (only one though). I need to find somewhere. The part number is 557002 (Monroe).

If anyone know of a cheap place to get this shock, please let me know!

Thanks!

#17 Kirk

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Posted 13 September 2012 - 07:30 AM

I do believe that there are different Monroe part numbers for the front and rear on an F53. At least that was true for the 1999 Ford chassis that we owned.

Good travelin !...............Kirk
Author & Escapee's Magazine contributor
Full-time 11+ years...... Now seasonal travelers again.
Kirk & Pam's Great RV Adventure
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