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Old 03-30-2021, 12:09 PM   #1
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Surely this can't be right... rear leaf springs issue?

New to me custom skoolie 2003 Ford 7.3L Diesel E-450 SuperDuty Thomas Built short bus.

Driving home wasn't horrible but I found myself having to correct the steering quite a bit. Left -> correct to right, then right -> correct to left. I figured I just wasn't used to it from driving a fairly new vehicle for a while and maybe this is just how it drives, but it's a bit unnerving. Anyhow, upon further inspection of the rear (which still sits an inch or two higher than the front, I noticed the leaf springs don't quite look right to what I imagine they're supposed to. Maybe I'm not educated on heavy vehicles but someone talk to me about these. Do I need to have them replaced? Are they supposed to look like this? It's about the same on both sides but this is from the driver's rear (dually). Could this affect the steering too or would I look into something else for that?

Alternatively, I've seen some posts about adding air bags to help with suspension. Yeah or Nah






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Old 03-30-2021, 12:24 PM   #2
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Before you do anything else get this thing weighed with front and rear axle weights. Full fuel tanks and full water tanks but empty waste tanks. It may be morbidly obese.
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Old 03-30-2021, 12:29 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by s2mikon View Post
Before you do anything else get this thing weighed with front and rear axle weights. Full fuel tanks and full water tanks but empty waste tanks. It may be morbidly obese.
Thanks for the reply.
Getting it tagged and titled on Friday and will plan to do that. But looking at the springs, the front-most end isn't even pushed against the bracket. Are these springs different than a standard car's? The previous owner had tons of work done to this thing including some rear-suspension work (I have all the records). I would just assume they would have done something about this if it was an issue, right?
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Old 03-30-2021, 12:41 PM   #4
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That last picture looks like it has a reverse arch ?

If is sits this way ion both sides then your springs might be worn out. It happens when you constantly overload them, them wear out.

If it is leaning on one side then I would check to see if I have a cracked spring somewhere in the pac.

If not cracked springs you can either choose to replace both worn out springs or just air bag instead.

Air bagging it would probably be the most economical.

Sale Price: $341.90

I have a 2008 F450 tow truck and after 200k+ miles same thing happened to my springs. Put some air bags on it and good to go!

Checkout sdtrucksprings for more info.
https://www.sdtrucksprings.com/fires...UaAs_TEALw_wcB

you can go with either helper springs or air bags.

My choice would be air bags since you can adjust them by adjusting the air pressure to them.
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Old 03-30-2021, 12:53 PM   #5
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That last picture looks like it has a reverse arch ?
You might be right. It's ever so slightly bowed up, but it's the same on both sides and there's no leaning so I guess they're just worn out. I'm mechanically inclined but is adding air bags something I should let a shop do or could I possibly do it in my driveway?

Obviously helper springs I would take it to a shop for... But, there seems to be a lot of springs to choose from on your link and have no idea what would be the appropriate one. I guess I would first need to know the exact weight eh?
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Old 03-30-2021, 01:01 PM   #6
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Air bag helpers are not hard to install. But you still need to know the weight. You don’t want to be running around with an overloaded vehicle due to safety and liability issues. Does anyone here remember the Dolphin / Toyota debacle?
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Old 03-30-2021, 01:09 PM   #7
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Air bag helpers are not hard to install. But you still need to know the weight. You don’t want to be running around with an overloaded vehicle due to safety and liability issues. Does anyone here remember the Dolphin / Toyota debacle?
X2... I also agree that weighing the bus is a good idea. You should absolutely know what you got, what your working with and that will help you determine how to handle it.

You might have to make the bus lighter...or maybe not but you should know where you stand.

here is a generic air bag install video, not hard to do...even for a beginer!

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Old 03-30-2021, 01:25 PM   #8
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If nothing currently uses air on the bus (brakes, seat, horn, ...) you'll have to add at least a compressor, air tank and pressure switch. And maintain all these things.

Edit: not "have to" but "should". You could just use a shrader valve and a air line to inflate your bags, but by experience, not the best option.
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Old 03-30-2021, 01:36 PM   #9
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If nothing currently uses air on the bus (brakes, seat, horn, ...) you'll have to add at least a compressor, air tank and pressure switch. And maintain all these things.

Edit: not "have to" but "should". You could just use a shrader valve and a air line to inflate your bags, but by experience, not the best option.
On my tow truck I did not install a compressor, I just used the supplied Schrader valve that feeds into a "T" which then distributes the air equally to both bags.

It doesn't work the same as an air bag ride on your bus. their is not adjusting valve, just simple air bags to help / supplement the existing stress on the leaf springs.

On a bus/tractor the air valves are constantly changing air pressure in the bags to provide that smooth ride.

With helper bags, you still get the leaf spring ride but it will make it feel like almost new again, the ride that is.

But yes, an air compressor would be helpful, don't need to buy an expensive one, a simple one that fills up tires (12v) will do just fine.
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Old 03-30-2021, 02:04 PM   #10
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On my tow truck I did not install a compressor, I just used the supplied Schrader valve that feeds into a "T" which then distributes the air equally to both bags.
Right on.. watched the video and doesn't seem too difficult. Do any of you think this might have anything to do with randomly having to correct the steering? I wouldn't say it feels loose, but more like a camber issue where the wheels want to grab to a certain direction.
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Old 03-30-2021, 02:13 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by ewo1 View Post
On my tow truck I did not install a compressor, I just used the supplied Schrader valve that feeds into a "T" which then distributes the air equally to both bags.

It doesn't work the same as an air bag ride on your bus. their is not adjusting valve, just simple air bags to help / supplement the existing stress on the leaf springs.

On a bus/tractor the air valves are constantly changing air pressure in the bags to provide that smooth ride.

With helper bags, you still get the leaf spring ride but it will make it feel like almost new again, the ride that is.

But yes, an air compressor would be helpful, don't need to buy an expensive one, a simple one that fills up tires (12v) will do just fine.
Glad it works for you. I hadn't been this lucky with this system, neither on my previous class A (after a few months, I had to add air manually every few weeks) or my Range Rover P38. I found an air tank and a pressure regulator or even better a height valve to better suit my needs.
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Old 03-30-2021, 06:26 PM   #12
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Gap between top of spring shackles and top spring should not be there. The shackles are there to hold the springs together, also to help keep them aligned. You appear to be missing a helper spring, perhaps two. Air bagging to replace the springs can help ride quality, but has its own set of nuances, specifically the modifications necessary to fit it to the vehicle (I'm not sure any plug-and-play kits exist for your application).

In a nutshell, misaligned, missing, bent, cracked or otherwise damaged springs are not safe and this needs to be fixed before attempting further travel. Possible scenarios can include (but not limited to) the axle liberating itself from the vehicle, which I don't think I need to tell you is a very bad thing.
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Old 03-31-2021, 04:36 AM   #13
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Gap between top of spring shackles and top spring should not be there. The shackles are there to hold the springs together, also to help keep them aligned. You appear to be missing a helper spring, perhaps two.
I'm a bit confused why I have some receipts from the previous owner regarding the suspension. I'll need to scrutinize them to see what exactly they did. Do you suppose they may have removed them to make the rear sit lower? I feel as if I add any height to the rear it won't quite be level Don't these normally sit level front to back?
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Old 03-31-2021, 07:00 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by CHEESE_WAGON View Post
Gap between top of spring shackles and top spring should not be there. The shackles are there to hold the springs together, also to help keep them aligned. You appear to be missing a helper spring, perhaps two. Air bagging to replace the springs can help ride quality, but has its own set of nuances, specifically the modifications necessary to fit it to the vehicle (I'm not sure any plug-and-play kits exist for your application).

In a nutshell, misaligned, missing, bent, cracked or otherwise damaged springs are not safe and this needs to be fixed before attempting further travel. Possible scenarios can include (but not limited to) the axle liberating itself from the vehicle, which I don't think I need to tell you is a very bad thing.
So, just doing some searching on YT to find some images/video of others' leaf springs. I know this isn't a skoolie, but I think it's the same chassis (at least its a E-450 SD), and right around 12 minute mark this guy gets up under and I can see his leaf springs are just about the same shape as mine. Thoughts?

https://youtu.be/a_nVskmHkwo?t=721
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Old 03-31-2021, 07:25 AM   #15
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I'm a bit confused why I have some receipts from the previous owner regarding the suspension. I'll need to scrutinize them to see what exactly they did. Do you suppose they may have removed them to make the rear sit lower? I feel as if I add any height to the rear it won't quite be level Don't these normally sit level front to back?
It would defy logic, but just because they have receipts doesn't mean it was done right, or at all. Who's to even say the receipts were for work done on THIS vehicle? Unless you have an actual work order ticket with the vehicle's year / make / model and/or VIN -- but even that isn't necessarily a guarantee. I've been burned by shady mechanics before, who wouldn't admit they were wrong even when I caught them in a lie.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Professor Dred View Post
So, just doing some searching on YT to find some images/video of others' leaf springs. I know this isn't a skoolie, but I think it's the same chassis (at least its a E-450 SD), and right around 12 minute mark this guy gets up under and I can see his leaf springs are just about the same shape as mine. Thoughts?

https://youtu.be/a_nVskmHkwo?t=721
While I'm not an expert on this specific Ford chassis and how things should look, what I can tell you is that what you have is a commercial cutaway chassis, if not the F-53 platform, something very similar. These are usually built as vendor delivery trucks and such, similar to the old GM step vans. Think UPS / FedEx home delivery routes, Lay's, Wise, Little Debbie, etc. vendor routes. Those kinds of trucks. That is pretty much what your chassis is.

A 'skoolie' chassis per se, at least what most of us consider to be a skoolie, is a heavier-duty 2+-ton on which you would see the likes of a Ford B600/700/800, or GM 50/60/70, /5000/6000/7000, 5500/6500/7500. It just so happens that smaller buses rated for 12-22 passengers were built using cutaway van cabs using the likes of GM's P-series / WorkHorse and Ford's F-53 chassis as well, and some of these were built as school buses for special needs routes and private schools with fewer pupils.

I have seen some applications, such as U-Haul trucks, even a few semis built as car carriers, that were built for low deck height with the springs actually inverted and/or mounted beneath the axle rather than over it, so as to lower the body ride height overall.

This might explain the seemingly backward arch you see. However, while I could be wrong, it does appear that one or two springs could be missing, and those springs definitely don't look like they were replaced recently. Another thing that could cause this swaying issue is broken sway bar, broken or worn end link / sway bar mount bushings, or loose cracked / broken axle-to-mount bolts (see my Safety Inspection thread).

Worn control arm bushings could also be the culprit, as well as body mount bushings, or it is possible that yours has factory air-ride already and it's just not obvious. It will cause a bit of a swaying sensation if you're not used to it. I transported one recently that the new owner did not know had air ride until I did a pre-trip inspection. I can't see ball-joints causing this, but Fords are sort of known for them wearing prematurely in certain applications.
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Old 03-31-2021, 07:31 AM   #16
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My e350 thomas is the same way.
I agree with finding a scale and see where you are with weight and distribution of weight.
Also check you tire pressures . A lot higher then cars and makes a lot of difference.

I installed airbags in the rear to lift the rear of the bus to equalize the lift in the front from a 4x4 conversion.
Our E350 conversion comes in at 8800 with no people and still have a second fuel tank and last solar panel to add.

I got a set of airbag brackets from a pickup truck at the scrapyard. I used one size larger airbags mainly because of the larger range of extension they had.

Running at 70 psi it lifts the rear of the bus some 4 to 5 ".
The leaf springs are then almost unloaded and the spring rate is more compliant.

Check you front alignment . The fords have that funny twin I beam. They often wear out tires uneven.

Good luck,
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Old 03-31-2021, 07:51 AM   #17
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Reading all the comments I got to say everyone is just about spot on with their recommendations. There are alot of other wear parts that can contribute to a bad ride or swaying but your rear springs are obviously working overtime.

I took another look at you pic and this one here I marked up so you could follow what my thoughts are.

The space where the arrow is, is normal for a ford springpac.
I just checked my 2008 F450 superduty and also my 2017 super duty and they both have a space in the pac just like yours.
Those clamps at each end help prevent the leaves from sliding / twisitng out of alignment.

Only difference here is that my springpacs have helper springs installed. .
You should look into this further for your bus.

This is a job you can do by yourself if you so decide to install helper springs.

Where I drew the circle is where spring typically will crack. So clean that area up good on both sides and check for any signs of cracks, you'll notice it when you see it!
I uploaded a pic of a springpac with a helper installed so you can see for yourself.

Good luck...
Attached Thumbnails
leaf spring 1.jpg   Leaf-Springs-Rear-Ford-F-450-20754083.jpg  
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Old 03-31-2021, 07:54 AM   #18
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Alright, really appreciate all the info. The more images I come across help me relax a little because they all appear to have the same shape as mine as well as having space at the top of the shackle, so I don't think there's any springs missing. I know there's two new shocks in the back at least. I will certainly go get it weighed in short order and will also consider adding air bags, just don't really want to raise the back end any more else it will be sloped downward towards the front, but maybe the solution to that is to also get some bags for the front?

As far as tires, it has brand new Cooper AT3s all around, although I haven't checked the pressure on them yet. I did previously and briefly go through all the documentation for work done and there was about $40k of receipts with work orders and I don't recall seeing any that specified any other vehicle than this one, but I will go through them again and if I find anything noteworthy I'll come back here and post it.

Ultimately, I was confused to see the springs upward bent rather than downward as in a standard car/truck, but looking around the web it seems this is exactly how they look for the most part. Here's a link that shows new uninstalled springs basically flat rather than bowed and having space at the top of the shackle. (again, not sure if these are the exact ones for my chassis)

https://www.truckspring.com/products...43-1339HD.aspx
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Old 03-31-2021, 08:05 AM   #19
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Reverse arch is common modern technology for leaf spring vehicles. It does look like the u-bolts may have been replaced for some reason. Perhaps that will be listed in the receipts?


As for your steering issues, it sounds more like a front axle and steering component issue. Take a few pictures of the front tires for wear patterns and scuffing etc. If you have a bottle jack handy, jack each wheel off the ground and set a jack stand under the axle for safety, then push and pull on the top of the tire to check for both king pin slop and/or wheel bearing adjustment and wear.

First thing I would be looking for is a reputable alignment shop in your area and pay them for an inspection. Your E-450 is a few years newer than a ford fanatic friend of mine's F-350, but he mentions many times that there was an issue with geometry for a few years of super duty. He also complains heavily about the rear springs on stutter bumps that appear on gravel roads. His 97 F-350 has a shorter and different spring in the rear, and it does not have the stutter bump issues.
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Old 03-31-2021, 08:35 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post
My e350 thomas is the same way.
I agree with finding a scale and see where you are with weight and distribution of weight.
Also check you tire pressures . A lot higher then cars and makes a lot of difference.

I installed airbags in the rear to lift the rear of the bus to equalize the lift in the front from a 4x4 conversion.
Our E350 conversion comes in at 8800 with no people and still have a second fuel tank and last solar panel to add.

I got a set of airbag brackets from a pickup truck at the scrapyard. I used one size larger airbags mainly because of the larger range of extension they had.

Running at 70 psi it lifts the rear of the bus some 4 to 5 ".
The leaf springs are then almost unloaded and the spring rate is more compliant.

Check you front alignment . The fords have that funny twin I beam. They often wear out tires uneven.

Good luck,
Johan
Careful with this kind of lift (4-5 inches), you may be very close to the fully extended length of the shocks meaning almost no up-travel. Not good.
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