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New Owner looking to improve towing

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  #1  
Old 06-03-2018, 08:14 PM
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New Owner looking to improve towing

Hi all,
I have always wanted an Excursion, as it seemed to be an ideal choice for towing and hauling gear and people. I have an enclosed car hauler that I use to tow a race car that weighs (altogether with car and gear) about 7,500 lbs. I have towed it with both a 2009 Nissan Titan and a 2006 VW Touareg TDi. Both of those vehicles pulled the trailer adequately, but seemed to be a little stressed. I just bought a 2001 Excursion 7.3 expecting it to tow significantly better. I really like a lot of aspects of the Excursion, but it is terrifying to drive at highway speeds, especially when towing. The previous owner installed the RAS system, Hellwig rear sway bar, steering damper and the redhead steering gear. Despite these modifications, it is still very difficult to keep it pointed in a straight line, and hitting bumps makes it feel like I'm about to completely lose control. It's not a pleasant experience. It's at 170k miles, so I'm guessing the whole front end just needs to be rebuilt. My questions are 1) do I really need to replace the springs with units from an F250 for towing, and 2) is this a comprehensive list:
  • inner/outer tie rod ends
  • sway bar bushings/end links
  • new shocks (any recommendations? Rancho seems popular)
  • ball joints/u joints
  • end links
I'm going to spend the money I need to spend to get this thing right, but I want to make sure that in the end it will be capable of towing 7k to 8k lbs at 70 mph without being scary. That's doable, right?
Thanks
 
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Old 06-03-2018, 08:51 PM
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Old 06-03-2018, 09:07 PM
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The best bang for the buck for me was swapping out both front and rear springs. ATS is popular and a forum sponsor. I have ordered some stuff from them and top notch customer service. They are in PA so figure shipping!!
 
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Old 06-03-2018, 10:05 PM
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Read the caster thread, what you are describing sounds very much like not enough caster, I’d guess you have 3* or less from the description of how it handles.

if I was in your shoes the first thing I would do is set the proper air pressure which for stock size tires will be 50 front 55 rear.
over inflation will make the wander from not enough caster expenitionally worse.

next,
measure your current ride height and post it up here. Measure all 4 corners from the center of the wheel hub to the bottom of the fender lip. Stock was 23”front and 24”rear.

Once we can see see how much sag your current springs has then the next step with what to do to the suspension becomes more clear.

finally, take it to get an alignment, the tricky part is finding a shop that does and understands straight axle trucks.
as far as your list of worn out suspension items that are culprits, a good shop will inspect all those things and can not do a proper alignment unless everything is good to go.
finally, after any and all worn item are fixed or if new springs are installed you need to insist that at least 5*of caster is dialed into your alignment.


Summary,
1. Correct PSI 50-55
2. Measure ride height and post up
3. 5* of caster
 
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Old 06-03-2018, 10:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Rcarpen22 View Post
Hi all,<br />I have always wanted an Excursion, as it seemed to be an ideal choice for towing and hauling gear and people. I have an enclosed car hauler that I use to tow a race car that weighs (altogether with car and gear) about 7,500 lbs. .... I really like a lot of aspects of the Excursion, but it is terrifying to drive at highway speeds, especially when towing. The previous owner installed the RAS system, Hellwig rear sway bar, steering damper and the redhead steering gear. Despite these modifications, it is still very difficult to keep it pointed in a straight line, and hitting bumps makes it feel like I'm about to completely lose control. It's not a pleasant experience. It's at 170k miles, so I'm guessing the whole front end just needs to be rebuilt. ...
Our 2wd tows an 8k TH very well with no wander.
X2 on checking out the caster.
Stiffening up things a bit might help, too.
I added F250 rear leafs, but still have the stock front coils.
I would go with the F250 leafs first.
Adding a front Hellwig anti-roll bar will firm up the front and keep the front end flatter in turns and crosswinds.
It comes with polyurethane bushings and end link bushings.
Using load range E tires will help with stiffer sidewalls.
Good shocks will help, I have Bilsteins, but I've heard the Ranchos are good, too.
I needed tie rod ends, but didn't notice much steering difference when I replaced them.
 
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Old 06-04-2018, 12:29 AM
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The excursion should not be terrifying at highway speeds, especially without the trailer. Something is wrong. Before doing any upgrades at all, find out what's wrong. May be worth the diagnosis fee of a shop if you're not handy yourself. When I first bought my v10 it was terrifying at highway speeds, upon further investigation, the previous owner had C load rating tires. Swapped them with E load rating and everything tightened up. Make sure the suspension has no issues, like a cracked leaf. Check ball joints for play.

I generally avoid vehicles that have had anything done to them previously, because there's no telling if it was done right or to my standards. Sounds like something was done wrong on that one.
 
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Old 06-04-2018, 01:33 AM
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Originally Posted by JaySVX View Post
The excursion should not be terrifying at highway speeds, especially without the trailer. Something is wrong. Before doing any upgrades at all, find out what's wrong. May be worth the diagnosis fee of a shop if you're not handy yourself. When I first bought my v10 it was terrifying at highway speeds, upon further investigation, the previous owner had C load rating tires. Swapped them with E load rating and everything tightened up. Make sure the suspension has no issues, like a cracked leaf. Check ball joints for play.

I generally avoid vehicles that have had anything done to them previously, because there's no telling if it was done right or to my standards. Sounds like something was done wrong on that one.
Our Excursion was about as stock as you could get with 104k when I bought it and it was disconcerting to drive even with the load range E tires it came with.
The OEM gas shocks could be depressed and wouldn't extend.
The back end would wallow around quite a bit, too.
Adding the Hellwig rear anti-roll bar made a huge improvement.
New shocks, F250 rear leaf springs and a front Hellwig bar firmed up things a lot, too.
JaySVX - are your Excursions 2wd or 4wd?
Just wondering - it seems the 4wd folks have more issues with front end wander which may be related to the front leaf spring design.
Our 2wd with front coil springs has no hint of steering wander.
 
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Old 06-04-2018, 02:04 AM
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Originally Posted by R&T Babich View Post
Our Excursion was about as stock as you could get with 104k when I bought it and it was disconcerting to drive even with the load range E tires it came with.
The OEM gas shocks could be depressed and wouldn't extend.
The back end would wallow around quite a bit, too.
Adding the Hellwig rear anti-roll bar made a huge improvement.
New shocks, F250 rear leaf springs and a front Hellwig bar firmed up things a lot, too.
JaySVX - are your Excursions 2wd or 4wd?
Just wondering - it seems the 4wd folks have more issues with front end wander which may be related to the front leaf spring design.
Our 2wd with front coil springs has no hint of steering wander.
I read the 5 deg caster thread and wondered what the differences might be for the 2wd vs 4wd might be? I have yet to check my alignment, tires seem to be wearing normally but do find a little bit of wandering. I replaced both front upper and lower ball joints, sway bar links and bushings, and shocks. An inspection of the tie rod ends does not indicate any issues. Tires are 5 psi less than max pressure and are of factory size. Have not towed yet, have the Helwig rear sway bar on order.
 
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Old 06-04-2018, 02:04 AM
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Mine are 4wd, We get snow in these parts, and not all driving is on paved roads. However, there is a factory sway bar that I have that is not on all models. My '04 I drove like I stole it, quickly, and always felt well connected to the road. The v10 went like a turd so I was much easier on the throttle with it. Still, never felt bad after those proper tires.
 
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Old 06-04-2018, 07:01 AM
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Thanks for all of the great information! Today I will ensure tire pressures are correct, determine the load rating, and measure suspension height. I do not believe the springs are sagging, especially in the rear, which already has the spring helpers (RAS). I have been actively looking for a shop around here with a good reputation for front axle setup, but there does not seem to be one. I am going to call the place that services my trailer. They do commercial truck and fleet maintenance, so hopefully they will be able to determine what I need. I am pretty handy in that I wrench on my own race cars and do most of my own maintenance, but I know very little about live axle stuff outside of a Fox Mustang I messed with in college (still have it). I know nothing about front live axles or steering issues. I read the castor thread and it is pretty fascinating. It sounds like you could exceed the factory spec by as much as 2* and still be ok or even improving things. I think the PO did the mods he thought were good for towing, but it I don't think he addressed wear issues in the front end. I don't really have time to tear it apart myself, so I'm hoping this shop can get it done for me. I am really looking forward to using this as my track support vehicle for a long time and learning more about wrenching on it, but for now, I just need to get it right fairly quickly. Thanks again for the excellent replies! I'll report my findings.
 
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Old 06-04-2018, 09:03 AM
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Very important point.

the factory caster spec is 3.5* +/- 2*

this means that your alignment is in “Spec” if it is within the range of 1.5* to 5.5*

it is important to understand this because when you go to get it aligned the shop is going to see the “spec” on the computer and if yours falls within the range they are likely to advise you the caster is fine because it is adjusted to spec. Many shops today have the moto of “ set the toe, collect the dough” Setting the toe is quick and easy.

this is nonsense. At 1.5* the Ex wanders like a drunken sailor, at 5.5* It tracks straight and true.
Setting the caster is a royal PITA and they don’t want to do it. ( assuming the tech even understands how it effects handeling )


to your point. Exceeding the factory spec by 2* would mean a caster setting of 7.5*
i am not going to say do that on a street driven vehicle but yes, in the correct circumstance it can be done. ( your circumstances is not correct for this setting )
 
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Old 06-04-2018, 09:12 AM
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On Spring sag.

I can not help you much more then what I have already laid out without the 4 corners measured.

I get that you don’t think they have sagged but the measurements are critical.




 
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Old 06-04-2018, 09:15 AM
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Meant to post this with the caster spec explanation








 
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Old 06-04-2018, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by pirate4x4_camo View Post

Meant to post this with the caster spec explanation








Interesting, the 4 X 2 should already have more caster and camber per the specs on that page.
 
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Old 06-04-2018, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by ShelbyHauler View Post
Interesting, the 4 X 2 should already have more caster and camber per the specs on that page.

I would not read much into that fact as it is totally diffrent front suspension designwith diffrent handeling quirks.

the left and right are not solidly connected and more importantly the suspension cycles on 2 spererat and different arcs because of the radius arms and I beams. . Just look at that camber spec.
 
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