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Roadmaster Active Suspension Review

Discussion in 'Product Reviews' started by SurrealOne, Sep 20, 2012.

  1. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member

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    On 7/17/12 I got together with @aloxdaddy99 to install a Roadmaster Active Suspension kit. Here's the review, with special thanks to Alox for the heavy lifting and wrenching!

    Price Per Unit: $~350.00 + S&H (see special pricing comments, below)
    Manufacturer Link: http://www.activesuspension.com/


    Product Discovery Background:
    At a NC mini-meet (GMTC people but not GMTC sponsored) in July of this year, @moogvo off-handedly mentioned Roadmaster Active Suspension as a way to reduce rear end sag when towing/hauling, reduce body roll, and improve handling. He also indicated the price point was about $350.00. This sounded too good to be true ... but also worth looking into because, if true, it'd be a really-nice-to-have item at a very reasonable price point. So I looked into it...

    At the manufacturer link, above, you can dig in and see how the product works. In a nutshell, the Roadmaster Active Suspension (RAS) system uses a pair of coil springs to help hold the rear leaf springs in their original, bowed positions as load is applied to the vehicle in the form of weight in the bed, towed weight, and/or side-to-side load shift. By design, the more the leaf springs tend toward flatness due to load, the greater the coil springs work to keep them in their original, bowed positions. This is a purely mechanical solution that is elegant in its simplicity. Unlike air bag systems there's no compressor, no air tank, no wiring, no risk of holes in air bags, etc. Installation is, for lack of a better term, braindead.


    Manufacturer Support:
    The RAS system is 100% made in the U.S.A -- specifically in Charlotte, NC -- and is warranted for two years. Prior to purchasing the RAS system I had a question pertaining to use of the system on a lifted truck ... and found myself surprised that the issue wasn't addressed on the manufacturer web site, since it's very, very thorough. So, I filled out the online form, asked my question, and was pleased that within one business day I received a response. I was completely caught off guard that the response came not by way of email, but instead by way of a phone call. (Yes, a real human actually took the time to read the message and make a phone call to a customer!) There was a time when this was the norm, but in today's world it's the exception ... one that I consider a mark of excellence.

    The individual who called me was Ryan Pasquale -- he's the national sales manager for Roadmaster and is extremely knowledgeable about the product. He indicated to me that the product works well with lifted trucks to reduce body roll ... but that lifted trucks designed for extreme off-road use (dune hopping at high speeds, deep mud bogging, etc.) are not good candidates for use of the RAS system. In my own words, I concluded that the RAS system is largely a towing/hauling accessory that happens to have a positive impact on lifted trucks as long as they're light-to-medium off-roaders or strictly pavement monsters. That sat just fine with me, as I'm in that category. Ryan and I then discussed the installation process, which seemed simple enough.


    Application Guide:
    Roadmaster has provided a page on its site to determine the right part number for a given application: http://www.activesuspension.com/RAS_USAppGuide_eBook.pdf
    If one is still unsure after reviewing the application guide, Roadmaster customer service is, as previously noted, exceptional, and I trust they'll identify the right part number to meet a given need.


    Special Pricing For GMTC Members:
    I did not purchase my RAS unit directly from Roadmaster. Moogvo (in conjunction with Ryan) had been looking to put together a group buy for those of us here at GMTC. It was unclear if there would be enough interest ... and the number of people required for the group buy was uncertain. While moogvo was working on that I elected to price the units, myself, as I was not traveling for work ... which meant I had time to work on my rig and needed to make the most of it. As it turned out, I was able to get a fantastic deal -- cheaper than the group buy pricing that was being discussed. I paid $315.00 for my unit -- shipped to my door and including tax.

    I placed and received my order and before I performed my installation I spoke with Ryan Pasquale, again, to render some feedback on the manual that came with the product ... as well as discuss tension settings to see what he recommended. What I just told you, above, I also shared with him. Ryan thought about it, indicated that normally the number of members required for a group buy had to be substantial, but he'd be willing to honor/match the same $315.00 price shipped to the door that I paid ... in order to help increase market awareness of Roadmaster's product.

    To take advantage of this pricing you must call Roadmaster at 1-800-398-5036, ask for Ryan Pasquale, indicate that you are a GMTC member, and indicate that you're referencing @SurrealOne's screenname on GMTC and that you'd like the $315.00 price match for GMTC members. Ryan should then walk you through what you need to do to order directly through Roadmaster at that price point.


    Installation Time:
    Installation was simple. I can't underscore this, enough. For my vehicle it took ~2.5 hours from start to clean-up -- using hand tools. There was no welding, cutting, or drilling. Using the newest design of the RAS system there's also no need to mess with the ubolts. I should also quantify a few things:
    • 1/2 hour of the time I spent was wasted time in the form of taking lots of pictures to make sure I got a few good ones, as my phone takes crappy photos.
    • Another hour of the time was specific to my installation, as I have locking lug nuts for every lug nut ... making removal and reinstallation of my wheels a royal pain. (I'm also anal retentive about torquing my lugs, which chewed up some time.)
    • The remaining hour is what it'd have taken a typical person with a typical set of lugs and a typical truck ... and 50 minutes of that would be pre-prep and post-install work .... with the remaining 10 minutes of it being the actual RAS installation. 10 minutes!


    Installation Steps (Boiled-Down):

    • Chock the front wheels for safety then jack up the rear of the truck and place it on jack stands
    • Remove the wheels in order to completely unload the rear axle
    • Remove any overload springs (if you have them; I didn't)
    • Pre-position the RAS coil springs and then bolt them into place
    • Set the tension of the RAS coil springs using the supplied gauges (or use a dime or a quarter, appropriately)
    • Replace the wheels
    • Remove the jack stands and chocks and go for a test drive

    Tension Setting:
    Two options are available - 10% overload and 40% overload. A gauge is provided for each, with the white plastic gauge (dime thickness) being 10% and the black plastic guage (quarter thickness) being 40%. Higher percentages should be used for those towing/hauling heavy loads frequently. Note that per my discussion with Ryan, the higher the percentage the stiffer the ride will be. Ryan recommended 10% for my application, as I have a 1500, tow/haul infrequently, am not even close to GVWR when I do, and I do light off-roading.


    Here's what the RAS package, itself, looks like:

    [​IMG]


    And here are the contents of the RAS package:
    [​IMG]


    Here's one of the two RAS units removed from the package:
    [​IMG]


    Here's everything I needed for my installation:
    [​IMG]
    Note: The receiver pin and towing strap were used in lieu of a jack. See next image.


    A 10-ton crane makes for a nice jack, if you have one around:
    [​IMG]


    The rear end of my truck completely off the ground:
    [​IMG]


    Jack stands in place prior to work:
    [​IMG]


    RAS unit pre-positioning after axle was unloaded:
    [​IMG]


    RAS installation commences (tightening what holds it under the leaf spring, in front of the ubolt):
    [​IMG]


    Tensioning the RAS coil spring (requires two wrenches):
    [​IMG]


    RAS tension gauges (white [dime thickness] for 10% overload, black [quarter thickness] for 40%):
    [​IMG]


    RAS tensioning complete (white [dime thickness] for 10% overload was my setting):
    [​IMG]


    RAS install complete, wheels back on:
    [​IMG]
    (Apologies for the fuzzy photo -- we were struggling for light...)
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2012
    #1
  2. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member

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    Bottom Line:
    The money spent on this aftermarket upgrade ranks among the best $300.00 I have ever spent on my truck. The truck drove differently from the moment the RAS system was installed; I could take cloverleaf interchanges and corners faster than before, as the body wasn't leaning as much as it did prior to the installation.

    At first I worried that this was observer error, as it is instinctive and natural to want an upgrade to produce a positive result. However, I'm writing this review more than two months after the install date, and after two months of using the system I know it's not observer error. I can keep up with many unlifted trucks in the curves ... where previously I'd back off the throttle to keep the body roll from becoming scary ... while other trucks outpaced me.

    My off-road use is completely unimpeded by the system. I've yet to tow with the RAS system installed, but I will, soon. On the hauling front I have shuttled half a pallet of bricks (est. 1200 lbs) from a store to a home in the country (~45 mi), and my truck was far better behaved than expected -- with less sag than my father's F150 had on it as it shuttled the other half pallet. (Insert deprecating Ford commend, here.)

    I would recommend this upgrade to anyone who tows, hauls, or has a lift and doesn't do any extreme off-roading. IMHO, this was money very well-spent. I'm glad @moogvo turned me on to this product and appreciate @aloxdaddy99's assistance with the installation.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2012
    #2
  3. tbplus10

    tbplus10 Moderator

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    Have you noticed any traction benefits from the RAS? i.e. less axle wrap.
    #3
  4. moogvo

    moogvo Moderator

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    [MENTION=50075]SurrealOne[/MENTION]: Nice write up. Tim, Yes, it eliminates wheel hop.
    #4
  5. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member

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    Axle wrap being one of those things that's easier to see than it is to feel (especially in a truck as long as mine), I've not noticed a difference. I experienced no wheel hop/vibration either before or after the installation ... and I've not been in a situation where I could watch the axle when someone else is driving my truck under conditions where it might be visible. (Let someone else drive my truck? Hah!)

    Given that I'm running with rear lift blocks it was a question on my mind, too. The manufacturer's site claims to reduce axle wrap. Given your question, this link to the subject on the manufacturer's site probably worthwhile: http://www.activesuspension.com/eliminate-axle-wrap-2/

    I wish I had a more helpful response...
    #5
  6. Conlan Rose

    Conlan Rose Super Moderator

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    [MENTION=50075]SurrealOne[/MENTION] how well does it hold up under load?
    #6
  7. tbplus10

    tbplus10 Moderator

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    I actually read that write-up after I asked the question.
    Pretty much made up my mind to call and order the kit for my truck tomorrow.
    I have all the parts available to install an airbag system but it's a lot more work than the RAS and I'm getting lazy as I get older.
    Just out of curiosity I called a local authorized dealer about installation and he quoted just under $600, makes me glad I do all my own work on my truck.
    #7
  8. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member

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    I've not put anything heavier than about 1200 pounds on it, and the RAS system held up just fine for that. I'd imagine the system is way over-engineered for my puny 1500, as the same part number on my truck (which is for 1990-2012 1500's) is used on 1973-2010 2500's and 3500's. Also, I'm only at the 10% overload setting ... meaning it could definitely handle a lot more if I unloaded the axles and cranked the tension down to the 40% setting.

    OMG, $600.00 for an hour's worth of labor ... and far less time if you happen to own a lift??? I'm in the wrong business!
    #8
  9. Conlan Rose

    Conlan Rose Super Moderator

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    I find it funny looking at the one for my truck because its also the 4611 but with an added T at the end 4611-T. Must be a slight modification for the Tahoes. Seeing how much you like it and seeing how ridiculously easy it looks like to install I'm most definitely thinking about it for my truck to help fix its sagging springs.
    #9
  10. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member

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    I don't know if that's it's intended use (band-aid for sagging springs), but it won't hurt to call Ryan and ask if it'll help!
    #10
  11. Conlan Rose

    Conlan Rose Super Moderator

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    That was one of the reason [MENTION=12002]moogvo[/MENTION] recommended it to me awhile back. In theory if the RAS is trying to keep the leafs as close to factory shape to increase control then it should help my rear end sag. But either way I will try to call Ryan next week to ask my questions.
    #11
  12. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member

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    The theory is definitely sound...
    #12
  13. barefoot greg

    barefoot greg New Member

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    are these alright to run if you are currently running addaleafs?
    #13
  14. moogvo

    moogvo Moderator

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    Sure. They don't actually alter your leaf springs or any other system on your vehicle. You could have 10 leaves in your spring pack and still use these!
    #14
  15. barefoot greg

    barefoot greg New Member

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    awesome, with my rig only having a half inch of rake, 43 3/4" front, 44 1/4" rear, i'll deffinately be investing in a set of these to keep a level stance while towing. To me theres nothing worse than seein a truck goin down the highway with that diaper ass look lol.
    #15
  16. PantheraUncia

    PantheraUncia New Member

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    Something I forgot to think about is rear end weight distribution with this installed? What happens when you have the RMAS installed and there is no weight in the bed and it is slick on the roads...... We have issues with ICE in the winter here, the rear end of my truck is so light already that the tires spin if there is ice.

    So say I put allot of sand bags above the rear axle if it is going to be icy to weigh the back down and the RMAS is compensating for that... the weight is still on the tires, but would I need more weight to keep traction?
    #16
  17. tbplus10

    tbplus10 Moderator

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    RAS arrived via Fed EX this afternoon, should be installed this weekend then maybe we'll tow the boat around the neighborhood to see how the truck reacts.
    I have high hopes for them, this truck has a few towing quirks I'm not real happy with and I'm hoping RAS straightens them out.
    Since my boat trailer is lengthened by 14" at the tow bar squatting isnt a problem, tongue weight is only about 115lbs.
    But the wheel base of the truck makes it lurch when towing a trailer over road sections, with my boat and car trailers it's just long enough to hit front wheels and trailer wheels on the expansion joints at the same time, not a comfortable ride so lets hope the RAS fix's this problem.
    #17
  18. tbplus10

    tbplus10 Moderator

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    I've had the Road Master Active Suspension on the truck for a little less than 2 weeks now and it's working great.

    For the first test I towed a 3800lb car/trailer from Dallas, Tx to Lukenbach, Tx, via Austin, Tx for a total of 562 miles, a 1/4 of the trip was made on curvy roads going up and down grades and I was impressed with the newfound handling from the RAS system.
    The truck and trailer stayed level and I only had a problem swaying once when a line of 5 semi's passed me simultaneously, speeding up about 5 mph quickly stopped the swaying.

    Around town unloaded the truck retained it's soft comfortable ride but does handle freeway cloverleafs and curves a little better than before with less rear roll.

    The only problem/issue I encountered was after having worked so hard to lower the truck 2" with drop shackles measurements taken before and after the install show the truck came back up between a 1/4" and a 1/2" after the install, I took measurements a week later to account for settling and it was still a touch higher than before installation.

    As a longtime fan and user of airbag systems I have to say I'm very impressed with the RAS system, it did everything I was told it would. A much easier system to install and maintain than airbags, nothing to worry about once it's installed.

    Installation took about 1 hour and was accomplished with a couple wrench's, socket/ratchet, floor jack, and jack stands.

    After reading the instructions the night before I decided I was going to deviate to save time since I was doing it in the driveway and the forcast called for rain that day.

    I didnt remove the rear wheels, the only real purpose I could see for that was possibly changing the system preload, and even that was doubtful since the instructions have you lifting the rear axle with the floor jack, placing jack stands, then settling the floor jack with about a 1/2" load, then removing the tires, so I got lazy and deleted the tire removal step.

    All worked well and it didnt start raining until I was putting away the tools.
    If I need to I can easily be adjust the system with a wrench and socket/ratchet while on the ground, might take a little extra effort but it isnt impossible.

    Gotta give a big shout out to Moogvo an SurrealOne for the recommendation, it worked as advertised and appears to be a great product.
    #18
  19. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member

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    I'm very glad you're happy with it! Moogvo gets all the credit for turning me on to the product.

    I wouldn't think you'd need more weight. RAS affects -how- you carry the weight but doesn't reduce the weight, itself. You added mass above the rear tires and that'll be the part that's most relevant to improving your traction.
    #19
  20. moogvo

    moogvo Moderator

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    Wow! Thank you sir! And that is correct. The RMAS does not compromise handling on an unloaded vehicle. It certainly does not need the truck to be loaded to be safe. It will improve the ride and handling even unloaded by stabilizing the rear axle beyond what it is from the factory.

    The only reason they have you take the tires off is to make it easier to install it. No other reason.
    #20

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