We’re here at Roadmaster Incorporated in Vancouver, Washington, where they build high-quality suspension aids designed to help solve motor home handling and stability problems.
A while back we met Ron Gurowitz, the owner of a Winnebago Vista motor home that displayed some poor handling characteristics. He said it was a lot of work to steer his rig and keep it in its lane. To learn more, we joined Ron for a demonstration ride to experience the effects firsthand.
Ron Gurowitz: You know, it’s work to drive it. You have to really focus a lot, you’re constantly driving the thing; you can’t relax like you might want to. The side-to-side motion – after about 300 miles, I was getting pretty tired.
Jeff: It made sense for Ron to try Roadmaster as a solution to his coach driving problems. The company’s front and rear sway bars and steering stabilizer may be just the ticket for this project. A high-profile coach like this is a prime subject for these components, which can make a huge difference in how your coach rides and handles going down the road. It makes a difference between “Oh my gosh, when are we gonna get there, this is so stressful,” or “Wow, I’m really enjoying this trip.” We kind of like the “enjoying this trip” aspect.
Jeff: Ron made the appointment, and his coach was soon in the shop for the parts They’re putting larger diameter after-market Roadmaster sway bars on this motor home. Now, with the increase in diameter of the bar, the strength increases dramatically as well. And in case you’re not real familiar with what a sway bar does, the straight part of the bar, down here, this is fastened to the axle on the vehicle. Now, this has got a bend on it because it’s designed to fit around the differential, but this part fastens to the axle and the ends. attach to the frame. And when the body of the coach wants to roll, it wants to push up and, you know, pull up, push down, on the end of the sway bar, well, the bar is like a big spring more or less, and it wants to stay straight, so it resists it. It doesn’t let it move like that. While the body is moving relative to the axle, it resists that attempt for the body to roll. And when you put a larger diameter one on, especially on a high-profile vehicle like this, it tends to make it want to stay vertical more appropriately rather than rocking and rolling all over the place. So these larger diameter Roadmaster anti-sway bars are gonna probably make quite a bit of difference in how this coach handles going down the road.
Jeff: One of the parts going on this motor home is a Roadmaster steering stabilizer, and what this amounts to is, essentially, a large shock absorber that resists motion in both directions with a coil spring that is also clamped at both ends. And this tends to, any time you extend it, it wants to come back to the standard length; or you compress it, it comes back to the standard length. Now, this device is bolted on to the front axle between the steering tie rod and the axle, with one piece on the axle and one on the tie-rod. And while you’re driving down the road, then, if you hit a bump or something that jams your steering off to the side, this helps to absorb that shock as well as returning the steering back a little bit closer to center. It’s a pretty handy little accessory to put on an RV.
Jeff: There’s not enough room under the coach for the install technicians and us, so we’ll see the final product when it’s finished. Meanwhile, David Robinson, Roadmaster VP, showed us around and explained a bit about manufacturing the sway bars and parts. It’s a little bit blacksmithing and a lot of high tech.
David Robinson: We try to build everything right here, but not only do we build everything right here, but we also try to buy as much American-made product as we can. So an example of that. is our steel. Our round bar steel that we use to manufacture sway bars from is bought in America.
So one of the things that makes Roadmaster different is the diameter of the steel that we’re using. Every 1/8 of an inch in increase in diameter gives you an extra 30% of anti-roll and sway control. He’s gonna chuck up a straight length of steel and then, when it’s finished, the computer will bend it to these exact specifications. After the material has been bent by our CNC bending equipment, then it comes to the forging department. So here, we heat up the steel to about 2,000 degrees. That makes it nice and malleable. We can actually stamp some ends in it, trim off the ends, put the bolt holes in it. So this whole process is about forging the bar and the ends of the bar into their final shape.
Jeff: Something you’ll notice is that Roadmaster is justifiably proud of all the parts they make here in America.
David: So in keeping with the theme of the sway bar and made in America, these are the mounting brackets for the Ford F-53, and we make them right here. in the factory just like we do everything else. After our sway bars have been bent, they come out
looking something like this, and it’ll still have mill scale on it from the steel manufacturing. We have to get rid of that. If we don’t, water gets underneath it and then you get rust and corrosion. So what we do is we put this into something called a bead blaster, and that bead blaster is sending steel shot, and it’s pounding and hammering the top layer, knocks off the mill scale, but it also hardens the steel and makes it stronger. So after we’ve prepared it that way, it can then go into the powder coat machine and it gets a baked-on powder coat finish, which is very durable.
Jeff: The finished rear sway bar installation is clean and professional-looking. Urethane bushings provide firm, precise bar support. The front upgraded sway bar fits neatly in place and uses the stock bar end hangers. It’s not easy to see the reflex steering stabilizer, but it’s mounted. there on the front axle. With the parts installed, we hit the road again with Ron to hear his reaction to how the coach drives with the new hardware. We think he was impressed.
Ron: Well, it’s a little stiffer, a little more better feel to the road. It doesn’t seem to wanna wander quite like it was before. I’m not having to fight against the rig. I’m more driving with it. I don’t feel like it’s trying to steer me one way or the other. Significantly less work to drive.
]Jeff: It looks like the Roadmaster parts can make a big difference in your driving time, comfort, and enjoyment.
For more information about any Roadmaster products, visit their website at roadmasterinc.com.