How to Choose the Best Suspension for Your Custom Trailer – Highway, Off-Road, or Hybrid
Choosing the right suspension can make the difference between you becoming a relatively carefree trailer owner or a burdened one, having to regularly schedule maintenance appointments for your trailer. How do you know which suspension is right for you? We’ll help you sort through the options.
The first question to consider is what you’re hauling. The axles, in concert with the suspension, determine how much weight your trailer can carry. For example, if the trailer has two axles that carry 10,000 pounds, your suspension would need to carry at least 20,000 pounds. To prevent trailer suspension failure, you need to match the rating of your suspension with the rating of the axles under the trailer.
The next question to consider is where you’re hauling. The function of the suspension determines how the trailer rides going down the highway or, if it’s an off-road trailer, how it rides in an off-road setting. There’s also a suspension that’s best when your hauling needs involve both settings.
Overbilt does not manufacture suspensions because we utilize experts who manufacture only suspensions. We look to them to provide us exactly what you need for your unique trailer, because each trailer we build is as unique as our customers. We make recommendations based on your custom-built trailer needs.
Highway Suspension Option: Slipper Spring Adjustable
If you haul only on the highway, the slipper spring adjustable suspension is your most economical option. We primarily use suspensions made by Hutchens Industries.
When Overbilt manufactures your trailer in our Oklahoma facility, we align the axles and suspension so your trailer pulls properly (straight) down the road. To encourage even wear on your tires, and to extend the life of the trailer axles and suspension, the slipper spring suspension can be adjusted to bring your tires back into alignment. For example, if you drive over a curb or hit something with the trailer, the alignment can go out and will need adjusting. If you are local we are happy to make adjustments. Otherwise, any truck or trailer shop can make alignment adjustments.
Something to consider: If you take your trailer off-road often and it is utilizing highway suspension, you will end up spending a fair amount of time and money to correct the alignment. It would be better to invest initially in off-road suspension.
Highway Suspension Option: Air Ride
Another option for highway hauling is the Watson air ride suspension, where the axle sits on an arm with what is essentially an air bag, allowing the trailer to ride on a cushion of air. The air ride suspension has a higher price-point, but for several critical uses may be the better option for your trailer.
You are wise to consider this option if you are protecting precious cargo; perhaps you’re transporting sensitive equipment like a backhoe with an onboard computer. If you need a custom-built trailer that will house a high-end control room or carry items with high value, air ride suspensions will minimize damage during transport. The air ride suspension will ensure the smoothest, safest possible ride for your cargo.
Another benefit of the air ride suspension is consistent ride height, where the distance from the ground to the top of the trailer remains constant. On the highway, as you go over a pothole or a bump, a height control valve keeps the air in the bags consistent, adjusting the trailer so it remains level.
This feature is especially important for drivers hauling a tall load. Knowing it will never go higher than where the height control valve is set allows you to, for example, avoid hitting the underside of a bridge.
While the height control is adjustable, it must be done by a professional.
Just like it sounds, the off-road trailer suspension is made to endure the abuse that comes with extreme conditions in an off-road environment. With the Ridewell walking beam suspension, there are no springs or airbags to cushion the ride; instead, the axle is welded to a beam that pivots back and forth. This is especially important in environments like mines or quarries.
If your needs don’t fit nicely into any of the above categories, you might consider a hybrid option. When hauling heavy equipment to a construction site, for example, you need suspension that handles off-road territory as well as highway hauling. We suggest hybrid suspension in this case as it is not as expensive as the air ride suspension, but affords you some of the ride smoothness you’re looking for.
Overbilt uses a mechanical single point spring suspension, which is essentially a walking beam suspension with springs. The springs pivot on a trunnion tube, or pivot assembly tube. At a central point, they rock back and forth like a walking beam, but you also get you the ride comfort of spring action. Once we set this suspension to pull straight, it is welded in place and never needs adjustment or alignment. It’s locked in for the life of the suspension. The hybrid then shines when you take your trailer into an off-road situation.
Ready to move forward?
As customer trailer builders, Overbilt staff will ask you questions at the beginning of the process to ensure you receive exactly what you need. If you know in advance what you need, great! If not, we will provide you our expert recommendations.