Trailer Suspension

There are a number of choices for suspension on a trailer that are practical and enduring and while there are other options such as swing arms, coil and shock absorber style suspension available, the following are the most popular.

Leaf Springs

Leaf spring suspension has been around in one form or another since Roman times and steel leaves have been used since the 18th century. You might think that using leaf springs on your trailer is a bit old fashioned, believe me its not. The reason why is we still use them is because they are so damn good. They are relatively cheap to manufacture, long lasting, easy to repair or replace and depending on the spring setup, can carry huge loads while reducing stresses on the trailer chassis and axles.

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Springs are built to an upper load limit and need to be matched to the total trailer and load weight. Too low a load rating and the springs will bottom out and quickly fail. Too heavy and the ride will be stiff and harsh causing stress to both the trailer and load.

Leaf springs are available in almost any combination from very light duty single leaf to behemoth 12 leaf plus monsters.

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Find a spring that matches your load rating and find one that has a reasonable camber that suits your axle position. Springs are normally available painted, but galvanised leaves and also proprietary corrosion coatings are also available. Just remember that leaf springs are designed to slide against each other and wear between the leaves is inevitable and unpreventable. Galvanised springs, due to the nature of the heat treatment process may be slightly weaker overall and loose their camber quicker than painted springs.

Poorly galvanised springs are prone to cracking and failure - always purchase from a reputable supplier.

Eye/Slipper

slipper-style-leaf-springs.jpgThis spring has the least moving parts of all springs although there can be a bit of wear where the spring tail rubs against its slipper. An anti rattle version is available as this spring can be very noisy over bumpy roads if the standard version is used. Using the slipper to retain the spring gives good lateral stability to the trailer and is especially good on a trailer with 2 or more axles because of this extra constraint. An advantage of these springs on a single axle is that the distance between the chassis and the spring is quite compact and can be helpful if you are after a lower deck height.

Eye/Eye

dual-eye-leaf-springs.jpgThis is another common type of setup that rather than 2 loading points on the chassis with the slipper style, the dual eye has 3 distributed points which minimises stress in the chassis and to some point to the axle. The spring requires correct set up to ensure correct operation. I have seen these springs tuck themselves in between the hangers and jam up due to very bumpy roads and overloading of the trailer. They are ideal for single axles but due not give as good side to side stability as the slipper style on a multi axle setup and reduces their load sharing capacity.

Another possible disadvantage is they take a bit more room up under the chassis and can limit how low the deck height can be.

Parabolic Springs

parabolic-springs.jpgThe Parabolic spring is the modern version of the leaf spring. It is normally a single leaf with a thicker centre tapering out to the ends in a parabolic curve. The advantages of this spring is that there is no inter leaf friction, they weigh a little less than standard leaf springs and are not as stiff as leaf springs so gives a much smoother ride. Disadvantages are that they tend to take a lot of room up under the trailer so this can limit how low the deck height will be and the single leaf ver sion has a lower load capacity compared to standard leaf springs.

Multi parabolic springs are available and these are setup with spacers between each leaf to prevent contact due to the shape of the leaves. These will take more weight but again add more to the underside of the trailer raising the deck height considerably.

Torsion Suspension

Torsion suspension is basically a swing arm style axle which pivots within a rubber or elastomer enclosure.

As load is applied to the axle the torsion arm turns within the rubber causing the rubber to compress on one side and roll on the other and as the load is released the rubber moves the torsion arm back to its original position.

This type of suspension can give a very smooth ride as the trailer rides over the bumps with independent suspension. Another advantage is that the trailer deck height can be significantly lower to due the lower profile of the torsion unit.

torsion-suspension.jpgThere are a few disadvantages to torsion suspension as follows. Torsion suspension load capacity normally maxes out at 2500kg towing capacity as a tandem setup, but due to the independent nature of the suspension and the way it is mounted on the trailer, axle load sharing is non-existent which can stress the chassis considerably. For this reason, when mounted on a tandem trailer, the axle rating should be reduced by around 25% to avoid bearing and suspension failure. For example over a bumpy road one axle may be constantly working overtime while the other axle will be fully unloaded. The overloading can cause premature failure of the bearings and axle.