Getting a Mor-Ryde suspension is a major expenditure and I understand how important this post may be to those who are considering the purchase, but as you know we had other tasks to complete while in Elkhart so I was unwilling to stay in the work bay area and document the process step-by-step. This post therefore is an accounting of our personal experience along with an overview of the work that was done. If you are looking for a more technical explanation of the work (or a second opinion) I absolutely recommend reading Howard’s blog posts on their upgrade, especially because his account was what convinced Lee and I of the necessity for ourselves. Also I am going to have Lee jump in on the explanation of what the system actually does.
Let me step back a bit though and start at the beginning. Before we ever started full timing, we attended an RV-Dreams rally and read Howard’s blog. From those experiences we learned about Mor-Ryde suspension and placed it on our “Must Have” list. Our rationale at the time was simply that most RV’s are not built for a full-time lifestyle and the heavy-duty Mor-Ryde independent suspension would provide us with a solid foundation (literally) for our travels. When we started our journey in November 2014, we discussed making Mor-Ryde our first stop, but we were very excited about getting out there and there were so many things to do and see.
So we put it off, and then life happened, plus our travels didn’t take us close to Indiana. And things were fine with the rig, we had a two year warranty on the Lippert suspension system, etc. Fast forward and one month after our manufactures warranty expired and right before our trip to Alaska one of our shackles broke. It was our first major repair and although covered by our warranty, we decided to upgrade all of our shackles to heavy-duty ones. Then we went to Alaska, our rig took a beating, and we noticed unusual wear on the tire nearest the previous broken shackle. We went to a Camping World service center in Texas, convinced something was wrong, but although the insurance adjuster thought the axle was bent, the extended warranty company would not accept the claim.
At that point we had two choices. Take the axle off and pay for a new one ourselves if we couldn’t prove it was bent or live with it until we could schedule a trip to Mor-Ryde. We have never been big fans of putting band aids on problems so decided that we would schedule a Mor-Ryde install, along with a trip to see family in Columbus, in October. We reached out to the company in February of 2017 and received a quote for the work. Please keep in mind these prices do fluctuate as the price of steel and labor changes.
It wasn’t cheap, and the 8,000 lb (8K) suspension (which we wanted for the additional weight carrying capacity) was quoted at $3600. The price for the 8K plus disc brakes was $6200 and if we wanted to upgrade to an H rated tire that would be an additional $615 per wheel and tire. At this point I’ll be honest I had some sticker shock and we discussed pitching the idea and doing a Lippert upgrade instead. But Lee felt very strongly about the quality of the Mor-Ryde suspension and since Lippert had refused to work with us after the shackle broke, I agreed, so we scheduled the basic suspension upgrade for $3600.
We exchanged several emails back and forth with Rob regarding our truck and Open Range fifth wheel and whether everything was compatible and whether we could keep our existing G rated tires and drum brakes, but everything seemed to line up and we felt comfortable with our choice. It was still a chunk of money, but since it was a necessary purchase and exactly what we have contingency funds for I made my peace with it. Plus I don’t like to worry about our structure any more than Lee does, and the idea of walking way with a new foundation was extremely appealing to me.
Fast forward again and after we finished our summer work kamping job we headed from Oregon to Indiana. We were both concerned about making the trip on our possibly bent axle, but thankfully we had no issues and soon were a couple of days away from Mor-Ryde. At this point we realized we had no idea of exactly what we were supposed to do. We never received any sort of “orientation email,” and were sorely lacking on information on the specifics. Where would we park? Could we come in after hours? Did we need to have water in our tanks? were all questions we needed answers for. I sent an email to Rob, but finally I also called and we spoke to someone else at the company. He stated we did need water as only electrical hookups were provided, and we could come in after hours. There are several spots in the parking lot, so we needed to pull into one of them, unhook the truck, and at 6am someone from the shop would come out and pull our rig into a bay and they would get started.
That made sense, and after following the signage at their compound, we found where we thought we should be. It was 6:30pm at this point and the end of a looong driving day so we spoke briefly with our neighboring rig, unhitched, set the alarm for 5am and fell asleep.
I would love to say we had a good night sleep, but we weren’t prepared for the train. Less than a block behind us was a major intersection and the trains blew their whistles every time they passed. Train traffic was frequent, with at least one every hour and the whistle was long and loud. We have double-paned windows, and had both the AC and a fan on, but the whistle still woke me up at least twice, so we were both a bit bleary eyed when we started the day. It also didn’t help that it was drizzling and since the waiting room wasn’t open so without any coffee in our system we just hung out trying to stay dry until 6am. At 6am no one came to see us, and finally we walked over to the bay to make sure we were in the right place. The techs assured me that we were, and our account manager would be with us shortly. They did say the office should be open and gratefully I went in and got a cup of coffee. I also noticed that our name was on the welcome sign, which really made me feel more comfortable. There are actually multiple locations for Mor-Ryde in Elkhart and in the back of my mind I kept thinking we were in the wrong place.
We had a few sips of coffee in us when Rob came into the room around 6:10am. There were three couples at this point and he was working to get everyone situated so we waited our turn. The first two jobs were a little easier and those folks quickly got sorted out and then he turned to us. Lee was already annoyed because we weren’t sure what was going to happen next when Rob asked him to pull the RV up so he could get some measurements. By this time it was raining much harder and we looked at him in disbelief. We had unhitched at their direction and now had to hitch up again, in the dark, in the rain. It also had to be with our truck, and although they offered to have one of their techs do it, Lee was having none of that. So Lee went out and hitched the truck up and I stayed behind and gently tried to talk to Rob.
I explained the situation with our axle and asked him to please make sure no one disposed of it until we had a chance to see if it was bent. He said that would be no issue and at that point I also said it would have been nice to have an orientation packet of some kind. He looked at me and was surprised and said “You didn’t get one?” when my response was no he asked who we had been communicating with. When I said him, he then immediately said, “Oh I should have sent one, I can be bad about that.” OK, not a great start.
By this time, Lee had the truck pulled up and the tech came out to do the measurements. Thankfully it had stopped raining during the hitching process so at least we weren’t all standing out in the rain. It was dark though and we stood outside while our tech Allen measured and then Rob asked him to check the number of bolts on the brakes. At this point things went south. We need a 4 bolt brake system to work with the 8K suspension and we had 5 bolts so we would be unable to get the 8K upgrade without an additional $1200 for drum or $2500 for disc brakes. Rob was very matter of fact about that, but we were really stunned. Well, I was stunned, Lee was livid, and although he didn’t say much I have rarely seen him so angry.
Keep in mind we had exchanged numerous emails back in February and at no time did he ask us to check the bolts or better yet send him a picture of the assembly. Apparently only about 10% of the Open Ranges have the 5 bolts and we unfortunately fell into this category. Worse, as we were trying to talk it through, he really acted like it was no big deal, but obviously it was a big deal to us. At this point I knew I needed to get Lee away so we could talk, so I told Rob we needed a minute to process and we would get back to him. From his perspective the clock was ticking and he had a tech just sitting which I appreciate, but I was absolutely not going to be rushed into any decision. Rob did suggest at this point we could do the 7K upgrade with the existing brakes but he wanted to weigh the RV first. We were OK with that, so a tech pulled the RV into a bay and we went to discuss our options.
I won’t go into all the details of that conversation, but it was definitely tense. At one point they came out and told us they wouldn’t put the 7K on because our weight was already slightly over that, which made the decision even tougher. Lee wanted to walk away, but I was uncomfortable with that because we didn’t have a solid Plan B. At this point I decided to try something I rarely do and walked over to try and negotiate. Yes, I had the quote in writing, but they were obviously not hurting for business and Rob’s stance was he wasn’t going to lose money on the deal. As a business person I appreciated that, but I also was not going to just roll over either. So I took a deep breath, channeled my inner Bill, and tried to come up with a middle ground solution. I stated that I believed Mor-Ryde was the best in the business and was simply asking him to live up to that reputation. Rob agreed that he would like to see this issue resolved for everyone concerned and went to check on some pricing.
I used the time to talk through options with Bill and reach out to a couple of friends to see what my options were. I can’t say how grateful I was that folks took my 7:00am phone calls, and their advice was solid and blessedly free of emotion. Eventually Rob came back with his offer and we separated again so Lee and I could discuss. I was asked to not specifically talk about the terms of the deal, which I agreed to, but I will say that Lee was not happy with the pricing to replace the drum brakes, but was very pleased with the pricing to upgrade to dics brakes. Since that is what he originally wanted, he felt the deal was more than fair and we agreed to the new pricing and the work began around 8am.
At this point I was exhausted and pretty hungry so we went to my favorite breakfast place, Bob Evans, for breakfast. The food was excellent as always and the service was great, but I was very disappointed that their prices had gone up and our breakfast ended up costing $25. As much as I love their breakfast sausage, eggs, and coffee that is simply too much to spend for breakfast, so it’s going to be awhile before we go back again.
At that point all of the furniture stores were open and we started that journey, (see previous post), and we didn’t get back to the bay until 4pm. The shift that works on the RV’s was done at 2:30pm, but the bay was still open and other workers in the area were grinding or banging metal. We had just enough room to put the slides out and again we had 50 amp electric, but it was very bright in there and of course the sound of metal on metal carries.
All that being said, I actually slept better than the night before! For some reason the workshop sounds didn’t wake me and the AC, a fan, and the double-paned windows did the trick. The only downside was we had to be up and out, with the slides closed, by 6am so they could start working which required another 5am start. Our neighbor in the bay was pretty unhappy because she, like us, was told they didn’t work in our bay at night. Although this was technically true, it is one large warehouse and there is no separation between the two areas. Too bad they don’t have some sort of sliding door they could close at night, that would work wonders for both the noise and privacy. Basically though it is what it is, and you should know your limits going in. If you don’t think you can handle staying in the parking lot/bay, save yourself the aggravation and get a hotel room. Yes, it is an additional cost, but better I think than being really unhappy for two days.
One cool thing about coming back was we got to see the work that had been done on day one. There was no one there to talk to, but we saw our axles laying next to the new Mor Ryde system. Plus they had started the new brakes and that was cool to see as well. Again, I can’t speak to how the system works but seeing our old Axles next to the new Mor-Ryde one it all seemed like a no brainer to me. The new system was HEAVY DUTY and the old system was rusted and looked pretty frail.
The next morning we spoke to Allen and talked about finding out if the spindle was bent. He said it would take 20-30 minutes of labor per side to take the axle apart. At that point, with no obvious damage, I decided to let the axle issue go. I wasn’t willing to file a claim if we didn’t see obvious damage and I didn’t want to pay the hourly rate to have the tech take them apart with no guarantee we would find anything. We also asked when he thought he would be done and he stated around 10am on Friday, so we hopped in the car and drove off in search of furniture.
I probably should mention here that when you are calculating the cost you should include the price of meals. Yes, you can stay in the waiting room and yes, they will order you a free lunch the first day, but if you are planning on seeing the area at all you probably are going to eat out. There are lots of reasonably priced places in the area, but since your rig is unavailable to you between 6:00am and 2:30pm you will probably end up eating out at some point. And it’s a great area with lots to see, so I really don’t recommend sitting in the waiting room anyway, free lunch or no.
We were fine with the extra day actually since it was only 4 hours to Columbus and we weren’t crazy about fighting evening traffic. We called some friends and made plans to eat dinner that night and explored the area. Around 1pm we were standing outside a little furniture shop when I got a phone call. Rob was on the phone asking how close we were because the rig would be done at 2pm. What?!? OK then. We knew our tech would be taking off promptly at 2pm so we hurried back to make sure we got a walk through of the rig. Technically we could have just paid and driven away, but no way would we do that without a walk through. We got back in plenty of time and we did receive an excellent handoff from the tech. I took a lot of pictures, but didn’t understand much of it so I will let Lee jump in here and explain.
(Basically the independent suspension separates what’s happening on one side of the rig from the other. If the tire on one side goes over a bump, the axle, which is a rigid pipe between the left and right tire, will be at an angle. When you consider the fact that most rigs are 12 or 13 feet high, a few inches of lift on one side translates to a lot of lean at the top. And all that is also happening inside. It also allows the box to flex and twist quite a bit. The independent suspension allows each tire to travel up and down 5 1/2″ without any other tire, or the “box” being affected. Here’s an image that might help explain. As you can see, there’s a fair amount of lean in the axle. This is one of the reasons that you have to be careful when you open the fridge!
Mor Ryde’s system uses a cross bar between the tires and then a shock absorber and a massive rubber spring to allow 5 1/2″ of vertical travel for the tire, without having an effect on the opposite side. If you go to their page, they have a nice animation that shows it in action. Click here, and scroll down and click the play button on the animation.
So this gives a much smoother ride, as the trailer isn’t jerking the truck around as much, and it’s easier on the contents of your box, and easier on the skeleton of the box.
What most impressed me was how robust the components are, and how carefully they do the work. Once they remove the old axles they use measurements they’ve taken to weld steel tubing to make sure when they’re finished that the rig is as close to level as possible while being towed. The geometry of the angle of the trailer will have an impact on how much weight sits on each tire, and how much sits on the hitch. The disc brakes are powered by a hydraulic pump that is activated by the integrated electric over hydraulic controller in our truck, and they showed me everything I needed to know about the pump, and the lines to the brakes. I also asked for an extra set of seals for when I need to repack the bearings, and they were happy to give me those. We also got a nice owner’s manual and service manual, and some instruction on what to expect that would be different from our old brakes. As far as the suspension goes, there’s no instruction needed, and the difference in the ride and the handling was immediately apparent, and tremendous. I went over numerous sets of railroad tracks at different speeds immediately after leaving the shop, I was amazed at the improvement. I also feel a lot better knowing that I have a little more “breathing room” on our weight, and the disc brakes are a significant improvement over the old drum brakes. There is a slight delay from when you hit the pedal to when they activate, but it’s very short and easy to get used to. Overall, I can’t say enough about the product, and the technicians who did the work. While we got off to a rocky start, I felt that Rob did a great job of getting the situation under control and finding a solution that we and he could live with. I plan to send them a detailed letter with some suggestions for how they might consider changing their process so that the customer experience is a little better, but overall I couldn’t be happier with the end result, and I even think the pricing is quite fair considering the end result. – Lee)
We thanked Rob for working with us and thanked the technician for doing such a great job. Overall, we were both very happy with the quality and efficiency of the service work, it was just unfortunate we got off to such a rough start. I don’t know what was in that orientation packet, but I would never have this work done without that information, and of course the customer service portion of the experience could use some work. This is not an inexpensive upgrade and a little “concierge service” would have gone a long way towards enhancing the experience. We are very happy we had it done though, despite the additional cost, and I personally feel much safer in our new foundation.
As far as the driving impact, at this point it is hard to say. Lee definitely feels that disc brakes from drum brakes was a significant improvement and we do see less shaking of the rig as we travel. It’s not rock solid of course and unfortunately the interior ride in the truck is still pretty bouncy, but that’s our truck. I hope this will extend the life of our RV. Time will tell, and of course I will report out as we continue to travel, but for right now we feel really good about the upgrade.
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