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Do I Really Need an Upgraded Suspension for My Van Conversion? And if so, which one do I choose? 

A Ford Transit conversion with rock climbing gear

Please note: These are our opinions based on research and experience. We cannot guarantee safety or results.  Always follow safety guidelines and consult a professional before making decisions.

One of my favorite things to talk about is van suspension systems. If you've had a van built by Limitless, chances are you've heard my suspension talk at some point. Suspension is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but it’s something that needs to be discussed if you are planning a conversion van build.

"But Ryan! I'm not an 'off-roader.' I won't be rock crawling or mudding with this thing!"

For shame! To you, I say, “You may not know the adventures that lie ahead, but I sincerely hope that when you find that a rugged, unpaved forest road stands between you and that breathtaking mountain view, by jove, my friend, take that rugged road!”

In all seriousness, I understand you're not likely to take your van rock crawling or mud bogging – and I sincerely hope you don't. However, it's important to emphasize that an upgraded suspension system isn't for show or for extreme off-road. Its primary purpose is safety and durability. Safety is of course our first priority, and suspension is a vital aspect to this.

Why do I need an upgraded suspension?

Ford Transit off-grid adventure van with a skid plate, Aluminess bumper, and Limitless Van roof rack.

Whether you own a Ford Transit or a Mercedes Sprinter, it's important to recognize that these vehicles didn’t come factory-built with quality suspension systems. They were engineered for use on highways and paved roads to transport cargo and tools. Hence, they come with small tires and limited ground clearance. They were never engineered to be a house on wheels or to go off road in their stock form. This holds true even for models like the Transit Trail.

Converting a cargo van without upgrading the suspension can lead to the following problems:

  1. Sway - The Problem: Due to their size and high center of gravity, converted vans tend to act like wind sails, especially on curvy roads or in windy conditions. Adding weight to the roof with accessories like racks, awnings, solar panels, storage, goats, or chickens can further amplify this effect. This can make for an uncomfortable driving experience at the least and a dangerous driving experience at the worst.

  1. Weight - The Problem: The additional weight of these conversions puts a significant strain on the stock components, accelerating wear and tear. The springs and suspension experience increased compression, riding lower in their stroke and more prone to bottoming out. The smaller oil reservoir in the shocks heats up faster, causing them to feel rigid, akin to riding on bricks. Moreover, the added weight exacerbates vehicle sway, resulting in poor handling overall.

You may have noticed that I haven't said anything about hitting jumps in Baja. The primary reasons for upgrading suspension are centered on driving on pavement. After all, a vast majority of your driving time, at least 90%, will likely be spent on paved roads. 

It’s crucial to recognize that you’re always more at risk on a crowded freeway driving 65 miles per hour than you are out in the woods.

The Solution

Van Compass and Agile Offroad offer several different handling upgrade options for both the Sprinter and the Transit. They have great information on their websites to help you determine which suspension upgrades will work best for you. If you’re interested in what I recommend, and what Limitless Van uses to reduce sway and increase safety, keep reading! If you have a Mercedes Sprinter, skip ahead to the next section.

Ford Transit Suspension Upgrades:

An AWD Transit with an upgraded suspension that includes a QLift, Bilstein Struts, and Falken Wildpeak All-Terrain Tires
An AWD Ford Transit with a QLift and Bilstein Struts

Lift and Shocks:

What do I need to know about Falcon shock settings?

The Falcons have two adjusters:

  • A macro adjuster with settings for soft, medium, and firm.

  • A micro adjuster (levels 1-8) within the medium setting for fine-tuning.

Here's a guide to using the adjusters:
  • Slow Off-Road (Setting 1): Provides maximum travel and a plush ride, ideal for low speeds on rough terrain but with more body sway.

  • Daily Driving (Setting 2, Micro 4): A good balance of comfort and control for everyday driving.

  • Windy Conditions or Towing (Setting 3): Stiffens the ride for better handling in windy conditions or while towing a trailer.

Mercedes Sprinter Suspension Upgrades:

Mercedes Sprinter with the Van Compass Stage 6.3 Suspension System and 35" tires
Mercedes Sprinter with the Van Compass Stage 6.3 System and 35" tires

The Sprinter offers more suspension upgrade options compared to the Ford Transit. You can choose from various high-quality brands like Falcon, Fox, and King for shock absorbers, or opt for high-quality strut replacements.

Popular Options:

  • Van Compass Stage 4.3 System + Baja Brackets: This system mirrors the Ford Transit system but adds Falcon 3.3 Fast Adjust Shocks to the front wheels for increased control. It's a great choice for most Sprinter vans. We highly recommend adding Baja Brackets to reinforce the rear shock mount, which is a weak point in the Mercedes.

Which Sprinter suspension upgrade should I choose?

If you prioritize off-road performance and customization, the Stage 6.3 system with its lift and heavy-duty components might be ideal. For most Sprinter vans, however, the Stage 4.3 system with the addition of Baja Brackets offers a good balance of capability and comfort.

The big question: Do you need an upgraded suspension for your van conversion? 

Our answer: Absolutely! An upgraded suspension not only improves handling, performance, and safety, but it also protects your conversion van build. Even if you're on a tight budget, consider prioritizing the suspension. Many other conversion components can be added later, but a strong foundation is crucial from the start.


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