Saturday, March 11, 2017

Lifting the Fuse - The Details

Editors note:  I am going to post a series of emails from Richard Kozloski who has a 2017 Winnebago Fuse and is a member of the Facebook group.   He has decided to have his Fuse lifted and he is being nice enough to share his experience.  Please comment in the Facebook Winnebago Owners Group so Richard can respond to everyone directly:

This article with high resolution photos and suitable for printing is available for downloading as a pdf at:

2017.0 Fuse 23T Suspension Upgrade

Selecting the right components to get a 2-4” lift for the early 2017.0 Fuse is not just as simple as finding the components on line and just putting them in yourself. First there are very few options that will work because of the limited space under the chassis between the springs and ties. This is a log of my experience in finding the correct components.

My first stop was to the Ford dealership to find out if they had any information on parts from the 2017.5 Transit that could be swapped out. Unfortunately all the 2017s are still new enough that they don’t have info on any of the 2017s at the parts department. I was directed to the fleet manager.

Ford does have parts that can be used to upgrade fleet vehicles. Unfortunately at my dealership these were limited to the basic Transit low roof and high roof vehicles T150, T250, and T350. They didn’t have much for the Cassis Cab or Cutoff Chassis HD styles. Everything was limited to work truck versions and no suspension lifts. Additional research by the fleet manager lists our Winnebago Fuse chassis as a 2017 Transit Chassis Cab T350HD 178” DRW. We could not find any specific information on the differences between the 2017.0 and 2017.5 chassis. My brother-in-law works in the truck parts department of a major Ford dealership in Massachusetts. He ended up confirming the lack of information available at my local Ford dealership as he didn’t have the information either.

This put the skids on my being able to get parts directly from Ford. However, the fleet manager did recommend two businesses here in Albuquerque that they use for fleet upgrades. McBride Spring & Suspension and Ultimate Truck & Trailer. Both had very knowledgeable people with lots of suggestions and information on what not to do and why not. I ended up going to McBride as they had more experience with RVs and they had installed the airbags in my Navion.

As an aside the fleet manager recommended I contact Quigley 4x4 as they make a four wheel drive Transit and see if they might offer a lift kit package. Unfortunately they don’t offer their lift parts separately at this time. Also they can’t put their parts on a diesel Transit due to weight limitations on the front end.

They would have to get a chassis from Winnebago, mod it to 4x4 and ship it back to Winnebago for the RV build. Then Winnebago has to strip stuff out of the RV to make up for the extra 4x4 component weight. Is someone is working on a Winnebago/Quigley 4x4, no comment from either end. Probably would be the 4x4 Era Winnebago showed at a RV show last year anyway.

It’s a good thing they are not offering a Fuse-able conversion as I would have to figure out how to ask the wife if I could spend $12,000 without being killed. I don’t think that is possible and I’m too chicken to even consider it. ;-)

My vision of a four wheel drive Fuse tooling along the back trails of Moab with the jeeps fades into the sunset. (Maybe too much Crown Royal.) ;-)

Enough of the research. Off to McBride to get a list of the choices available and to finalize what needs to be done.

Let’s break this down to two parts. Front end mods and rear end mods. Both ends need to be modified so the rig remains level when driving down the road so the refrigerator will work on propane. (How may of you ever considered that the limiting factor on what and how you do the mod would be the refrigerator?)

Front end mods:
Whatever you do you are limited here by how much lift you can add and still get the front end alignment back into factory specs. The other factor is being able to use the factory brake lines steering rods and other suspension parts.

There are basically two ways to do the front end modification. One is to place a rubber or metal “lift block” above spring and keep all the factory parts. The other is to replace the factory spring with a longer and slightly stiffer spring.

McBride recommended the spring. Their reasoning is that even though it would cost a bit more that in the long run it would be better on the suspension and tire wear. Strangely it was also easier to swap the spring than to add a block. Access to the top of the shock tower is inside the cab behind the dash. I opted for the more expensive spring and the slight cost increase, due to the reduced labor cost.

Rear end Mods:
Here it gets little more complicated as at first glance there appears to be more options. However, the number of options soon dropped due to our T350HD chassis type. The major limiting factors are the length of the brake lines, traction control cables, and clearance around the axle.

Because I have experience with air bags on my two previous RVs, one a Navion 24J, I wanted to add two 5000# air bags and a dash controlled air pump for the rear suspension upgrade.

McBride agreed that this would be a great idea due to the better cross wind handling smoother ride and the option to adjust the ride height. Then we tried to find an air bag setup that would work.  Result equals zero. The owner and mechanic crawled under the vehicle with air bags to check but here is not enough clearance around the bags over the axle to safely mount anything they could find. The Ford suspension components are too close to the air bags for safety. If we had a T350 chassis it could be done but not the T350HD. Scratch my dream ride chassis.

Next, and cheapest, option is to place a “lift block” between the axle and the spring. This would give the required lift and is the cheapest. Another option is a complete leaf spring replacement. Unfortunately expensive. You can get close to the same results with a leaf spring helper. You can choose the height you want and the added benefit is you can choose the additional weight carrying capacity you want. You can get more CCC, but don’t go overboard and kill the ride quality.
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This is the route I chose. (Mods are for a Fuse 2017.0 23T but should work on a 2017.0 23A)

On the front:
McBride found a spacer block that mounted on top the spring strut tower assembly with only minor modification. This gave a 2” front lift and didn’t significantly change the front end alignment. Only the toe in was changed and easily brought back into specs. Major cost was labor to remove the strut assembly, install the lift block and get it back into place. The space is extremely tight.

On the rear:
A large 3” truck/trailer spring was installed. Ironically after Ford dealer said they didn’t have a part it turns out this is a part for a Transit. Its a “Leaf Tempered 3” x 499-60” spring. It has the Ford label painted on it. It is installed between the factory spring and the axle. I will be showing the Fleet dealer to see if he can give me a part number.

The final result is, overall ~2” of lift:
clearance on the lowest point center rear goes from 13” to 15” clearance on the lowest point center front goes from 14” to 16” clearance under the step retracted goes from 8” to 10” clearance under the step when out goes from 6” to 8”

Cosmetically when viewed from the side you have to really compare the before and after photos to see any difference.

Taking it home:
Well the drive home made it clear that it was the right decision for me. The overall ride appears to be better and the wind induced side roll is definitely better. (35mph gusts driving home through the canyon) And the clearance over the curb coming out of the Spring Shop and up the driveway was apparent. No butt drag either place.

Is this worth the money spent only time will tell. But considering the potential cost of ripping off the rear end or steps a couple of times I’d rather limit the damage by spending the money up front and not have to worry as much later. 

Pictures Before:

Winnebago Fuse Suspension Front

Winnebago Fuse Suspension Steps

Winnebago Fuse Suspension - Rear

Pictures After:
Winnebago Fuse Suspension

Winnebago Fuse Suspension - After Steps

Winnebago Fuse Suspension - After rear

Things I found out not to do:
You may be told that whatever you install is gong to give you more CCC. This is partially true. Springs may be stiffer and be rated for more carrying capacity. However, you are still limited by the manufacturers (Ford) GVWR. This is the max allowable weight of the fully loaded vehicle. Also you should not exceed the GAWR for either axle. In the rear these are limited primarily by the springs, axle, wheels, and tires. Increasing the capacity of the springs will give you more CCC but only if the other components limits are not exceeded. Same for the front, and the weight of the diesel already takes away from what you can do without exceeding the front axle limit.

Make sure that whatever you do does not cause problems with the brake lines or the antilock brake cables. Ensure you have enough play throughout the modified max travel.

Make sure the installer pays attention to the left to right as well as the front to back leveling. Check that the refrigerator is level, or at least as level as it was from factory.

Timbrens or SumoSprings are not the way to go. They are bump stop replacements and if installed properly to factory specs are not for ride height adjustment. You are suppose to leave ~1 inch between the bottom of these bump stop and the axle so the factory spring carries the load. These units aren’t supposed to kick in until the springs come close to bottoming out. Neither of these is designed to give more CCC and are meant for sway reduction and to reduce the impact of bottoming out.