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Payload Capacity: Getting It Done With Helper Springs

Ford F-150 FX4 Pickup Truck

Towing and payload capacity are two numbers of extreme importance to most pickup truck owners. The first number has everything to do with trailering or pulling power; the second combines passenger weight and vehicle fluids with storage capacity. Both figures are set by the manufacturer for owners to follow for reliability and safety reasons. By installing helper springs, you’ll enjoy improved ride comfort and control, while achieving maximum payload performance.

Drilling Down on Payload Capacity

Before we examine helper springs, it’s important to understand payload — a number set by the manufacturer. Payload information is typically outlined in the owner’s manual and can also be found on a placard located on the driver’s door jamb or inside the glove box.

truck A simple way to determine payload is to take the vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and subtract the curb weight from it. For instance, a 2017 Ram 1500 two-wheel drive standard cab model powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine with a 76-inch box has a GVWR of 6,025 pounds and a curb weight of about 4,524 pounds. That’s a difference of nearly 1,500 pounds, which Ram designates as the payload rating.

For most truck owners, 1,500 pounds is sufficient. However, if you and the two passengers you routinely carry weigh 200 pounds each, that only leaves 900 pounds. Subtract the weight of a full tank of gas (26 gallons times 6 pounds per gallon) and that’s 156 pounds. Round that number up to 200 pounds for other fluids (e.g., coolant, motor oil, transmission and brake fluid) and you have 700 pounds of payload remaining.

Depending on what you’re transporting, you can reach the remaining 700 pounds before you know it, especially in the truck bed. For example, if you regularly carry mulch, your full-size truck should hold at least 2 cubic yards. However, each cubic yard can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, which can put you way over your payload limit. Exceeding the payload limit may overtax your truck’s transmission, leading to dangerous handling issues.

Consider Helper Springs

Although it can be tempting to exceed the manufacturer’s weight limits, don’t do it. Where helper springs — also known as air bag suspension — come in is to provide a smoother ride under maximum weight conditions.

Helper spring kits work with your existing suspension system, supplying improved leveling support as needed and ensuring that your vehicle always stays level and stable. Mounted between the frame and axle, each kit includes a pair of air springs, brackets, nuts, bolts, washers, tubing, fittings and installation instructions. The kits are designed to meet the manufacturer’s specifications in function, form and fit, and won’t void your warranty as long as you stay within payload limits.

Once the kit’s installed, you’ll notice improvements in braking and steering and avoid problems like uneven tire wear, bottoming out, swaying and porpoising (moving forward with a rising and falling motion in the manner of a porpoise).

Check out all the steering and suspension parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on using helper springs to help with payload capacity, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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