10,000 miles since San Francisco and our
lifeline overland equipment is well intact. The Tundra and the Bronco 800, despite a few small maintenance issues, are holding their own. When leaving California I had two major concerns: the weight of the payload versus the Tundra payload capacity and the structural integrity of the Palomino camper.
To deal with the payload issue I did what many with truck campers do and installed Firestone suspension airbags to help handle the weight on the rear leaf-springs. They were considerably cheaper than adding an extra leaf and, as published, gave our overloaded Tundra a smooth ride.
10,000 miles later they’re falling apart. Structurally, I’ve broken 4 bolts and found they need to be adjusted regularly. The airbag itself is starting to show deep signs of wear where the rubber meets the metal. By the time we get to Ushuaia I expect to have replaced every original bolt along with both airbags.
This year on the PanAm there are three truck campers that started off with new Firestone Ride-Rite Airbags. Jon and Anne threw their mutilated airbags to the wayside after the brackets on both sides developed fractures. Adventurous Spirits had to air freight a complete new set while in Lima. Our situation seems to be a best case scenario.
The Ride-Rite air helper springs are not expedition quality. If you’re headed down the PanAm, look into other suspension helper options or plan on carrying an extra full set for replacement parts.