People talk a lot about towing. They talk a lot about power and fuel economy. But the two most important things when it comes to towing are handling and stopping. Any jerkface can tow his one car trailer at 80MPH on the highway. But can that same jerkface actually panic/emergency stop that whole mass when needed? Or swerve out of the way?
I’ve owned the van since 2005 or so. It’s only used very infrequently. When we used to run DGTrials and have drift events and use it for transporting cones and supplies, it generally only made in-town trips. Since then it’s only been used occasionally to tow and even then only regionally. But it had never really been serviced or upgraded since I bought it. So it was time to get down to business.
Here we are at Gran Turismo East. You may have heard me talk about them before. They are the place in Atlanta for tires, brakes, and alignments. But they don’t just do fancy race cars. They also do smelly work trucks, or vans, as the case may be.
Flushing the brake system and adding fresh fluid was good, but upgrading the brake pads to something designed for towing is better. I happened to go with Hawk Performance, but there are options from just about every manufacturer out there.
Oh, and, sadly, this particular configuration of the E350 used rear drum brakes. Cue the sad trombone. Then again the rear brakes are really not doing very much, so it’s not the end of the world. But ABS and drums just seems weird.
Ford trucks are notoriously sloppy in the front end and need frequent rebuilding, repacking, and replacement. Make sure everything is solid. It will help a lot with wandering on the highway and sawing at the wheel. But there’s more to be done, too.
They know a thing or two about trucks (or vans, in this case) and towing. So we figured we would contact them to see how we could improve the towing performance of our van. They came back with some great suggestions.
Remember how we talked about swerving? Well, sway bars have a lot to do with that. So we decided to upgrade the factory E350 front swaybar with a Hellwig unit. I happen to have an offroad truck shop near my house (Southern Offroad Specialists or SOS for short) and they were happy enough to accommodate my upgrades. Here they start by bolting a bracket onto the front I-beam.
You might be thinking that this looks like a ridiculous design. But, then again, this is a big, yucky, sloppy truck. We are not looking for ultimate precision. We are looking for strength, toughness/durability, and gross performance. The factory I-beam is tough as hell and you could bash someone’s skull in with that bracket. I’m not particularly concerned.
The bracket is what the new swaybar endlink will bolt to.
This is a pretty easy job, overall. Well, except for the fact that everything is massive and requires dinosaur torque.
With the front swaybar done it was time to add a rear bar.