Q: How do I know if my leaf springs are worn out?
A: The signs and symptoms of a worn leaf spring may be severe and quite obvious, however they can also be hard to detect if the symptoms aren’t very apparent and you don’t know what to look for.
Should I replace my leaf springs? It’s hard to always know when the right time is. Some of the more obvious symptoms are a cracked leaf or the rear of the truck in a constant sagging position (lower in rear). But some less apparent indications can actually be a leveled truck that has not had a leveling kit installed. Really? A level truck can mean a worn leaf spring? Yes, because most pickup trucks are actually slightly raised about 1.5 – 2.5 inches in the rear which gives a “nose down” affect. The reason manufacturers set the vehicle this way is to accommodate for weight or load on the rear of the truck so your lights are not pointing at the sky and blinding on-coming traffic. So if your vehicles level, that may indicate your springs are not sitting at the height they were intended to due to fatigue and wear.
So what if I just used an add a leaf kit or installed a helper spring like a Firestone air bag, Hellwig helper spring or Timbren kit? It may or may not help your situation and it is not recommended because it will essentially just be masking the problem. Adding a leaf will work… temporarily. Eventually, in the near future, that single leaf will most likely lose its strength as the other s aren’t going be helping out too much. A leaf pack is intended to work together, so that’s just a quick fix, not a solution.
As for helper springs; they are a great addition – but only after you replace the leaf spring! A helper spring is intended to do just as the name states, help a spring, but a healthy spring. You must have a good leaf spring because the vehicle is not designed to rely on helper springs which are not designed to be the “primary” suspension of the vehicle.
If the back of truck is only sagging when hauling or using something like a turnover ball hitch, then yes – a helper spring is your best option. Even after you replace your leaf springs, if you’re constantly adding weight, then go with the helper spring. OEM leaf springs are designed to be in the middle of weight support and comfort. If the leaf springs are too stiff, then you’re going to bounce all over the cab and have a back ache after you drive to your local supermarket. If their too soft, you won’t even be able to put a slab of sheet rock in the back. So they often choose the middle of the two. A helper spring however gives you the option of the two, without constant compromise. Most helpers springs (and this does not include an “add-a-leaf”) are progressive rate springs, meaning the more force on them the more force they exert back. This gives you a good ride when unloaded and weight support when needed.