What does "Rut Tracking" mean when it comes to motorhomes?
Rut tracking is the tendency of the vehicle to follow ruts in the road. This causes the motorhome to shift and wander as you drive over variations in the road surface. Some coaches are more susceptible to rut tracking than others, especially those that are too light in the front. Short diesel pushers and coaches with a long rear overhang often exhibit rut tracking. More weight behind the rear axle of these coaches makes the front end feel light. Comparable to driving a truck with a load of gravel in the back.
You want 50% of the weight carried by the rear axle to be over the front axle. Except for the Workhorse W Series chassis, which typically you want at 55%. This is our general guideline for weight distribution. If your coach suffers from rut tracking, the first thing we would suggest is to have the coach weighed to check its weight distribution. You may be able to solve the problem by moving heavy stored items ahead of the rear axle, as close to the front as possible, if it's only off by a few hundred pounds.
If you have a motorcycle lift on the back of your coach, you may want to consider having it relocated to the front, if possible. We had a customer that had a motorcycle lift on the back of his coach. Even without the bike in place, the coach was almost 2,000 lbs. too light on the front. In our opinion, that is already unsafe to drive. The dealership told the customer they would pay to have a steering stabilizer installed, but in this instance, it wouldn’t have helped. Re-distributing the weight is the only solution in a situation such as this.
Some coach owners tow a trailer without even knowing what the tongue weight is. If you tow a heavy trailer with a car inside, for example, the tongue weight can be 2,000 lbs. or more—far exceeding coach’s rated tongue weight.
When a customer complains of a rut tracking problem, we conduct a Road Performance Assessment (RPA) to determine the severity of the problem. We’ll take it in, check all the steering components, and weigh it at all four corners to determine the weight distribution. If it’s way off our benchmark, we may add weight to the front of the coach to solve the problem. In some instances, we’ve added almost 1,000 lbs. to the front end. That’s a lot of steel, but it is still normally well below the front gross axle weight rating and tire ratings. We use steel plates, stacked together and bolted to the frame using hand-fabricated brackets. Some coaches, especially short diesel pushers, actually come from the factory with weight bolted or welded on to the front end. When we fabricate weights for our customers, we make sure that the finished installation mimics a factory offering.
Tires are also critical. For example, Bridgestone 8R19.5 tires are wonderful for a delivery truck, but not for a motorhome application. These tires are narrow and have a stiff sidewall. This makes them more prone to following ruts, and makes the coach ride a little harder. Bridgestone makes a variety of other tires that are better suited to the application. Goodyear and Michelin spend a lot of time developing tires for motorhomes, and they support the industry as well. Even so, it pays to do some research to determine the best tire for your coach. Making an informed decision is important. Once you’ve purchased them, you’re going to have to live with them for a while. Online forums, as well as other coach owners, are a good places to get some insight on the subject.
If your coach has a rut tracking problem, you may want to start by checking tire pressures. Experiment with pressure by 10 lbs. plus or minus. Often, this can change the tracking characteristics. Get the coach weighed, and see if you can move some of the weight forward. If these suggestions don’t work, it may be time to consider the more serious corrective measures that are mentioned above.