Cruisemaster suspension review; is it really that good?

A lot of the high end caravans and camper trailers come out with Cruisemaster independent suspension today, and you’d think that would mean they’re the market leader.

We’ve had a Reconn R2 with Cruisemaster suspension for a little over 4 years now, and done hundreds of nights camping along with some of the most remote, and rough tracks in Australia, and today I want to do a Cruisemaster Suspension Review.

Cruise master suspension
We’ve been running Cruisemaster XT suspension for 4 years now

We paid for our camper

Like all of our reviews, I begin by telling you where the product came from, so you know there’s no silly under the table promotion going on. We purchased our Reconn R2 hybrid camper trailer second hand in 2019, when it was about a year old, and paid full price with our own hard earned cash. It is one of a handful of Australian Made Hybrid Campers, with a great reputation in the market.

We have no bias in promoting, or degrading Cruisemaster, and just want to share our experience, and thoughts on their suspension.

Reconn R2 off road
We paid for the Reconn R2, and have been using it extensively ever since

We don’t have airbags

The Cruisemaster suspension on our Reconn R2 is just basic independent swing arms, with coils and twin shock absorbers. It is not the Cruisemaster ATX air suspension that you are seeing on many caravans today, and although occasionally we’d like airbags, it does us just fine (and realistically, is probably more reliable).

I believe the formal description for ours is Cruisemaster XT.

Cruisemaster ATX Suspension
The newest, and flashiest suspension from Cruisemaster is their ATX setup, which we don’t have

Where have we taken our hybrid camper?

Our Hybrid Camper has been all over WA, South Australia, and Victoria. It’s done a huge amount of remote Pilbara, the Gibb River Road, Mt Augustus, Flinders Ranges, Grampians and Victorian High Country. It’s also done Cape York, and a ridiculous number of National Parks all over Australia.

Wash outs on Skull Springs Road
Our Reconn R2 has been all over Australia, on some very average 4WD tracks

Where we’ve been confident to tow it in, its followed the Dmax, and whilst we’ve given it a few knocks and bumps its actually fared really well.

Magic Pool Hill Climb
If the Dmax will tow it, the Reconn R2 follows

What problems have we had with the Cruisemaster Suspension?

The first set of tyres that we had on our Reconn R2 were Achilles Desert Hawk XMT, and mid trip a few years ago a mate pointed out they were wearing pretty badly. I had the tyres balanced, and an alignment done by a truck aligner, who said that he had taken it to maximum, and couldn’t get it any better.

We had crazy scalloping issues with the tyres, and eventually one blew up on the way to Shark Bay. Since then, we’ve had the alignment checked by Ken Peachey Caravan Repairs (who said it was within spec), and put new Toyo Open Country RT tyres on it. These are both wearing more on the innermost 40mm of the tyre, but asides from this its all wearing pretty well. I have my doubts about the alignment process though, which I go into more below.

Shocking tyre wear
We had shocking scalloping issues, which stems primarily from the tyres themselves, but the alignment has always been a bit of a problem

I will say that running mud terrain tyres on a caravan or camper trailer is a mistake if you want your tyres to last, and we’re much happier with the Toyo RT’s.

Toyo Open Country RT's on our Camper
The Toyo Open Country RT tyres are so much better in terms of smaller lugs, better wear and less chance of scalloping

I digress though; asides from the wear issues we’ve really had no problems with the Cruisemaster Suspension. It’s taken a fair old flogging, and I’ve seen the camper pop a wheel in the air more than a handful of times. We’ve hit dips, humps and holes in dirt roads much faster than I’d have liked on multiple occasions, and asides from a lot of gravel rash all over the suspension, its performing well.

Camper trailer being used off road
We’ve given our camper a really serious workout on many occasions

At Pender Bay, I did notice that one of the alignment bolts was loose, and nipped it back up, with no obvious issues since (and it’s been checked since then). I did double nut it after this, as you don’t want the bolts coming loose!

I did hop underneath the other day to grease it (as I do every couple of weeks), and noticed that the shock absorber bushes are starting to flog out, so they’ll need replacing (and it wouldn’t surprise me if the shocks are pretty knackered by now too, but I don’t know for sure).

EDIT – We had our shock absorbers replaced during a Lifestyle Campers Service.

Overall, the Cruisemaster Suspension has been worked really hard, and its performed well.

Cruisemaster suspension wear
The Cruisemaster suspension has been peppered, but its been flawless

I don’t like their alignment procedure

I’m not a tyre specialist, but I am a mechanical fitter, and when you watch the tyre alignment videos and read the instructions from Cruisemaster, I’m not entirely sold on how its done. They advocate measuring off the sidewall of the tyre to the chassis of the van, which seems wrong to me, given the chassis isn’t necessarily square. If you are measuring off a chassis that isn’t square, how can you possibly get a good alignment?

My evidence for this doubt is simple; our tyres were aligned twice. The mobile truck aligner who does it from the hitch using lasers said he couldn’t get it adjusted far enough, and since then the alignment hasn’t been been touched. Ken Peachey checked the alignment and the figures that they got were within the specifications for the Cruisemaster Alignment, and yet the tyres are still wearing on the inner sides (both fairly equally), and you can see they are squatting in at the top, so it clearly isn’t right.

I’m going to get the tyres flipped around on the wheels to avoid ruining two good tyres, and I’m tempted to see what Cruisemaster themselves can do.

EDIT – I have to take back some of my words. I walked through the Lifestyle factory, and can see they have the manufacturing process down pat, and that their laser cut parts would not fit if things were too far out of alignment.

That said, I did go back to Cruisemaster, and they installed offset spindles which have finally fixed the alignment issue. It is likely there was an issue with installation though, as these should not be needed under normal circumstances.

Cruisemaster suspension
I’m not that confident in the OEM alignment procedure

Cruisemaster Suspension Review

What can I say? Overall, we’re really happy with the Cruisemaster Suspension. It was a selling point when we looked at our Reconn R2, due to the reputation that it has, and I can’t say I’m disappointed with it at all. Our Cruisemaster Suspension Review is really positive. 

We really have punished our Reconn R2 on every kind of terrain imaginable over the last 4 years, and its probably done somewhere in the realm of 70,000km, which is pretty substantial.

Dealing with Cruisemaster in Brisbane was nothing short of fantastic, and having only had to replace the shock absorbers at $700 (should have been $600 for 4 from Cruisemaster but Lifestyle bumps the price up), I reckon its done really well.

Cathedral lane was a challenge with the trailer
Our Cruisemaster Suspension Review is simple; its a great product

Would we get Cruisemaster Suspension again?

Yep. I’m sceptical of those copying Cruisemaster, and a lot of the Chinese imported Hybrids and camper trailers seem to have suspension issues. This can be as simple as swaying, or weld and structural failures, or the shock absorbers die, and one of the most common conversions is to Cruisemaster, or Pedders gear.

One thing that seems to be a bit of a flaw is the limited alignment adjustment (and you can get offset bushes to help with this), but I firmly believe that the way it is installed plays a huge role in getting a good alignment. That said, I’m happy with it, and would absolutely get it again.

EDIT – with correct installation, you should not need the offset bushes or spindles, as we’ve since found out.

Do you run Cruisemaster Suspension? What do you think of it?

Dmax and camper in Rubicon
Exploring Rubicon State Forest with the camper in tow

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  1. Hey Mark,

    Very interesting insight; thanks a lot.

    I cant’ see how lining the wheels up against the chassis is going to be accurate; guaranteed that the chassis is not going to be perfectly square, and laser off the hitch seems far more sensible, but I also don’t know a huge amount about it all. I’ll have to do some digging.

    I actually just had our tyres flipped on the rims as the inner 40mm of the tyres were wearing more, and you can clearly see why when you look at the suspension and tyres from the back.

    I might pop into Cruisemaster and have a chat with them; I like their products, and would happily get them again, but would like some further information.

    Interesting about the air bags. I’ve often thought it would be handy, but everything comes at a cost (sometimes more than the dollar figure!)

    All the best mate

  2. We have XT airbag suspension on a single axle 2.5T van. The van builder in Brisbane uses a mobile laser company do the alignment. I was advised by CM this isn’t advised and that they are constantly adjusting laser alignments on caravans. They stated laser was really only suitable for vehicles that have a wheel at each corner so 4 points of reference. I’m no tech on this stuff but it made sense to me. When I took the van to CM for the 1000k service they checked the alignment and low and behold found it needed correcting, 2 degrees out on the driver’s side, I watched them do it. CM said they had investigated introducing laser technology to the alignment process for years, but noone could ever come up with something they were happy with. Hard to know who to believe these days, everyone has an agenda. The proof will be in the tyre wear I suppose. P.S. I would not go airbags again as it’s a pain to constantly ensure the required 85mm gap to the bump stops. The compressor remote either pumps it too high or drops it too low, never where you want it. I end up using the manual valves to deflate it to the correct level. I use a marked stick at the wheel arches, a 2 person job. Yes it doesn’t need to be spot on but as weight changes, e.g, a 125L water tank empties, you need to adjust, also after you adjust the bags at camp to level up, or, when storing the van at home. The air tank should be emptied for storage to expel moisture and reduce condensation.