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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Overall, the Cruisemaster Suspension has been worked really hard, and its performed well.
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.
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. I will say that their shock absorbers seem to be hugely overpriced, but we haven’t had to replace anything yet, and I’d happily recommend it.
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 40,000km, which is pretty substantial.
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.
Do you run Cruisemaster Suspension? What do you think of it?