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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
In the past year, I've browsed around and read reviews on all sorts of rear suspension options for our vans. Weighed out the pros/cons, pricing, and complexity of install.

In the past week, I've installed the Dayton Parts Add-A-Leaf Kit p/n: 510-445 for the 1996-2007 Dodge Grand Caravan, Grand Voyager, Town & Country.

This is something everyone needs to be aware of with the loosely single leaf setup from the base to mid level vans.

Driving on northern roads, the ride is jaw jarring to say the least with all the rattle and squeaks along with it. Folks would say, get the Niomats and be done with the problem. I've priced them and wasn't about to drop that type of cash down as reviews went from outstanding to mediocre for ride improvements. Even with finding a used set, now were found at my regional pull-a-part places. I've had issues with air-shocks and air riding systems in the past. Thus, I wasn't looking for baby sitter service to check, check again and still check again with that type of setup. My goal is to fix the rear suspension and let it be.

Checking online, there are a few places offering Add-A-Leaf kits for our vans. I've used Road Master Suspension kits in the past, but, their pricing has gotten way out of hand to even consider these days.

When 2006Signature posted about his experience with the Dayton Add-A-Leaf, I went back to my list and investigated them once again. No complaints in any reviews, simple to install, no cutting or forcing things into place, just a clean plug-n-play back on the road in no time install. Between now and the new year, SDTruck Springs has an online discount code of SANTA20 for $20-off.

This Dayton kit also adds another 700-lbs load capacity to the rear axle as well. Thus, loading the back end of the van in the back isn't going to give you a sinking feeling anymore.

This Dayton kit comes in a 39-lbs weighted shipping box with a strong carry handle. The kit comes with much hardware too. Depending on the year and model level of your van, all or some of the kit is used. Of course the added leafs are used regardless.

Looking over all the model years for the 4th Gen 2004-2007, the torque specs are the SAME as mentioned ...
Axle plate. Torque the bolts to 75 ft. lbs. (101 Nm) on AWD models or 70 ft. lbs. (95 Nm) on FWD models.

Lookup in the Hayes or Chilton or OE service manual for your model and year outside what is posted here.

Thus, 70ft-lbs is where mine are at in the 1-3-4-2 tightening sequence pattern. Both the Dayton kit instructions and the Service parts manuals are very picky on how to tighten and torque the bolts and pattern. Easy to do, just follow the instructions.

Observations after the first week and after the first re-torque the bolt checking.

Here are the noticeable items of interest.

- The ride is so much smoother. Hands down, this is what I've been looking for since day 1 moving back north on these crappy roads.
- The shocks are not taking such an abuse anymore and now behave like they should ... as shocks do. Very please with this harmony event now.
- The rail-road crossing hump in the roads with the holes between the rails is no longer a near stop on the highway and then proceed. I can slow down some and then go like a regular vehicle.
- Speed bumps in parking lots and not stop and go anymore. Neither does the van bottom out each time when the back is loaded.
- An unplanned benefit emerged. All of that rattling at the back of the van has now STOPPED. This is the first time since owning these 4th gen vans that it's nearly whisper quiet while driving. I can even hear the slightest frontal wind in a slight tone on the side mirrors. It's almost like I've added sound material to the van to greatly decrease the dBa.
- Parking next to other 4th gen Caravans, the height difference isn't totally noticeable. Had to find vans with the OE luggage rack too. I'm guessing that vans with newer shocks match the height of the added leaf spring.
- Cornering and wheel hop control has greatly improved.
- Rumble strips before stops signs are no longer the rattle cage feeling and vehicle vibration throughout the van. It's not summer time, but those rumble stripes would always vibrate the pop-opened back windows to CLOSE shut. This has been an annoying event every time.
- It's only a feeling in the steering and the center-of-gravity for the van. With the 3.3L and even with the 3.8L TB improvement, the van always felt like the FWD would constantly be pulling the rest of the van along. The back-end of these vans with the single leaf arrangement feels like it drags the back-end along. This is remarkably GONE now. The handling has improved greatly overall.

Like 2006Signature here in this forum, I've very pleased with the outcome. I have family and co-workers with basically the same 4th gen with the single leaf too. This is sort of documenting my experience overall for them and those looking for a solution to the rear suspension issues at hand.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Took some images of the install ...

56896

56897


And it was an ample learning experience for a 10year old who did an entire side by himself. (I did check his work.)

56898


The Add-A-Leaf fits snugly with the OE leaf.

56899
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
6 month report. The Dayton Kit is still working like a pro.

  • hauled a van full of folks and cargo 1,200 miles; no sagging, no bottom out issues, smooth ride.
  • Month ago loaded back with garden supplies. 22X 50-lbs bags of potting soil. no issues.
  • great response to those pavement heaves on northern roads. no bottom outs nor jouncing your jaw.
 
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6 month report. The Dayton Kit is still working like a pro.

  • hauled a van full of folks and cargo 1,200 miles; no sagging, no bottom out issues, smooth ride.
  • Month ago loaded back with garden supplies. 22X 50-lbs bags of potting soil. no issues.
  • great response to those pavement heaves on northern roads. no bottom outs nor jouncing your jaw.
I haven't had a single issue with my Dayton Kit since it was installed. One particular intersection that always made my T&C bottom out has not had any repeats of that, and while I don't carry heavy loads, I do have a wheelchair/scooter lift permanently mounted in the rear area. All in all, my experience matches that of Mopar-Mofun; and I do highly recommend the Dayton kit.
 
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Going well for a 9 month report. The kit is still doing a respectable job. Just read about another member making their own from a 2002 van onto a later 4th gen. Lots of work removing the old rusty stuff from one van and then onto their van. The Dayton kit has all new parts. :) Nice to only work on one van and cut the time down by 1/2.
 
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I looked at the Dayton Parts leaf kit but decided to go with Monroe Load Adjust shocks due to cost. A couple of months ago I took my daughter and 5 of her friends to the go kart track. After picking up the last friend and while crossing over a low median the rear suspension bottomed out. It bottomed out again while going over some bumps in the road. That is when I started looking at rear suspension options.

So far, the Monroe's are working out very well. Unloaded, the rear sits slightly higher. I jumped up on down on the rear bumper (I weigh 181lbs) and the van is much firmer in back. Cornering is flatter and the van is less bothered by railroad tracks and bumpy roads. So I give a big thumbs up to Monroe Load Adjust shocks.
 

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I had a '98 PV and the nivomats gave out (strangely, both at the same time!) and was riding solely on the springs. Didn't want to do that for long ... put anyone in the back seat and a few groceries and the passenger's seat was on the floor or their head was on the roof. So, priority said I had to get something for it so I got a pair of helper springs. It was an improvement but the van was constantly going uphill althugh smooth. Drove like that for a year. Then decreed that I was gonna get nivomats back. At this point there were some cheaper ones available and swapped them for the helper springs. It was now driving better if a bit firm. But the big rub came a year later when I found that the strut towers were rusting out. Got some replacement caps but didn't get around to it. Decided I needed a more reliable set of wheels.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I had a '98 PV and the nivomats gave out (strangely, both at the same time!) and was riding solely on the springs. Didn't want to do that for long ... put anyone in the back seat and a few groceries and the passenger's seat was on the floor or their head was on the roof. So, priority said I had to get something for it so I got a pair of helper springs. It was an improvement but the van was constantly going uphill althugh smooth. Drove like that for a year. Then decreed that I was gonna get nivomats back. At this point there were some cheaper ones available and swapped them for the helper springs. It was now driving better if a bit firm. But the big rub came a year later when I found that the strut towers were rusting out. Got some replacement caps but didn't get around to it. Decided I needed a more reliable set of wheels.
Helper springs? Oh, you have a 3rd gen. So that would work. The 2005-07 rear is just a stupid uni-leaf. No space to put any helper springs. A person would need to do some welding to add plates for those otherwise.

For the uni-leaf design in the 4th gen vans, it's very hard to beat the Dayton Add-A-Leaf kit price wise over the other options. Yes, adjustable shocks and the nivomats will fail in time. Leafs keep support.
 
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The 3rd gen vans are the same rear leaf springs. I used the same half-leaf helper springs on my awd van, on my 2000 T&C for 5 years or so. The 2000 also had nivomats. They helped, so yes you can use a helper spring on a monoleaf. Just because you can though, doesn't mean it's the best option. For that application, I defer to your thread here. :) I already had the half-leafs from a truck I had, so it cost me nothing.
 
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The 3rd gen vans are the same rear leaf springs. I used the same half-leaf helper springs on my awd van, on my 2000 T&C for 5 years or so. The 2000 also had nivomats. They helped, so yes you can use a helper spring on a monoleaf. Just because you can though, doesn't mean it's the best option. For that application, I defer to your thread here. :) I already had the half-leafs from a truck I had, so it cost me nothing.
The nice thing about the Dayton Add-A-Leaf, they leafs are full size. I looked at several of the half-leafs with a sinking feeling that their costs and performance would be nearly nothing. So, going with the Dayton kit I've been very happy since.

The Dayton Add-A-Leaf gauge thickness is a tad thicker than the OE uni-leaf (mono-leaf). Funny saying mono-leaf, seems our vans have a kissing disease. hahahaha
 

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After reading this thread and others I also installed the Dayton-add-a-leaf springs and immediately noticed an improvement. That was in June and since then I have driven the van cross country from Seattle to Boston and a few other trips with only a few complaints:
1. The holes for centering the spring were not properly drilled and we had to enlarge them for the spring to seat properly(on both sides). Also the mounting tabs for the rollers on the end of the springs were bent and had to be straightened to allow for the bolts to go through.
2. Minor complaint: The rollers at the ends of the new spring rattle like crazy when going down gravel roads. I had to stop twice before I realized nothing was broken.
3. I would say that my current shocks (not nivomat) are not providing enough rebound to compensate for the new stiffer springs so I am going to look for an alternative.

I am happy with the slight raise of the rear and overall I recommend the kit!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
After reading this thread and others I also installed the Dayton-add-a-leaf springs and immediately noticed an improvement. That was in June and since then I have driven the van cross country from Seattle to Boston and a few other trips with only a few complaints:
1. The holes for centering the spring were not properly drilled and we had to enlarge them for the spring to seat properly(on both sides). Also the mounting tabs for the rollers on the end of the springs were bent and had to be straightened to allow for the bolts to go through.
2. Minor complaint: The rollers at the ends of the new spring rattle like crazy when going down gravel roads. I had to stop twice before I realized nothing was broken.
3. I would say that my current shocks (not nivomat) are not providing enough rebound to compensate for the new stiffer springs so I am going to look for an alternative.

I am happy with the slight raise of the rear and overall I recommend the kit!
For #1, that is very odd. It was a tight fit for that center hole. I just used a mallet on each side and the spring went down. I did have one issue with one of the metal plates and the brake line. Had to 'slightly' bench grind the corner a wee-bit, not much for everything to have clearance without rubbing. The other side was perfect.

For #2, the kit came with those plastic circular dampers to place between the leafs at the near end. IF you lost them, most hardware stores of the Home Depot carries the Hillman type that work.

For #3, I went with the Gabriels, not the Pro this time and I'm very pleased with the ride now.

Hillman leaf damper
Artifact Art Metal Fashion accessory Font


The kit came with 4 of them. :)

Musical instrument Go Wood Musical instrument accessory Font
 
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Wish I'd seen this when I was doing appliance repair. My poor 06 is so much happier now that I've retired.
 

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Has anyone used these helper springs? Says they fit the Caravan but no mention of Grand or leaf set-up. The cost is fairly modest.....IF they work.
 

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Has anyone used these helper springs? Says they fit the Caravan but no mention of Grand or leaf set-up. The cost is fairly modest.....IF they work.
I have read a few people saying that these helper springs, because they do not run the length of the leaf spring, can cause stress points and possible metal fatigue. Not sure how often that happens but the add a leaf kit does seem to be a better alternative.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Has anyone used these helper springs? Says they fit the Caravan but no mention of Grand or leaf set-up. The cost is fairly modest.....IF they work.
I did look at them, but was hesitant thinking those helper springs are for the shorter wheel base Caravans.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I have read a few people saying that these helper springs, because they do not run the length of the leaf spring, can cause stress points and possible metal fatigue. Not sure how often that happens but the add a leaf kit does seem to be a better alternative.
The Add-A-Leaf is totally full size. If I get another 4th gen, I will indeed do this again. Daughter is looking for a vehicle now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Just upgraded to the Monroe 58620 coil over shock rear suspension system. The Dayton Add-A-Leaf kit is still doing and excellent job. Even as the old Gabriel's failed. The leafs are not a replacement for shocks.

Now the combination of the Monroe 58620 coil over shock + the Dayton Add-A-Leaf kit has made this ride the ultimate upgrade.

2 full size leafs on each side and 2 coil over shocks with the huge piston rod works the magic. :cool:

Automotive tire Motor vehicle Bumper Coil spring Automotive exterior
 
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