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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Howdy all. have the van mentioned above and my mother is a big woman with a heavy duty wheelchair. The chair alone is 341lbs. The problem is, I am bottoming out quite a bit. I'm doing the same dance that many have done with stock vans. either avoid speed bumps if possible, or crawl over them at 0.00001 mph being sure to come to a complete stop before and after. bigger problem really is any elevation change between one surface and another. Like driving up a ramp in a parking garage. Or going from a side street or parking lot to a main street that is higher or lower.


Really short version: Does anyone have first hand knowledge / info as to whether the Braun Entervan conversions used stock OEM springs ? Or, is it something more custom ?



Long version: I've received conflicting information on my van. the local Braun dealer / authorized service center told me that 1) my springs were sprung. And that 2), this van used "stock oem springs, BUT, they had to be de-arched". I talked to the local company he referred me to for that but they didn't have any info on it. Said that they'd need to know how much arch to take out. They did mention that they could probably figure it out if I brought it in.

Trying to be thorough with my research, I took the van to a very reputable suspension shop for a look. I relayed everything that I had been told previously. They took a look and basically said that it was acting like it should. No mention at all about the springs being sprung. He said they could order and put new springs on it, but didn't know that it would fix anything.

I then called Braun and spoke to customer service rep there. Again I relayed everything I had been told so far. He took my vin number and my phone number and said he'd get back to me. About 20 minutes later, he called and told me that he went and talked to techs that had been there forever. That they had never heard about de-arched springs. He also informed me that if ANY part was changed, swapped, or modified, they'd have it listed in the system. And, the system didn't show any kind of change wrt the leaf springs.

Taking one more stab at it, I contacted an outfit that said they sold parts for mobility conversion vans. the person there took my VIN and went to their "inside contact / support" at Braun and asked about the springs. They were told that the springs are stock OEM with no modifications.


Searching through this forum, I did stumble upon Mopar-Mofun's thread about the Dayton Add a leaf kit, as well as discussion about the Monroe 58620's. But after reading through those, I'm still extremely unsure of what to do.



Questions I have, answers I'm in search of:

1. Does my van have "stock" springs ?
2. Which of the 'stock" springs would those be?
3. How do I know if my current springs are actually sprung ?
4. Assuming I have stock springs, and if they are sprung, would the Dayton leaf kit and/or the new Monroe's "fix" the problem ?
5. If the current springs are sprung, do I have to replace them first, then consider the Dayton kit ?

Anyways, I'd appreciate whatever input / advice any of you all could provide.

Thanks !
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
btw, fwiw, the van is in pretty good shape, but it does have 260K miles on it. I'd prefer to have an actual plan of attack instead of just opening up the parts cannon on it. Then again, I wouldn't even know which OEM springs to get if I went that route as there's so many options on springs that I'm unsure of. like with (or without) "load leveling suspension" .
 

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I have Monroe 58620 load adjust shocks and they work great. Other members have the Dayton add-a-leaf and they seem to like them. The Monroe's are super easy to install. The unloaded ride height is higher with the Monroes. I am not sure if ride height is improved with the Daytons. I would leave the existing springs alone and put on your helper of choice.
 

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Is it only the front that is bottoming out? With that mileage, I'd suspect the struts were replaced once and probably with Monroe quick struts, which use cheaper/weaker springs. The front springs are your problem.

There are aftermarket springs you can order that are firmer, to get closer to the factory springs. The struts would need to come out and get disassembled to install them. Then you might be tempted to use quick struts, which starts the problem all over again!

If the front struts themselves look rusty, leaking and tired you might want to just order all new parts and have new struts assembled, then swapped on.

Is this van lifted in the front, or just in the rear? You may benefit from using Pacifica struts instead to lift the front end a little, but that requires a different length sway bar end link in the front.

Rear suspension either had tiny stock shocks or the fat nivomat load levelling shocks. Sometimes the handicap van modifier uses the spring-over-shock design for the rear to add load capacity. Depending on your environment, the little coil springs can rust out and weaken so those rear shocks are not ideal. The add-a-leafs would be better in that case. Southern dry climate shouldn't be a problem.
 
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That Braun van likely has a lift of a few inches, at least, with different springs.
 
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Is it only the front that is bottoming out? With that mileage, I'd suspect the struts were replaced once and probably with Monroe quick struts, which use cheaper/weaker springs. The front springs are your problem.

There are aftermarket springs you can order that are firmer, to get closer to the factory springs. The struts would need to come out and get disassembled to install them. Then you might be tempted to use quick struts, which starts the problem all over again!

If the front struts themselves look rusty, leaking and tired you might want to just order all new parts and have new struts assembled, then swapped on.

Is this van lifted in the front, or just in the rear? You may benefit from using Pacifica struts instead to lift the front end a little, but that requires a different length sway bar end link in the front.

Rear suspension either had tiny stock shocks or the fat nivomat load levelling shocks. Sometimes the handicap van modifier uses the spring-over-shock design for the rear to add load capacity. Depending on your environment, the little coil springs can rust out and weaken so those rear shocks are not ideal. The add-a-leafs would be better in that case. Southern dry climate shouldn't be a problem.

Thanks. .

I bought it used, but service records say that it had Napa Proformer struts installed on it a few years ago.

The dragging is always between the front and rear wheels. I'll try and pay more attention to try and figure out where.

As the van sits empty, it looks to me like a normal ride height. Maybe even sitting higher than my 06 grand caravan.

When I drop the ramp and mom starts driving her 341lb chair up, the van starts sinking from behind rear wheels all the way to tail end. And by "sinking", I mean what seems like a good amount. I'll try to get some ground clearance measurements next time it's under load.

As soon as she wheels down the ramp and out of the van, it's back up to a nice height. Don't know if it's the proper height, as I don't have another Braun van to compare it to at the moment.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
That Braun van likely has a lift of a few inches, at least, with different springs.
I honestly don't know. Have gotten conflicting information from Braun folks.

One thing I do know is that Braun tries to keep things as close to stock as possible. At least that's what a Braun YouTube vid said. It specifically discussed different es between how competitors do the rear ends vs how Braun does. Unfortunately for me, they were using a Gen5 as their example/demo model.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I have Monroe 58620 load adjust shocks and they work great. Other members have the Dayton add-a-leaf and they seem to like them. The Monroe's are super easy to install. The unloaded ride height is higher with the Monroes. I am not sure if ride height is improved with the Daytons. I would leave the existing springs alone and put on your helper of choice.

If I end up going the parts cannon way, I will start with the shocks. Two reasons really. First, that's the cheapest route. 2nd, it's easiest 😁

Debate then would be whether to go with the Monroe coil type, or whatever those air shocks are. Wouldn't bother me a bit to put air ride in
 

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Post a side shot picture, unloaded. I'm sure someone can at least tell you if it's at normal ride height.
 

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Looks about 3" lifted to me.
 
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Thanks, the pics help a lot!

I've seen several of these kinds of vans in the junkyard, so I know how they lift them. The front of that one looks pretty close to stock though, and could use some additional lift. The rear is usually lifted by adding spacers between the rear leaf spring shackles and the "frame", and the front of the leaf spring is dropped with the dropped floor to get the lift in the rear. Sometimes longer shocks are used, sometimes they use the shock with coil-over spring on them. They also add limiting straps/chains so the rear shocks don't get pulled apart when the van is hoisted into the air.

Either the rear coil-over springs on the shocks got weak, or there are none and the single leaf spring is just tired and sagging. You can buy helper leafs to add to get some stiffness back. I had some half leaf helper springs from a truck that I first added to the rear of my 2000 T&C monoleaf rear (same setup as 4th gen) and then transferred to my 2004 with the multi-leaf packs to lift it a little. I shimmed up the one end of the helper leaf with a thick washer instead of the supplied rivet, and installed them with the rear at full droop (no load on wheels) to get maximum arch of the springs.
Tire Wheel Automotive tire Motor vehicle Tread


Wheel Automotive tire Tire Wood Motor vehicle


For the front, I usually see strut spacers and special large bolts used to connect to the stock strut mount bolts. I've seen 1" and 2" thick aluminum spacers used on 3rd and 4th gen vans. The 1" spacers usually have no other mods to the front of the van, but the 2" spacers usually also include aluminum spacers between the front aluminum cradle and the "frame" and longer mounting bolts, and aluminum spacers between the two motor mounts and the body to drop the engine/transmission an inch. Both usually have special eccentric bolts on the bottom of the struts for camber correction.
Gas Rim Household hardware Auto part Circle


These are 2004-2008 Pacifica struts with longer mounting studs and a strut spacer added to one. I couldn't fit that big spacer into my van, so had to use the black ones in the pic above. I used these Pacifica struts in my van (with those black spacers) to lift the front 2" over stock. These are used OE struts from a junkyard, as the spring still has the OE Mopar spring part number sticker tag on them at the bottom.
Gas Suspension Machine Nickel Coil spring


I've used the Napa Proformer sway bar end links on our 2011 Sienna. The pics showed them having grease zerks, but after I bought them and looked at them, they did not. :mad: That tells me that the Proformer line of parts are probably cheap repackaged parts from someone else, so those struts could have too soft of springs in them.

The front of my van, using the Pacifica struts, 1 1/4" black Tema4X4 urethane strut spacers with longer mounting studs, and 2003 Ford Windstar sway bar end links:
Wheel Tire Car Land vehicle Vehicle


So the front depends what you already have for a setup, and how high/how much work you want to do to raise it.

When the front "bottoms out" do you mean the tires are hitting the fenders, or the bump just ends abruptly with shock because there is no more suspension travel?
Tires hitting fenders = may only need strut spacers.
Not enough suspension travel = new front springs or Pacifica struts.
 
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks, the pics help a lot!

I've seen several of these kinds of vans in the junkyard, so I know how they lift them. The front of that one looks pretty close to stock though, and could use some additional lift. The rear is usually lifted by adding spacers between the rear leaf spring shackles and the "frame", and the front of the leaf spring is dropped with the dropped floor to get the lift in the rear. Sometimes longer shocks are used, sometimes they use the shock with coil-over spring on them. They also add limiting straps/chains so the rear shocks don't get pulled apart when the van is hoisted into the air.

Either the rear coil-over springs on the shocks got weak, or there are none and the single leaf spring is just tired and sagging. You can buy helper leafs to add to get some stiffness back. I had some half leaf helper springs from a truck that I first added to the rear of my 2000 T&C monoleaf rear (same setup as 4th gen) and then transferred to my 2004 with the multi-leaf packs to lift it a little. I shimmed up the one end of the helper leaf with a thick washer instead of the supplied rivet, and installed them with the rear at full droop (no load on wheels) to get maximum arch of the springs.

........

When the front "bottoms out" do you mean the tires are hitting the fenders, or the bump just ends abruptly with shock because there is no more suspension travel?
Tires hitting fenders = may only need strut spacers.
Not enough suspension travel = new front springs or Pacifica struts.

I'll try to get some pics of the rear today. best I can tell, there are no spacers in the back end to speak of. Rear hanger looks to be the same as on my 06 caravan. No lifting block under the spring. Haven't looked directly to try and compare location of front spring mount.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Sooo, I went to the truck and auto spring shop that my local Braun service center told me about. After going over everything with them, a guy who looked to be about 100 or so walked out and looked at the van. Said that the springs were definitely soft. None of them had ever heard about OEM springs needing to be de-arched for the Gen4 Braun conversions. Their solution was to try and source an OEM set of springs and then build it up into a spring pack that could handle more weight. This excited me very much. Then, the dagger through the heart. he estimated that the cost would be $1500 minimum, and probably more.


Things that I have figured out so far, at least I'm pretty sure. There is no "lift kit" per se on the back end. I'm going to get my tape and go out and take some measurements on the Braun and on my 06 GC. I'm pretty sure that the rear leaf hanger and everything associated with it is the same on both vans.

but, that doesn't exactly mean that the rear end isn't lifted. I think it's possible/probable that the front spring hanger was relocated when they cut out the stock floor and welded in a drop floor?? I'm going to go nose around both vans and see if I notice any real differences in how the rear ends are set up.
 

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Measuring the peak of the fender arch to the ground between this van and a stock one would be easy enough. Then you'll know.
 
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Their solution was to try and source an OEM set of springs and then build it up into a spring pack that could handle more weight.

Things that I have figured out so far, at least I'm pretty sure. There is no "lift kit" per se on the back end. I'm pretty sure that the rear leaf hanger and everything associated with it is the same on both vans.

but, that doesn't exactly mean that the rear end isn't lifted. I think it's possible/probable that the front spring hanger was relocated when they cut out the stock floor and welded in a drop floor?? I'm going to go nose around both vans and see if I notice any real differences in how the rear ends are set up.
This is ALL correct. :) The rear is raised because the front mounting point of the leaf springs is lowered with the floor modification. It retains all of the stock rear suspension parts, except maybe longer rear shocks. Maybe the upper shock point was moved to make them still fit, and also make room for the fuel tank in the rear?

If you're handy with tools or want a lower cost way to add weight capacity/stiffness to the rear, you can get some factory multi-pack leaf springs and rear shackles/mounts from the 2001-2004 AWD vans or cargo vans. This is the spring setup you see in my rear leaf spring pics above/earlier. You'll have to get the longer bolts that mount them to the rear axle beam, but it will all bolt in. It should raise the rear a good amount, and keep it there. It may make the ride stiffer though, at least unloaded. You could find the parts using car-part.com, or scout around some local junkyards if you're more the DIY type. Lift blocks and longer bolts between the axle and the springs you have now will lift it, but it won't help with sag or bottoming while loaded.

I had the chance to check out a Braun Entervan 3rd gen at the yard yesterday, and I noted what the suspension was like. The front struts were already gone, but I could tell by the upper mount imprint inside the strut towers that the front used ONLY the STOCK struts, no spacers. If the 4th gen van was done the same way (they are the same suspension design), then you have stock front struts that have too soft of replacement springs. I would swap them out for the 2004-2008 Pacifica struts and longer (Chrysler Concord?) sway bar end links to give a 1" lift and keep the suspension stiff in front. Camber bolts will also be needed to correct the more positive camber induced by the longer struts, and an alignment afterwards. All of this should make the van handle with confidence.

Edit: If I'm wrong and there IS a front strut spacer, then you either use stock replacement front struts (KYB is good for handling) and transfer the strut spacers to them, or could still do the Pacifica struts but NOT use the spacers.
 
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Measuring the peak of the fender arch to the ground between this van and a stock one would be easy enough. Then you'll know.
If this van was stock, I'd readily agree. But, I don't know if the top of Braun van well matched an unmodified one. They did drop the floor 8 inches. That would have to be accommodated somehow. What I'd really need to do just to see if it's sitting lower than it should is to find another Gen4 Braun in a parking lot, hope that it's leafs are fine, and measure it. Even then there's a question I'm not sure about. If the springs are "weak" or "sprung", will that necessarily show up when it's sitting empty ? Or, can you only tell when it's under more load ?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Paying a shop to install the Dayton add-a-leaf would probably be much cheaper than $1500. Just my guess.

I'm seriously considering going this route. Pretty confident that I could do it myself. Question is though, do I have "stock" springs ? Or has the arch been modified ? I believe the Dayton spring has been custom tailored to work with the arch of the stock spring. I'd love to try and get some reasonable amount of surety that the Dayton's would work in my situation, before spending $250ish on them, just to find out that they don't work for me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
This is ALL correct. :) The rear is raised because the front mounting point of the leaf springs is lowered with the floor modification. It retains all of the stock rear suspension parts, except maybe longer rear shocks. Maybe the upper shock point was moved to make them still fit, and also make room for the fuel tank in the rear?

If you're handy with tools or want a lower cost way to add weight capacity/stiffness to the rear, you can get some factory multi-pack leaf springs and rear shackles/mounts from the 2001-2004 AWD vans or cargo vans. This is the spring setup you see in my rear leaf spring pics above/earlier. You'll have to get the longer bolts that mount them to the rear axle beam, but it will all bolt in. It should raise the rear a good amount, and keep it there. It may make the ride stiffer though, at least unloaded. You could find the parts using car-part.com, or scout around some local junkyards if you're more the DIY type. Lift blocks and longer bolts between the axle and the springs you have now will lift it, but it won't help with sag or bottoming while loaded.

I had the chance to check out a Braun Entervan 3rd gen at the yard yesterday, and I noted what the suspension was like. The front struts were already gone, but I could tell by the upper mount imprint inside the strut towers that the front used ONLY the STOCK struts, no spacers. If the 4th gen van was done the same way (they are the same suspension design), then you have stock front struts that have too soft of replacement springs. I would swap them out for the 2004-2008 Pacifica struts and longer (Chrysler Concord?) sway bar end links to give a 1" lift and keep the suspension stiff in front. Camber bolts will also be needed to correct the more positive camber induced by the longer struts, and an alignment afterwards. All of this should make the van handle with confidence.

Edit: If I'm wrong and there IS a front strut spacer, then you either use stock replacement front struts (KYB is good for handling) and transfer the strut spacers to them, or could still do the Pacifica struts but NOT use the spacers.

Just crawled under my DGC and jacked up the Braun, took the rear wheel off and did some nosing around. The upper shock mount was definitely moved and welded back in. I'll have to figure out a better way to measure and compare, but just eyeballing it, it does look like the front spring hanger is sitting lower on the Braun.
 
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