Best F150 Suspension Upgrades For Towing – Deep Dive 2021 Ford F-150 Suspension Deep Dive Ford didn’t draw attention to them, but there are several subtle-but-important changes.
I don’t need to tell you that any new redesign of the Ford F-150 is a big deal. But last time the buzz was focused on its then-new aluminum body, and this time all the attention is being paid to the new hybrid powertrain, folding shifter and larger touchscreen. That stuff is all well and good, but what about the suspension that makes this truck work?
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Fear not, friends. We’re about to get a good look at the cornerstones of the new 2021 Ford F-150. And it’s a very representative one, too. This truck is a volume-selling XLT model with a crew cab. It has four-wheel drive, a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine, and its suspension has a standard GVWR — which is 6,600 pounds in this cab configuration. It’s fitted with the XLT Sport Appearance Package, which swaps the normally standard 17-inch wheels for an 18-inch setup, but this truck has been “upgraded” to 20-inch wheels and tires, which is kind of the thing. Ridiculous tendencies in 4×4. Yes, you can lump me in with the “save the sidewalls” crowd.
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While there are no marquee changes to the 2021 Ford F-150’s suspension, there are some interesting and thoughtful tweaks worth checking out. Although we touched on them a bit in our F-150 review, it’s called the suspension
For a reason. Let’s drop the wheels, pull out the colored arrows and see what Ford engineers managed to change without too much fanfare.
At first glance, the front end looks similar to the last generation. But eagle-eyed Ford fans might be able to spot the difference here, too.
As before, it’s a double wishbone setup with aluminum knuckles (yellow arrows) and steel upper and lower control arms (green).
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The knuckle has been redesigned and weight-optimized. But that’s not the only thing that’s different about it. I’m going to keep you guessing until the last possible minute.
I have received conflicting information on the track width of the new F-150. A Ford source said it was an inch wider. One online source said it was three-quarters of an inch wider, but when I compared the 2020 and 2021 F-150 track width specs on the technical specification sheet, I found something different: the 2021 has 0.3 inches more track width up front. Back 0.7 inches. I rely heavily on specs that I can see printed on charts, so that’s what I’m going with. Basically, the new F-150 has slightly more track width.
The upper control arm uses the same type of mid-mount placement that the last generation F-150 used. That means it’s not the high mount type that puts the ball joint (yellow) on top of the tire, but it’s also not the low in-wheel mount that puts too much stress on the upper arm and its ball joint and inner pivots. .
The lower control arm is a good-looking steel weldment made from two main pieces that appear to be hydroformed. The coil-over shock mounts as before, and the attachment point (yellow) appears about 70% of the way out from the inner pivots, so the spring to damper speed ratio is close to 0.70. .
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It is also worth pointing out that the inner pivots have no eccentric (green) for alignment adjustment. When I asked Ford about this, they said their frame assembly is so perfect that they don’t need it. I’m sure other truck manufacturers can make similar statements, but what happens during ownership? It seems odd in a vehicle that is going to be used, abused and modified by many buyers. This is not new, though. The outgoing truck was also set up like this.
Those knobs are steering stops. They are the same as last year, but they look more prominent. Further back, they’ve removed the rigid bar (black) that runs between the two arms (ha!).
In a full lock, those knobs (yellow) are meant to connect the hinges and the reinforced area below them that is folded into the knuckle. Having the steering contact here after full lock is achieved is much better than the steering rack itself reaching its internal limit. The odd part here is that Ford saw fit to put two stops on each lower control arm. Usually only one is needed, as the one on the other side of the truck works when you turn the other way.
This is a change that some of you may have already noticed. The stabilizer bar linkage (yellow) connects directly to the knuckle. Last time around this link went down to attach to the lower control arm in the middle of a position with its rear leg. This new link mounting location has several advantages. First, the speed ratio is a quiet 100% instead of 40 or 50%. This extra efficiency means that a smaller and lighter stabilizer bar (green) can do the same job as a larger and heavier one on the final truck.
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But according to Ford, there’s more to it than that. The old setup loaded the lower arm asymmetrically, and this introduced an uneven load that made it difficult to tune and optimize bushing compliance. This new load path brings the stabilizer bar forces through the lower ball joint of the knuckle to the lower wishbone, making it easier to keep everything square. This change may well be why they were able to remove the rigid bar between the two lower arms, which is another source of suspension weight reduction whether that’s the final reason or not.
This appears to be another potentially significant but unknown change to the 2021 Ford F-150. The F-150’s four-wheel-drive system typically uses a vacuum-operated hub disconnect system called IWEs (Integrated Wheel Ends) that allow the wheels to freewheel when the truck is in two-wheel drive. But these hub disconnect units (yellow) look different, and they go by the slightly different acronym EIWE, which stands for Electric Integrated Wheel End.
Now, I’m pretty sure I’m still seeing a vacuum line with a control wire. I haven’t seen a cutaway showing the internals, but it looks like the electronics that control the vacuum have been moved to the hub area itself. What I do know is that if you search for Ford IWE you will see many articles and videos on how to fix previous IWEs failing. Do they often fail? I don’t have the statistics. Is it a step forward? It’s probably too early to tell. But it seems like a departure worth pointing out.
The front brakes consist of large dual-piston sliding calipers and heavily ventilated rotors. I like how the calipers have strategically placed cutouts (yellow) that give you visual access if you want to visually check the condition of both the inner and outer brake pads.
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This chaotic view hides the new electronic master cylinder. There’s no vacuum booster buried here because the new 2021 Ford F-150 is more or less brake-by-wire. Now, such layouts have a hydraulic circuit that is used both to gauge the driver’s intentions and to maintain a mechanical fail-safe backup. But the primary brake-force distribution to each wheel is controlled here and sent to each wheel via four separate brake lines from the oversized ABS pump.
This is not the first time Ford has done this. The Ford Explorer made the transition a year ago. The reason is the same in both cases: Both the Explorer and the F-150 have new hybrid versions. Hybrids sometimes use magnetic regenerative braking, other times traditional friction braking, but usually it’s a mixed combination of the two. They need a brake system in which a computer continuously analyzes the severity of driver input and the battery condition as well as the battery condition to decide what kind of brakes to apply and how much to apply.
But at the Explorer launch I was more impressed with the non-hybrid’s brake pedal feel, and sought out an engineer to get the story. He said both share the same new master cylinder system, and brake response is easier to tune and feel on non-hybrid models that lack regenerative braking and hybrid modes. I found the Explorer’s brakes to be smooth and consistent, and so does the new F-150’s brake pedal.
The rear of the F-150 is both traditional and revolutionary at the same time. It rides on leaf springs, but…
Bds’ Work/ Play Ford F150
These are no ordinary leaf springs. Immediately, you notice that there is only one main leaf (yellow) and a subtly odd-looking secondary (green) aka the helper spring.
But there is more to it. The main leaf is tapered along its length – it is thicker below the U-bolt (yellow) and thinner as you approach the mounting eyes (green) on either side.