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Stop Hop Now; Epiq Suspension Universal Traction Bars On Our 2016 F-350

Eliminate Rear Axlewrap

Bruce W. SmithPhotographer, Writer

It’s great to have a ton of torque and horsepower underfoot. The downside of having a lot of power on tap is the rear tires can start hopping when torque overpowers traction, resulting in a thudding chatter with little or no forward movement. That sudden and violent loading and unloading of the rear suspension caused by axlewrap puts tremendous shock loads on the drivetrain, which can result in broken and twisted parts.

That’s a concern for diesel owners like Sam Meyers, the owner of a logging company in Oregon, who uses Ford Super Dutys as his primary work trucks. They see a lot of driving time on gravel and dirt backroads, pulling trailers and loaded down with people, parts, fuel, and tools. Rear wheelhop in those situations is common.

Sam also uses a ’16 Ford F-350 Super Duty 4x4 to pull a 43-foot toy hauler to the desert and Oregon Dunes on the weekends and during vacations away from work deep in the forests. “I tend to get wheelhop pulling the trailer, especially when there’s any sand or loose gravel and I’m trying to position my trailer at a campsite,” Sam says.

Wheelhop is caused when the rear leaf springs momentarily twist as the axlehousing rolls ever so slightly in an opposite and equal reaction to the tires pushing the truck forward or backward. As the spring pack “wraps,” it gets to a point where it overcomes the twisting force exerted by the tires and instantly unloads, causing the hopping motion. At that point, traction is once again momentarily gained, the springs start wrapping up again, and the process repeats. The force created by the sudden loss and gain of traction are enough to snap axles, explode U-joints, break gears, and do other damage depending on the severity and duration of wheelhop and how much power is being applied.

With the power in many of today’s 4x4s, there’s plenty of torque available down low in the rpm range, so wheelhop is a constant factor owners have to contend with on-road and off.

Epiq Traction Bars
Reducing the chances of broken parts and maximizing traction is high on Sam’s priority list when it comes to his pickups. That’s why he had his new ’16 Ford F-350 Super Duty crew cab longbed 4x4 equipped with Epiq Suspension’s 72-inch traction bars. The $430 (pricing at time of print) universal kit is easy to install, with weld-on brackets designed to fit just about any pickup application.

At the heart of the kit is a pair of 1 3/4-inch OD traction bars that are powdercoated and fit with poly bushings (Johnny Joints are offered as an option). The front brackets are CNC-machined 3/16-inch steel and are designed to be interchangeable side-to-side, as are the rear axletube brackets that are radiused to fit different size tubes depending on the vehicle they are being installed.

Epiq Suspension is a sister company of Dunks Performance. So we went there to follow fabricator Casey Castle as he installed these universal traction bars on Sam’s big red work truck that’d just been set up with a 4-inch Carli suspension. As our how-to photos show, the installation is easy and can be done in about two hours by anyone with basic welding experience.

Epiq’s traction bars are a universal fit. Some trucks, such as the ’11-’16 Ford Super Duty and ’94-’02 Dodge Ram require the optional ($165 at time of print) “Flip Kit” that comes with new U-bolts and CNC-machined top plates to reverse the factory U-bolts so the ends are pointed up.

This ’16 Ford F-350 already had a Carli 4-inch suspension installed, so the new 3/4-inch U-bolts with the flip kit were custom made to accommodate the taller rear spring package. Note the axlehousing has been prepped for welding before the U-bolts are installed.

The Epiq traction bar axle brackets are designed to fit the diameter of the axletube leaving just enough space to ensure a strong weld. The bracket is left loose until the traction bar is at the correct angle, then it’ll be tack welded.

The front bracket can be welded either under the frame or to the side. The ’16 Super Duty mounting is the latter. Special gussets will help anchor it in place when welding is done later on.

Casey Castle uses a magnetic angle gauge attached to the back of the axle bracket to set the traction bar angle. The bracket should be rotated until the gauge reads 30 degrees, which should put the traction bar at the same angle as the driveshaft when the truck is sitting at ride height. Then Casey tack welds the axle bracket in place.

The front passenger-side bracket position is then marked on the frame. The area is then sanded to bare metal in preparation for welding the bracket and gussets to the Ford’s framerail.

Epiq’s traction bar kit comes with cool angle gussets that add strength to the front brackets and help align them with the frame.

Casey welds the bracket to the frame and the gussets to the bracket and frame. The 3/16-inch steel provides a strong mounting point for the traction bar.

The gussets are slightly longer than the bracket is wide, so Casey grinds their tips smooth to the bracket edge for a clean look after they are welded in place.

A good tip when welding around shocks, wires, and small hoses: cover the exposed areas with masking tape to avoid molten welding spatter from marring shock shafts or putting holes in delicate wiring/hoses/air lines.

Here Casey runs a bead around the inside and outside of the rear axle bracket. The kit provides a lot of opportunity to practice precision welding.

The same traction bar setup on the passenger side is repeated on the driver side, setting the rear bracket angle to 30 degrees and tack welding it in place.

In some installations the driver-side front bracket will need to be trimmed to fit around the fuel tank strap and skidplate. The arrows show the areas we needed to trim this bracket to fit the ’16 F-350 Super Duty. (The brackets can be flipped, with the long end facing forward, depending on application or mounting preference.)

The area shaded here is what Casey will cut off the bracket so it clears the fuel tank strap and fits flush to the edge of the framerail on the driver side.

We also needed to trim about a 1/2-inch from the plastic lip of the fuel tank skidplate. Other installations may not need this.

Here’s the front driver-side traction bar bracket ready to be welded into position. Note how trimming the bracket corner and the plastic lip of the skidplate allows the bracket to fit flush with the framerail.

Having an extra pair of hands to hold the traction bar while the bracket is tacked in place makes this part of the installation easy.

As on the other side, Casey runs a full bead both inside and out along the bracket as well as the gussets. Strong welds are important because there’s a lot of pressure on the brackets when they are doing their job.

The last part of installing the brackets is painting. Use a high-quality rustproof paint and make sure it reaches every nook and cranny.

When the paint is dry, use the supplied bolts to attach the Epiq traction bars to the brackets. Torque the locknuts according to the instruction sheet supplied with the kit.

When the paint is dry, use the supplied bolts to attach the Epiq traction bars to the brackets. Torque the locknuts according to the instruction sheet supplied with the kit.