Learn tips about how to make suspension parts last longer from a global aftermarket manufacturer of suspension parts.
HDPR Live # 66: If suspension parts fail, the commercial vehicle stops working and the vehicle owner stops making money.
Can a manufacturer that makes suspension parts like airbags and shock absorbers provide any insight into how we can keep trucks and trailers on the road working longer?
Also, Class 8 trucks and trailers are being made with more advanced technology than ever before. One of my colleagues who works for a Tier 1 manufacture said, “the airbags and shocks of the future will be made as one single unit and will easily cost 3 – 4 times what today’s airbags and shocks costs to replace.”
How will the changes in technology on commercial class 8 trucks and trailers impact the longevity of suspension parts?
We are going to find out the answers to these questions and more in today’s live stream with my guest Felipe Bumagny, President of SAMPA, a company that manufactures aftermarket suspension parts.
To learn more about their company visit SAMPA.com.
Suspension Parts Inspection Checklist
Air ride suspension parts need to be inspected regularly, here is our recommended inspection checklist:
- Air Springs (Bags)
- Height Control Valves
- Longitudinal and Lateral or Transverse Control Rods
- Frame Hangers
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Complete Transcript of Episode:
Welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. My name is Jamie Irvine, and today we are live.
Did you know that The Heavy-Duty Parts Report has a podcast that publishes every Monday morning, head over to HeavyDutyPartsReport.com and check out the podcast. You can there follow the show, subscribe for free and you’re going to be able to talk to, or listen to me, interview some industry experts, heavy-duty parts specialist, and we’re going to really focus on how to lower cost-per-mile and total cost of operation for trucking fleets. So head over to HeavyDutyPartsReport.com.
As well with all of our live broadcasts, we want you to participate. We want you to ask a question or make a comment and we’ll do our best to bring you into the broadcast. Just like our first comment here. Hello to you as well. Thank you for tuning in. Now today’s conversation.
We’re going to focus on the subject of suspension. Now, if you think of the suspension of a heavy-duty truck, if it fails, the commercial vehicle stops working, it stops making money.
And I wanted to talk to a manufacturer of suspension parts to really learn from them, what kind of insights they could provide on how fleets can make better choices when choosing suspension components for replacement?
What they can do to maintain their suspension, and make it last longer. And also, how is technology changing, going to impact the future of costs of the suspension components themselves?
So my guest today is Felipe Bumagny. He’s the president of Sampa USA and I am so happy to have him here. He’s been waiting backstage Felipe, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report, so happy to have you here.
Oh, I’m happy to be here Jamie. Thank you very much for having me.
So I’d like to read you a quote here and then we can get into our conversation.
“A semi-truck suspension is more likely than other vehicles to become damaged due to the massive weight it carries on a consistent basis…” So comparing, I guess, semi-trucks to commercial vehicles, to automotive light-duty vehicles. “Common problems include broken spring hangers and leaf spring leaves, leaking shocks, a crack torque rod, or u-bolts, and air suspension system failure.”
So, my first question Felipe is what do fleets need to do to make their suspension parts last longer?
Well, of course, regular maintenance and preventive maintenance and understanding what, uh, how the, all the components and the entire system operates is key to, this whole thing. Right? So, one of the most important things is to perform regular checks, understand what is failing, and why it’s failing and try to follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance intervals and so on and so forth. Another thing that is very important is when you choose a replacement part, you’ve got to do that very carefully.
And one of the things that people tend to to forget is that you might be maybe saving a couple dollars now, but if you install something that is of lower quality into your system, regardless of the system, whether it’s steering or transmission or suspension, that will affect the performance, not only of that particular part, but we will have rather implications throughout the entire system.
So we’ve already had some, uh, some of our listeners comment, Debbie, so happy. We’re excited to have this conversation as well. We’re happy to have you with us this Friday, and there’s Brian Herrington. Uh, Brian, nice to hear from you again, welcome to the show. So glad that you’re able to, uh, be here and good point, good point.
So Felipe air ride, suspension parts, like you said, they need to be inspected regularly. We’ve got to stay within manufacturer’s specifications. Let’s go through, uh, an inspection checklist and maybe you can provide us a few tips on what can be done to make these parts last longer and what we should be looking for for, um, some, some issues with our air suspension.
Let’s, let’s start with the air springs, the airbags, what are we looking for to give us an indication that maybe something is going wrong?
So, uh, an airbag is basically a balloon, right? So that it inflates and deflates, according to the amount of, uh, uh, air or pressure that you, uh, that you, uh, uh, used for, for its inflation.
So a couple of things that is, uh, that are, that are very important is first of all, during the installation to do it properly, right, and to check all the peripheral, uh, components as well, I’ll give an example. If a torque, rod is not performing, um, uh, properly, right, because the bushing is worn, uh, the airbag probably is going to fail, uh, prematurely. That’s the number one, number two.
So when you install the airbag, you know, it’s not only the airbag that you should be looking at this thing tire entire, uh, system. Uh, one of the things that is, uh, uh, that is very common is during installation either over inflation or under inflation, and of course, overloading during, uh, during operations. The other thing that is, uh, uh, that needs to be checked is air leakage or pressure leakage.
And that can happen at the airbag itself. It could be a result of oxidation of the top plates or the connecting, uh, uh, uh, studs. It could be a, a narrow line issue. So you have to make sure that the airbag is operating at the optimal, uh, PSI level at all times.
Yeah. That makes sense. You have, Brian brings out the same point, the entire system. It works as a system, so it needs to be looked at as a system. So, you know, when I, when I was selling parts, sometimes the guys would come in and they would put on the counter and airbag has got a big tear in the bag.
Obviously something was maybe there off-road in a logging application or something, and something wore that bag out or, or actually tore it and damaged it when you’re looking at airbags. And it’s not an obvious situation like that.
The next place to look also is shocks. So when we’re doing that overall inspection, and we’re saying, okay, airbags, like the pressure is good. There there’s no obvious signs of wear on it. It’s not a, it doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong there. We’re right there. What should we looking at when we look at the shocks?
So, uh, shocks are a little bit more, uh, difficult to diagnose and you have a couple of, uh, uh, very common, uh, issues. One is shocks, usually have a bushing at the eye, right? That that’s how the shock is connected to the frame or through the rest of the suspension. So that bushing because of the vibration, because of, uh, the, the natural aging of the rubber and so on might, uh, might deteriorate and might fail.
So that’s something that is, can be visually inspected and you’re going to feel vibration. You’re going to see that other things, other things that might happen is, uh, uh, uneven tire wear because of a faulty shocks. And so on,
With that bushing Felipe, like you can grab a hold of it, and if it’s completely shot it will make a bang, bang, bang sound.
It’s a visual manual inspection. Absolutely. And the other thing that, uh, there’s another, there’s a little bit of a misconception out there shocks tend to mist and, uh, that’s a normal, uh, process. And, uh, uh, it’s almost like, uh, the sweat on a beer glass. Um, and it’s gonna look something like that.
And is that the same, is that the same, sorry Felpe, is that the same, regardless of whether it’s like a gas shock or it’s the other, uh, hydraulic shock?
It’s a hydraulic shock. It happens more often or a hydraulic shock, but however, there’s also, the other problem is when a seal breaks in the shock, mainly on the reserve oil tube, that my, uh, uh, create some, uh, leakage of the fluid. And that is something that needs to be a checked.
If, if that is happening, the shock is gone. You have to, uh, you have to replace the shock. If it’s just regular misting, Uh, and the shock is not losing any of its, uh, uh, uh, mechanical characteristics. Uh, there’s, it’s not a problem, but most, uh, I think that more often than not the shock will fail because of a bushing fail failure, I’m sorry.
Another part of the system is the height control valve, and that works in conjunction with the airbags. So, um, if we’re, if we’re looking at really trying to help, uh, parts last longer, help fleets save money, what kinds of things should they be doing when they’re checking that height control valve? What, what would alert them to say, “hey, there’s a problem here. We need to address it.”
Well height is one of the things that, again, it can be visually inspected. Um, you, you, you do a walk around, see if the both sides of the truck or the trailer are at the proper height, if one is not higher than the other, obviously. Um, and then you started doing your diagnosis.
If, if they are, if, uh, if they’re not operating optimally, um, you need to, uh, understand if it’s a connecting, uh, or a hose that dried out, or the connecting of a leveling valve or, uh, debris that, uh, got into the airline and it’s clogging something at the, at the valve. Um, so these are the, the most common if up, it’s very hard to open a valve and see if something is wrong inside a valve.
Most people won’t do that also because the valve is, can be relatively inexpensive. So if you suspect something is wrong, you might as well change the valve. Uh, but just make sure that the rest of the system from the compressor all the way to the, to the suspension of the airbag, everything is working as it should.
Debbie brings out a good point, “crooked looking airbags are a sign of further issues.” So really a lot of this comes down to that visual inspection of the suspension components, but we’ve got another question. It’s going to take our conversation into a slightly different direction, but I think at the heart of the matter, this is what people is, uh, they’re, they’re really looking for an answer to.
And, um, now I’m going to say Joffrey, I’m not really sure of the, of the name, but hello. “How can you get parts that are better quality and last longer, and at the same time costs less?” That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to Felipe is about the fact that parts need to be high quality.
Yes, but it’s not just the parts, it’s the overall maintenance and the overall work that gets put into inspection and preventative maintenance that actually lowers the cost. But to the, to this listener’s point, this is the objective of, of many fleets. So how do you answer this question Felipe?
So some of those things a little bit differently than many other manufacturers out there, many aftermarket manufacturers. So what do we do is, uh, when we develop a product and we sell products in several different categories, um, we, uh, have to understand what the, the, that product is supposed to perform well, what the performance of the product on the vehicle is supposed to be, right, in terms of durability, in terms of, uh, mechanical properties, in terms of interaction with other components on the truck.
And, uh, only when we’re fully satisfied that we understand what the product is supposed to do. We go ahead and develop, test it, validated, and, uh, uh, using the best raw materials, the best, uh, uh, processes. Uh, we have, uh, very stringent quality controls and systems. And, uh, the other advantage that we, we, we, we bring to the table is that we make everything we sell.
So, uh, we don’t buy and sell products from other manufacturers. We have absolute control from raw material, all the way to the delivery, to our, our distributor. Be it be that distributor in the United States or Canada or Brazil or Australia or Germany, we are in about 160 countries. So over the, over the, the, these past 40 years, we have perfected that technology.
So, uh, as long as we understand that we wants to deliver a product that, uh, performs equal to the OEM component that a truck came with when it left the plant. Uh, and we are, we are, we, we know for a fact that that’s, what’s going to happen when the power product is installed.
We can say that our product is a, a safe, alternative to what we have now, again, because of our manufacturing processes before, because of, uh, how we integrate our plants, we can offer the same product at a very high quality, but at a price that is substantially lower than the OEM will turn.
So, okay. So here’s the thing about this subject though. I mean, what you just described in the manufacturing, and as an aftermarket manufacturer, you get to analyze a lot of the OEM performance after they’ve been out into the field for a few years, and then you can reverse engineer some of the issues.
You can actually make your products better than OEM because you learn some lessons that, of course the OEM didn’t get a chance to because they were the first to put the product out. I don’t know that you can actually achieve, if you’re comparing just OEM to aftermarket. Sure. You can achieve a price reduction in your parts acquisition costs, but to this listener’s perspective. And, and to their point, I think what’s important here is to buy the highest quality part available to you at the most competitive price.
So like going with an aftermarket that is O E specify, like up to always specs or even better, but not going with the trying to find cheap parts because cheap parts don’t work, they fail. And then labor downtime a second time back in the shop, all of that stuff adds up to far, far more than just the acquisition cost of the parts. So I don’t think acquisition costs is the primary consideration to achieve what this, this listener is trying to achieve.
And, and, and, uh, one thing that just needs to be mentioned, we have, we are not as strictly a, an aftermarket manufacturer. We also supply several OEMs, uh, around the world. Right. And, uh, so that interaction that we have with OEM, uh, kind of, uh, uh, permeates everything we do, because we know what the OEM is expecting. Uh, but you’re absolutely right. The cost of ownership, which is what every fleet and operator is mostly concerned with, um, uh, is probably the driver of the aftermarket industry today.
Okay. So, uh, everybody’s trying to save a buck and make an extra buck. Right. But there are, there are some, uh, some situations when you need to, to stick to a certain minimum level of, um, of, uh, of quality. And I’ll give an example. We were talking about air Springs a few minutes ago. Um, air Springs are, uh, they come from everywhere, right?
So they’re European, they’re Turkish, uh, manufacturers, uh, uh, um, uh, Mexican manufacturers, American manufacturers, resumed manufacturers, making airbags, um, or air Springs, as I should say.
The difference is how do you, uh, develop your, um, your belt, which is of course, one of the, the most important parts of the, of the Arab spring. What kind of rubber are you using? Do you have your own compound? Do you develop your own compound? Like we do, or do you buy an off the shelf compound?
Do you make your own top plates? You make your pistons in your, your bumper stops like we do. So our air bag is a hundred percent manufactured within our plants. The only thing that we buy are studs and hardware that we shipped together with, uh, with an airbag,
But you’re specking those to a certain specification.
Exactly. So we constantly do comparative testing, uh, with, uh, and also we receive a lot of information from our OEM customers, but we do a lot of, uh, comparative testing with the best brands out there. And we see the same way they do with ours.
We are looking at what other people are doing and what technologies are out there, what materials are being used, and see if we can always, uh, uh, remain at that top-level terms of quality and, uh, uh, value for money, right? So what we’re delivering, and we know that for a fact is a product that we will behave and we will perform, and we will last exactly the same sometimes better than the original OEM.
So we got a comment here from Joe, Joe, so glad to have you with us, my man, nice to hear from you. Um, he said, systems-related comment, replace components and sets air Springs in pairs shocks in pairs. If you’re not, you’re doing the customer a disservice, what do you think about that Philippe? Right.
I agree. I think that, uh, I think that Joe is, uh, is absolutely right. Again,
Doesn’t this go back to Joffrey’s comment about trying to get the lowest cost possible. That’s a little counter intuitive. What Joe’s saying is to, well, replace more parts, but it’s not about the cost of the two parts. It’s about the total cost of what happens if you don’t do it the right way.
Right? So let’s say that we’re talking about a shock absorber, an air spring, or a live spring for that matter. You change one end of the axle. Um, it’s, it’s safe to assume that within the next, uh, you know, a very short period of time, you’re going to have the same problem on the other hand.
So the issue is not only the downtime, uh, that you cannot use your vehicle, but also the labor and the other parts that are going to have to, uh, to replace. The other thing is I think every system in a vehicle works like an orchestra, if you will, pardon my, my analogy here.
So we have all these instruments playing together and trying to produce, uh, a, a harmonious sounds. And, uh, and if one instrument is off key or, or explaining it a different beat or rhythm, you’re going to see that.
And the same thing happens to the system on a truck. So, um, you have a faulty suspension system. You might have issues with your transmission. You have, might have issues with your frame. You might have, uh, tire wear, excessive tire wear, um, and so on and so forth. But within the system and each one of this is whether it’s an engine, uh, uh, or, or a turbo or a, or a transmission.
If you have a faulty component that a defect is going to propagate and start effecting other components within the system. So the more you wait and the more you, uh, you delay that with that maintenance, you might be, uh, facing with a much higher cost, not only in terms of downtime and, and, and, and labor, but also additional parts that are gonna have to, uh, you’re going to have to replace.
So, yes, uh, perhaps there are situations where, uh, the repair of one end of an XO, uh, uh, is sufficient. I would say that in 90% of the cases, it’s not it’s, uh, it’s, uh, it’s been kind of penny wise and dollar foolish year. You will save money on the spot. It’s going to end up costing you a lot more.
That’s right. We see this time and time again, you know, as you were talking about that, it makes me think of the direction that class eight vehicles are going in.
They’re certainly getting more and more complicated. We’re seeing the introduction of all kinds of new technology that are affecting everything from obviously powertrain and, and power source all the way through to drive axles and suspension components.
What is the future going to look like when it comes to our suspension components, as these vehicles get more and more complicated, they get electrified, where are we headed and how is that going to impact the strategy for maintenance and repair on these vehicles?
Right. And, and there are several different ways to look at the same. There’s the answer to this question, right? So the big, uh, big, uh, gorilla in the room here, or the elephant in the room in a room is a, an extra education.
So we’re in the very beginning of the curve, of course, companies like Tesla and Nikola, and it’s a, one are farther advanced in, uh, in product development. And then you’d have other more traditional suppliers out there. Or we am such as Daimler and Volvo that are coming out with products that are transitioning into full electrification.
So there are two ways of looking at this, uh, obviously the more innovative designs, the more revolutionary designs where required different materials. So if we’re looking at steel and aluminum today, and certainly we might be looking at composite or plastics or fiber in the next few years, um, if we’re looking at rubber compounds, so I’ll give an example.
SAMPA is developing together with, uh, with, uh, one of the most pristine prestigious universities in England. We’re developing a new compound, a rubber compound that could be used in a torque rod, or, uh, or a, or a suspension bushing that will change its, um, mechanical properties, uh, according to electric input.
So you’ll have a sensor that is going to be connected to that component, but it will make it harder or more elastic or more flexible, uh, depending on the input that a vehicular computer will send to that particular, uh, uh, uh, component. That’s a little bit of science fiction, right?
It’s, it’s not going to happen next week or next year, but definitely is gonna happen. So we’re looking at traditional products that we will have to be modified such as tires, torque rods, and if Springs, uh, break, uh, brake discs, the forces, the stresses, the speeds that are we going to be working, the weight of the vehicle was might be drastically different.
So there are two schools here. One is totally new such as Tesla and Nikola, and I’m not being paid here. And I don’t, uh, I’m not endorsing any brand or anything like that. And, uh, the other, the other are the transition from current design to innovative designs. And that’s what for instance, Volvo is doing, uh, putting out a new vehicle that is, uh, uh, electric, but using a lot of the same components that are on the, their trucks today on the internal combustion engine trucks.
So like Debbie brings up here loose U bolts are the biggest cause of bushing and leaf air spring and air spring failures. So when we’re trying to help technicians serve the customers that they serve owner-operators and fleets and help them save money, make their suspension.
We go from advice like this that is mechanical all the way through to these new technologies. So can you share with us something maybe that technicians don’t know about chassis-related products or suspension-related products that they need to know? Let’s give them something of value. And then we’ll talk a little bit about, uh, the wider range of products that Sampa manufacturers, so drop, drop a value bomb on us.
Okay. So I would like to, uh, to, uh, to use Debbie’s comment, uh, as a, as a hook U-boats right. And relatively inexpensive product that you, uh, that you, uh, uh, use in basically every suspension today. I, I cannot think of the top of my hat of any suspension. It doesn’t have at least a pair of, uh, U-boats in, uh, on it.
And one thing that people do not remember to do and often don’t do it frequently enough is to check the torque of the torque rods on the toxin. I apologize, uh, the U-boats on the inner suspension.
So every time you do a repair every time for regardless of how minor this repair is, you need to, retorque your torque, rod, your, um, your U bolts. Okay. That is very important. And you have to measure that, uh, that torque on, um, uh, with, with the proper equipment, but also do it periodically those U bolts coming loose.
And that’s absolutely right here will, uh, generate catastrophic failures for all kinds of other parts. Uh, she mentions, I think, a leaf Springs, uh, but that will also affect the torque rods. We will affect the weldments or the hangers and the equalizers will affect the axle will affect, uh, uh, airbags as our air Springs and of course, shock absorbers.
So, uh, it’s, uh, it’s a, it’s a maintenance procedure that is very, uh, very easy to perform. And, um, and that, if not, then, so not done properly can cause tremendous problems to the vehicle, as a whole to the suspension system.
Oh, sorry, go ahead, Felipe.
I just want to say, um, there will be such procedures, perhaps different designs in, uh, of, uh, U-boats in the future. Maybe the lift Springs are going to change. They’re going to be, uh, uh, fully composite as they are in certain applications in Europe already. Uh, but other than that, these, uh, uh, uh, recommended practices will only have to be adapted to new designs, but they will persist and, uh, be part of our routine and the operator’s routine
That the fundamentals will remain the same.
The fundamentals are always the same.
Yeah, so Felipe, you sell over 40,000 parts, 138 countries. You operate 11 factories. Uh, we’ve talked about suspension today, but what other product categories does Sampa manufacturer, just so people are aware of the width and depth and breadth of product that you actually manufactured.
Uh, so, um, we, we do manufacturer, uh, let me backtrack a little bit here. So some has been around, um, and, uh, manufacturing products for over 50 years now. Uh, we only have relatively recently come into the United States as a company set up over operations in north America, have our warehouses, uh, in, uh, in the United States. Um, and, uh, what do we do in America is a little bit different than what are we doing in Europe?
And I’ll give you an example, in addition to a full steering program, suspension, uh, programs in some, uh, some, uh, um, axle and transmission, uh, components. Uh, we have been selling in Europe, uh, a full range of a fifth wheel, um, uh, products, not only the top lights, but also, uh, ancillary products.
So we sell not only the top plates we sell, um, uh, the kingpin for the fifth wheel and we sell repair kits for fifth wheels, right? So we have a full range. We develop the range, uh, for the American market. So these are probably, probably right now, the only above-frame products that we sell in North America.
Everything else we sell here, uh, is steering suspension and, uh, XO interest mission-related. So all below frame, the only items that we sell are, uh, fifth wheels above frame would be fifth wheels, uh, uh, kingpins, uh, the fifth wheel kingpin and the, and the repair kits for fifth wheels.
So you have, uh, you also have those connection management parts, as well as all.
Yeah. It’s not a full, uh, connection, uh, uh, program only related to the fifth pills. Right.
Makes sense. Makes sense. So what, what’s happening in the trucking industry that’s got you excited?
Well, um, I think that we’re, we are, we’re going through a very interesting process, uh, that is a challenge for everybody. Uh, there’s new technology being introduced into the market. Of course, we do the qualification, but also other challenges like, uh, um, uh, uh, weight reduction, which is something that has been, uh, in our, uh, you know, reminds are ready for the past 10, 15 years and continues being an issue, um, and a challenge.
So we, our relationships with, uh, with our OEMs, that’s often a topic of conversation. How can we reduce, um, a vehicle or weight so that we can have more paid weight on the, um, on the platform, right? So there are new technologies coming out. Uh, there only certain things that it can divulge here, because some of them are still under, under, uh, uh, uh, research and development. But we are looking at new materials for torque rods.
We’re looking at new materials for, um, for, um, uh, hangers and, uh, equalizers for the primarily trailer suspensions that will significantly generate cost reduction and as well as weight reduction. And that is something that are going to be introducing into the market in the next couple of years. Great. So that is very exciting.
The other interesting thing is, uh, how we’ve, um, we’ve managed to, uh, develop a very interesting, um, uh, network of distributors here in North American in relatively short periods of time. And we’re very happy, uh, uh, with the results so far for Sampa, we are beginning to be noticed.
We are beginning to be, uh, uh, recognized as a supplier of, uh, a quality brand product at very competitive prices. And, um, and I don’t think that for the past few months, we’ve gone one day without signing up new distributors in, uh, in this, uh, in this markets, both in the US and in Canada,
You’ve been watching The Heavy-Duty Parts Report live today. My name is Jamie Irvine, and we’ve been speaking with Felipe Bumagny, president of Sampa USA. To learn more visit sampa.com. Felipe, thank you so much for being on the show. I have a feeling with some of those new products coming. You’ll be back on the show in the future.
I hope so. My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
All right. Take care.
So this brings another edition of The Heavy-Duty Parts Report live stream to a conclusion. Thank you so much to the audience today. What a great outpouring of support for today’s episode, such quality comments from some, some new people, and some old friends of the show. So thank you so much.
Next week, we’re going to be getting into a new, a new format for the live stream a little bit. We’re going to be doing some more analysis of what’s going on in the industry. What’s going on with specific parts-related issues that are affecting the trucking industry.
We’re going to be talking about some of those things, so make sure that you come back next week and tune into another live stream.
Thank you so much. We’ll talk to you next week.