Last Updated on Friday, 10 September 2010 15:16
What is an airbag or airspring?
An airbag and an airspring are the same thing spelled differently. It is a spring constructed of rubber and a high strength fabric. Numerous styles, sizes, and capacity ratings are available. The load capacity and ride height are varied by the air pressure in the airspring.
Are these airsprings durable and safe?
Our airsprings are made to our specs by Firestone, the world's largest airspring manufacturer. They are used on large semi-trucks, off road equipment, luxury cars, and also in industrial machinery, conveyer systems, and load stabilizers. We recently sold an airspring to replace a unit that had been in service for 17 years! (The endplate had rusted out!) Failure can happen, but it is extremely rare. We require that the vehicle have at least 2" of ground clearance when the airspring is fully deflated. This helps prevent a major problem in case of a system failure.
How much ride height adjustment will I have?
Depending on the weight of the vehicle, suspension type, and airspring selection, usually 4" to 5" in the front and 5" to 6" in the rear. We typically set an airbag suspension to ride within 2" of the stock ride height.
How long does it take to raise the ride height?
Again it depends on several factors. A 4 way RidePro™ system can be as quick as two seconds, a BigRed™ MAX system can raise your car in under one second!
What about varying loads such as people, luggage, trailer, etc?
No problem. Simply increase the air pressure until the ride height and ride quality are satisfactory. When the load is removed, release the air pressure to restore your ride height.
How is the ride quality?
Wonderful! If you closed your eyes, you would swear that you were in a new luxury car. The ride quality is also adjustable to your taste from inside the vehicle. (Try that with a coilover or leaf spring!)
How difficult is the installation?
This varies greatly from vehicle to vehicle. Most installations can be accomplished with a bare minimum of fabrication. (Some are even bolt-on.) Two guys with a little equipment should be able to install the system in a weekend.
Do you make a system for my car?
We are in continual development of new systems. If we don't make a system for your specific vehicle, we can probably assist you in adapting one of our present systems. There are very few vehicles that are not compatible with an air ride suspension.
What happens to the front wheel alignment?
The vehicle is aligned at ride height. That is the height that you want the car to go down the highway. Take note of the air pressure at this point. Whenever the system is returned to this pressure, your ride height and alignment return also.
Can I drive the car 'slammed' with no air in the airsprings?
Yes, but the ride quality is zero. You'll probably want to reserve this for parking and fairgrounds cruising. It won't hurt the airsprings, but it may hurt your back! Caution: If you are going to drive the car 'slammed', pay very close attention to ground clearance and tire clearance. There is a lot of difference between laying the oil pan on the ground and dragging it on the ground!
After the purchase of your new air ride suspension system, a whole new set of questions usually arises. These are a few of the most recently asked questions.
I don't have motor or trans or most of the weight on my car yet. How will I know where my ride height will be?
That's the beauty of the air ride suspension! The final weight of the car will be compensated for with the final air pressure. For example, if your car weighs 1000 lbs. on the front with no motor or trans, it may only take 50 psi. to get the car to ride height. When you install the drivetrain, the weight may go to 1700 lbs. Then the air pressure may go to 80 psi. at ride height. Ride height is ride height, no matter what the weight.
Should I put the rear airspring in front or behind the axle?
The airspring will offer slightly more travel in front of the axle and offer slightly more load capacity behind the axle. If towing capacity is an issue, place them behind the axle. If ride height adjustment is of more importance, put them in front. The difference is not that great so in the real world, place them where there is the most room.
Is one tank enough? Do I have to run a tank? Do I really have to run a compressor?
A compressor and tank is highly recommended on a full air ride system. Theoretically, you can just inflate the airsprings to a specific pressure and go down the road. But without the compressor system, you give up the ability to fine tune the system for the best ride quality. You may also lose the ability to compensate for extra passengers, luggage or other loads. A 2 gallon tank is usually enough for most cars to achieve ride height one time before the compressor kicks on. A larger tank or multiple tanks will speed up the rise time. Some of the truck guys even prefer multiple compressors.
What about air transfer when cornering?
It can range from undetectable in a light car with good shocks and a swaybar to being a major problem in a tall heavy car with soft shocks and no swaybar. If you have any doubt...install the 4 way control system that will prevent any air transfer. The only compromise is a little extra cost and the benefits are many... better handling, faster rise time, simpler plumbing.
Why does my car lean?
There are several reasons why a vehicle could lean. Unequal weight, binding suspension component, unequal mount installation, and a twisted frame are just a few things to look for. The inherent softer spring rate of an airbag will allow a vehicle that didn't lean with a mechanical spring to lean with the airspring. Swaybars tend to help this problem greatly. Sometimes the ultimate solution is to install a 4 way control system to compensate for the lean. This is the equivalent to cranking up a coilover on one side or the other to level the car. (Ask any professional car builder how many times he has done this!)
Why doesn't my car ride any better than it did before?
Although an air ride suspension will supply the best ride your car can offer, its mere presence can't perform miracles. Play with the air pressure in small increments. Don't be afraid to crank some air into it! It is far more common to have too little air pressure than too much. The installed heights of the airsprings are a starting point for tuning. You may find that your car rides better 1/2" higher or lower than the published installed height. Also, give the vehicle some time to 'break in'. Any new suspension will need 1000 miles or so to loosen up and ride well.
Why does my car leak down overnight?
If your car leaks down, spray the connections with soapy water to find where the air is going. Start at the control panel and search until you see bubbles. Be sure to do all the connections. There may be more than one leak. A leak that takes more than 3 or 4 days to leak down is especially tough to locate. Try over-inflating to 100 psi. to find these leaks. The airline connections are normally trouble free, but the more they are disassembled, the more prone they are to leakage.
How can I get my car up faster?
More or larger tanks, larger airlines, more or larger air valves, more compressors, higher pressure. All of these will get your car up faster. The compromises are cost, complexity, and durability of the components.
How much air pressure should I run in my car?
This depends on several factors. Weight, type of suspension, size of airspring, and even how the airspring is mounted. The real dimension to be concerned with is the installed height of the airspring. Inflate the system until the airspring is at its recommended installed height. This usually means raising the car 3" - 4" from being bottomed out. You can then adjust the air pressure in small increments to find the best ride quality.
What about the front end alignment?
After adjusting the air pressure as outlined above, align the car at that ride height. Make a mental note of the air pressure on the gauge. When you return the car to that air pressure, the alignment also returns. After driving the car for a few hundred miles, you may want to recheck the alignment, especially if you have selected a significantly different air pressure than the original alignment pressure.