With the enormous range of shocks, springs, coil-overs, spacers, leveling kits, and everything else that is available on the market today, it might be difficult to achieve the “ideal” ride height for your vehicle. The use of an air suspension system is one of the possibilities available. In terms of having a car with no concessions to the aggressive aesthetics of your vehicle at the expense of drivability, air ride systems are the ultimate solution. Then, with the oil pan and undercarriage clearance of a current OEM car, drive it down the road and park it aired down to a height that is generally reserved for automotive culture artists to envision. In order for an air system to function properly, there are a few basic requirements that must be met. You’ll need a compressor, a tank, air lines and connections, and, of course, air bags to complete your setup.
For the back of your project, you can choose from a variety of choices, including a “bag over axle” system, in which your airbag is fastened to a plate on the top of your axle. Additionally, the system can be integrated into an existing triangulated 3-link or standard 4-link configuration. Depending on your suspension, a panhard bar may be required to maintain the rear end centered in the frame and to prevent the vehicle from “walking” from one side to the other when driving. Existing coil over systems that make use of air springs can be simply changed to employ air springs. These shocks, which have an air bag enclosing them, are direct replacements for the stock coil over shocks and can be installed using the same mounting hardware as the stock coil over shocks.
If you have an IFS-style configuration in the front, you can transfer your shock mount to the side or back of the vehicle, essentially replacing the spring with the air bag to reduce drag. Because this phase may require a significant amount of fabrication, it is important to assess your talents before proceeding. If you have a fully equipped shop, as well as lots of time and resources, go for it. If, on the other hand, you’re like me and work on your project whenever you have the opportunity in your backyard, you might want to consider having a shop complete the installation. Typically, the most time-consuming part of the job is welding a plate across the open spring pocket on the lower control arm, which provides a flat mounting surface for the bottom of the air bag. The upper plate of the air spring is often attached to an adaptor cup, which is bolted into the upper spring pocket of the vehicle. It is rather simple to construct, consisting of a round steel tube with an outside diameter that matches the outside diameter of the springs you are removing. A circular disc is welded to one end of the tube and is attached to the top of the air spring by use of a hex wrench. This cup is designed to tuck into the space in the frame that formerly housed the top of the coil spring when not in use. When the air bag is inflated, it works as a spacer, keeping it away from potential rubbing points and allowing the vehicle to maintain its stock ride height. This spacer is utilized to select the range of ride heights that are accessible because extended air bags are typically 3-5″ shorter overall than a compressed coil spring.
The location of the compressors and the routing of the air lines are entirely up to the individual. Engine-mounted belt-driven compressors are available in both stand-alone and engine-mounted electric configurations. Each has its own set of advantages as well as cons. While less expensive, electric devices are noisier than belt-driven units, and while engine-driven machines provide a steady supply of air, they are significantly more expensive and complex to operate. Tanks work in the same way; you can get a large tank to exhibit or a smaller tank such as a 3 gallon, 4 gallon, or 5 gallon tank to tuck away in a corner. Many vendors offer a variety of air tank designs, with one suitable for any use. More tank volume means less time spent by compressors refilling them, whereas smaller tank volume means less time spent concealing them.
The air ride system is controlled by means of a portable controller and electronic solenoid valves, which are located throughout the vehicle. The controller controls the opening and closing of the valve, allowing air pressure to enter or depart the air spring according on the controller’s selection. Speedway offers a variety of controller designs ranging from the simple to the complicated. Through a computer, these systems can repeat preset heights while also maintaining consistent ride heights on a vehicle. With the help of data capturing devices, this system keeps track of how high the car is traveling. In other words, you can park the car at your specified cruise height, load up the car with 5 buddies, and the air system will automatically adjust, adding air pressure to keep the car in the same position without ever pressing a button. Although air suspension has come a long way since its origin, the user interface and feel provided by these systems are more in line with that of a current luxury car than the early systems, which regularly broke down or moved abruptly, much like a carnival ride.
Modern Smooth Air Ride Systems