Air suspension systems are fantastic but the technology is pricey and complex. However, in the last decade or so, the systems have migrated to the world of lower cost transportation. Let’s take a closer look at air suspension systems!
Early types of air suspensions
The early versions of air suspension systems were simple and lacked electronic control. Essentially, they were shock absorbers with rubber bags. The bags were inflated to the correct height by an external compressor through a valve on the bag.
The next advancement was an on-board compressor that let the driver increase or decrease the airbag pressure on the fly. More serious systems added an air tank to provide an even transition between pressures and provide pressure when need be.
Standard suspension systems
The standard automotive suspension system is a design from the past. It was built for an average ride, whether it be via a car or truck. The issue is that every time you add or take away weight to a vehicle, slow down or speed up, or turn to the right or left, the suspension system has to cope with the changes. Unfortunately, this is tough because every driving situation is different.
How air suspensions work
First off, engineers have no choice but to create suspension systems for an aggregate average, even though we mentioned that all driving situations are different! However, the systems essentially replace a car’s metal coil springs with air bags. The air bags are made of tough rubber and are inflated to a certain pressure to mimic a standard coil spring’s action. However, the similarities end there. By adding in an on-board air compressor, many electronic controls and sensors, today’s air suspension systems can reach to road conditions. The result is a truck or car that handles and rides extremely well.
These are managed through electronic control modules. The modules receive information through a tons of inputs, including ride-height sensors, accelerometers and speed sensors. They then take this information and control the pressure in each of the air bags. The result? A consistent ride regardless of the driving conditions and weight of occupants and luggage.
Yes, you can purchase and install an electronic suspension unit yourself but choosing one can be a hard task. There are a number of manufacturers selling a huge number of components in a bewildering combination of quality and quantity. There are companies offer total suspension overhaul kits, where everything from tie rods to shocks to control arms are replaced with high-end components.
Air suspension system kits are not for the casual handy person to install but if you are up for a challenge they should yield impressive performance. For more information on these systems, there are a multitude of manufacturers websites that have complete instruction manuals and other documents for you to review.
Thank you very much to the Service Manager at Paul Conte Chevrolet, a full-service car dealer in Freeport, NY, for chatting with us about air suspension systems!
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