You may have heard of air suspensions before, but how much do you really know about them? These active suspension systems can be a complex mystery, even to people who have one in their vehicle.
In this article, we take a deep dive into air suspension systems, including what they are, what their pros and cons are, and the best way to fix them. Keep reading to discover more.
What Is an Air Suspension?
An air suspension is a type of active suspension system. Unlike the more traditional passive coil suspensions, active suspensions adjust the resistance to adapt to changes in the road. In an air suspension, the resistance is provided by pressurized air pumped into and out of the air springs.
How an Air Suspension Works
There are a few steps that need to happen in order for an air suspension to work. These include:
- Mechanical ride height sensors at each wheel take a constant reading of the road height and send this information to the suspension control module.
- The active suspension control module — or the computer for your air suspension — uses that data to determine how much air each spring needs to keep the ride level. It then instructs the compressor on how much air to generate based on that data.
- The air compressor generates pressurized air and pushes it into the reserve tank. Meanwhile, air from the reserve tank is pushed out of the tank and into the supply lines.
- Air travels through the supply lines and into the air struts, where it inflates them to provide suspension resistance.
Why Is Your Air Suspension Important?
Your car’s suspension is one of its most vital components. It serves several purposes.
Your car’s suspension is the link between its body and the wheels. It allows you to control where the car is going and helps keep it balanced going through turns. A quality air suspension provides a good balance of responsiveness and shock absorption.
The air suspension in your vehicle is also what makes it comfortable to drive. Because it can respond to changes in the road surface, it eliminates much of the shock from those changes. Without it, you’d feel every bump or dip in the road.
Your air suspension is also one of your car’s primary safety features. In addition to allowing you to handle your vehicle and keeping it on the road, it also allows it to stop safely.
Your brakes are what stop your wheels from turning, but it's your suspension that absorbs much of the force of bringing a vehicle to a stop quickly. That’s why cars with worn out air suspensions can take much longer to come to a stop, even if the brakes are in good working order.
Advantages and Drawbacks
Air suspensions have become increasingly popular over the last few decades. As the technology behind them continues to improve and get more affordable, more manufacturers are using them in their vehicles.
While these systems have a lot of clear advantages, they do have some downsides as well.
Air Suspension Pros
- Comfort: The feel an air suspension provides for the driver is unrivaled. When working properly, it should offer a smooth, cloudlike ride.
- Adaptability: Active suspensions are responsive, meaning they can adjust based on what’s going on with your car. This doesn’t stop with changes in road surfaces, either. Modern air suspensions can also redistribute your car’s weight as you go around corners.
- Wear and tear: An air suspension in good working order will minimize the impact of driving on your vehicle. That can translate to a longer lifetime for many other parts.
Air Suspension Cons
- Durability: Because they use moving parts and flexible materials, air suspensions are prone to wearing out over time.
- Expense: Repairing or replacing air suspension components is a costly endeavor. Some specialty components such as air struts or a compressor can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
- Complexity: With so many parts, it can be hard to find the source of an air suspension problem. This can translate to having to pay more in general for labor than you would with a traditional passive suspension.
Easy Fixes for Air Suspensions
The best time to fix your air suspension is the moment you notice a problem. Air suspension issues, like most car issues, only get worse over time. There are a few things you can do to fix your air ride a little more easily.
Look for Early Warning Signs of a Bad Air Suspension
The sooner you spot an air suspension issue, the easier it is to fix. There’s also less of a chance that the problem has spread to other parts of your vehicle. Here are a few things to look for:
- Sagging appearance: Your car should either be level or slightly higher in the rear than in the front. If any part of the vehicle sits lower than it should, you probably have an air suspension problem.
- Long stops: If your brakes are in good shape but your car takes longer to stop than it should, the suspension is likely to blame. This is a huge safety risk, so be sure to jump on it if you notice this.
- Noisy compressor: You’ll hardly be able to hear your air compressor if things are all good with your air suspension. If you hear it running or struggling, there’s likely a problem.
- Fails the bounce test: One way to actively look for suspension issues is to push down on each corner of the vehicle. It should pop back into place right away. If it takes a while or bounces up and down before settling, you likely have an issue at that corner.
Try Cleaning Parts First
Sometimes components aren’t functioning properly because they’re just dirty. Dirt, grease, and other materials can build up over time inside of the system, especially in the compressor. If you notice your system isn’t as efficient as it should be, see if cleaning some dirty or clogged components helps before spending money on fixing things.
Replace, Rather Than Repair Components
It may be cheaper short-term to repair components rather than fix them, but you’ll likely end up spending more over time if you do. Once parts start to fail, it’s only a matter of time before they fail completely — even if you repair them.
It’s very likely that you’ll eventually have to come back to repair or replace a component anyway. Getting it over with now cuts out at least one round of labor and is usually a quicker job than many repairs.
Why Our Air Suspensions Are Better
Not every air suspension manufacturer makes its products to the same standards. There are plenty out there who are happy to cut corners to make a quick buck.
But as one of the industry’s leading air suspension producers, we know that your ride and your safety depend on the fit and quality of your system. That’s why we are proud to offer the following on every single one of our kits and components:
- Premium materials: It’s easy to save a little money by using cheaper alloys, rubber and other materials that look similar enough but are inferior. All of our products are made with the right materials for the job, ensuring durability you can trust.
- Quality manufacturing: How your air suspension parts are made is also important. That’s why we only carry products from manufacturers that keep a close eye on their factories and conduct regular QA assessments.
- Precision engineering: When it comes to the fit of suspension parts, we don’t think “good enough” is good enough. Every product we carry has been designed and tested to be a perfect fit for the vehicle it’s meant to be installed on.
- Customer service: You shouldn’t have any issues with any kits or components you buy from us, but we’re here to help just in case. During business hours you can reach our representatives over the phone or via the chat on the right hand side of the screen. After hours, you can leave a message with the chat bot and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
While this isn’t absolutely everything you can know about air suspensions, it’s almost everything you might need to know as a car owner. Armed with your new knowledge, you can make more informed decisions about how to repair or replace your air suspension.