Air Management Systems
While other parts of an air suspension do the physical work of reading the road height, generating air, and keeping the ride at the proper height, it’s the air management system that makes it all work. This system regulates the air that goes in and out of the system, making sure that it's being used in the proper amounts at the proper times.
What are Air Management Systems?
To understand what air management systems are, it helps to understand how an air suspension works. These active suspension systems respond to changes in the road and can make bumps and dips in the surface unnoticeable to drivers. Here’s a brief description of the process.
- Ride height sensors take a constant mechanical reading of where your vehicle’s body is relative to the road. They relay this information to the suspension control module.
- The suspension computer uses this information to determine which air springs need to be inflated or deflated. It instructs the compressor to generate the amount of air needed.
- Your suspension’s air compressor generates the amount of air needed. This air is delivered to the reserve tank.
- Simultaneously, air is pushed out of the reserve tank through the supply lines and into the air spring, where it inflates to increase resistance. If the spring needs less air, it will release it instead to reduce the resistance.
- The process cycles continuously.
As you can see, this is a complex process. And complex processes require management. That’s where air management systems come in. In that sense, you can think of them like the boss of your air suspension, making sure that air goes where it needs to go and does what it needs to do.
What Makes Up an Air Management System?
While it isn’t quite true that no two air management systems are alike, they do vary quite a bit, both in terms of function and what’s included. These systems tend to fall into a few different categories.
OE Replacement Air Management
If your car has an air management system that is failing or isn’t working up to your standards anymore, you can buy a replacement system designed to fit your vehicle. These are designed to match the fit and function of your original equipment parts and typically used as a 1:1 replacement.
Lift Kit Air Management
Some air systems are built to provide a lift for a vehicle, rather than simply serve as a suspension. These kits allow drivers to raise or lower part or all of the vehicle for different purposes. The air management systems for these kinds of kits require the ability for the user to control the air pressure.
Performance Air Management
For drivers who enjoy maximum control, performance air management systems allow the user to adjust resistance to fit different driving situations. Softer suspensions with longer travel are typically much better in off-road situations, for example, whereas a stiffer suspension offers better handling and response on the road.
Manual Air Management
Some air management systems use manual switches that allow the driver to make adjustments. These controls are usually mounted somewhere in the dash or center area of the vehicle. Some come with the ability to establish height presets and profiles.
Wireless Air Management
For people who want a little more of a technical solution, some newer air management systems pair with phones and apps to offer advanced controls, typically via a Bluetooth connection. Drivers can not only control their air suspension systems with wireless air management tools, but can also get readouts of their system’s status. Some even include diagnostic tools in their apps.
How to Pick the Best Air Management System
Some companies make better air management systems than others, but on the surface it can be hard to tell the difference. Here are a few things to look out for:
- Material quality: If a manufacturer lists the materials they use in an air management system, they are confident that they are the right ones to use. If they don’t, they may be trying to hide something.
- Reputable manufacturing: There are plenty of great manufacturers overseas, but companies that make their products in the USA have greater oversight over production and can therefore ensure greater quality control.
- Everything included: Some companies try to undercut the competition’s prices by not including hardware and other incidental items in an air management kit, passing that cost onto the customer. A good company will provide everything you need to complete an installation.