Air suspension systems have become all the rage among off-roaders. They provide a great deal of versatility when it comes to tackling rough terrain, but they also come with some serious drawbacks.
If you’re curious about how air suspension works and if it’s right for your vehicle then this is the article for you! I’ll go over exactly what an air suspension system is, what benefits it offers as well as its limitations. I’ll also take a look at the different parts that comprise air suspension systems. Finally, I’ll conclude with some recommendations on how to best utilize this technology so that you get the most out of it without any drawbacks.
What is an Air Suspension System?
An air suspension system is a collection of components that work in conjunction with one another in order to provide height adjustment for your vehicle. Most commonly, these systems use compressed air as their inflation medium. In some cases, hydraulic fluid can be used instead of air but this article will focus on the more common system which utilizes air.
Types of Air Suspension Systems
There are two main types of air suspension systems: linear and dual stage. The type you have on your vehicle will depend on the make and model. I’ll take a look at both below.
Linear Air Springs (or Monotube)
The linear or monotube air spring is by far the most common type found in modern vehicles. It’s also known as a twin-tube design because it consists of two separate tubes, one inside the other. In this design, compressed air is trapped between these two tubes and acts as the suspension’s spring. When weight is applied to the vehicle, the springs are compressed which results in a lowering of the vehicle’s chassis.
Dual Stage Air Springs (or Twin-Tubes)
The dual-stage or twin-tube system is another type that can be found on some vehicles. This system is essentially the same as the linear or monotube system with one key difference; it has an additional buffer tube. This buffer tube allows for greater load capacity, but it does add some extra weight to the system.
Air Suspension System Components
Now that we’ve covered what an air suspension is and how it works let’s take a look at the various components of this system. The first component is the compressor. Then, there are 1-piece aluminium air tanks, suspension springs, dampers and the control module. The compressor is what inflates the air springs in order to raise the vehicle’s chassis when needed. In some cases, 1-piece aluminium air tanks be used instead of the main tank in order to provide extra lift height or adjustability. The air tank is where all of your compressed air will reside when not in use. This helps prevent loss of pressure due to leaks which can lead to inconsistent performance.
The suspension dampers are responsible for controlling movement. Next up is the relay valve which controls how much pressure is delivered to the springs. In order to provide height adjustment, the springs themselves are present in most cases. Finally, the control module is what monitors all of the components in order to provide consistent performance and load capacity. This can be either an electronic or a mechanical component depending on the vehicle you have. Air Spring Benefits
Benefits of Air Suspension
Now that we’ve looked at what an air suspension system is, how it works as well as its various parts let’s take a look at some of the benefits this type of technology offers. The first benefit is added versatility when it comes to off-roading. When you’re out on the trail, you never know what type of obstacles you’re going to come across. Having a suspension system that can handle all types of terrain is definitely an advantage when it comes to off-roading.
Next up is added load capacity. The air springs themselves are capable of handling more weight than regular coil spring systems due to the fact that they have no limit on their load capacity. This means that if your vehicle has heavier components such as spare tires or in some cases even extra passengers then you’ll be able to take advantage of the added load capacity that air springs offer.
Finally, when it comes to installation and maintenance, air suspension systems are definitely more convenient than their coil spring counterparts. They’re also much less expensive which is another big benefit. Air Suspension Drawbacks
Drawbacks of Air Suspension
As with everything in life, there are certainly some drawbacks to having an air suspension system on your vehicle. One of these drawbacks is the fact that you have to constantly keep the compressor running in order for the springs to inflate and raise your vehicle. If the compressor is off for more than 5 minutes, then the springs will lose all of their pressure and you’ll have to start over again with inflating them when you need to adjust the height of your vehicle.
Another drawback is that air springs can’t be used in conjunction with jerry-rigged lift kits or other types of aftermarket modifications due to the fact that they require a constant source of power. This means that if you’re trying to install a lift kit or other off-road modifications such as running bigger tires you won’t be able to use an air suspension system in conjunction with these modifications.
Finally, one of the biggest drawbacks that people run into when it comes to air suspension systems is their inability to handle heavy loads. This means that if you need your vehicle to carry more than 1300 kgs then this could be problematic for you. In addition, if you’re running heavier components such as spare tires then you might want to look into a different type of suspension system that can handle the extra load.