Air Ride Suspension

15 April 2021

Air Ride Suspension System

The United States developed the air suspension system during World War II specifically for heavy aircraft. The original purpose of air suspension was to save weight with a compact construction.

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The United States developed the air suspension system during World War II specifically for heavy aircraft. The original purpose of air suspension was to save weight with a compact construction. Back then, air suspension systems were also used in other aircraft and some heavy trucks to achieve a self-leveling suspension. This would ultimately result in a vehicle with an axle height independent of the weight of a vehicle’s cargo.

Ultimately, the air ride suspension system offers several benefits and drawbacks for drivers who rely on larger trucks and vehicles to carry heavy loads.

What Is an Air Ride Suspension System?

Air bag suspension kits are a somewhat common choice for pickup truck owners who might need a little extra suspension support for towing and hauling applications. But it might pay off to dig a bit deeper before deciding that this set up is right for you. With brands like Air Lift and Ride Rite, air bag suspension technology has been around for years and many people just default to this type of set up because it is all they know. Doing due diligence by researching and you might find that perhaps other product such as the Roadmaster Active Suspension kit might be a better match for your needs.

### **How Do Air Bags Work?**

The air bag suspension system essentially works like a balloon. The concept is designed to resist the weight of the frame of the vehicle, pump air in to keep the truck from squatting, and let air out when you’re not towing. By doing this, the air bag suspension is essentially taking over for the factory leaf spring suspension with the sole goal of keeping the truck level when loaded. Keep the right pressure in the bags and you should never squat! However, people are beginning to find out that there are much better options for their applications, and here’s why.

Cheap Doesn’t Mean Better – Either Does Expensive

Look at it this way: you’re purchasing a product to solve a problem that you have less than 10% of the time, yet that product could affect you in one way or another the other 90% of the time. Be careful with your choice. When it comes to airbags, whilst they can be one of the cheapest offerings (starting at only a few hundred dollars) they require manual adjustment every time you hook your trailer up, add weight, subtract weight, or unhook your trailer.


Going with the most expensive option with a compressor can set you back north of $1000 when all is said and done. Because of maintenance requirements, risk of leakages and the complicated nature of air bags suspension kits, the user experience is often much more labor/time intensive than many people anticipate, and might not even be best suited to what the truck owner is looking for. Many truck owners spend time researching, hoping to find a simpler, more well rounded solution for their problems, and leave happy after coming across Road master Active air ride suspension.

Road master offers a Better Solution

Ask any pickup truck owner that tows or hauls close to their max payload, or experiences rear squat, and they’ll tell you it can be white knuckle driving at times. Squatting in the rear due to a significant amount of weight is simply a cosmetic issue; sway from crosswinds, instability, body roll, excessive bounce – these all pose a real threat and is what really needs to be addressed. Much of this happens due to the leaf springs being in a flattened and compromised state due to heavy load.

### **A Smarter Choice for Truck Suspension**

Why not work with the existing factory suspension and tackle the issue head on? Roadmaster Active Suspension does exactly that! Instead of resisting the weight at the frame (like an air bag suspension), why not work with the existing leaf springs to strengthen and stabilize the suspension? Better yet, let’s strengthen and stabilize in a progressive manner, so that no adjustment or readjustment is EVER needed.

The more force applied to the leaf spring, the more the Active Suspension system engages to strengthen and stabilize the leaf springs. While the air bag set up is designed to keep your truck from squatting, installing a Roadmaster Active Suspension means more than simply keeping your truck level. Our #1 goal is to provide the most well rounded product, where handling and performance are just as important as keeping the truck level. Greatly reducing squat, sway and bounce, greatly improving stability and handling, and providing an unparalleled ride quality at all times – these are all benefits that thousands of Roadmaster Active Suspension owners already attest to.

An air suspension system is a style of vehicle suspension that’s powered by an electric pump or compressor that pumps air into flexible bellows that are typically made out of a textile-reinforced type of rubber. Additionally, Pro Car Mechanics describes air suspension as a replacement to the leaf suspension or coil spring system with airbags composed of polyurethane and rubber. A compressor inflates the bags to a certain pressure in order to behave like springs. Air suspension also differs from hydropneumatic suspension because it uses pressurized air instead of pressurized liquid.

What’s the Purpose of an Air Ride Suspension System?

In most cases, air suspension is used to achieve a smooth and constant driving quality, but in some instances, sports suspensions feature an air suspension system too. Similarly, air suspension replaces a conventional steel spring suspension in heavier vehicle applications, like trucks, tractor-trailers, passenger buses, and even passenger trains. Air suspension has also become popular in low-riding trucks like this gorgeous 1982 Dodge D200 Camper Special.

What Is Electronically Controlled Air Ride Suspension?

According to the company now known as Dunlop Systems and Components, at the start of the 1990s, Dunlop developed and installed the Electronic Controlled Air Suspension (ECAS) system on the 1993 Range Rover Classic and again on the Range Rover P38A. The United Kingdom-based company developed the ECAS to include several key features: Air ride suspension.

  • Vulcanized, heavy-duty rubber air springs at each of the vehicle’s wheels
  • An air compressor in the vehicle’s trunk or under the hood of the vehicle
  • A storage tank for compressed air, which allows you to store air at around an average of 150 PSI
  • Valve blocks which direct air to the four springs from the storage reservoir through a set of solenoids, valves, and o-rings
  • ECAS computer that communicates between the vehicle’s main computer to calculate where to direct air pressure
  • Air pipes connecting from the storage tank to the air springs that channel the flow of air throughout the suspension system
  • A desiccant-filled drier canister to keep the internal recesses of the system dry

The electronically controlled air suspension also features height sensors that are based on sensing resistance in contact with the terrain on all four of the vehicle’s corners to provide height reference for all corners. Additionally, further advancements are beginning to feature some Electronic Control Units (ECUs) that are able to fit under the vehicle’s floorboard, making air suspension more widely featured in everyday driving.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Air Ride Suspension Systems

According to Future Marketing Insights, the total value of the air ride suspension market at the end of 2017 was around $4.3 million. So whether it’s a manual or electronic air ride suspension system, the benefits can greatly improve the ride of the vehicle. Take a look of some of the benefits of air suspension:

  • More driver comfort due to the reduction in noise, harshness, and vibration on the road that can cause driver discomfort and fatigue
  • Less wear and tear on the suspension system due to reduced harshness and vibration of heavy-duty driving
  • Trailers last longer with air ride suspension because the system components don’t take on as much vibration
  • Air ride suspension reduces the tendency of short wheelbase trucks to bounce over rougher roads and terrain when the vehicle is empty
  • Air suspension improves the ride height based on the load weight and a vehicle’s speed
  • Higher corner speeds due to air suspension being better suited to the surface of the road

Air ride suspension increases the transport capabilities of trucks and trailers by providing a better grip that levels the entire suspension. An air ride suspension system can also be adjusted for feel, so drivers can choose between a softer feel for highway cruising or a harder ride for improved handling on more demanding roads.

In the case of hauling heavy loads, air ride suspension offers more consistency and keeps all wheels even. The air suspension system keeps trucks level from side to side, especially in cases where cargo is difficult to level. This results in reduced body roll when turning corners and curves.

Even with the benefits of an air ride suspension system, Driving Tests New Zealand suggests several drawbacks. Some of these disadvantages that so and so reports include:

  • The initial costs of purchasing and installing an air ride suspension system — air ride suspension can also sometimes reach three times the cost in repairs as a leaf suspension system over 10 years’ time
  • Fuel overheads for running compressors for occasionally pumping air to the correct pressure
  • Fuel efficiency can suffer from the heavier weight of air suspension over the weight of leaf suspension
  • An air ride suspension system’s vulnerability to air leaks can result in malfunctions

Some of the drawbacks of air ride suspension systems are because of some of the mechanical issues they can be vulnerable to. Several of the common issues with air suspension systems that can require repair include:

  • Rust or moisture damage from the inside that can lead to the air struts or bags to malfunction
  • Failure of the air suspension tubing connecting the air struts or bags to the air system
  • Air fitting failure resulting from initial fitting or infrequent use
  • Compressor burn out due to air leaks in the springs or air struts from the compressor constantly engaging to maintain the proper air pressure

Even with these common mechanical problems, the benefits can far outweigh the drawbacks.

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