How to Adjust Air Bag Suspension: An Easy Guide
What is Air Bag Suspension?
Air bag suspension, also known as air springs or bellows, is a type of vehicle suspension powered by an air pump or compressor. This system is common in many vehicles, including cars and trucks. Unlike traditional coil or leaf springs, air suspension allows for adjustable ride height and spring rate, providing a smoother ride, better handling, and a customizable look. Vigor offers passenger car air suspension kits and air springs that include everything you need to install an air suspension system, including airbags, compressors, and valves. To understand more about how air suspension works, you can read our article here.
How to Adjust Air Bag Suspension
Understand Your System's Settings
Before you adjust your air bag suspension, it's crucial to understand your system's settings. Air bag suspension systems vary in complexity, from simple mechanical paddles to computerized controllers with built-in pressure sensors. Knowing how your system operates will allow you to make adjustments effectively. For example, some systems may have a button for automatic adjustments, while others may require manual adjustments.
Check the Vehicle's Current Height
The next step in adjusting your air bag suspension is to check the vehicle's current height. This can be done by measuring the distance from the ground to a fixed point on the vehicle, such as the front bumper. The ride height will vary depending on the air pressure in the air bags and the weight distribution of the vehicle. For instance, a truck with a heavy load in the trunk may sit lower than a car with no load.
Adjust the Air Pressure
Adjusting the air pressure in the air bags will change the vehicle's ride height. The more air you pump in, the higher the vehicle will sit. Conversely, reducing the air pressure will lower the vehicle. This adjustment can be made using the system's controller or manually with a pump. It's important to note that the air system should be checked for leaks before making any adjustments.
Test Drive the Vehicle
After adjusting the air pressure, it's important to test drive the vehicle. This will allow you to feel the changes in ride quality and handling. If the vehicle is not performing as desired, further adjustments may be necessary. For example, if the vehicle is experiencing excessive body roll in corners, the air pressure may need to be increased.
Recheck the Vehicle's Height
After the test drive, recheck the vehicle's height. If the vehicle is not at the desired height, further adjustments may be necessary. This could involve adding or removing air from the air bags, or adjusting other components of the suspension system, such as the shocks and struts.
Make Further Adjustments if Necessary
If the vehicle is not performing as desired after the test drive, further adjustments may be necessary. This could involve adding or removing air from the air bags, or adjusting other components of the suspension system, such as the height control valve.
Regularly Monitor and Adjust as Needed
Regular monitoring and adjustment of your air bag suspension system is crucial for maintaining optimal performance and ride quality. Changes in load, road conditions, or vehicle usage may require adjustments to the air pressure or other components of the system. For instance, if you frequently carry heavy loads in the trunk, you may need to adjust the air pressure more often.
Steps to Measure the Ride Height
To measure the ride height, you will need a measuring tape and a flat, level ground. You may also need additional tools or parts, such as a suspension pump or air tank, depending on your system.
Find a Level Surface
To accurately measure the ride height, find a level surface. This will ensure that the measurements are accurate and not skewed by uneven ground. For example, a parking lot or garage floor would be a suitable location.
Unload the Vehicle
Before measuring the ride height, unload the vehicle. This includes removing any passengers and cargo. The weight of these items can affect the ride height. For instance, if you have a lot of stuff in the trunk, it could lower the vehicle's height.
Check Tire Pressure
Check the tire pressure before measuring the ride height. Incorrect tire pressure can affect the ride height and the overall performance of the air suspension system. For example, if the tires are underinflated, the vehicle may sit lower than it should.
Measure the Ride Height
Using the measuring tape, measure the distance from the ground to a fixed point on the vehicle. This could be the bottom of the front bumper, the wheel well, or another point. Be sure to measure from the same point on both sides of the vehicle to ensure accurate measurements.
Compare the measurements to the manufacturer's specifications or your desired ride height. If the measurements are off, adjustments may be necessary. For example, if the rear of the vehicle is sitting lower than the front, you may need to increase the air pressure in the rear air bags.
Compare to Manufacturer Specifications
Compare your measurements to the manufacturer's specifications. If the ride height is not within the specified range, adjustments may be necessary. For instance, if the vehicle is sitting too low, it could be a sign of a problem with the air suspension system, such as a leak or a faulty valve.
Steps to Adjust Air Springs and Damper Settings
To adjust the air springs and damper settings, you will need the vehicle manual, a suspension pump for the air springs, and an adjustment tool for the damper settings. Some suspension systems may come with their own adjuster. You may also need additional parts or fittings, depending on your system.
Refer to the Vehicle Manual
The vehicle manual will provide specific instructions for adjusting the air springs and damper settings. It's important to follow these instructions to ensure proper adjustment and avoid damaging the suspension system. For example, the manual may specify a minimum and maximum air pressure for the air bags.
Measure Current Ride Height
Before making any adjustments, measure the current ride height. This will provide a baseline for your adjustments and help you determine how much adjustment is necessary. For instance, if the vehicle is sitting too low, you may need to increase the air pressure.
Adjust Air Springs
Use the suspension pump to adjust the air pressure in the air springs. Increasing the air pressure will raise the ride height, while decreasing the air pressure will lower the ride height. Be sure to adjust the air pressure according to the manufacturer's specifications to avoid damaging the air bags.
Use the adjustment tool to adjust the damper settings. The damper settings control the rate at which the air springs compress and rebound, affecting the vehicle's handling and ride quality. For example, a stiffer damper setting will reduce body roll in corners, while a softer setting will provide a more comfortable ride.
After making adjustments, test drive the vehicle to assess the changes. If the vehicle is not performing as desired, further adjustments may be necessary. For instance, if the vehicle is experiencing excessive body roll or the ride is too harsh, you may need to adjust the damper settings.
Fine-tuning the air springs and damper settings may be necessary to achieve the desired ride height and performance. This involves making small adjustments and testing the vehicle after each adjustment. For example, you may need to adjust the air pressure in small increments until you achieve the desired ride height.
Finding the Correct Air Pressure for Optimal Performance
The correct air pressure for optimal performance will vary depending on the vehicle and the desired ride height and handling characteristics. Experiment with different air pressures to find the one that provides the best performance for your vehicle. For instance, a truck may require a higher air pressure than a car to handle heavy loads.
The Importance of Proper Ride Height
Proper ride height is crucial for optimal vehicle performance and safety. It affects the vehicle's handling, stability, and ground clearance, as well as the comfort of the ride. Incorrect ride height can lead to poor handling, increased tire wear, and potential damage to the vehicle. For example, if the vehicle is sitting too low, it could scrape on speed bumps or steep driveways.
Adjusting your air bag suspension can significantly improve your vehicle's performance and ride quality. It's important to understand your system's settings, measure the current ride height, and make adjustments as necessary. Regular monitoring and adjustment are crucial for maintaining optimal performance. For example, if you notice a decrease in ride quality or a change in the vehicle's height, it could be a sign of a problem with the air suspension system, such as a leak or a faulty valve. In such cases, it's important to seek professional service or repair.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Airbag Suspension Adjustable?
Yes, airbag suspension is adjustable. The air pressure in the air bags can be increased or decreased to change the vehicle's ride height and spring rate. This allows for a customizable ride and improved handling. For example, you can raise the ride height for off-road driving or lower it for improved aerodynamics on the highway.
Can Air Suspension Be Lowered?
Yes, air suspension can be lowered by decreasing the air pressure in the air bags. This can improve the vehicle's stability and aerodynamics, but it may also reduce ground clearance. For instance, if you lower the suspension too much, the vehicle's undercarriage or tires could scrape on speed bumps or steep driveways.
Does Air Suspension Make Your Car Faster?
While air suspension doesn't directly increase your car's speed, it can improve handling and stability, which can lead to better performance. By allowing for adjustable ride height and spring rate, air suspension can optimize your vehicle's performance for different driving conditions. For example, lowering the suspension can reduce body roll and improve stability at high speeds.