Let's says you've taken the plunge on an air suspension and plan on taking your car to the track. Sure, it's almost infinitely adjustable, but how exactly do you tune the chassis to suit your driving style? "An air suspension is tuned just like any other suspension," explains Bret. "If the front pushes out first, you may have to soften the spring rate or shocks to get the car to take a set and bite. If the rear kicks out first, you may have to soften up the rear a bit to get it to roll over and bite. However, there are many variables in addition to spring rate and shock settings-such as tire pressure, alignment, and sway bar settings-and it simply takes time to figure out how to adjust each to optimize handling."
Construction & Durability
Those unfamiliar with air springs may question their durability, but they're actually the spring of choice in applications far more demanding than any standard passenger car. "Since air suspension is somewhat new to the hot rod world, it is assumed that it is a new invention altogether," says Bret. "The truth is that more than 95 percent of all semitrucks use air springs-and have for over 25 years. Just like a tire, air springs are made from layers of fabric and rubber, and the weave of the fabric is a key element in determining the expansion characteristics and performance of the spring. Firestone's been making air springs for more than 70 years, and they manufacture springs for us to our specifications."
"An air suspension is viewed as being more complex than a mechanical suspension, but in reality, the only additional part is the compressor system," says Bret. "The coil spring is replaced by an air spring, and you still need a shock absorber, just like in a traditional suspension. A compressor system can be as simple or as complex as the customer desires. A simple compressor system would consist of a compressor, a tank, air lines, and an inflate/deflate valve for each air spring. An automatic leveling system would add ride-height sensors and some sort of electronic controls to process the data generated by the leveling sensors. This is an area that has a lot of variables and could fill an entire article by itself."
One of the few drawbacks of air suspension systems has been the different plumbing and electrical connections necessary during installation. Consequently, a typical installation takes 10-15 hours, but Air Ride's new AirPod cuts that time down to 1-3 hours. The AirPod is essentially a combination of compressors, air lines, solenoids, electrical wires, and an air tank that have been integrated into a single assembly. "Since the AirPod comes prewired, preplumbed, and pretested, all the customer has to do is bolt it in with four bolts, plug in four air lines, and connect the power and ground," says Bret. "In comparison, a standard system requires making 17 plumbing connections. With compact dimensions of 20x12x9.5 inches, we made sure it will easily fit in the front of the trunk in nearly any car."