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Suspension Bellows

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Overview on Installing Suspension Bellows

Suspension systems deteriorate overtime. Air suspensions and bellows are no exception. When these dampers start to fail, a car or truck's ride may seem too low and uneven. At times, the drive becomes very bumpy and too uncomfortable. With a bad suspension, the vehicle may have difficulty carrying heavy loads. Driving on rough and uneven roads is also out of the question. To ensure a car's stability and ride quality with air suspensions, install new sets of suspension bellows before it's too late. Here's an overview of the process.

Required skill level: Intermediate

Needed tools and materials

  • Floor jack
  • Jack stand
  • Wrench and socket set
  • Screwdriver set
  • Suspension bellows
  • Lubricant
  • Air pump
  • Preparing vehicle and removing old parts

    Park the car on a flat and level surface. Raise it with a floor jack up to the maximum height possible. Safely secure the car on jack stands. Work on one side at a time. Remove the wheel to get a better access to the suspension system. Locate the old bellow. Remove the screws and bolts securing the assembly. Different cars have various attachment setups. Deflate the bellow. Once deflated, compress and push both of its ends away from the bead seats/plates. Be careful not to damage the seats. Clean these before moving on.

    Installing new suspension bellow

    Place the new bellow on the seats. Start by setting the upper seat first. Pinch the sides of the bellow towards the center and compress everything-similar to how it was compressed during removal. With the bellow folded, it can now be placed on the lower seat. Apply some lubricant to make things easier. Secure the assembly with all other brackets, screws, and bolts necessary. Refer to the manual of both car and bellow for specific instructions.

    Inflating suspension bellow

    Make sure the bellow is properly secure prior to inflation. Inflating a loosely fitted part can cause sudden failure and accidents. Put enough air to tighten the parts together. To fine-tune the pressure, assembly may be calibrated depending on the brand of the bellow, how soft or stiff the driver prefers the suspension, and the vehicle's load.

    Finishing the installation

    Return the wheels after securing the bellow. Work on other wheels of the car and repeat the process. After working on all wheels, lower the car and take it for a test drive to check how the new parts feel.

    Suspension Bellows Articles

    • The Better Supporter: Firestone or Air Lift Suspension Bellows? 11 January 2013

      A truck or SUV can only carry loads up to a limited weight. Installing a suspension upgrade like air springs with high-quality suspension bellows can raise that capacity. Two brands that came to mind as the top choices for this upgrade were Firestone and Air Lift. We compared Firestone's Ride-Rite Air Helper Springs and Air Lift's LoadLifter 5000. Though in the same product range, there were subtle differences that ultimately decided from which company you would want to buy suspension bellows for your ride.

      Installation

      We're happy to say that both brands' suspension bellows were easy to install. Both were sold as a two-wheel set and included all the necessary hardware. Clear and detailed instructions were also provided. In a couple of hours, setting up was finished. The only thing that pinched our nerves was the fact that some drilling was required to install the Firestone Ride-Rite springs.

      WINNER: Air Lift


      Performance

      Both products had similar specifications in terms of performance. The carrying capacity of our trucks increased up to 5,000 pounds. That's enough to haul huge trailers and load the car with a bunch of items inside and on the bed. The overall ride also improved as the air springs guaranteed improved support without sacrificing comfort-unlike those found with leaf-spring upgrades.

      WINNER: Air Lift and Firestone


      Adjustment

      Air suspensions are great because these can be easily adjusted. Changing from a setting to accommodate a fully-loaded truck to an empty one can be done in a flash. Pressure inside the bellows can be changed within 5psi to 100psi. However, Firestone springs need to be manually adjusted. Air Lift's on the other hand were done automatically on-the-fly with a compressor and module add-on.

      WINNER: Air Lift


      The verdict

      We believe the Air Lift LoadLifter 5000 was the better option. It was definitely easier to install. Even if the automatic adjuster came as an add-on sold separately, this option gave Air Lift more flexibility over Firestone. These subtle details truly made the difference.