Air Spring Buyer's Guide
- Unlike conventional coil or leaf springs, air spring suspensions use airbags filled with compressed air as its working spring.
- An air compressor is crucial in an air suspension system as it supplies the air springs with the compressed air it needs based on the specification required in a certain task.
- Over time, the rubber housing can deteriorate and cause it to fail.
- Failure can be due to air leaks, faulty compressor, or excessive moisture in the system.
- Symptoms of failing air springs include increased body roll, car tilting to one side, noises in the compressor, and uncomfortable ride.
- Air springs on CarParts.com range from $12 to $1,400 depending on the brand and design.
The air spring is the main component of an air suspension system. Unlike conventional coil or leaf springs, air spring suspensions use airbags filled with compressed air as their working spring. They are a favorite among heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers partly due to their ability to vary air pressure to change the spring rate. This allows the vehicle, especially a truck, to adjust its deck height for loading dock alignments.
What is an air spring?
The air spring is basically a bag made of high-pressure rubber housing that gets fed with compressed air. An air compressor is crucial in an air suspension system as it supplies the air springs with the compressed air it needs based on the specification required in a certain task. The driver can increase or decrease the amount of air to alter the vehicle’s performance or when loading cargo on the deck.
How do air springs work?
The airbag spring, another term for the air spring, typically features a black textile rubber shell, although it can also come in different colors as well. There is an air spring in each corner of the car, similar to coil-spring suspensions. Each of these is connected to the air compressor via high-pressure air hoses. They inflate and deflate in two ways: manually or automatically. Automatic air suspensions come with advanced sensors that monitor different aspects of your ride.
Common problems of air spring suspensions
The air suspension system, like any other one in your car, isn’t as perfect as you might think it is. One of its flaws is the airbag material, which has to be flexible to squish air, but at the same time be durable enough to withstand high pressure. Over time, the rubber housing can deteriorate and cause it to fail. Here are some of the common causes of air suspension problems:
Air leaking from the air spring
A tear in the rubber housing is widely reported by people with air suspensions systems. Rubber has a life expectancy that is hugely affected by factors such as weather, temperature, and impact collisions. Even a small tear can grow and allow air to escape easily.
This problem will also cause the air compression to constantly work. The air suspension supplies the air springs with specific amounts of compressed air. Once it reaches a certain pressure, it should cease feeding the springs with more air. When a leak is present, it can make the compressor work extensively, causing it to prematurely wear.
Faulty air dryer assembly
Air dryers are designed to cancel out the moisture inside your air suspension. The compressed air inside the system contains moisture that can accumulate over time due to a failing air dryer. Once it reaches a certain moisture level, it can cause the system to fail or start to show signs of failure.
You can detect moisture by observing the air suspension for signs of rust.
Bad air compressor
Another major problem you can face is a faulty air compressor that could be due to varying causes. It can be due to a leak that’s causing it to work harder and extensively even at times when it shouldn’t. Regardless of the cause, a bad air compressor can affect your ride quality with an incorrect supply of compressed air.
You can trace a malfunctioning air compressor by the whining or clicking noises it makes when operating.
Symptoms of a faulty or damaged air spring
If you are having one or two of the problems mentioned above, you’re likely to find yourself going through these symptoms:
Car is tilted to one side
Air springs can fail individually. If one fails, it does not mean that the rest will fail as well. What can happen is that your car may tend to lean toward the direction of a failing air spring as support wouldn’t be the same on the other side. The affected wheel also has the tendency to bottom out over bumps and potholes.
It is quite obvious, even in a failing coil or leaf-spring suspension, that a car can get a little bouncy. That’s because the suspension won’t be able to handle the pressure handed to it by your car’s weight and would easily compress and decompress. This could happen when going over bumps at mid-rate of speeds.
Continuous noise from the air compressor
Continuous noise from the compressor is an indication that it’s working extensively, which isn’t ideal as it could be an indicator of an air leak in at least one of the air springs. This could range from knocking or pinging to whining noise. Don’t ignore this symptom as it would often result in air suspension system failure, which could be critical in driving situations.
Noticeable body rolls
A failing air spring can cause greater body rolls as the suspension won’t be able to handle the weight being thrown at it. As a consequence, cornering becomes a lot more difficult as the driver would have to be extra careful. Extensive body roll could be dangerous so address this problem immediately.
How much are OE air spring replacements?
Air springs on CarParts.com range from $12 to $1,400 depending on the brand and design. Air springs come in different shapes and sizes, meaning they can be model-specific. To find the perfect air spring for your car, indicate the year, make, and model in the filter tab. This will sort and narrow down the products being displayed to the ones specific for your vehicle. There are also air spring suspension kits you can buy for a more intensive repair.
Air Spring: How to Buy the Right One for Your Vehicle
An air spring provides your vehicle with better stability and load carrying capacity. Before going to an auto parts store to purchase a set, read on for things you should keep in mind to help you pick the right one.
Picking between the two air spring types
Air springs affect your vehicle’s performance, handling, and convenience. Weighing the pros and cons of the air spring types is important to choose one that best suits your vehicle’s requirements and your driving needs:
A bellow type air spring performs well in heavy-duty applications such as trucks and trailers. You can inflate or deflate a bellow type air spring to suit your desired firmness. Its larger size offers better load handling capacity, making it an excellent choice if you’re looking for an air spring which can provide you with an improved lifting capability at lower air pressures.
A sleeve type air spring is smaller than its bellow counterpart. If you have a vehicle which can’t fit something as large as the bellow air spring, then you should go for the sleeve type instead.
Other factors to consider
There’s more to buying an air spring than just choosing between its types. You also need to consider its construction, brand, price, and ease of installation.
Buy only from reputable brands to ensure its quality. Putting a good air spring on your vehicle may set you back a large sum, but it’s better to buy one from a trusted seller than to settle for a cheap air spring with a questionable quality.
Installing this component can prove complicated, especially if you’re not a professional mechanic. So, make sure that your air spring comes with installation instructions to avoid any hassles.
How to Quickly Install a New Air Spring on Your Vehicle
Have you ever driven over a small inconsequential pothole but felt like it jolted the soul right out of your body? If so, your car’s air spring may not be working as efficiently as it should be. The primary purpose of an air spring is to help lessen the impact and vibration felt throughout the entire car, efficiently keeping you comfy while you drive. Because of harsh working conditions, this part of the suspension system is highly at risk of getting prematurely damaged. Replacing a broken air spring may require the help of a mechanic, but you can cut down your expenses by installing it yourself. Keep the required tools within arm’s reach and perform the following steps carefully:
Difficulty level: Moderate
What you’ll need:
- Floor jack
- Jack stands
- Ratchet and socket set
- Replacement air spring
- Spring compressor
- Owner’s manual
Step 1: Park your car on a level surface and lift it up using the floor jack. Place the jack stands underneath the vehicle for support.
Step 2: Remove the wheels by detaching its lug nuts one by one. Use a wrench for this procedure.
Step 3: Deflate the air spring by opening the air fitting on the top.
Step 4: Detach the set of fasteners that secure the air spring in place. You can find these bolts on the control arm and under the hood. Keep in mind that the set of procedures for removing an air spring vary for each car, so make it a point to consult your owner’s manual to see exactly how to remove them.
Step 5: Remove the old air spring by carefully pulling it away from the shock. If needed, use a spring compressor to make the removal a lot easier. You may reuse the o-rings connecting the air spring to the shock.
Step 6: Put the replacement air spring over the place where you removed the old one.
Step 7: Reconnect it to the shock using the o-rings you removed earlier. Make sure you apply lubricant on them before putting them back.
Step 8: Reattach all the components you removed. Double-check if there are no missing bolts, nuts, and fittings.
Replacing an air spring may take a mechanically inclined person around one hour to finish.