Leveling Out A Heavy Load – Air Bag Suspensions

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Heavy duty suspension systems are a key component of being able to tow large trailers or haul massive amounts of cargo safely and with full control. Springs which are designed to facilitate this kind of driving while fully loaded are able to maintain their height under the mass of whatever is being moved. This keeps a truck level and helps the entire suspension system perform at its best without sacrificing any control while cornering or braking. Unfortunately, in order to exhibit this characteristic, heavy springs must be extremely stiff, which makes the vehicle subject to a harsher, bouncier ride when not under load.

Uneven load.Leveled out rear load.Sagging rear end.Leveled out rear load.

From left to right, a visual explanation of the benefits of an air-lift suspension system.

Air springs have been used in place of coil and leaf springs for decades as a way to control ride height and vehicle comfort dynamically. Air springs are essentially bags filled with air which are inflated or deflated by a compressor, depending on the desired setting. Air springs provide all of the performance benefits of coil springs with the added bonus of being able to keep a vehicle level no matter how much of a load it is carrying. Many air suspension systems include a feature which automatically levels the vehicle, or which controls ride height based on the speed at which the vehicle is traveling.

Many people think that adding air suspension to their pickup truck would be an expensive endeavor, requiring them to remove their current shocks and springs and do a full conversion. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. In fact, the Air Lift company makes several different inexpensive kits which allow air bags to be added alongside the stock suspension in order to provide extra lift only when needed.

There are a few different options available from Air Lift. Their basic system is designed to be mounted inside a vehicle

Filed Under: Toyota Tundra Accessories

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  1. Mickey says:

    Is this like the old air shocks from the 70’s?

  2. Art says:

    No, this is not like those air shocks. These airbags install in addition to the shocks. If you have seen an 18-wheeler suspension, you’ll see these massive airbags. Smaller version for our trucks. I have the Firestone Ride Rite and they do a good job in maintaining ride height when the truck is loaded heavy.
    I recently loaded the truck with 3 cu ft of gravel from Home Depot. The rear did not even compressed with the air bags inflated to 40 PSI. Yet, the ride is smooth. After the load was gone, deflated it back to 3 psi so the ride won’t be too harsh.

  3. Mickey – What Art said. They’re really popular with people that own campers and RVs too.

  4. Gavin says:

    I bought a 2008 V8 4 Runner 3 months ago with air suspension and the XREAS suspension option and have not been back to the dealer 6 times for a problem with the air suspension. I originally took it in 2 weeks after buying it because there was a 1 inch difference in body height between the left and right sides and the truck was visibly lopsided. After originally being told there was nothing wrong, a second look found multiple error codes with the air suspension and the air bags were replaced. Not only did this not fix the tilted appearance, but caused the rear end to be extremely soft, bouncy and unstable. I was then told this was the proper ride for this vehicle. To make a very long story short, I have been back to the dealer six times for this problem. The entire suspension has been replaced and the problem is still not fixed. It is still lopsided and the ride is bouncy and uncomfortable unless the air suspension is raised to high before driving it every time. After the third repair attempt, I asked the serivce mangager and the owner of the dealer about getting a new vehicle and was told my only option was the NH lemon law. This involves filing for arbitration and going to the state capital for a hearing. If the decision is in my favor, Toyota still has one final attempt at fixing the problem. I am hoping to avoid this and looking for some advice on other options. Is is worth writing to any Toyota executives to plead for a replacement vehicle? Any advice would be much appreciated.

  5. Gavin – You have a text-book lemon law claim based on the account you’ve provided. This is a great example of what a real lemon law issue looks like – you bought the vehicle brand new, there’s an issue with the vehicle (it’s not supposed to sit one inch higher on one side), and you’ve worked with the dealership to get it fixed to no avail. Lemon law is different in every state, so I can’t speak to your situation with a lot of certainty. You should definitely contact your state’s consumer affairs bureau for assistance – you have an excellent case. The dealership can help as well – make certain to document all your trips to the dealership and if possible get some insight from the GM and service manager (but get the lemon law specifics from the consumer affairs bureau). Finally, if the claim goes in your favor, you can expect Toyota to buy back the 4Runner from you – often with the stipulation you will use the funds to buy another Toyota. This is normal and in many states the only legal course of action. Good luck!

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