Suspension Airbags, such as those from Airbag Man, are essentially small, very high pressure, very tough balloons. They’re generally made up of either polyurethane or heavy duty rubber to withstand incredible weight, pressure and the forces exerted upon them at high speed. They come in systems to either assist your existing conventional springs, or replace them altogether, with the air inside the bags absorbing the kinetic energy.
Because of their adaptability, they have a variety of applications over a huge range of vehicles. Many owners of luxury 4×4‘s such as Range Rovers replace their conventional suspension with airbags to provide a softer, cloud-like ride. Because full coil-replacement airbags can also be raised or lowered, they’re often a common choice amongst customisers to provide adjustable ride height for aesthetic purposes without compromising too much on handling.
It’s not all about luxury though, and many commercial vehicles and 4WDs employ high-pressure, heavy-duty airbags for towing and carrying lighter loads while maintaining a good degree of ride quality and suspension geometry. An airbag inflated to a high air pressure (i.e. with lots of air inside) will provide a much more stable ride, capable of withstanding greater forces and pressures, and in turn being able to carry far more weight. They can then be deflated (either manually or by a switch on the dashboard) to provide a softer ride while you’re not towing. As such, they create a great compromise between ride comfort and load-carrying potential at a far cheaper price than a 4×4 Lift kit.
Check out the video below for a great idea on how an Airbag Suspension System can help you out. If you’re still torn between airbags and coils, click here. Check out this article if you want to get an idea of what kind of airbag will suit your needs.
Finding the right balance between comfort, handling and off-road performance is key to picking your perfect suspension set-up. Airbag suspension is designed to meet many of the requirements of those looking for an upgrade in either comfort or towing capacity, and Spares Box is here to guide you through the different set ups available, thanks to Airbag Man.
Spring Helper Airbags
Spring helper airbags offer the best of both worlds when it comes to suspension. Working in conjunction with a conventional spring coiled around the airbag, they offer both partially improved ride quality, as well as increased load management for towing and carrying heavy weight. They also feature the adjustability and customisation that airbag suspension has become associated with, enabling you to increase the pressure for heavy loads, and deflate the airbags for lower weights.
Spring helpers feature a great variety and adaptability of parts, and can be placed within your coils, put to the side of your springs as standalone helpers, or installed as a bellow it on vehicles with leaf springs as well.
High Pressure Spring Helper Airbags
These airbags share the same great qualities as general spring helper kits, but have a heavy duty protective sleeve which enable them to operate at up to double the pressure of standard airbags. This means you can carry heavier loads for longer, in some cases negating the need for you to install harsh heavy duty springs. As with all suspension though, there is always a trade off between ride quality and the weight it can carry, and while these will provide a more stable ride under pressure, they won’t be quite as soft as you’d get from a traditional airbag set up (if inflated to a high pressure).
If you’re carrying moderate loads though (up to around 250kg), these present a great alternative to installing heavy duty springs.
Full Coil Replacement Airbags
Replacement kits are complete suspension overhauls for your car. Replacing the entire coil and the mounts that come along with it, they offer the greatest level of ride height customisability and relative comfort that it’s possible to get out of a heavy-load suspension system. They’re great for controlling your car’s levelling, providing you with unrivalled control over your ride height, towing and loading capacity.
Replacement kits are often fully customisable in terms of ride height without even having to leave your car, either adjustable from the dashboard or, in the case of some systems, even able to be controlled from your smartphone. Keep in mind that some systems can compromise the road-worthiness of your vehicle so you’ll need to check with your state road authority.
Finding the balance you need between ride height and pulling power is the key to getting the perfect suspension system for your requirements. To take a further look at how airbag suspension works, take a look here, and if you’re still tossing up between an airbag or a traditional coil system, check out the pros and cons here.
Suspension can be a tricky thing, and just like with keeping your car stable on the road, finding the perfect balance is key. Suspension systems present a constant trade-off between ride quality, on-road handling and off-road performance, so if you’re looking to upgrade your stock system, finding the perfect suspension for your needs is incredibly vital. Here, we’ll take a look at the difference between heavy-duty coil springs and their airbag counterparts.
Suspension helper airbags, such as those from Airbag Man, are designed to assist the vehicle’s standard suspension setup. As you load your vehicle by adding passengers, accessories, luggage or on the tow bar the suspension sags and is forced to operate outside its optimal range of movement. This adversely affects the geometry, compromising tyre wear and grip. Spring helper airbags are designed to give your suspension additional support by inflating, allowing the suspension to operate as correctly. The advantage of this solution is that you can inflate or deflate the airbags to suits the amount of load you’re carrying. Hauling a bigger load? Simply increase the air pressure.
Their tough construction also offers a good, cheaper alternative for towing and carrying moderate to heavy loads, especially when compared to or combined with a lift kit.
By their nature, Airbags simply can’t carry the full brunt of pressure that load-oriented lift kits can handle. In order to carry heavy loads constantly, they must be paired to assist heavy duty springs, which negates the effect of the increased ride comfort that makes Airbag suspension such a good call. If you’re towing or carrying anything over 500kg on a regular basis, heavy duty springs or a heavy duty lift kit are probably the best places to look.
As they’re generally made of specialised components, if something goes wrong they’re often costly to repair as well, and need to be fixed by either an airbag specialist or an auto-electric technician, rather than a standard mechanic.
Coil suspension is the standardised suspension on road cars for a good reason. Combining both springs and shock absorbers into a neat package, it’s tough, it’s adaptable, if it’s properly tuned and upgraded to suit your needs it doesn’t need any adjusting and will tackle pretty much any terrain you throw at it. They also come in a very high variety of strengths and stiffnesses, and can be upgraded in a full system or gradually by replacing each individual part. Heavy duty springs provide constant ride height and a rigid platform for your vehicles suspension to operate from. If you carry consistently high loads – this is the upgrade for you.
Due to their firmer, more responsive nature, they generally provide better on-road handling, provided you don’t go for a lift kit. As well as this, heavy duty suspension kits are just about the toughest way of keeping your car raised available, and will be able to handle the heaviest loads and towing requirements for a longer amount of time.
A heavy duty ‘Load’ lift kit comes pairs with all the other components you’ll need to upgrade such as shackles, suspension bushes and U-blots.
Heavy duty springs are designed precisely to increase the suspension’s stiffness– so if your vehicle is unlaiden the ride will be significantly firmer. This may also compromise traction when used off-road as tyre contact is reduced as you bounce over the rough terrain. For lower-load towing and lifting, it may prove more cost effective to opt for a high pressure airbag system as well, as the cost of a performance/enhancement based lift kit often far outweighs the weight capacity you may need your vehicle to meet.
Every vehicle has a gross vehicle mass (GMV) rating, which basically indicates how much load it can safely carry. Minus the amount your vehicle weighs without a load from the gross vehicle mass rating, and that should be your limit every time. Installing tougher, heavier duty suspension can help deal with more mass and more load, but until you get your GMV raised and certified by an engineer, you should never exceed the manufacturer guidelines.