The United States developed the air suspension system during World War II specifically for heavy aircraft. The original purpose of air suspension was to save weight with a compact construction. Back then, air suspension systems were also used in other aircraft and some heavy trucks to achieve a self-leveling suspension. This would ultimately result in a vehicle with an axle height independent of the weight of a vehicle's cargo.
Ultimately, the air suspension system offers several benefits and drawbacks for drivers who rely on larger trucks and vehicles to carry heavy loads.
What Is an Air Suspension System?
An air suspension system is a style of vehicle suspension that's powered by an electric pump or compressor that pumps air into flexible bellows that are typically made out of a textile-reinforced type of rubber. Additionally, Pro Car Mechanics describes air suspension as a replacement to the leaf suspension or coil spring system with airbags composed of polyurethane and rubber. A compressor inflates the bags to a certain pressure in order to behave like springs. Air suspension also differs from hydropneumatic suspension because it uses pressurized air instead of pressurized liquid.
What's the Purpose of an Air Suspension System?
In most cases, air suspension is used to achieve a smooth and constant driving quality, but in some instances, sports suspensions feature an air suspension system too. Similarly, air suspension replaces a conventional steel spring suspension in heavier vehicle applications, like trucks, tractor-trailers, passenger buses, and even passenger trains. Air suspension has also become popular in low-riding trucks like this gorgeous Dodge D Camper Special.
What Is Electronically Controlled Air Suspension?
According to the company now known as Dunlop Systems and Components, at the start of the s, Dunlop developed and installed the Electronic Controlled Air Suspension (ECAS) system on the Range Rover Classic and again on the Range Rover P38A. The United Kingdom-based company developed the ECAS to include several key features:
- Vulcanized, heavy-duty rubber air springs at each of the vehicle's wheels
- An air compressor in the vehicle's trunk or under the hood of the vehicle
- A storage tank for compressed air, which allows you to store air at around an average of PSI
- Valve blocks which direct air to the four springs from the storage reservoir through a set of solenoids, valves, and o-rings
- ECAS computer that communicates between the vehicle's main computer to calculate where to direct air pressure
- Air pipes connecting from the storage tank to the air springs that channel the flow of air throughout the suspension system
- A desiccant-filled drier canister to keep the internal recesses of the system dry
The electronically controlled air suspension also features height sensors that are based on sensing resistance in contact with the terrain on all four of the vehicle's corners to provide height reference for all corners. Additionally, further advancements are beginning to feature some Electronic Control Units (ECUs) that are able to fit under the vehicle's floorboard, making air suspension more widely featured in everyday driving.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Air Suspension Systems
According to Future Marketing Insights, the total value of the air suspension market at the end of was around $ million. So whether it's a manual or electronic air suspension system, the benefits can greatly improve the ride of the vehicle. Take a look of some of the benefits of air suspension:
- More driver comfort due to the reduction in noise, harshness, and vibration on the road that can cause driver discomfort and fatigue
- Less wear and tear on the suspension system due to reduced harshness and vibration of heavy-duty driving
- Trailers last longer with air suspension because the system components don't take on as much vibration
- Air suspension reduces the tendency of short wheelbase trucks to bounce over rougher roads and terrain when the vehicle is empty
- Air suspension improves the ride height based on the load weight and a vehicle's speed
- Higher corner speeds due to air suspension being better suited to the surface of the road
Air suspension increases the transport capabilities of trucks and trailers by providing a better grip that levels the entire suspension. An air suspension system can also be adjusted for feel, so drivers can choose between a softer feel for highway cruising or a harder ride for improved handling on more demanding roads.
In the case of hauling heavy loads, air suspension offers more consistency and keeps all wheels even. The air suspension system keeps trucks level from side to side, especially in cases where cargo is difficult to level. This results in reduced body roll when turning corners and curves.
Even with the benefits of an air suspension system, Driving Tests New Zealand suggests several drawbacks. Some of these disadvantages that so and so reports include:
- The initial costs of purchasing and installing an air suspension system — air suspension can also sometimes reach three times the cost in repairs as a leaf suspension system over 10 years' time
- Fuel overheads for running compressors for occasionally pumping air to the correct pressure
- Fuel efficiency can suffer from the heavier weight of air suspension over the weight of leaf suspension
- An air suspension system's vulnerability to air leaks can result in malfunctions
Some of the drawbacks of air suspension systems are because of some of the mechanical issues they can be vulnerable to. Several of the common issues with air suspension systems that can require repair include:
- Rust or moisture damage from the inside that can lead to the air struts or bags to malfunction
- Failure of the air suspension tubing connecting the air struts or bags to the air system
- Air fitting failure resulting from initial fitting or infrequent use
- Compressor burn out due to air leaks in the springs or air struts from the compressor constantly engaging to maintain the proper air pressure
Even with these common mechanical problems, the benefits can far outweigh the drawbacks.
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Airlift suspension kits are the must-have upgrade for those, like ourselves, tow loads with heavy nose weights. Prevents permanent spring damage & sagging rear ends from continous compression without enduring rock-hard, bum-up ride from hard springs & shocks when solo. Will allow the driver to level the outfit helping stability, braking & preventing sway. These kits are simple air bags fitted inside the coil springs. The bags are manufactured from poly so are impervious to perishing & are pressurised/adjustable from psi depending on spring assistance & ride height required. Minimum 5 psi adds 5mm of ride height to rear end of a Grand Cherokee WJ (when solo), maximum 35 psi adds approximately 30mm & is of course, considerably harder taking alot more weight to reduce this additional ride height. Air pressure can be provided by airline, 12v tyre inflator, foot pump etc or we have small 12v on-board compressors kits with gauges available to inflate or deflate at the touch of a button. We have the kits for Jeep Commander, Wrangler TJ, Grand Cherokee ZJ, WJ, WK, & Cherokee KJ
The following are pictures of fitting an Airlift Air Suspension Airbag kit and Load Controller II to our Grand Cherokee HO Overland. Click on pictures to enlarge.
Before And After Comparisons
On the Ramp. With the minimum required 5 psi operating pressure it raised the vehicle just 5mm. At the maximum 35 psi it raised the vehicle 30mm but also made it hard & difficult to compress. Pictures show before/after.
With The Caravan. The vanmaster caravan has a very high nose weight. The first picture shows the rear end compressed/front high & jockey wheel prone to grounding out. In the second picture the tow ball was actually dropped to the lowest of the two positions available on the hitch but still the outfit is riding level, the vehicle front has lowered, there is additional jockey wheel clearance & the suspension is hard enough to prevent it compressing further under normal conditions without giving a poor/harsh ride. The tow pivot point is now lower to the axle with the ball on the lower mounting which only helps stability. When solo, just push the button & drop the pressure!
Air Lift Air Suspension Kit
AIR LIFT Series Air Suspension Kits are designed to work with speifici coil-spring vehicles. This kit eliminates sag and features pounds of leveling capacity. It installs inside coil spring to eliminate bottoming out and is highly durable. Air Lift's Series Air Spring kit is the easy, inexpensive solution to vehicle "bottom out" events, sway and body roll and rough rides that are often the result of inadequate or uneven rear suspension. Consisting of two durable, easy to install and use pressurized cylinders, this kit provides up to 1, pounds of load leveling power, ensuing a safe, smooth and level ride when you need it. Inflate via easy access air line. Inflation can be done with any air compression tool capable of delivering the pressure, ranging from a dedicated onboard air compression system to portable air compression tools built into jump-start tools or even a hand pump. The cylinders are constructed of rugged, durable materials and feature high burst strength. Have peace of mind with a Limited Lifetime Warranty. Air Lift Company warrants its Air Lift products to the original retail purchaser against manufacturing defects when used on catalog-listed applications on cars, vans, light trucks and motor homes under normal operating conditions for as long as Air Lift manufactures the product. The warranty does not apply to products that have been improperly applied, improperly installed, used in racing or off-road applications, used for commercial purposes, or which have not been maintained in accordance with installation instructions furnished with all products.
Kit fits the following vehicles: Jeep Wrangler , , , , , , , , , , ,
Similar ProductsJeep wrangler lift, Air ride suspension, Rear suspension kit, Truck lift kit, Truck springs, Car suspension lift
Customer Questions & Answers
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WHAT IS AiROCK
AiROCK is a computerized suspension system that provides the ultimate in control, both on and off road.
When driving on-road AiROCK provides a smoother ride and allows limited adjustments at a lower ride height. It constantly monitors ride height and automatically compensates for any body lean that occurs. By maintaining a lower center of gravity it provides improved handling and reduces the possibility of a roll over. These improvements allow a vehicle with very large tires to be used as a daily driver.
When driving off-road AiROCK provides complete manual control of the suspension. It allows the vehicles center of gravity to be altered by shifting it in any direction. The controls easily allow modification of approach and departure angles along with ride height.
In either mode the height and ground clearance is maintained independent of vehicle load. The system also has an optional egress setting to lower the vehicle when the ignition is switched off, making getting in and out easier and more safe.
WHY DO I NEED IT
Air springs articulate more naturally than coils making driving off of rocks less jarring and off camber situations more stable.
When changing to different sized tires, simply adjust the ride height from inside the cab instead of swapping out coils.
For off camber maneuvers you can lean the vehicle into the hill, and lower it to keep the center of gravity down.
Tired of hitting your bumper on tall rocks youre trying to climb? Just tilt back or raise the vehicle to provide clearance for your bumper.
If you get high centered, simply raise the vehicle up and continue down the trail.
There are countless other situations that AiROCK systems make more safe and enjoyable.
See what one reviewer had to say.
It’s like driving on …. well air. You lose all of that mechanical resistance with air springs there is no inherent kinetic energy to overcome like you have with coil springs. In fact, the shocks are valved differently to normal shocks and they are designed to limit travel with integrated bump stops.. (4 Wheels and a Motor.com)
AiROCK is a computer controlled system that replaces the coils with air springs. The bump stops are moved to the custom shock absorbers that come with the kit. The system includes:
- The user Control Interface.
- The AiROCK Control Unit (ACU).
- Four air springs.
- Four custom shocks.
- Four height sensors with stainless steel brackets.
- The wiring harness.
- Air line and fittings.
All of the parts in this kit are warrantied for one full year from the date of purchase.
The Control Interface consists of a display and six control buttons, encased in black anodized aluminum to ensure longevity and a clean OEM appearance. Its backlit display varies its brightness automatically with changes in daylight.
The ACU ties into the Vehicle Speed Sensor to constantly monitor the vehicle speed. It controls and monitors the pressure in the air springs and air supply along with monitoring the height sensors. This information not only allows AiROCK to operate in two different driving modes, off-road and on-road, but also to detect and diagnose any problems that might occur in the system.
AiROCK allows user control of the vehicles center of gravity by making height and/or tilt adjustments at the touch of a button. A simple, intuitive dash-mounted user Control Interface provides a powerful way of adjusting the vehicles suspension in real time.
The user Control Interface has four directional arrow buttons, a check mark button, and an X button.
- Push the left or right arrow button to tilt the vehicle left or right.
- Push the up or down arrow to tilt the vehicle forward or back.
- Push the left or right with an up or down button to tilt the vehicle diagonally toward the specified direction.
- Push the check mark button to automatically return to your preset off-road or on-road ride height.
- Push the check mark button with an up or down button to raise or lower the vehicle.
The functionality of the arrow buttons can be configured to be momentary or latching (automatic). When configured as momentary the adjustment occurs only as long as the button is held. When configured as latching the adjustment automatically continues to the full extent. Latched automatic adjustments can be immediately stopped by pressing the X button. The six buttons are also used to access and navigate the menus to initialize and configure AiROCK.
The installation process is very straight forward. You essentially replace your old coils and shocks, mount the height sensors, Control Interface and ACU, and run the wiring and air lines. The average install time is about hours. Any additional suspension and on-board air supply components require additional time.
The bolt on kit requires no special tools, welding or modification of the frame to install.*** The detailed instruction manual and user guide, along with great customer support, ensure a smooth install.
We also have a growing number of authorized installation and service centers in the U.S. and Canada that can install the kit for you.
Click here to download the installation manual.
*** Note: For TJs the rear shocks can be bolted directly onto the chassis using the stock shock brackets. However to gain additional ground clearance and to better protect the shocks, we recommend relocating the shocks to the outside of the frame rail by using ORO rear shock mount brackets (sold separately). Doing so requires the frame rail to be cut and the brackets welded in place.
We are currently finalizing the first version of the JT kit, a kit designed to allow the absolute lowest step in height and utilizes the stock range of motion allowed with the stock suspension system. This allows a wide range of motion, an on road height that is able to be adjusted to the same as stock or slightly higher, or lower. And as noted, this kit will lower the Gladiator to the absolute minimum height, enabling the easiest of entry in situations where the a lower entry point is necessary. More to come as we start releasing these kits in the next few weeks.
The following video clip displays the Gladiator with Rubicon 33 tires at the range of heights the AiROCK uses as presets.
We currently offer a JL kit designed to run tires, maybe even 40s! This kit has the full range of the 10 Radflo piggy back reservoir shock travel, and delivers a step in height with 35s similar to that stock. We are also planning on revising and offering a kit similar to our initial offering for the JT, one allowing full range of the stock suspension travel, but delivering an ultra low step in height. More info on this shortly.
The following video clip displays the JLUR with Toyo 37 tires at the range of heights the AiROCK uses as presets.
The only prerequisite for installing the AiROCK kit for JK is a clean supply of pressurized air from an on-board air (OBA) system. We offer a separate OBA kit specifically designed for JKs. However, if you need on-board air, save by purchasing the AiROCK full kit for Jeep® Wrangler JK w Complete air kit or the AiROCK full kit for Jeep® Wrangler JK + w Complete air kit instead of purchasing the AiROCK and OBA kits separately.
JKs with the SmartBar electronic disconnect anti-sway bar require a longer linkage to connect to the axle. We recommend either purchasing our Smartbar linkage kit or replacing the SmartBar with our SwayLOC. JKs with other anti-sway bars will require additional parts to allow them to be disconnected from the axle in order to use AiROCK off road.
AiROCK is a coil replacement system but not a complete suspension lift kit. We offer both 4 and 6 AiROCK bolt-on kits for Jeep® Wrangler TJs.
If you do not already have a lift installed, we highly recommend using the Rubicon Express Extreme Duty Long Arm lift kit with the AiROCK 6 system. As with any significant lift, the changes the drive line geometry to accommodate AiROCK must be addressed. A Slip Yoke Eliminator and rear CV Drive Shaft need to be installed in order to handle the extreme axle travel that the AiROCK system provides.
The AiROCK system also requires a clean supply of pressurized air from an on-board air (OBA) system. Some TJ owners already have an OBA system, which is why one is not included in the AiROCK kit. We do offer a separate OBA kit designed specifically for TJs. See our Complete Air Kit page for details. We also stock most of the fittings and accessories needed when piecing together your own OBA setup. Click here to see OBA kits and components in our store.
Here is a summary of the prerequisite components for installing AiROCK on a TJ:
For the 4 AiROCK:
Slip yoke eliminator | CV drive shaft (rear) | Adjustable track bars* | Adjustable upper arms (rear)* | On-board air system
For the 6 AiROCK
Slip yoke eliminator | CV drive shaft (rear) | Long arm kit | Adjustable track bars* | Adjustable upper arms (rear)* | On-board air system
The following video clip displays our TJ with 6 AIROCK kit, body lift and 35 tires at the range of heights the AiROCK uses as presets.
Can I just buy the air springs alone?
We offer a basic air spring kit for both JK and TJ models without any controls or the need for on-board air. This is an inexpensive way to upgrade your vehicles suspension with air springs that can be later converted to a full AiROCK system.
How much travel do the air springs provide?
The 4 springs provide about 9 of travel. The 6 springs provide about 10 of travel. As with coil setups, travel is limited by the shocks.
How do I align my vehicle if the height changes constantly?
During the installation process, you choose an on-road ride height for AiROCK to maintain. The on-road ride height is used to align the vehicle and to adjust the control arms, track bars, and pinion angles.
As vehicle height changes, the suspension, drive line, and steering angles all change. However significant changes only occur in off-road mode, and their effects are negligible since the vehicle is traveling at lower speeds. At higher speeds AiROCK automatically enters on-road mode ensuring that your ride height, and thus drive line geometry, is properly maintained.
Is there drive line vibration caused by the varying heights of the vehicle?
For TJs, if your vehicle is equipped with a Slip Yoke Eliminator and CV Drive Shaft, you should not experience drive line vibrations. At higher speeds AiROCK automatically resets the suspension to the on-road ride height which is preset to provide the proper drive line geometry.
For JKs, AiROCK works with the original stock drive line components. If modified from stock then some drive line tuning might be required. Since AiROCK returns to a preset on-road height at higher speeds, simply adjust the drive line angles when the vehicle is at this height.
For JKs, AiROCK works with the stock rear drive shaft. If the stock front drive shaft is used, the shaft boot will slightly contact the exhaust crossover at full droop. We recommend installing a direct replacement drive shaft that provides the necessary clearance. An alternative method is to modify the exhaust using relocation spacers which are available from many suppliers.
What size tires can I use with the AiROCK systems?
The 4 system is well suited for 32 to 35 tires. The 6 system is recommended for 35 and larger tires, and it can clear 37 tires without rubbing when the springs are at their lowest points. Obviously adding a body lift will allow for even larger tires. Because of variations in tire models a small amount of interference might occur with some 37 tires on JKs.
How well does a vehicle flex with AiROCK?
A vehicle with AiROCK flexes very well. Obviously total wheel travel is determined by the shock lengths. The air springs actually handle crawling up and over surfaces more naturally than coils do. At normal ride height, without any manual intervention, AiROCk will easily ramp on an RTI ramp.
What type of air supply do I need?
Since AiROCK requires air for its operation, a high quality clean air source is very important. Bottled air supplies, and small electric compressors are not designed for this application and should not be used. We highly recommend a mechanical compressor along with a quality air management system. We do offer complete OBA kits designed specifically for some vehicles. See our Complete Air Kit page for details. We also stock most of the fittings and accessories needed for piecing together your own OBA setup.
Air suspension kits jeep
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