Air Ride Suspension – both sides of the coin

Air ride suspension systems (also sometimes referred to as airbag suspension systems) have quickly become one of the most popular aftermarket upgrades in the custom auto culture today. There are all kinds of people throwing airbag and air ride suspension systems into their hot rods, their custom rides, and their daily drivers. They want to take advantage of the same benefits and performance features that big rig truck drivers and other professional drivers have been leveraging for decades.

If you’ve been thinking about moving forward with an air ride suspension overhaul, or just want to try and determine whether or not this kind of upgrade would even make sense for you and your vehicle, you’re going to want to focus in on all of the details we break down below.

Air ride suspension control screen

Air Ride Suspension controls on an Audi A8.

What exactly is an air ride suspension in the first place?

Today’s air ride suspension systems are a far cry from the original airbag suspension systems that were introduced into the automobile community a few decades ago. That is good news for those that are thinking about making the upgrade.

Old school airbag suspension systems operated on the same principles that today’s airbag systems do. Their main problems were in being consistent and reliable. In fact, those old airbag systems could only be relied on to fail at least a handful of times every year. When they did fail, you would definitely have noticed!

New air ride suspension systems take advantage of double convolute bags. These bags are custom shaped to your particular vehicle year, make, and model. This creates a “fits like a glove” kind of situation that simply didn’t exist previously. These airbags are going to ride in a much tighter and more confined space. That’s going to provide a higher level of control and the ability to inflate and deflate your airbag suspension systems as necessary to give you the exact ride and stability you’re looking for.

A traditional spring system suspension might still be more “dependable”, but as far as comfort, control, and customization are concerned, you just can’t beat a new air ride setup.

side view of air bag

Cutaway view of a typical air spring or air bag.

Some of the benefits of an air ride suspension system

The benefits of moving forward with an air ride suspension are numerous. We are going to touch on some of the most popular and most important.

The first big benefit is the fact that an airbag suspension offers such a smoother ride that it isn’t even really comparable. Just about every major luxury automaker out there uses airbag suspension systems in some way, shape, or form to smooth out the ride that their vehicle enjoys as they glide down the road. You’ll definitely notice the difference the moment that you slide behind the wheel.

Another big benefit is the adjustable nature of these suspension systems. You’re almost always going to have the ability to inflate and deflate your air ride suspension as necessary (on-the-fly as you cruise down the road in most circumstances). This means you’ll always have the chance to adjust the stiffness or the “bounce” that your suspension provides.

Finally, SUVs and trucks are going to benefit from air ride suspensions when it’s time to tow. Drivers will have the chance to stiffen up their suspension while towing to better control whatever it is they are hauling down the road. This gives them much more confidence – especially at higher speeds.

57' cadillac with air ride suspension

57′ Cadillac with aftermarket airbag suspension installed

Are there any drawbacks to going with an air ride suspension system?

Of course, there are a number of downsides and drawbacks that you’re going to want to be aware of before you make the switch to an airbag setup. There are two that are probably the most problematic and that require being addressed here.

The first is the overall cost that you are looking at to swap out your traditional suspension system for an airbag-based one. You should expect to spend anywhere between $5000 and $10,000 (and sometimes more than that) to overhaul your suspension system if you’re going the aftermarket route.

The other thing that you will have to focus on is the overall maintenance necessary to keep air suspension systems running exactly the way they should. While this system works like a dream when it is perfectly maintained, it can be pretty expensive to repair and to replace. This is something that you’ll have to be prepared to accommodate should things go south.

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