The Times Journal & Russell County News
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Cruisin': Air Suspension Advantages
In Feb. 14 Issue
Russell County News
By Ron Cowell, Columnist

I have been asked several times over the past about Air Suspension in classic vehicles. I didn’t know a lot about it so I did some research and this is what I found.

Air Suspension systems were introduced to the after market in mini trucks and sport trucks where handling wasn’t a consideration. In spite of this, it turned out to be one of the most capable suspension design around when it is installed and set up with handling as the top priority.

Anyone that is not familiar with the air springs may question their durability. Over and over they have proved to be the choice in applications far more demanding than any standard passenger car.

Since air suspension is fairly new to the classic car people, it’s assumed that it is a new invention.  The truth is more than 92 percent of all Semi’s use air suspension and have used it for the past 25 years.

Some will tell you that air suspension is a lot more complex than mechanical suspension, but actually the only additional part added to the system is the compressor.

The coil spring is replaced by an air spring and you still need the shock absorber, just like the traditional suspension. You can make the compressor system as simple or complex as you want it to be.  A very simple air suspension system would be a compressor, an air tank and inflate or deflate valve for each spring.

What would make the system more complicated would be an automatic leveling system that would add ride-height sensors and some sort of electronic controls to process the data generated by the leveling sensors. After doing some checking I found out to write about this area would make up another whole article in itself.

One thing to remember when installing an air ride suspension is that if a coil spring rubs, it will make a noise for a while then fail. If an air spring is not installed properly with enough clearance and rubs it will fail quickly.

Another problem you could run across when installing an air system is air leaks.  There are a few little tricks that can help you avoid those air leaks.  Make sure the air lines are cut cleanly and squarely. Use thread sealer on all the pipe fittings.

If you make sure these thigs are done leaks are really rare. If you have a leak, one way to find it would be the old fashioned way of spraying the fittings with soapy water.

Usually you will find the leak at one of the connections. According to the experts an air spring will very rarely have a leak. It is always best to use DOT approved fittings since they have a built in insert that supports the inside of the plastic tubing to seal it better than standard fittings.

The straight-line machines of the muscle car era had some shortcomings in their basic suspension design.

An air ride system works hard to correct these problems with modern technology. According to experts most OEM suspensions were designed to tilt the top of the tire outward

when compressed. This resulted in under steer when driven to extreme.

Ideally the top of the tire should tilt inward when compressed to maintain maximum tire contact when cornering.  

Back in the 60’s the use of the large, cushy pivot bushings led to lots of suspension slop.

Although it takes the better part of a week end, installing an air suspension is really pretty simple.  A lot easier than one would imagine.

The only special tools you would need would be an electric saw and a welder, and a digital angle finder. This will help you in setting up the pinion angle.

Use the rule that has proved to be the best for any job. Measure three times and cut only once. If you run into a problem or have a question, contact someone who has installed an air suspension system and knows the system.

A good place to find assistance in this modern day is on the web. There are several chat lines and forums with information that can help solve most problems you run into.

If your car club is having an event and you would like us to tell everyone about or someone who you would like to see featured in this article send all information to, .

All information on upcoming events needs to be in at least two weeks before the event.

Any club, church or other group having an event that would like to display classic cars at the event should let me know at least two weeks before the event. I will put you in contact with one of the clubs that will gladly bring their cars out for display.

Or, if you know someone who is really a car person and you would like to see them featured drop me an e-mail with the persons name, address and phone number and kind of car he/she has, or is working on and please include your name and number.

Until next time… Keep Cruisin!

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