Q: I have a 2006 Toyota Tundra Crew Cab that I really like except for the ride. It rides much rougher than my friend's Chevy. The upside is I can haul more than him. What would be the best and cheapest way to get a better ride? I have thought of replacing the front coil springs with airbags, and taking the thickest leaf out of the rear and installing airbags there also. Another issue that needs addressing, due to a mild disability, is being able to make the truck lower when getting in or out. I would also need to be able to increase the air in the rear when loaded. Money is the biggest issue due to a very low income from the state disability retirement fund. One last thing: Do you know of any grants or other help to pay to have my truck converted to CNG? The way I want it is to be able to switch from CNG back to gasoline if needed due to CNG not being available when traveling. Thank you for your time, and any advice would be very helpful.
A: Let's start with the CNG (Com-pressed Natural Gas) conversion. According to an article on the subject in Popular Mechanics in February 2012, a properly installed conversion will run anywhere from $6500 for a basic system to $12,000 for a topline installation with a high-capacity, composite fuel tank. As far as I can tell, all federal assistance focuses on commercial fleets of CNG vehicles. However, check with your home state -- there might be an individual rebate incentive. I have seen advertised DIY systems for about $1000, but as far as quality and EPA regulations, I'm not so sure. And, yes, some systems do have the capability to switch back to gasoline.
There are a variety of air-lift suspension systems ranging from front and/or rear assist to nearly complete replacement of steel springs with airbags, the latter being optimal to cushion a truck ride. But parts and labor on a good job can run into the thousands. A suspension-lowering kit can also get expensive and require wheel/tire replacement to accommodate lesser fenderwell clearance. Money being an issue, here's my advice. First, always be sure tire pressure is set to the Toyota recommended PSI -- not any higher. If you're rolling tires with an aggressive all-terrain tread pattern, switch to a touring design. This truck was designed to carry cargo, so add weight in the bed not exceeding the maximum cargo capacity of your specific model; sandbags placed directly over the rear axle work really well. You should notice a significant increase in ride comfort, along with the inevitable decrease in fuel economy. As far as difficulty getting in and out of the truck due to the tall ride height, if you don't have them already, install an attractive set of running boards. That extra step could help.
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